How To Get Rid Of An Itching Cough?

What causes an itching cough?

Did you know that according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), at least 60 million Americans suffer from itching, sneezing, cough, or cold, caused by allergic substances such as dust, pollen, and mite, especially during spring?1 Yes, cough is that common! It is something most people will experience repeatedly in a lifetime.

The Mayo Clinic defines cough as a mechanism the body uses to get rid of irritants that get to the throat or airways.

While it is healthy and normal to cough occasionally, persistent cough or cough alongside other symptoms such as coughing up blood, coloured phlegm, etc can indicate that something is wrong medically.

Types of cough by duration

  • Persistent coughing for more than 2 weeks is classified according to the Cleveland Clinic as Acute Cough 
  • Cough that lasts between 3 to 8 weeks is categorised as Subacute Cough
  • Progressive cough of more than 8 weeks is chronic
  • A Chronic cough that does not improve with medication is termed Refractory Cough3

Causes of cough 

Myriad of things can cause cough, and they include; 

  • Allergens (dust mite, mucus, pollen, mold, pet dander) 
  • Common cold 
  • Irritants(e.g  smoke) inhalation 
  • Viral infection 
  • Influenza 
  • Asthma
  • COVID-19(SARS-COV-2 Virus) 
  • Medical conditions e.g Throat Disorders, Heart failure, certain cancers, Post-nasal drip, Pneumonia, Pertussis, Gerd( Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease), COPD( Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Sinusitis et cetera3, 1

Considerations when it comes to an itchy cough

Coughing is often healthy, but the importance is attached to the cause of the cough, associated symptoms and duration of symptoms. 

Specifically, of the causes of cough listed above, the following lead to itchy cough:

  • Allergies: Allergic substances such as dust, animal fur, mite, pollen, etc can cause allergic reactions because the immune system sees them as threats. A severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction known as Anaphylaxis could occur in some people. Certain medications and food allergies can also cause symptoms of rhinitis and hay fever. Allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever, can occur when any of these allergies get into the body system and result in the body releasing various chemicals to fight off the allergens, this process results in symptoms such as itchy eyes, itchy throat, cough, sore throat, itchy skin, sneezing, running nose, watery eyes, tickly throat, nasal congestion.1 Allergens can also worsen asthma symptoms in people living with asthma. Seasonal allergies are common during summer when pollen count is higher4
  • Irritants: Smoke, and pungent smells (like cleaners and perfumes) can irritate the airways and lead to throat irritation and an itchy cough2
  • The common cold: This is caused by a viral infection that affects the throat and nose. The Mayo Clinic lists symptoms such as low-grade fever, sore throat, throat irritation, body aches, headache, cough5
  • Ear infections: Ear infections can cause itchy ears and throat too. The common cold, flu or allergies often ascend and lead to ear infections.6 Ear infection should be taken seriously especially in children as it can lead to hearing loss6
  • Bacterial infection: Bacteria can cause inflammation(swelling) of the tissues lining the sinuses( four paired spaces in the head) termed Bacteria Sinusitis. According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms such as facial pain/pressure, a runny nose can occur. Sinusitis is more common in people with allergies and those living with asthma.7 Tonsillitis(swelling of the tonsil), Strep-throat caused by bacteria can also affect the throat and lead to symptoms which include an itchy cough4 
  • Covid-19: The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) lists symptoms such as dry cough, dry throat, sore throat, fever, tiredness, itchy throat, shortness of breath et cetera

Remedies and Treatment

Medication use for cough depends on the cause of cough, the acuteness of the cough, lengthened duration of symptoms, worrisome symptoms such as coughing out blood, chest pain, vomiting, coloured and foul smelling phlegm, difficulty breathing or swallowing.2  Cough suppressants can help suppress the urge to cough when the cough is caused by irritants.9 

Cough medicines have not been shown to work better than placebos or homemade remedies and they only treat the symptom, not the actual disease process.2,3 

The Cleveland Clinic warns that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are not recommended in children less than 6 years old, it's not advised too in children younger than 12 years old. 

