Sunday, 25-09-2022

Why Does My Head Hurt When I Cough? Possible Causes & What To Do?

Do you ever get a headache when you cough or sneeze? Do you wonder why my head hurts when I cough? Read this article to understand what causes headaches when coughing and sneezing, and when to seek medical attention.

It is not common for people to experience headaches from coughing. This can be caused by extra pressure in your abdomen, which can lead to increased pressure in your head.

Primary cough headaches are caused by coughing or other activity such as straining or sneezing. Primary cough headaches can be benign and will usually resolve on their own.

Secondary cough headaches are more severe and can be caused by a brain disorder, such as a tumor.

A primary headache may be relieved by reducing or eliminating their coughing. OTC cough medication or pain medication can be helpful, along with drinking lots of fluids and resting.

People with secondary headaches due to coughing will need treatment.

A person can visit their doctor if they are unsure if they have a primary cough headache or a secondary one.

Why does my head hurt when I cough?

head hurts when i cough

head hurts when I cough

Coughing can sometimes cause a person to have a headache or make their head hurt. Doctors refer to primary and secondary types of cough headaches as “primary” or “secondary”.

Primary cough headaches can be temporary and usually harmless. Secondary cough headaches, which can cause brain problems, are more serious.

Continue reading to find out which symptoms can indicate a primary headache or a more serious condition. We’ll also explore home remedies and medical treatments for both.

It depends on whether doctors classify the headache as primary or secondary.

Primary Headache Cough

The primary cause of a headache due to a severe case of coughing is sudden abdominal pressure. This could cause headaches due to increased pressure in the skull.

You may also experience headaches from other activities. These are:

  • Sneezing
  • Bowel movements
  • Joking
  • Exercising hard, straining your abdomen

Primary headaches due to coughing are not linked to any brain disorder or other health conditions.

Secondary Headache Cough

A secondary headache due to cough is usually caused by an underlying condition like a brain disorder.

Chiari type 1 malformation, which is the most frequent cause of secondary cough headaches, is called.

Chiari malformation can be described as a defect within the skull’s structure. This is when the cerebellum (or lower part) of the brain descends from the base of the skull into the upper spinal canal.

Secondary headaches may also occur from:

  • Obstructive Hydrocephalus or excessive fluid buildup in the brain.
  • A type of brain cancer is miscellaneous posterior Fossa lesions.
  • A spinal fluid leakage caused an instantaneous drop in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) tension.

When one of these conditions is present, secondary headaches may be brought on by other activities. Some examples include laughing, weightlifting, and changes in body or head posture.


2013 review found that primary cough headaches are most common in males, and more severe in those over 40.

Although a primary cough headache may be short-term, it can last up to 30 min. Some people report a primary headache lasting 2 hours.

You may also experience the following symptoms of a primary headache:

  • Pain that is sharp or stabbing
  • Pain that starts suddenly during or after a cough
  • Both sides of the head can feel pain, but it is possible to have one side.
  • After the initial pain is gone, the dull ache continues

Secondary cough headaches can last from a few seconds up to several weeks.

A secondary cough headache can be characterized by:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling faint
  • High-intensity pain
  • Feeling unbalanced
  • Different durations of headaches
  • Stabbing pains or dull ache
  • Different locations of headaches

Secondary headaches can also be caused by other factors than coughing.

Therefore, it is necessary to report the medical history or medical treatment before the headache so that the doctor can make an accurate diagnosis. Failure to properly disclose medical records can lead to misdiagnosis.

For example, if you have headaches or temple pain after having a wisdom tooth extracted, your doctor may focus on checking the extraction site for infection, rather than having to go for a CT scan or MRI of the brain.

Home remedies

Head Hurt When I Cough

Head Hurt When I Cough: Drinking hot water is one of the home remedies

Primary cough headaches can be treated at home. The best way to relieve or reduce headaches is to identify and treat the root cause.

A headache may be relieved by an over-the-counter (OTC), pain medication such as ibuprofen.

The flu or cold may be causing your coughing. Clearing your sinuses can also reduce pressure in the head.

There are many home remedies that can be used to treat a cold or flu.

  • OTC cough medicine
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Warm beverages such as honey-lemon water
  • After coughing, wash your hands with soap and warm water.
  • If someone is at high risk for flu, they should get a flu jab every year.

Hot beverages like honey or lemon can soothe the throat and make it more bearable if you have a cold.

Diagnosis & Medical treatments

Although they are not common, headaches caused by coughing can occur. Sometimes, they can be a sign of a more serious medical condition.

If you experience frequent headaches due to coughing, particularly if they last more than two hours or are very painful, it is important to consult your doctor.


Your symptoms will be discussed with the doctor. The doctor will want to know how your headaches feel and how long they last.

Primary headaches are those that cause stabbing pain in your head on either side of the head.

These can be temporary or permanent. It could be secondary headaches if the dull, aching sensation on one side of your head lasts several days.

Your brain and skull may be taken with a computerized tomography scan (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine.

These images can reveal problems in your brain or skull that may cause headaches when you cough.

Your doctor will only be able to rule out secondary causes so you can be certain that your headaches from coughing are not the cause.

Medical treatments

People who can’t treat their cough at home may need to visit a doctor.

A doctor might prescribe medication to relieve a sore throat due to a cold, or another underlying condition such as Bronchitis.

If someone has the flu, a doctor might prescribe antiviral medication.

Primary cough headaches can also be treated by other medications that may be prescribed by a doctor, such as:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin
  • Ergotamines to treat migraine headaches
  • Acetazolamide is used to eliminate excess fluid and salt from your body

These medications can reduce inflammation, coughing, and pressure in the skull.

