Why My Head hurts when I cough? Causes and Treatment

Have you ever wondered, “Why does my head hurt when I cough?” It’s actually a pretty common problem that most people encounter at some point during their life, especially during times of sickness. Sometimes known as “cough headaches,” these headaches that occur when you cough are often caused by the pressure that is created when you cough.

This is a common problem for people who are suffering from a dry cough, or coughs that have been around for weeks. Actually coughing continuously creates pressure that pushes the head, neck and chest, and consequently creates a headache and pain in other parts of the body. A benign cough headache is usually bilateral and of sudden onset. This condition is often caused by coughing and other strenuous activities such as sneezing, nose blowing, crying, laughing, bowel movement, and bending over.

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. Just like other exercise-induced headaches, there is a 10-20% chance that there is a structural problem in the head causing this headache.

Actually, such headaches appear immediately after one cough, and may continue for up to 3 hours according to the “National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke”. The condition may make one feel terrible since it endures for hours. Secondary cough headaches are more serious and thus require specialized treatment. They occur due to the aberration of the skull, or the protuberance of certain parts of the brain.

According to Mayo Clinic, primary cough headaches are often treated using daily medication, which reduces pain or prevents it altogether. The main preventive medications that are offered include Indomethacin, a drug that helps prevent inflammation. In 2009, results of a study published in Cephalalgia an International Journal of Headache showed that 73% of patients respond well to this treatment. Despite the fact that it is a debilitating medical condition, a cough headache can easily be cured.

Why My Head hurts when I cough? Causes and Treatment

Why my Head hurts when I cough?

Cough headaches are very common, but that doesn’t make them any easier to deal with when you have one. There are many reasons why a headache is triggered by a cough. Primary headaches are probably caused by the sudden increase in intracranial pressure that occurs when your body reacts to a cough. Secondary cough headaches are more worrisome because they usually come from other underlying conditions, such as a distorted skull shape or problems with the brain. This sounds frightening, but for some people, it might simply be caused by certain structures of their body. For others, the situation might be more serious, such as a tumor in the brain that is irritated by the motion of coughing.

Cough Headache Causes

The cause of primary cough headaches is unknown. Secondary cough headaches may be caused by:

  • 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

Cough Headache Symptoms

Cough headache may be primary or secondary. Primary cough headaches are symptomized as:

  • Begin abruptly and are brought on by coughing or just after coughing or other types of straining.
  • Headache is stabbing, sharp or splitting in nature.
  • Primary cough headaches occur typically on both the sides of the head and tend to be worse on the posterior side of the head.
  • Primary cough headaches can be followed by an achy, dull pain for some hours.

The symptoms of secondary cough headaches are similar to primary cough headaches, though they are more severe and include other symptoms such as:

  • Secondary cough headaches are longer in duration than primary cough headaches.
  • Dizziness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Double or blurred vision

Cough Headache Treatment

Cough headache treatment options that are offered by neurologists vary. This variation is brought about by the existence of both primary and secondary headaches. These include medications such as:

  • Indomethacin
  • Topiramate
  • Methysergide
  • Acetazolamide
  • Propranolol
  • Naproxen
  • Metoclopramide
  • Ergonovine
  • Phenelzine

There are a number of home remedies that can be used to treat cough headaches.

  • The use of salt, lemon, and black pepper helps treat a cough.
  • A combination of white paper powder and honey has also been found to be effective as far as the treatment of cough headaches is concerned.
  • Grapes and garlic can similarly be used to cure a sore throat, which is one of the main causes of cough headaches.

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