Why Does My Head Hurt When I Cough?

Why Does My Head Hurt When I Cough?

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Coughing can cause a headache to some individuals. Cough headaches are transient and harmless but might affect a person when it turns severe.

Head pain can be caused by coughing due to extra pressure that is built up in the chest and stomach that can cause pressure to be built in the head.

Cough headaches are of major two types: Primary and Secondary cough headaches. A primary headache is somewhat mild but secondary cough headaches are more problematic as they can lead to severe brain problems.

In this article, we will explain some of the most common reasons why an individual’s head may hurt while coughing and how to treat the discomfort.

Continue reading this to find out whether the symptoms are of a simple cough or related to a serious disease. We will also look at both home cures and medical treatment alternatives to relieve the pain.

Common Causes of Head Pain After Coughing

  • Primary Cough Headache

A primary cough headache can happen due to the heavy pressure in the belly that coughing can create. This may cause an increase in pressure in the head that leads to a minor headache.

There are some other activities as well that can cause headaches in the same way. let‘s see some symptoms of diagnosing a primary headache:

  • It begins immediately after a person coughs.
  • It may last for a short time ranging from a few seconds to several minutes.
  • This headache can impact both sides of the head. But, the pain may be most intense in the backside of the head.
  • Secondary Cough Headache

A secondary cough headache can occur as a result of an underlying illness like a neurological disorder. The most common cause of secondary cough headaches is a disease known as Chiari type I malformation.

A Chiari malformation is a disability in the skull structure of an individual. This may indicate that the cerebellum of the brain descends from the base of the skull into the upper spinal canal.

Secondary cough headaches can also be caused by:

  • A form of brain tumor, miscellaneous posterior fossa lesions can result in secondary cough headaches.
  • Obstructive hydrocephalus, a condition in which there is an excess of fluid in the brain, may also lead to headaches.

Several other activities may also cause a secondary cough headache like laughter, weightlifting, and changes in head or body position.

Home Remedies to Cure Primary Cough Headache 

We can treat primary cough headaches at home by identifying and treating the source of the cough. It will help in the reduction or elimination of headaches.

OTC pain relievers, such as ibuprofen can also help in alleviating headache pain if it’s severe.

If the coughing is caused by a cold or flu, cold or flu medicines lower the coughing and associated headaches. Clearing the sinuses may also assist in reducing head pressure.

You might try the following home treatments while they are having any of the cough headaches if they don’t want to consult a doctor at first:

  • You get enough rest.
  • Take OTC cough medicine to lower the cough.
  • Try to consume warm beverages such as honey-lemon water with a pinch of salt.
  • Consume plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • If someone is at risk of having the flu, they should get a flu shot every year.
  • After coughing, wash your hands with soap and water to avoid spreading.

At-Home Medical Treatment Options

If you are unable to treat the cause of their cough with home remedies, you should take some medicines at first.

A doctor may recommend medication to treat a common cough through another underlying ailment, such as bronchitis. If you have common flu, a doctor may prescribe you antiviral medication.

Other drugs that a doctor may prescribe to treat primary cough headaches include:

  • Indomethacin and other anti-inflammatory medications
  • Beta-Blockers
  • Acetazolamide is a medication that helps the body get rid of excess fluid and salt
  • Ergotamines used to treat migraines

These drugs can aid in the reduction of inflammation and coughing. It will also help relieve pressure and fluid buildup in the skull.

If a person has a secondary cough headache, problems may occur with some testing. A doctor may next order a CT or MRI scan to see if there are any brain or spinal cord problems.

Any abnormality of the skull or spinal cord may need surgery to:

  • Brain tumor removal
  • Restoring of the normal cerebrospinal fluid flow
  • Relieving excess fluid pressure in the skull
  • Repairing of the holes that are allowing spinal fluid to leak
  • Surgery may aid in treating the illness, reducing the symptoms, and preventing the disorder

When to See a Doctor?

A primary cough headache is harmless and may disappear on its own over time. People should see their doctor if they experience any severe or long-lasting symptoms.

People should consult their doctor if they have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fainting, dizziness, or lack of balance along with a headache
  • Intense discomfort or a terrible headache that comes on.
  • If headaches last more than two hours.
  • Coughing causes frequent migraines.
  • Fever, chills, or unexpected weight loss are some of the symptoms.

When shifting posture or position, such as from lying down to standing, the strength of the headache changes.

A doctor can perform a physical examination and any required tests to determine whether a coughing headache is caused by a primary or secondary cause.

A doctor will devise a treatment plan after determining the type and cause of the headache.

Final Thoughts

Coughing can cause headaches in some people, but this is uncommon. It creates excess pressure in your abdomen, which can raise the pressure in your head, resulting in pain.

Primary cough headaches are harmless and may resolve on their own, whereas a secondary cough headache can be dangerous. If not treated, it may affect your brain condition and lead to tumor or skull abnormality.

If a person is unsure whether they have a primary or secondary cough headache or if their symptoms are severe or long-lasting, they should consult their doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

About Post Author

Dr. Fakhri Kalolwala MD

Dr. Fakhri Kalolwala MD is one of the best primary care physicians in the Houston, Texas area, who has an aim to give you personalized and high-quality care, all offered in a compassionate manner. At Aqeeq Internal Medicine (AIM) we are dedicated to serving the people in Houston, by improving and maintaining your health through internal medicine, preventative care and treating both chronic and acute illnesses and diseases. Look no further than us for the best primary care practice in Houston.
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