Avoiding irritants and allergic substances that cause you to cough can help prevent cough. Getting your allergy shots of allergic can help against seasonal allergies. Nasal spray decongestants can also be helpful. Ceasing from smoking, and use of nicotine, and other substances that can irritate the airways is recommended. 

Getting vaccinated for COVID-19, pneumonia, and influenza( some causes of cough that are vaccine-preventable) is also recommended.2

Home remedies can also help soothe the symptoms. Some examples are:

  • Drinking lots of fluid to help thin mucus and make it easier to remove 
  • Using humidifier to soothe irritated throat
  • Tea and honey 
  • Gargling with salt and warm water 
  • Drinking hot water with lemon juice
  • Adding fresh ginger to boiled water and drinking the mixture once it is cooled 
  • Taking chicken soup 
  • Adding turmeric and black pepper to boiled water and drinking when it cools9 

When to see a doctor

Chronic cough(cough persisting for more than 8 weeks) necessitate visit to a doctor. 

Symptoms such as 

  • Wheezing( noisy sound when breathing out).
  • Fever of or greater than 101.5 Fahrenheit or fever that lasts more than a day or two.
  • Chills
  • Coloured or foul-smelling phlegm
  • Coughing out blood2

If you can't breathe well, have really bad chest pain, feels like you’re choking or see a lot of blood when you cough, call the emergency line 911.


Coughing is often healthy, but persistent causing and symptoms such as coughing out blood, foul-smelling phlegm, chest pain, and wheezing indicate a medical problem. 

There are different causes of cough and it is important in treatment. 

Most cough medicines have not been proven to be more effective than placebos. 

Home remedy is useful and can ease symptoms associated with cough.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs) 

  1. What are the causes of itchy cough? 

Answer: Allergens, Common Cold, Bacteria Infection, Irritants, Ear infection, COVID-19 

  1. Can allergies cause coughing

Answer: Yes, allergies can cause allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and symptoms of allergic rhinitis include cough 

  1. What are examples of allergic substances? Dust mite, pollen, animal fur, certain food eg milk, eat, mold 
  2. Are home remedies effective when coughing? 

Answer: Yes, they can help soothe symptoms

  1. What home remedy can be used to cure a cough? 

Answer: Myriads of home remedies exist eg fresh ginger and boiled water, gargling salt and warm water 

  1. What medical treatment can be used to cure a cough? 

Answer: Cough suppressants, cough expectorants. It is important not to use it in children under 6 years old. 

  1. Can COVID-19 can cough? 

Answer: Yes, cough can be a symptom of COVID-19 

  1. When should I see a doctor?

Answer: Chronic cough and associated symptoms such as coughing out blood, foul-smelling phlegm, chest pain, wheezing indicate a medical problem. 

  1. When should I call 911?

Answer: If you can't breathe well, have really bad chest pain, feel like you are choking or see a lot of blood when you cough, you should call the emergency line

  1. Should children younger than 6 years old use cough medicines? 

Answer: No, they are not. Always check with your children's doctor before administering any remedy.


  1. Allergens and Pollen | CDC 2020. (accessed September 14, 2022).
  2. Cough. Mayo Clinic n.d. (accessed September 14, 2022).
  3. Cough: Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Conditions. Cleveland Clinic n.d. (accessed September 15, 2022).
  4. What Causes Itchy Ears and Throat? n.d. (accessed September 16, 2022)
  5. Common cold - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic n.d. (accessed September 16, 2022) 
  6. Ear infection (middle ear) - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic n.d. (accessed September 16, 2022)
  7. Sinus Infection (Sinusitis): Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment. Cleveland Clinic n.d. (accessed September 16, 2022) 
  8. Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Symptoms, Causes & Prevention. Cleveland Clinic n.d. (accessed September 16, 2022)
  9. Cold and Flu: Finding Fast Cough Relief. EMedicineHealth n.d. (accessed September 16, 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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Oluwadamilola Fasanya

MBBS(in-view), Medicine, University of Lagos

Oluwadamilola Fasanya is a medical doctor-in-training, a health systems enthusiast and a creative writer.
She is passionate about strengthening health care systems through creating health content that educate, empower and give people across the globe the enlightenment needed to take charge of their health.

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