One of the most disruptive symptoms of hay fever is the persistent cough that can accompany other symptoms. While your runny nose and sneezing may be brought under control with a box of tissues and antihistamines, the cough can sometimes prevail. The key to fighting the hay fever cough is to understand the underlying causes to your symptoms.
Coughing Due to Hay Fever
The culprit behind your hay fever cough is postnasal drip. In fact, a condition called postnasal drip syndrome (PNDS) has been pinpointed as the leading cause of chronic coughing. It begins with excess mucus generated by the upper respiratory system, caused by a variety of factors. In the case of hay fever, allergens like pollens or mold are usually the irritants.
As the system produces this excess mucus, it tends to build up in the back of the nose and throat, causing it to drip down into the throat. This can cause the throat to become dry and sore, in addition to the irritation it can cause to the throat. Either of these factors or a combination of both of them can create a chronic cough for those affected by hay fever.
In addition to coughing due to throat irritation and postnasal drip, the allergen itself can cause coughing in hay fever sufferers. Particles can become lodged within the throat, causing a tickling sensation that induces a chronic cough.
However, it’s important to note that chronic coughing could be a symptom of asthma, especially if accompanied with difficulty breathing. A cough doesn’t have to be year-round to be related to asthma. It can occur seasonally, aggravated by hay fever symptoms. Patients with persistent coughing need to be seen by a doctor.
Your doctor will first attempt to determine the cause of your cough. Your cough could be related to anything from hay fever to acid reflux, so your doctor will first attempt to narrow it down.
A large part of diagnosing a cough is its sound, which can be confusing. Hay fever can produce a dry cough, in reaction to the irritants in the patient’s throat, or a wet cough, in reaction to the mucus that gathers from postnasal drip. But it can rule out other causes.
As disgusting as it sounds, your doctor may also be excessively concerned about the color of the mucus discharge that results when you cough. Yellow or green mucus can be indicative of an infection, although it can also be a simple virus.
Coughing all day does more than disturb everyone around you. All that coughing actually has a debilitating effect on your body. There are several secondary complications that all that coughing causes.
Because a chronic cough tends to keep patients up at night, lack of sleep can cause tiredness and irritability, as well as a disruption in your ability to think clearly. You may find yourself drifting off to sleep at inconvenient times throughout the day due to the sleep interruption your nighttime coughing bouts cause.
Coughing can also cause headaches and fractured or cracked ribs. Once a rib has cracked, the coughing becomes even more painful, with no cure except to wait for the rib to heal. Excessive coughing can leave you feeling exhausted, short of breath, and even dizzy. It can cause sweating throughout the day and even urinary incontinence in some patients.
Cold sufferers have used cough medicine to treat coughs for decades. However, in the case of hay fever cough, these traditional medicines may not provide much relief. Some doctors prescribe cough suppressants, but there is debate as to whether those actually do anything. A study released by the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) found that cough suppressants and expectorants were not effective in relieving coughing symptoms.
The ACCP found two long-term remedies for hay fever were effective in relieving hay fever cough, in addition to all other symptoms. Decongestants (Mucinex, Sudafed) and antihistamines (Benadryl, Zyrtec) are still the two most effective treatments for hay fever cough, according to ACCP. Decongestants are recommended for only short-term use, as a person can become dependent on the nasal spray form.
If you have a cough that you know is related to hay fever, antihistamines and decongestants can cause short-term relief. Persistent extreme reactions to allergens may require skin testing to ensure you get treatment specialized to your needs.