Can Allergies Cause Coughing?


Allergies are a type of reaction the body has to a particular food or substance caused by a hypersensitive (overactive) immune response.1

Allergic reactions and allergies are very common, especially in children. As children grow older, many allergies fade but others may be lifelong.

Allergic reactions can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms, some of which can interfere with the quality of life of individuals experiencing them. This article will look at allergies, specifically allergies causing coughing, a very common symptom of allergic reactions.

Causes of cough

Coughing is a symptom of many conditions, alone or in a combination, including allergic responses. Some of the most common general causes of cough are:

  • Asthma
  • Colds and flu
  • Infections
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Acid reflux

Can allergies cause coughing?

Yes, inhalant allergies can cause coughing, as they can be breathed into the nose, mouth and airways and cause irritation of the lung’s lining. Coughing is an important defensive reflex response to expel these irritants.2 

Experiencing allergies is  more common in people that also have other inflammatory conditions such as asthma, or eczema.1 

Common allergies causing wheezing and/or coughin include:10

  • Pollen (hay fever)
  • Animal dander
  • Medicines
  • Mold: Releases small particles into the air that can be breathed in

How do allergies cause coughing?

Upper respiratory system

The upper respiratory system is composed of the nose, mouth, throat and voice box.8 

Inhalant allergies are thought to be a common cause of irritation of the upper airways.3 Upper respiratory system allergy reactions include:9   

  • Sneezing
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Nasal itching
  • Sore throat

Inhaling of an allergen can aggravate the mucosal linings of the nasal passages and cause watery mucus to drip from the nose, and down into the throat. 

This process causes a tickle in the back of the throat that leads to the reflex response, coughing.10 

Lower respiratory system

The lower respiratory system is composed of the trachea, bronchus, bronchioles and alveoli.7 These are all components of the lungs.

Common symptoms of allergies affecting the lower respiratory system include:9

  • Cough
  • Bronchospasm (narrowing of the airways)
  • Laryngeal edema

Experiencing allergies can be a risk factor for  developing bronchitis and other respiratory-related infections.6 

People suffering from  allergies to inhalant allergens such as dust can develop hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which can cause inflammation in the lung’s air sacs called the alveoli.6 

How to get it tested?

If your allergy is severe, or you cannot identify what it is you are allergic to, contact your GP or pharmacist. Your GP may carry out allergy testing or refer you to a specialist.1 The most common type of allergy testing is called skin prick testing.1 

If your symptoms are mild, it may still be advisable to speak to your GP as they can give you allergy advice and management strategies.


The most common symptoms caused by irritation of the airways include:4

  • Sore throat
  • Tightness of the chest 
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath.

From these symptoms, it is clear that allergies involve both the upper and lower respiratory system to produce the symptoms seen. 


Home Remedies

There are many home remedies for allergic cough, and you should use what works best for you. That said, the most commonly used, successful home remedies include: 

  • Honey tea 

Mix honey with warm water or herbal tea and drink. This soothes the throat and can prevent excessive coughing.5 

  • Ginger tea

Brew ginger tea by mixing fresh ginger with hot water. This can ease dry cough and has anti-inflammatory properties.5 



These are the main medicines for allergies, with various strengths prescribed to prevent the release of a substance that causes irritation and inflammation, called histamine. This substance can cause coughing by irritating the lining of the airways.1 Antihistamine, as implied by the name, blocks this substance from working.


Steroid inhalers are prescribed for patients with asthma to relax the muscles of the airways and reduce airway constriction.

Cough Medicine

If your coughing is severe, or you have a sore throat, you may be advised to take cough medicine to soothe your symptoms. These are available over the counter and in supermarkets. 

Saline Nasal Spray

If your nasal passages are itchy or inflamed, you may benefit from using a saline nasal spray to clear the passages.10 These are available with or without steroids. The addition of steroids to the nasal spray helps to reduce inflammation in the nostrils and nasal passages. These are prescribed by your GP.

When to contact a doctor for allergy cough

If you believe your child may be suffering from  an allergic reaction, see a GP immediately, as they can sometimes be dangerous in children, and symptoms of an allergic reaction can often be caused by, or indicate other conditions.1 

Similarly, if your allergy is severe, or you cannot identify what it is you are allergic to, please speak to your GP. They may carry out allergy testing or refer you to a specialist.1 


To prevent allergic reactions, or minimize them where possible, it is important that:

  • If you suffer from hay fever, stay indoors where possible when pollen counts are high.
  • If you are allergic to an animal, avoid them where possible, keep them outside or wash them regularly.
  • If you are allergic to a specific food, do not consume it. Any products containing it and check labels carefully before eating.
  • If you are allergic to house dust mites, hoover regularly and avoid dry dusting and carpeting.1 


Allergies can be troublesome, and can often feel difficult to manage. By identifying exactly what you are allergic to, you can minimize your exposure to the allergen and lessen your symptoms. 

If you suffer from wheezing/coughing as a result of your allergy, or any other interfering symptom, remember to:

  • Avoid as much as possible the allergen causing your allergic response.
  • Contact your GP if your allergy is severe or you cannot identify the cause.
  • Take treatments such as antihistamines to manage your symptoms when necessary.


  1. NHS. Allergies. Overview [online]; 2018. Available from: [accessed 29 Mar 2022]
  2. Bouayed J. Sorry, I am sneezing and coughing but I do not have COVID-19. Brain Behav Immun; 2022; 101: 57-58. 
  3. Simberg S, Sala, E, Tuomainen J, Rönnemaa A-M. Vocal Symptoms and Allergy - A Pilot Study. Journal of Voice; 2009; 23(1): 136-139.
  4. NHS. Treatment Allergies [online]; 2018. Available from: [accessed 29 Mar 2022]
  5. Medical News Today. What can I do to make my cough go away? [online]; 2020. Available from: [accessed 29 Mar 2022]
  6. Virtual Imaging, Inc. How Allergies Affect Your Lungs [online]; undated. Available from: [accessed 30 Mar 2022]
  7. Visible Body. Lower Respiratory System [online]; 2021. Available from:,release%20carbon%20dioxide%20in%20exchange. [accessed 30 Mar 2022]
  8. MedlinePlus. Upper respiratory tract [online]; 2021. Available from:,particles%20like%20pollen%20or%20smoke. [accessed 30 Mar 2022]
  9. Medscape. Food Allergies [online]; 2020. Available from: [accessed 30 Mar 2022]
  10. Health Care. How to Deal With That Nagging Cough [online]; undated. Available from:,tickle%20that%20leads%20to%20coughing. [accessed 30 Mar 2022]
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Laura Preece

BSc Pharmaceutical Sciences and MRes Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
I am a researcher and medical writer with a passion for pharmaceutics, disease and biological sciences. I am currently researching cellular and molecular biology, investigating the use of vitamin C as an adjunctive therapy for diabetes mellitus.

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