How to Treat a Cough Caused by Allergies

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

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Allergies are very uncomfortable to deal with multiple irritating symptoms such as runny nose, itching in the eyes, and sneezing. People who develop upper respiratory tract infections start coughing.

If you know how allergy starts, what the mechanism of its action is, and why symptoms develop so early, you can treat it effectively.

This article is important for those people who have developed allergies because here we will discuss possible symptoms related to allergies, how is allergy cough, and which types of common allergies can cause cough.

Here, I will also differentiate between an allergic cough and a common cold cough to get the right treatment. In the end, I will explain which type of symptoms needs emergency care management.

Allergy Symptoms:

Several triggers can cause allergies. An allergy starts when your immune system responds to a foreign substance such as pollens from trees, dust particles, and dander from pets. In response to an allergic substance or trigger, the immune system releases a chemical known as Histamine.

The release of Histamine in response to the immune system can cause the following allergic symptoms:

  • Itchy and runny nose
  • Itchy, red, and swollen eyes
  • Ear congestion
  • Chest decongestion
  • Sinuses
  • Headache of variant grades
  • Itching in the oral cavity, especially the mouth
  • Frequent postnasal drip.

Why Allergies may cause a Cough:

When an allergen enters your body through nasal passages, your respiratory system starts a reflex to deal with it. This response is a cough. Commonly mucus is produced from the sinuses as a result of allergy and it is drained out from the nose.

In severe cases your sinuses are swollen and you are unable to drain mucus through the nose and mucus starts dripping in the throat. This is called postnasal drip and it can also cause an allergic cough. Postnasal drip is more frequent at night time when the allergic patient is lying and sleeping on the bed.

What an Allergy Cough Feels Like:

To get an idea about how an allergy cough feels like that, it is important to know what the allergen is doing to your body.

When your throat is affected by an allergen, then you will feel itching and tickling in your throat and you will start coughing. But if you have postnasal drip then mucus irritates your throat and you will also feel a cough but this type of cough is different from the first one.

Cough caused by postnasal drip has mucus or phlegm in it and it is called productive or wet cough.

If the allergy lasts longer then you may develop asthma and symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and cough started. In this case, it is important to take asthmatic medications and devices such as inhalers.

Common Allergies that Cause a Cough:

Different types of allergens can cause similar symptoms and one of them is cough. I will explain each type of allergy individually with symptoms here:

  • Grass and Tree Pollen:

Trees and grass have an allergic trigger called pollen. Pollen is a minute substance that is part of a plant’s reproductive system. It helps in the fertilization of plants.

Grass, trees, and weeds cause an allergic reaction in their pollen seasons such as summer, spring, and fall seasons. The season of pollen varies from area to area and they can cause allergy in winter that is difficult to cope with and bothersome.

  • Mold and Fungi Spores:

Mostly indoor and outdoor settings have mold and fungi spores for fertilization. These spores have to move through the air to other plants in windy weather. However, spores may circulate when the atmosphere is humid.

Mold and fungi grow in wet and humid environments therefore you can have them in your homes like in washrooms and basement areas.

  • Dust:

When you spend most of your time indoors and you develop an allergy then it can be a dust allergy. Dust is everywhere and it consists of dust mites (micro-organisms that live on dead skin cells), pollens, molds, and animal dander.

  • Animal Dander:

Pet allergies are also common and they are caused by allergens present in the skin cells, saliva, and urine of pets. These allergens are protein in nature and are called dander when coming from the skin specifically. All animals that have fur, can cause dander allergy but it is most common in dogs and cats.

Allergy Cough vs Cold Cough:

Seasonal allergies and common colds have a similar types of symptoms mostly such as cough and runny nose. Allergic cough and common cold cough have different causes, durations, and patterns.

  • Causes:

Cold cough is caused by viral infection while allergic cough is caused by seasonal allergens in the environment.

  • Duration:

Cold cough resolves in 1-2 weeks as of virus lifespan but allergic cough lasts until you are exposed to specific allergens. Pollen allergies last through the pollen season.

  • Symptoms:

Common colds can cause other symptoms along with coughs such as sore throat, headache, body pain, and chest discomfort while these symptoms are not associated with allergic cough. However, asthmatic patients with allergic cough can have chest discomfort and wheeze.

