Uncontrollable Cough

Uncontrollable cough refers to sustained bouts of coughing. It often occurs as a symptom of some underlying disease. Uncontrollable cough has a tendency to deteriorate at night. Uncontrollable cough may be followed by symptoms like throat discomfort, shortness of breath, and scratchy throat, etc.

Mild cases clear out in 1-2 days without medical treatment. Severe cases may take 14 days or more to get resolved. The condition is treated with medicines, self-care, and home remedies.

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Symptoms of uncontrollable cough

Listed below are common signs and symptoms that may occur along with uncontrollable cough:

  • Sore throat, watery and reddish eyes
  • Runny nose, abnormal breathing sounds
  • Fever, fatigue, chest pain
  • Sputum, bloody cough, extensive congestion,
  • If uncontrollable cough occurs during or after meals, then there may be loss of appetite
  • Reddish or bluish shades on face
  • Vomiting
  • Blue skin discoloration of hands, lips, feet, and sclera; cyanosis
  • Sleeping problems due to coughing

Causes of uncontrollable cough

Uncontrollable cough may commonly occur as symptom of below listed underlying conditions:

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  1. Whooping cough
  • Whooping cough is a severe bacterial infection. Patients may elicit violent coughs with a ‘whoop’ type noise in throat when breathing, vomiting, and airway obstructions. Children are more prone to the disease than adults. Vaccination on time can help prevent it.
  • Other symptoms include fever, runny nose, watery reddish eyes, uncontrollable cough, and congestion, etc. The early stages of the infection are not characterized by the symptoms; they occur only after 7-10 days when the illness has worsened. The later severely worsened stages of whooping cough may feature symptoms like fatigue, vomiting, reddish bluish facial hues, and sharp whooping sounds when breathing
  1. Tuberculosis
  • It is a chronic bacterial infection of the lungs. In addition to constant, uncontrollable cough, patients may feature blood in sputum or cough up blood.
  • Patients release the pathogens into the air when coughing and exposure to such infected droplets is the primary method of transmission of the infection and disease.
  1. Bronchiectasis
  • Bronchitis is a condition marked by inflammation of the bronchial tubes. It is generally caused due to irritation triggered by smoke flakes that enter the airways. The condition is more common in young adults and smokers. In addition to uncontrollable cough, there is increased secretion of mucus which causes patients to indulge in repetitive throat clearing.
  • Bronchiectasis also features symptoms similar to bronchitis. It is caused due to underlying diseases like tuberculosis, pneumonia, respiratory tract infections, or autoimmune or hereditary disorders.
  1. Sudden weather changes
  • Sudden changes in outdoor temperatures or weather may create conditions that are ideal for easy entry of varied germs like bacteria, etc. into the body. This may lead to uncontrollable cough which persists for a couple of days.
  1. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • This condition is characterized by respiratory system obstructions which typically occur due to smoking, air pollution, or inhalation of toxins or harmful chemicals.
  • COPD is non-infectious. Its two main types are emphysema and chronic bronchitis; the latter is characterized by intense uncontrollable cough which is commonly called smokers cough.
  1. Asthma
  • It is a condition marked by constricted, thin airways which obstruct easy inhalation and exhalation of air. Young and adult patients may suffer from symptoms like uncontrollable cough, breathing issues, and wheezing, etc.
  • Asthma may be caused due to viral and/or seasonal infections, allergy, dust, smoke, impurities in air, weather changes, air pollution, stress, GERD, and abnormal immune system reaction to different environmental elements.
  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • It is a condition marked by abnormal upward flow of stomach juices, acids, enzymes, and other contents via the esophagus into the throat. The acids, etc., irritate throat and cause uncontrollable cough. Patients may also experience symptoms like scratchy throat, heartburn when sleeping, and sour throat after cough episodes. It may be noted that coughing helps ease the symptoms as it ensures that the juices are kept down.
  1. Other causes
  • Uncontrollable cough may also occur due to causes like cancer of the respiratory tract or lungs; use of hypertension or heart medicines; post nasal drip induced throat irritation; and seasonal allergies.

Treatment of uncontrollable cough

Treatment of uncontrollable cough is as per underlying causative factors and involves below listed common drug therapy, self-care measures, and home remedies:

  • Medicines are prescribed to loosen mucus, ease coughing reflex, and reduce coughing bouts. Avoid cough suppressant drugs as phlegm removal is essential for healthy recovery of lungs
  • Keep body hydrated by drinking adequate water.
  • Warm milk lubricates throat and eases coughing
  • Herbal tea with/without honey can help find relief from throat irritation, uncontrollable cough, and other symptoms as well as boost immune system.
  • Throat dryness and irritation can be alleviated via steaming
  • Take sufficient bed rest. Sleep in room with 40-50 percent humidity, on clean bed, in inclined posture
  • Avoid/limit intake of dairy products, bananas, chocolate, alcohol, sugar, and fried, junk, processed, and refined foods as they increase secretion of mucus


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