Do you experiencehead pain when coughing? This is not very common, but some people get headaches when they cough, sneeze or blow their noses. More often than not, this type of headache disappears on its own even without treatment, but in some cases, the pain may be due to an underlying cause which may need further evaluation and treatment.
Why Do I Have Head Pain When Coughing?
Cough headaches may be classified into two categories. One consists of primary cough headaches which are usually harmless, so they often do not need treatment. They occur episodically and improve on their own. The other category consists of secondary cough headaches, which may be more serious, because they are associated with an underlying problem in the brain. Further evaluation is necessaryand treatment may involve surgery.
1. Causes of Cough Headache
What causeshead pain when coughing? Straining when you cough or sneeze increase pressure in your head. This may also happen when you laugh or move your bowels. The increase in pressure may also affect your middle ear and cause damage.
However, secondary cough headaches may be associated with a serious underlying condition, which may need definitive treatment. These conditions include:
- An abnormal skull shape
- A cerebellar defect which affects the brain’s ability to control balance
- A cerebral aneurysm or weakness in the wall of a blood vessel in your brain
- A tumor in the brain
- A leak in the cerebrospinal fluid
2. Other Symptoms of Cough Headache
Primary cough headache symptoms include:
- They last for a few seconds or few minutes, but sometimes up to 2 hours.
- They cause a sharp, splitting or stabbing type of pain.
- Both sides of the head are usually affected.
- Pain may be worse at the back of the head.
- A dull headache may follow and continue for hours.
Secondary cough headache symptoms include:
- Pain may be longer lasting.
- It is accompanied by dizziness.
- You have feeling of unsteadiness.
- Fainting may occur.
What to Do If I Have Pain When Coughing
1. Primary Cough Headache
The only way to reduce symptoms ofhead pain when coughingis to control the cough using over-the-counter medications. However, if your symptoms are mild and self-limiting, no treatment is necessary. Medicines to prevent primary cough headaches include:
Consult your doctor if your symptoms persist or if they become worse.
2. Secondary Cough Headache
If your cough headaches do not improve or if they are associated with fainting, dizziness or loss of balance, it is best to see a doctor who may recommend brain-imaging tests, such as MRI or CT scans to diagnose your problem. A spinal tap may also help confirm the diagnosis.
Medical treatments may include:
- IV dihydroergotamine
In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove excess fluid or a tumor in the brain.
What Do Other People Say About Head Pain When Coughing?
You are not alone in the fight with cough headache, some people experience similar symptoms. Here are some pinpoint causes they share along with the remedies that work for them.
“I used to suffer from severe cough headaches for about two years. My doctor had me undergo a lot of tests like MRI and CT scan, but found nothing wrong in my brain. Since I was taking ACE inhibitors (medications for my kidney problem), my doctor advised me to stop them and replaced them with another type of medicine. After one month, my headaches disappeared.”
“I had head pain when coughinga few years ago. After many visits to different doctors and specialists, one finally suggested that the cause may be fluid retention. He advised me to limit my salt intake. Since then, the headaches have been few and less severe. Now, cough headaches only come when I eat in a party or in a restaurant when I have little control over the salt in the food I eat.”
“Someone suggested that I take magnesium supplements with my calcium. I also stopped eating gluten and lactose-containing food. These gave me digestive fits, and I suspect that they may be causing the headaches, too. Now, I no longer have cough headaches.”
“My cough headaches started years ago when I almost blacked out. I had constant head pain when coughing so I went to neurologists until I was diagnosed with a condition called idiopathic intracranial hypertension. It’s like having a brain tumor, but after multiple CT scans,MRI’s, and other tests, there was none found. One doctor did a spinal tap, which confirmed the diagnosis. I was advised to take acetazolamide (Diamox) and furosemide (Lasix). My symptoms are gone now, and I have been taking my medication regularly.”