A secondary cough headache is a condition that causes the person to need treatment.

To check for problems with the brain or spinal cord, a doctor may request CT and MRI scans.

Surgery may be required for anyone with a disorder of the skull or spine.

  • Normalize cerebrospinal fluid flow
  • Remove a brain tumor
  • Leakage of spinal fluid can be fixed by plugging the holes
  • Reduce pressure on the skull due to excess fluid

The treatment of the condition may include reducing symptoms and preventing further progression.

Primary headaches can be reduced by reducing or eliminating the straining behavior of your cough.

Avoiding colds and other infections will reduce the chance of developing a sore throat, a cough, or a sneeze. Here are some tips to prevent a cold.

  • Particularly if you have been in crowded areas such as a shopping mall, wash your hands frequently.
  • Get your flu shot every year.
  • Get a vaccine against pneumonia if you are 65 years old or older.
  • When possible, limit your contact with people suffering from a cold or flu.

Take steps to get better if you have a cold or flu.

  • Breathe in the steam.
  • Get plenty of water.
  • Make use of a neti pot.
  • Do not eat cough drops.
  • Use a vaporizer.
  • Get enough rest.
  • Warm beverages such as herbal tea and chicken soup are recommended.
  • You can also use over-the-counter decongestants or cough suppressants.

If straining in bowel movements is a contributing factor, laxatives and stool softeners might be helpful. Avoid lifting heavy objects, as they can put a strain on your abdomen.

Secondary cough headaches can be treated with at-home remedies temporarily, but the root cause must also be addressed.

Risk factors & Prevention

What are the risks of getting a headache from a cough? And how can you prevent them? Continue reading to find out more

Risk factors

Primary headaches due to a cold

Primary cough headaches can be caused by the following risk factors:

  • Age: Primary Cough Headaches most commonly affect people over 40.
  • Males are more likely to get primary cough headaches than Women.

Secondary headaches from a cough

Secondary cough headaches can be caused by:

  • You are younger than 40


You can reduce the frequency of your headaches by avoiding the triggers, such as coughing, sneezing, or straining on the toilet. These preventive measures include:

  • Treating lung infections, such as bronchitis
  • As a side effect, avoid medications that cause coughing
  • Get an annual flu shot
  • To avoid constipation, use stool softeners
  • Avoid heavy lifting and prolonged bending.

When should you see a doctor?

Primary cough headaches are usually benign and can resolve on their own. People should consult their doctor if they have severe or persistent symptoms.

If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see your doctor.

  • A headache that lasts longer than 2 hours
  • Common headaches caused by coughing
  • Dizziness, faintness, or loss of balance due to headaches
  • Extreme pain or sudden severe headaches
  • Headache that changes in intensity with changing position or posture, such as from lying down to standing
  • Symptoms such as fever, chills, or unexplained weight loss include

A doctor will conduct a physical exam and perform any tests necessary to determine if a headache due to coughing is caused by a primary or secondary condition.

Once the doctor has determined the cause and type of headache, they can create a treatment plan.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it mean when I cough my head hurts on the left side?

Coughing is a reflex that clears the airways and protects your lungs. Coughing can cause headaches and make your head hurt. This is a natural response of the body to clearing the sinuses. Some people may experience severe pain that causes them to blackout.

It is possible that a nerve or vessel on your left side is sensitive to pressure changes caused by coughing. If this occurs more often than that, consult a specialist (i.e. For neurology or angiology.

You may also have blocked sinuses on your left side. This is often the root cause of the problem. If your sinus problems persist, you should see a doctor determine if there is something more serious.

Does a migraine get worse when you cough?

It can get better if you lie down. Sometimes it starts at the back of your head. It may also cause neck pain. However, it can feel all over your head. It can often get worse if you cough, sneeze, or exert.

Why does my head hurt when I cough after a migraine?

The chest and abdomen are under pressure, triggering both primary and secondary headaches. This pressure and subsequent headache can also be triggered by sneezing or laughing.

Why does my head hurt when i cough?

It is not common for people to experience headaches from coughing. This can be caused by extra pressure in your abdomen, which can lead to increased pressure in your head. Primary cough headaches are caused by coughing or other activity such as straining or sneezing.

What does it mean when you cough and it hurts your head?

Primary cough headaches can be mild, temporary, and resolve on their own. Secondary headaches, also known as symptomatic or recurring cough headaches are more severe and can be due to brain problems. Secondary cough headaches can require surgery.

Why do I get headaches when I sneeze?

Surprisingly, headaches that are precipitated by sneezing or coughing are often compared to those caused by coughing. This is likely because both sneezing and coughing can be caused either by an increase in intracranial pressure or both of these things.

head hurts when i sneeze

Why does my head hurt when I sneeze or cough?

It is not common for people to experience headaches from coughing. This can be caused by extra pressure in your abdomen, which can lead to increased pressure in your head. Primary cough headaches are caused by coughing or other activity such as straining or sneezing.

What does it mean when i cough my head hurts on the right side

You most likely have a mild problem with blood pressure. When you cough your blood pressure can rise to dangerous levels. If you don't have any blood pressure medication so it might be worth getting checked. It is possible to do this yourself at most corner pharmacies. If your test results show that your blood pressure is too high, it is a good idea to visit your GP for a reality check. Uncontrolled blood pressure can be very dangerous. However, to be sure, you need to go to the nearest medical facility for a closer examination.


Overview of Cough Headaches Cough headaches - Symptoms and causes


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