How to Treat a Cough Headache?

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


A cough and a headache are two different things. A cough is the sudden, uncontrollable reflex of the respiratory system to clear mucus or other material from the airways. A headache is a pain in the head that can range from mild to severe.

When you feel both cough and headache symptoms together, collectively, it is called a “cough headache.” There are two types of cough headaches.

  • Primary Cough Headache from a primary cough
  • Second-cough headache

Primary cough headaches may arise as a result of straining actions when coughing, shouting, laughing, and blowing off your nose. This can happen episodically.

Secondary cough headaches are not directly related to straining but may be caused by brain anomalies or postnasal drip-related headaches. They are not as common as the first one, and they usually happen when people have sinusitis or allergies that affect their nose, throat, and voice box.

What is a Cough Headache?

A cough headache is a type of headache that can occur when a person strains while coughing or sneezing.

Cough headaches are usually caused by muscle tension in the head and neck. They may also be caused by sinus pressure or allergies.

Symptoms of a cough headache include:

  • pain in the head and neck area
  • pain that worsens with coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
  • pain that occurs on one side of the head
  • headache lasts 1 to 3 days.

Cough headaches are more common in children than in adults. This is because children have smaller airways that can be blocked by mucus or foreign objects. The most common causes of cough headaches are the common cold and asthma.

Coughing during sleep can also cause a cough headache due to the lack of oxygen during sleep.

Coughing from allergies may also cause a cough headache due to the irritation caused by allergens like pollen or dust particles in the air.

A cough headache can be relieved by avoiding these triggers and taking over-the-counter medication.

The primary type of cough headaches is not thought to be medically significant. However, the second variety is. This is due to the possibility that it is brought on by an underlying brain abnormality.

It causes coughing and headaches.

Cough headaches are rare but very painful headaches that can occur when a person coughs or strains in any way. It is most common among children and people with chronic lung diseases. causes are:

  • Common cold, allergies, hay fever
  • Sneezing
  • Shouting
  • Lifting heavy weight

A cough headache is a common symptom that can occur when a person has a common cold. This type of headache is usually caused by the coughing that occurs when the person has a cold and post-nasal drip on the vocal cords.

The pain of a cough headache is usually felt at the temples or behind the eyes, and it can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and neck pain.

Due to the severe straining action on the brain arteries following excessive coughing, headaches are frequently experienced with the common cold. It may continue for a few days.

A cough headache can also be caused by allergies such as hay fever or asthma. When this happens, there are usually other symptoms, such as sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes. There may also be difficulty breathing or wheezing. The cough headache will typically last only one day and will subside once the allergy has subsided.

Causes of primary cough headache

A cough headache can be caused for a number of reasons, including:

  • Sinusitis, which is an inflammation of the sinuses and nasal passages.
  • Allergies, which can cause congestion and a runny nose.
  • A cold or the flu
  • A dry throat or mouth due to inhaling cigarette smoke or chemical fumes.
  • An upper respiratory infection

A primary cough headache is a type of headache that’s caused by coughing and can be painful and frustrating. It can also be extremely difficult to get rid of because it’s the result of straining your neck muscles.

The most common cause of a primary cough headache is repeated coughing. This usually occurs when you have a cold or the flu, but it could also happen after you’ve been sick with something like bronchitis, pneumonia, or asthma. Coughing can lead to muscle strain in your neck and shoulders, which causes the pain associated with a primary cough headache.

Causes of secondary cough headache

A secondary cough headache is not just a headache that occurs because you have been coughing. It is caused by structural problems in a person’s brain.

One of the most common causes of secondary cough headaches is Chiari malformation type I. This condition occurs when the flow of blood to the brain is disturbed by structural changes.

Some other causes of secondary cough headaches are:

  • Cerebral Aneurysms
  • Changes in cerebral spinal fluid
  • Intracranial hemorrhages
  • Tumors

Cough headache syndrome: Primary vs. Secondary

Cough headaches can be caused by a number of different things.

