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Why Does My Head Hurt When I Cough

why does my head hurt when i cough

Coughing can sometimes make a person’s head hurt or trigger a headache. There are two sorts of cough headaches that doctors call primary and secondary cough headaches.

Primary cough headaches are usually temporary and harmless. Secondary cough headaches are more serious, as they will have a link to issues with the brain.

Read on to find out which symptoms indicate a primary cough headache or a more serious condition. We also check out home remedies and medical treatment options for both.


The causes of head pain after coughing depend upon whether doctors classify the pain as a primary or secondary cough headache.

Primary cough headache

A primary cough headache is potentially thanks to sudden pressure within the abdomen, which coughing can cause. this might increase pressure within the head, causing a headache.

Other activities also can end in similar headaches. These include:

  • laughing
  • sneezing
  • bowel movements
  • heavy exertion, straining the abdomen
  • A primary cough headache has no link to any disorder of the brain or other health conditions.

Secondary cough headache

A secondary cough headache is thanks to an underlying condition, like a encephalopathy .

A condition called Chiari type I malformation is that the most common explanation for secondary cough headaches.

A Chiari malformation may be a defect within the structure of the skull. this suggests the lower a part of the brain, or cerebellum, descends through the bottom of the skull into the upper vertebral canal .

Other causes of secondary cough headaches include:

Miscellaneous posterior fossa lesions, which may be a sort of brain tumour .
Obstructive hydrocephalus, or an excess buildup of fluid within the brain.
Spontaneous low cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure thanks to an indoor leak of spinal fluid.
Other activities can also cause a secondary cough headache when one among the above conditions exists. Examples include laughing, weightlifting, or changes in head or body posture.


Primary cough headaches

Begin suddenly with and just after coughing or other sorts of straining
Typically last a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes — some can last up to 2 hours
Cause sharp, stabbing or splitting pain
Are usually felt within the front of the top
Affect each side of your head
May be followed by a dull, aching pain that lasts for hours

Secondary cough headaches

Secondary cough headaches often have symptoms almost like those of primary cough headaches, though you’ll experience:

Longer lasting headaches

  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Fainting
  • Numbness within the face or arms

Home remedies

People may treat primary cough headaches reception . Identifying and treating the explanation for the cough may help to scale back or eliminate the headaches.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication, like ibuprofen, may help to alleviate the pain of a headache.

If a chilly or flu is causing the coughing, cold or flu remedies may help to scale back coughing and related headaches. Clearing the sinuses can also help to scale back pressure within the head.

Home remedies people can go for a chilly or flu include:

  • getting many rest
  • taking OTC cough medication
  • drinking warm beverages, like water with honey and lemon
  • drinking many fluids
  • getting a yearly flu jab if someone is in danger of flu
  • washing hands with soap and water after coughing

Drinking hot beverages, like honey and lemon, can help to appease the throat, making an individual easier if they need a chilly or flu.

Medical treatments

If people cannot treat the explanation for coughing reception , they’ll got to see their doctor.

A doctor may prescribe medication to treat a cough that a chilly or other underlying condition, like bronchitis, causes.

A doctor may prescribe antiviral medicine if people have the flu.

A doctor can also prescribe other medications to treat primary cough headaches, including:

  • anti-inflammatory drugs, like indomethacin
  • beta-blockers
  • acetazolamide, to removes excess fluid and salt from the body
  • ergotamines for migraine headaches

These medications can help to scale back inflammation and coughing or relieve pressure and fluid buildup within the skull.

If someone features a secondary cough headache, they’re going to need treatment for the underlying cause.

A doctor might then request a CT or MRI scan to see for any issues with the brain and medulla spinalis .

People with any disorder within the skull or medulla spinalis may require surgery to:

remove a brain tumour

  • restore normal flow of spinal fluid
  • relieve pressure within the skull from excess fluid
  • patch holes that are causing cerebrospinal fluid to leak

Surgery may help to treat the condition, reduce symptoms, and stop any longer progression of the disorder.

When to See a doctor

A primary cough headache is benign and should resolve over time by itself. If people have any severe or long lasting symptoms, they will see their doctor.

People should see their doctor if they experience:

  • faintness, dizziness, or loss of balance with headache
  • extreme pain, or sudden, severe headache
  • a headache that lasts for extended than 2 hours
  • frequent headaches thanks to coughing
  • symptoms, like fever, chills, or unexplained weight loss
  • headache that alters intensity when changing posture or position, like lying right down to standing

A doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests to seek out out whether a headache from coughing is thanks to a primary or secondary cause.

Once a doctor has identified the sort and explanation for the headache, they’re going to compute a treatment plan.


Although uncommon, people may sometimes experience a headache from coughing. this is often often thanks to extra pressure within the abdomen which will increase pressure within the head.

A primary cough headache is due only to coughing, or another activity, like sneezing or straining. Primary cough headaches are benign and should resolve by themselves.

A secondary cough headache is more serious and thanks to a disorder with the brain, like a tumor or skull defect.

People may relieve a primary cough headache through reducing or eliminating coughing. OTC cough or pain medication may help, also as drinking many fluids and resting.

If people have a secondary cough headache, they’re going to require treatment for the underlying cause.

If an individual is unsure whether or not they have a primary or secondary cough headache or has severe or long lasting symptoms, they will see their doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.

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