When people cough, the aim is for air to force irritants out of the throat to prevent choking or infection. Coughing uses muscles that also play a role in vomiting, which is why people sometimes throw up after coughing.
Sometimes, a cough is very forceful and loud. While most coughing is not serious, a strong cough can break bones, cause bleeding, or make someone vomit.
People can vomit after coughing hard because the muscles that the cough reflex triggers are also responsible for vomiting. It is not usually something to be overly concerned about.
This article will evaluate why someone might cough so hard that they vomit, the treatment options, and when to see a doctor.
There are many different reasons why someone might cough so hard that they vomit. These include the following:
Inhaling smoke can cause significant irritation to the body.
The various components of cigarette smoke
For this reason, many people who smoke have chronic coughs lasting many
This cough can be dry or productive, meaning that it brings up phlegm. Sometimes, it can be so severe that it causes vomiting.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
COPD is a chronic obstructive lung condition that is
This disease causes the lungs and airways to become so severely inflamed that air does not easily pass through. A chronic and severe cough is one of the symptoms of COPD.
Asthma is a condition featuring a chronic cough that has inflammation in the lungs as its cause. The airways react to an allergen or irritant by narrowing, which is what triggers the coughing.
A chronic cough is sometimes the only sign of asthma, but some people experience wheezing, difficulty breathing, and excessive mucus.
Cough variant asthma is a type of asthma where the only symptom is a chronic, dry cough, which can be severe enough to cause vomiting.
Several different types of infection
- chronic bronchitis
- pertussis or whopping cough
A severe infection known as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is the
All of the above infections can increase the production of mucus in the airways, which triggers coughing. Gagging and vomiting can result from severe coughing in these cases, too.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux
GERD and acid reflux result from stomach acid backing up into the food pipe and sometimes into the airways. This can irritate the throat and
Some blood pressure medicines
A type of blood pressure medication known as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
Paroxysmal coughing is a term doctors use to describe violent and uncontrollable coughing attacks, which may also have gagging or vomiting accompanying them.
This often occurs during the second stage of whooping cough, a bacterial infection that
Other conditions may also cause it,
If a person experiences sudden coughing fits that become increasingly severe or last longer than a week, it is best for them to talk with a doctor to determine the cause and the best course of treatment.
A person should seek immediate medical attention if they experience any of the following symptoms:
- difficulty breathing
- chest pain
- bluish discoloration of the lips, tongue, or skin
- loss of consciousness
Diagnosing a chronic cough starts with a thorough medical history and physical exam. A doctor will ask about symptoms and things that trigger or relieve the cough.
During the physical exam, a doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to the chest. The doctor can tell whether fluid is in the lungs or if an airway obstruction is present on the basis of the sounds that a person produces when they breathe.
A doctor may request additional tests depending on the results of the medical history and physical examination. These tests can include:
- chest X-ray
- CT scan
- lung function test
- spirometry to determine air intake and signs of asthma
- bronchoscopy to look at the lungs and airways with a camera
A single episode of coughing so hard that a person vomits is not a reason to call a doctor. However, people should seek medical help if they have a chronic or severe cough that does not improve within 3 weeks.
People should also call a doctor if they have any of the following additional symptoms:
- coughing up blood
- difficulty breathing
- fast breathing
- blue lips, face, or fingertips
A person needs prompt treatment if any of these symptoms are present. If they cannot reach a doctor, a person should go to the nearest emergency room.
A person can do several things at home to treat a cough before seeing a doctor. The remedies depend on the cause of the cough.
If a cough occurs after eating, such as with GERD or acid reflux, people can try using an antireflux medication, such as TUMS.
Heartburn that is so severe that it causes a cough that medication cannot relieve requires a doctor’s evaluation.
For people who have a long-term cough due to smoking, the priority should be to quit smoking. Smoking can both cause and worsen a severe cough. Furthermore, it can lead to serious health problems that provoke further coughing.
People who smoke can ask their doctor for help to quit or check out www.smokefree.gov for additional resources.
If an infection causes the cough, these home care measures may help:
- drinking extra fluids
- avoiding exercise temporarily
- using over-the-counter cough suppressants
- trying a chest rub such as VICKS
- taking honey or sipping warm fluids
People should check with a doctor if home care measures do not help a cough within 3 weeks or it worsens.
Treatment for coughing so hard that a person vomits involves managing the underlying condition that is causing the cough.
If home remedies do not help, treatment options may include:
- antibiotics for an infection
- prescription-strength cough suppressants
- prescription acid reducers for GERD
- decongestants or antihistamines for allergies
- inhaler or steroids for asthma or allergies
People should be sure to follow up with a doctor if the prescribed medication does not relieve the cough.
The outlook is good for a person who experiences coughing that causes vomiting. In most cases, such a severe cough is a short-lived condition that will go away once the person receives treatment for the cause.
However, there are some serious conditions that may be behind a strong cough, and these will require ongoing care from a doctor.
It is important for people to follow up with a doctor if a severe cough does not go away or improve so that they can receive the correct treatment.