Allergy Cough vs COVID- 19:

Both seasonal allergies and COVID-19 affect the respiratory system and share a common symptom of cough. But just like the common cold, COVID-19 has some unique symptoms.

Let me first tell you that COVID-19 is caused by a virus and it has many more severe symptoms along with cough. They include:

  • High fever
  • Severe body pain
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sore throat
  • Headache.

Seasonal allergies do not have such symptoms.

How to Treat an Allergy Cough:

Allergic cough is bothersome but some medications, herbals, and home remedies can help you to reduce the intensity and duration.

Home Remedies:

Make your living Allergy-proof:

It works to close windows in allergy season and change your clothes when you come home from outside. Furthermore, you should vacuum regularly rugs, curtains, carpets, and other fabrics in your living area and change bed linen frequently to reduce the risk of allergy.

Use of Air Purifier:

It is a great thing to clean and clear the air through filtration in your house to prevent allergy exaggeration. It is easily achieved through air purifiers that remove particles from the air.

Sinus Rinse:

To decrease the prevalence of postnasal drip, rinse your sinus with normal saline. Normal saline will flush out allergen particles from nasal passages.

Take Shower Daily:

Well, I think it is a good idea to wash and shower yourself daily especially your hair to avoid the spread of pollens or other allergens.

Humidifier Usage:

When you are allergic to dust particles or pollens then moist you’re surrounding environment with humidifier spray. It can prevent cough to some extent.

De-humidifier Usage:

If your allergy belongs to molds and fungi, then you use a de-humidifier that removes excess moisture from the environment to reduce the risk for mold or fungi growth.

Medications:

Home remedies are first to test and if they don’t work then it is good to take OTC medications to prevent severe symptoms.

Anti-histamine:

As aforementioned, the immune system releases chemical histamine in response to allergens to produce symptoms. Therefore anti-histamine medications nullify or block the effect of histamine to end up symptoms. The common anti-histamine used for cough are loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Zyrtec), and fexofenadine (Allegra). They are also helpful to prevent postnasal drip.

Nasal Sprays:

Corticosteroid medications like fluticasone come under the brand name Flonase and come in the spray dosage form. These nasal sprays are used to reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nasal cavity and allow nasal secretions and prevent postnasal drip. Some nasal sprays have only normal saline that flushes out allergens from sinus passage. Decongestant nasal sprays clear up sinuses to work properly.

Immunotherapy:

When allergy does not improve with the above treatment then healthcare professionals suggest immunotherapy. A tiny amount of allergens are injected in the form of shots in the body that prevent the immune system to react against allergens. Immunotherapy can work for a couple of years.

When to Seek Medical Treatment:

Although most of the allergic symptoms resolve their own few types of allergy can cause serious complications.

Allergies and Asthma Attacks:

If you are suffering from asthma and at the same time if you capture an allergy, it will worsen asthmatic attack and leads to difficulty breathing and congestion. You should follow your physician’s instructions to treat asthma including daily medication and an inhaler.

If you face breathing difficulty and your medication and inhaler do not work then you should seek help from an emergency department.

Anaphylactic Shock:

Few individuals with severe food, medications, or insect allergies are at risk for an emergency condition called anaphylactic shock. If you face any of the following symptoms after allergens exposure, call to emergency help contact number 911. These symptoms are:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Hypotension
  • Skin rashes
  • Fast and weak pulse rate
  • Nausea or vomiting.

It is advised to inject an epinephrine auto-injector (EpiPen) for severe allergic shock and use it as early as possible and then call 911 or the emergency department.

If your symptoms are resolved with medication, it is advised to take an emergency medical facility.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How to overcome an allergic cough?

It is better to limit exposure to the triggers to reduce allergy cough or you can start OTC medication like anti-histamines.

What is allergy cough like?

Cough related to allergy can be productive or dry. If an allergen attacks your throat then you will have a dry cough. If the postnasal drip is the cause of the cough, then the cough contains thin mucus and it is called a productive cough.

My allergy can also cause a cough.

All types of allergies can cause cough and if the allergy affects the throat then it leads to dry cough. If allergens stimulate mucus production, it leads to postnasal drip and productive cough.

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TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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