Have you ever experienced a sensation of itchiness in your lungs? This can refer to a tickle or scratchy feeling in your chest or irritation when you breathe.
Typically, an environmental irritant or a lung condition triggers this symptom. The term “itchy lungs” has become a catchall term for conditions that have similar symptoms, but it’s not a medical term.
Read on to learn more about “itchy lungs,” what causes them, treatment, and more.
Itchy lungs can have medical causes, like an illness. But they can also happen after exposure to environmental irritants or stress on the body.
Having certain health conditions like asthma can make exposure to irritants more bothersome.
Environmental causes of itchy lungs
- cold, dry air
- poor air quality
- smoke, whether from tobacco, cannabis, fire, or vehicles
- chemical fumes from sources like household cleaning supplies, pesticides, and industrial chemicals
Medical causes of itchy lungs
Medical causes can include:
- allergies caused by dust, pollen, pet dander, cockroaches, and mold
- infections that attack the respiratory system, like the common cold
- certain medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve)
Physical and psychological causes of itchy lungs
Physical and psychological causes
- chronic anger, which
can worsencertain lung conditions
The feeling of itchy lungs can occur with other symptoms. Usually, these symptoms result from the underlying cause.
Symptoms of allergies may include:
- itchy eyes
- facial pain
- nasal discharge
- postnasal drip
Symptoms of asthma may include:
- coughing, especially at night, while laughing, or while exercising
- tightness in the chest or chest pain
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- trouble sleeping
Symptoms of a respiratory illness may include:
- painful coughing
- throat pain
- aches and pains
The first step in treating itchy lungs is to determine the cause. If you remember having exposure to a specific irritant or if you have other symptoms of the flu or a cold, it may be easier to pinpoint the cause.
If it’s easy to determine, you can often care for yourself at home if symptoms are mild.
If the cause is not obvious or the symptoms severe, you may want to make an appointment with a doctor for diagnosis so you can receive appropriate treatment.
Steps you can take on your own can include:
- Remove or protect yourself from likely external triggers like smoke, chemical fumes, or cold, dry air.
- Avoid allergy-causing substances.
- Keep your living area clean and well-ventilated.
- Consider using a humidifier and clean your humidifier regularly.
- Wash pillowcases and sheets frequently.
- Avoid physical overexertion.
- Find ways to relax and de-stress.
- Adopt a lifestyle that includes a nutritious and balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate hydration.
- Try a Neti pot for nasal irrigation and clean the device regularly.
If these steps don’t help relieve the itchy sensation in your lungs, you may want to make an appointment with a doctor. They’ll check to see if allergies, asthma, or another medical condition are responsible for your itchy lungs.
A doctor may perform an allergy skin test to determine what substances you’re allergic to. Once you know what’s causing your allergies, you may be able to avoid it.
But in some cases, avoiding triggers may not be possible.
If you’re experiencing allergy symptoms, a doctor may suggest an over-the-counter antihistamine like:
- cetirizine (Zyrtec)
- fexofenadine (Allegra), levocetirizine (Xyzal)
- loratadine (Claritin, Alavert)
- diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
Depending on the severity of your allergies, a doctor may recommend a prescription antihistamine like:
- desloratadine (Clarinex)
- azelastine nasal (Astelin)
If needed, a doctor might prescribe a stronger course of action like:
- omalizumab (Xolair)
- allergy shots (immunotherapy)
If you’re diagnosed with asthma, a doctor might create an asthma action plan that may include tracking your symptoms. They may classify your asthma as intermittent or persistent based on
They may prescribe medications to treat your asthma. These may include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids: fluticasone (Flovent), budesonide (Pulmicort), or beclomethasone (Qvar)
- Leukotriene modifiers: montelukast (Singulair), zafirlukast (Accolate), or zileuton (Zyflo)
- Long-acting beta-2 agonists: salmeterol (Serevent) or formoterol (Foradil)
- Combination inhalers: fluticasone-salmeterol (Advair Diskus), budesonide-formoterol (Symbicort), or formoterol-mometasone (Dulera)
- Theophylline: Theo-24, Elixophyllin (not used as commonly as other options)
The sensation of itchy lungs is not uncommon. Often, it’s a symptom of an underlying cause that can be avoided or treated.
If the cause is environmental, emotional, or related to physical overexertion, you might be able to address it on your own with some simple and easy steps.
But itchy lungs could be a symptom of a more serious condition like asthma. If the cause is medical, a doctor can diagnose and help treat the condition.