Signs of an Allergic Cough (plus Diagnosis, Causes & Treatment)

Updated in December 2023

Signs of an allergic cough are persistent throat irritation with persistently dry coughs that worsen at night. It it typically triggered when the person comes into contact with an allergenic substance, such as dust, animal dander or pollen, for example.

This type of cough is more common in spring and fall, although it can also appear in winter, as environments tend to be more closed at this time of year, increasing the accumulation of allergenic substances in the air.

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Common symptoms

The main signs of an allergic cough are:

  • Dry, persistent cough
  • Irritation in the throat
  • A cough that gets worse at night
  • Cough in which there is no phlegm or any other secretion
  • Intense coughing that can cause vomiting
  • Shortness of breath

In addition, allergic coughs can be accompanied by other symptoms such as constant sneezing, a blocked or runny nose, excessive tiredness or pain in the sinuses.

It is important to consult an ENT specialist or allergist if you persistently experience allergic coughs, so that your symptoms can be assessed and appropriately treated-

Confirming a diagnosis

The diagnosis of an allergic cough is made by an otorhinolaryngologist or allergist, through the assessment of the patient's symptoms, health and allergy history, as well as a physical examination.

In addition, allergy tests may be ordered to identify the agent responsible for the reaction and thus be able to guide the most appropriate treatment. 

Possible causes

Allergic coughs are caused by an exaggerated reaction of the immune system to allergenic substances. This response leads to the release of histamine in the body, and is a common finding in people who have allergic rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma or seasonal allergies.

The main allergens that can cause an allergic cough are:

  • Dust, dust mites or mold
  • Plant pollen
  • Animal dander, saliva or urine
  • Cigarette smoke or environmental pollution
  • Cockroaches
  • Chemical products such as chlorine, cleaning products or perfumes

Allergic coughs are not contagious, that is, they are not transmitted from person to person. However, children of allergic parents are more likely to develop respiratory allergies at any stage of life, and are therefore more likely to suffer from a persistent dry cough.

How to treat an allergic cough

In the event of an allergic cough, you should consult an otorhinolaryngologist or allergist, who may recommend treatment with antihistamines, like desloratadine or cetirizine. These help to reduce the release of histamine in the body, which helps to relieve symptoms.

The doctor may also recommend the use of nasal corticosteroids, as they quickly relieve the symptoms associated with allergic coughs, such as a runny or blocked nose.

During treatment, you should also avoid contact with allergens, such as contact with animals, carpets, curtains, dust, very humid and moldy places.

Increasing your usual water intake also helps to soothe the throat, helping to reducing the cough.

Home remedies for allergic coughs

A great home treatment for a dry cough, which is one of the characteristics of allergic coughs, is to take a honey syrup with propolis every day, as this will keep the throat area cleansed and moisturized, thus reducing the incidence of coughing.

Another homemade option is carrot and honey syrup or oregano syrup, as they have properties that reduce the cough reflex, helping to relieve dry coughs. Check-out a list of other homemade cough syrups you can take for dry coughs.

However, these syrups should not be used by people who are allergic to honey, pollen or propolis.