Primary cough headaches are caused immediately following sneezing or coughing. There may be palpable pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. It may last anywhere from minutes to hours. The pain usually feels like a sharp, acute stabbing pain. It will heal spontaneously.

Secondary cough headaches are caused by something else, like structural anomalies that will persist longer. It may be associated with vertigo , dizziness, early morning headaches, and numbness of the face. The headache may feel like a heavy weight on the head. There is no pain in the neck or arms.

Complications and risks

Primary cough headaches are not caused by any specific medical problems but rather by the straining activities that happen when you cough. It is an occasional problem for most people, and it is not related to any other health issues.

The complications of primary cough headaches can be decreased with proper treatment and prevention.

The most common complication of a secondary cough headache is the development of a tension-type headache later.

The risk of complications is high in people with chronic coughs, reflux, and other medical problem diagnosis.

You may have heard people say that if you Submit headache when you cough, you have a cough headache. This is not always the case.

Primary cough headaches are a type of headache where the pain is felt mostly due to spasms of muscles in your neck and shoulders when you cough.

It is caused by stress or overuse of your upper back muscles. It can also be caused by an infection in your throat or sinuses, or allergies that cause swelling in your nose and throat.

The best way to identify if you have a cough headache is to have your doctor check for signs of other conditions that can cause headaches, such as sinusitis or high blood pressure.

If you are experiencing headaches when coughing, it could be due to any one of the reasons listed above, as well as others, such as:

  • Anemia
  • Sinusitis
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Stress

To rule out the secondary cough, you may need to have brain imaging done, such as a CT scan or an MRI scan.These can detect structural lesions or mass lesions in the brain.


Primary cough headaches are due to irritation of the nerves in the throat or sinuses. Secondary cough headaches are caused by an underlying condition such as a head injury, infection, or tumor.

The causes of primary and secondary cough headaches are different, so their treatments typically are too. Your doctor will prescribe a treatment based on the cause of your headache.

A cough headache is a type of headache that is characterized by a cough as the main symptom. Cough headaches are classified as either primary or secondary depending on the underlying cause.

Treatment for primary cough and headache

Primary cough headache is a condition that is not well understood. It usually resolves on its own within four years and does not require medical interventions like surgery.

Primary cough headaches can be treated with over the counter medications like pain relieving medications like NSAIDS (Ibuprofen,Diclofenac Na, Naproxen) and over the counter cough suppressants (Dextromethorphan, and Robitussin).

Preventive medications for primary cough headaches are anti-inflammatory drugs, benzos, and acetazolamide (Diamox).

Secondary headache treatment

These types of headaches usually require treatment with painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Since the secondary cough headache is a type of headache that is caused by underlying brain pathology, invasive interventional methods of treatment are the primary cure for secondary headaches.

  • Chiari malformation: This anomaly will compress the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) in the brain. Thus, there is news to enlarge the space in the cerebellum to reduce pressure in the brain.
  • Brain Tumor: Excision
  • Aneurysm-clipping and wall repair
  • If CSF fluid pressure rises, remove fluid.

Prevention of cough and headache

A cough headache is a type of headache that is brought on by a dry, hacking cough. It is not always possible to prevent a cough headache, but you can decrease the number of episodes you experience.

One of the most effective ways to do this is by controlling strained activities.

Cough headaches are a type of headache that is caused by coughing. Coughing causes the blood vessels in your head to tighten, which can lead to a migraine-like headache.

There are many ways to help prevent cough headaches. One way is to drink more fluids and get plenty of rest.

Another way is to take over-the-counter painkillers before you cough or sneeze, which should help decrease the intensity of the pain.

  • Avoiding triggers like allergens and cough inducers (ACE Inhibiters, beta blockers)
  • Getting annual vaccines (covid and influenza)
  • Treating infections
  • Treating constipation with dietary changes and laxatives

When should I need to visit the doctor?

It is a good idea to see a doctor if you have persistent cough headache episodes that cause you pain.

A doctor will be able to get to the root of the problem and make sure that the patient is on the right medication. It can also help with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, and cardiovascular disease.


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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