An Uncontrollable Cough: 9 Causes and Natural Treatment Options

Uncontrollable cough

Coughing is a common natural phenomenon experienced by each one of us at some point in our life. But sometimes uncontrollable cough can cause a lot of annoyance.

Coughing helps to expel chemicals, microbes, dust, and other irritants from the respiratory tract and cleanse the airways.

It is an involuntary reflex of the body’s respiratory system often followed by scratchy, dry, disrupted, and uncomfortable feeling in the throat.

However, if you experience an uncontrollable cough at night, it shouldn’t be overlooked. It may indicate underlying infection or the beginning of cold flu that may last for one to two days or a week in some cases.

The answer for “how to stop uncontrollable coughing” depends upon the underlying causes and the type of a cough.

Related Reading: 10 Essential Oils for Cough or Cold and How to Use Them

Types of an Uncontrollable Cough

An uncontrollable cough is a clear indication and symptom of an irritated respiratory system. By the severity it can be classified as follows:

  • An acute cough: It arises suddenly due to some infection and persists for about three to four weeks
  • A sub-acute cough: This type of a cough generally lasts for over four weeks. It occurs during illness and stays even after the disease has subsided.
  • A chronic cough: A troubling cough for over eight weeks.

Possible Causes of Uncontrollable Cough

Coughing is a common symptom of cold and flu or any other sort of respiratory tract infections. It’s relevant to diagnose these causes based on the symptoms they tag along:

1. Asthma and Allergies

Asthma is reactive airway disease which is characterized by chest tightness, shortness of breath, inflation, swelling, and airway constriction. It may elicit wheezing or coughing which intensifies at night or early in the morning.

Allergies (atopic), viral infection (non-atopic), drugs, or industrial environment can be the trigger for asthma.

2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is a causative acid reflux in which the stomach acid flows to the esophagus due to the weak valve. Coughing may occur in an attempt to expel the offending agent and clear out the irritation of throat and airways.

3. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

COPD is when the airways and air sacs in the lungs get inflamed. It induces excess mucus formation by the lungs that give rise to a nagging cough and includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

4. Air Pollution

Exposure to smoke, mold spores, fumes (like diesel exhaust), dust, specific medication, air pollutants, cold and dry weather may exacerbate a chronic cough.

5. Acute Bronchitis

Bronchitis is caused due to hereditary or autoimmune conditions where bacteria sets in the airway wall and leads to repeated infections.

Severe respiratory tract infections like tuberculosis and pneumonia may cause inflammation of airways.

Other symptoms of bronchitis are:

  • Acute coughing
  • Chest congestion
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Aches
  • Sore throat

6. Tuberculosis

This chronic contagious infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis affects the lungs and causes uncontrollable coughing.

Most of the people with a healthy immune system, who get infected do not develop this disease. Even if you get infected, the most common symptom, i.e., coughing, develops weeks later.

7. Pertussis or Whooping Cough

It is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the Bordetella pertussis bacterium.

Anyone suffering from this ailment will observe the symptoms of a violent chronic cough in the second phase (paroxysmal phase) of infection which may last for several weeks.

Vaccination minimizes the occurrence of pertussis in children and adults.

8. Nasal Decongestant Spray

OTC (over-the-counter) sprays may help you get relief from the mucus and stuffy nose. It is better not to use them excessively.

Its excessive use may make nasal membranes swell, which may cause more congestion and uncontrollable coughing.

9. Dehydration

Lack of fluids in your body will help to loosen mucus in your airways so that you can cough it out. If you have a cold or flu, drink a lot of water, juice, and soup. But avoid dehydrating drinks like alcohol caffeinated drinks.

Symptoms Associated with an Uncontrollable Cough

A cough in itself is not an ailment but a sign. Other physiological symptoms of an uncontrollable cough include:

  1. Vomiting
  2. Fever
  3. Chest pain, runny nose
  4. Abnormal breathing sounds
  5. Sputum
  6. Lack of appetite
  7. Watery and red eyes
  8. Thick congestion
  9. Fatigue, trouble in sleeping or lying down
  10. Cyanosis, which is a bluish discoloration of the skin found on the feet, hands, lips, and whites of the eye.

Uncontrollable Cough Remedies

A cough is most common nowadays; it clears the throat of fluids, irritants, and foreign particles. Coughing can be voluntary or involuntary. Here are some remedies to overcome an uncontrollable cough:

1. Honey and Herbal Tea

According to studies, honey can overcome a cough more efficiently than any medicine could.

You can go with non-caffeinated herbal tea before going to bed daily and add the two teaspoons of honey will speed up the pacifying process of your throat.

You can also try honey with warm water or lime juice; this will also help in soothing the throat.

2. Eucalyptus

If applied on the chest and rubbed on the feet eucalyptus can help you knock out uncontrollable coughing. You can add eucalyptus oil while taking steam.

3. Sleep on Inclined Surface

Sleeping postures and techniques will be helpful in eliminating the cough.

The mucus produced in your nose or throat while you are going to sleep can irritate your throat. So try to sleep with some extra pillows beneath your head and let gravity do its job.

To raise your head up wooden blocks can also be used.

4. Steam

Steam is the pre-eminent way to banish a cough. It will make your throat free from all the irritation. For this you can take a steam bath or just you can inhale steam from the water.

5. Room Humidity

A cough arises from low humidity level, so it’s better to let air in the room to add moisture that could minimize the severity and duration of a cough.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests adding a vaporizer or humidifier to rooms to increase humidity levels.

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor relative humidity levels at 40-50 percent. A room-size humidifier or a whole house humidifier, which is attached to the house’s heating unit can help.

6. Keep Bed Clean

Cleanliness is the weapon to avoid health issues. So keep your bed and surroundings clean to prevent a cough and other health-related problems. Wash your bedding and clothes time to time too.

7. Peppermint

Menthol in peppermint heals the throat and acts as a decongestant; it helps in breaking down the mucus. Peppermint tea will also be helpful.

8. Medications

Have cough syrups to avoid a cough. But ensure that you check the expiry date and the labels correctly. And always keep in mind that overdose is harmful.

Mentioned above are the remedies that will relieve your cough. Also, it is better to avoid medications and go with the home-made remedies to prevent side-effects.

If your cough persists for over seven days, then you must consult a doctor immediately.

Read Next: 

Yaneff, J., “Uncontrollable Cough: 7 Causes and Home Remedies”, Doctors Health Press web site, February 1, 2017;
Chris, “Uncontrollable Coughing Fits in Adults and Children,” HealthHype web site;, last accessed Nov 02, 2017.
Griffin, M., “8 Reasons Your Cough Is Not Improving,” Webmd web site;, last accessed Nov 02, 2017.
“Cannot Stop Coughing? 8 Causes of Chronic Cough,” Health web site, July 18, 2012;,,20267700,00.html.
“Uncontrollable Cough,” Healthool web site;, last accessed Nov 02, 2017.

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Dr. Mark Williams, MD

Dr. Mark Williams is a leader in alternative and integrated medicines. He is a medical writer and reviewer at Daily Health Cures. He received his medical degree in 1988. Mark brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Daily Health Cures editorial team. He is a natural health advisor and provides a variety of alternative healing techniques in his practice.