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What are Common Causes of Uncontrollable Coughing?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are many common causes of uncontrollable coughing. Some are contagious, long-term or serious, while others aren't. Serious cases of uncontrollable or chronic coughing should be checked by professional medical personnel. Some common causes of intractable coughing include allergies, lung conditions, medications, gastroesophageal reflux disease, asthma, bronchitis and bacterial infection.

Although a virus causes colds, having a cold often allows bacteria to enter the throat, which may cause coughing for at least a few days. Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that can cause such violent, uncontrollable coughing that a distinctive "whoop" sound is often made at the back of the throat from trying to catch a breath. Sometimes, vomiting or choking may result. Babies and children are especially prone to developing whooping cough.

Bronchitis is a common cause of sudden, chronic coughing fits. The bronchial tubes in the chest become inflamed. Many smokers have this problem, as smoke inflames the airway and causes mucus to be stored there; the coughing helps clear the congestion. Asthma is another cause of intractable coughing. It affects both adults and children and may result in a wheezing type of cough and difficulty breathing.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) produces stomach acid that backs up into the esophagus. Chronic coughing usually occurs to help try to keep the acid down. It typically irritates the throat as well as leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

Some medications, most notably those for high blood pressure and heart disease, can cause coughing as a side effect. Lung disease usually fills the lungs with fluid. This may cause coughing fits as the body tries to clear breathing pathways.

Seasonal allergies such as hay fever are known to cause uncontrollable coughing. Pollen or other irritants inflame the airway and may block sinuses. When sinuses become blocked, a post nasal drip may result. This dripping may lead to a slight scratchy sort of feeling in the throat that could lead to bouts of coughing to try to relieve it. This type of tickling cough is common in cases of postnasal drip.

Some uncontrollable coughing can make it difficult for people to breathe properly, eat or speak. Medical help should be sought in these cases. A pulmonologist is a doctor who specializes in treating and studying the causes and symptoms of coughs. It's important to seek medical treatment immediately for common causes of coughs that might be contagious so as not to spread them to others.

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Discussion Comments

By anon331006 — On Apr 20, 2013

This year I've had such screwed up allergies or sickness. I feel like it's happening all over again, but my lungs are just filling up with fluid and I have a wheeze when I inhale and a need to cough just overwhelmed me.

What the heck is going on? I can't handle another allergy overload sickness when I have finals coming up!

By mutsy — On May 31, 2011

@Cupcake15 -I hate when things like that happen when I am getting ready for bed. I think that if it happens a lot you should really see a doctor because maybe they can give you tips on how to stop uncontrollable coughing like that.

It also might be something more serious like asthma. I

read that asthma does develop from severe allergies and if you go to a doctor you can find out what allergens are really affecting you so you can minimize the times that you develop the cough because asthma and coughing are related.

By cupcake15 — On May 29, 2011

I wanted to say that sometimes I get an uncontrollable dry cough that only seems to occur at night. I think that it is related to seasonal allergies because it only happens a few times a year. It is a deep cough that sort of tickles my throat.

I try to drink water and it helps a little bit but it still continues and it is really uncomfortable because I can’t sleep at night. I sometimes have to take cough medicine when it really gets bad.

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