A metallic taste when coughing might occur as a result of certain medical treatments or an underlying condition, such as gum disease.

The metallic taste might also occur at other times, such as while eating or drinking. The taste can be unpleasant and make it difficult to eat or drink.

Depending on the cause, the metallic taste may occur alongside other symptoms. For example, an infection might also cause fever-like symptoms.

In most cases, a metallic taste while coughing will go away after treating the underlying cause.

This article will discuss several possible causes of a metallic taste while coughing, as well as some other symptoms that might occur.

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If a person has gum disease, they might notice a metallic taste when coughing.

The following conditions may cause a person to have a metallic taste when coughing:

Gum disease

Gum, or periodontal, disease is an infection of the gum tissues in the mouth.

A buildup of bacteria in the mouth can cause gum disease. Keeping good oral hygiene is usually enough to prevent a buildup of bacteria. Smoking is another possible cause of gum disease.

Some other symptoms of gum disease include:

  • bad breath
  • swollen and sore gums
  • bleeding gums
  • difficulty chewing
  • sensitive teeth

In more severe cases, it can cause the gums to recede and the teeth to loosen or fall out.

Learn more about gum disease here.

A cold

Colds are a result of an infection in the nose, throat, and lungs. Rhinovirus infections cause colds and can spread easily to others.

Most people with a cold experience mild symptoms that include a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, and a cough. Some people also experience a fever.

A cold can affect sense of smell, which then affects the sense of taste, potentially causing a metallic taste in the mouth.

Learn more about colds here.

Sinus infection

Sinus infections can cause a loss of smell, which can cause a lack of flavor to food and a metallic taste in the mouth.

The sinuses are empty spaces behind the cheeks and forehead that connect to the nose. A sinus infection, or sinusitis, can cause inflammation in the sinuses. This inflammation produces a range of symptoms.

Other symptoms of sinus infections include:

  • a green, runny substance coming from the nose
  • a stuffy nose
  • a cough
  • tiredness
  • a fever
  • a sore throat
  • bad breath
  • teeth pain
  • headaches

Sinus infections are different from rhinitis, which only affects the nasal passages.

Learn more about sinus infections here.

Certain types of medication

Some medications can cause a metallic taste in the mouth. For example, antibiotics and lithium both have this side effect.

If medication side effects are affecting day-to-day life or making it difficult to eat and drink, a person can see their doctor. It is essential not to stop taking these medications without talking to a doctor first.

Indigestion

Indigestion refers to a group of symptoms that affect the gastrointestinal system, including the airways, stomach, and intestines. Indigestion can cause:

  • stomach pain
  • uncomfortable fullness after a meal
  • fullness too soon after a meal

Indigestion is not a disease. Some health conditions can cause indigestion, such as gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and irritable bowel syndrome. Indigestion can also be a symptom of GERD.

In other cases, foods, drinks, or stress can cause indigestion.

Learn more about indigestion here.

Cancer treatments

Cancer treatments can affect how the senses function and change the normal flow of saliva. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can produce a metallic taste in the mouth.

Around 80% of people receiving cancer treatment experience changes in the taste of food. Specifically, cancer treatments can cause some foods — such as salty, bitter, or sweet foods — to taste unpleasant.

Meat, in particular, may taste metallic, while other foods might taste more bland than usual.

Pregnancy

Some pregnant women experience a metallic taste in the mouth due to dysgeusia, a distortion of a person’s sense of taste.

People with dysgeusia experience changes in their sense of taste. The taste tends to be salty, rancid, or metallic. Sometimes, foods might lack any taste at all.

Pregnancy hormones can cause dysgeusia. Dysgeusia is most common in the first trimester, and taste will usually return to normal in the second trimester.

Treating a metallic taste when coughing will depend on its cause. Some causes are easy to treat, while others might be longer lasting.

Gum disease is usually treatable with good oral hygiene measures. These include brushing properly each day, flossing, and using mouthwash as necessary. Quitting smoking will also help.

Antibiotics are the first line of treatment against many bacterial infections. For example, a doctor will prescribe an antibiotic to treat a sinus infection. They might also suggest other medications to help with symptoms, such as a decongestant or an antihistamine.

Over-the-counter medications are highly effective for treating most cases of indigestion. For example, antacids help counteract excess stomach acid that causes symptoms.

In more severe cases, prescription medications may be necessary. For example, proton pump inhibitors are particularly effective in people who also have heartburn.

If the metallic taste is a result of cancer treatment, it is critical not to self-medicate. Avoid taking any vitamins, supplements, or other products without discussing it with a doctor first. This can interfere with treatment.

People may find that eating with plastic cutlery and using glass cookware instead of metal may help reduce the metallic taste. Citrus fruits, sugar, and salt may also help disguise a metallic taste in the mouth.

People may need to check with their healthcare team before adding any extra sugar or salt to their meals.

Avoid changing from a medication causing the metallic taste without first talking to a doctor.

A metallic taste when coughing can be a symptom of a condition that requires medical attention. For example, co-occurring fever-like symptoms could indicate an infection that is treatable with prescription medications.

Most people do not require medical attention for mild conditions, such as a cold. However, older adults should see a doctor for a cold if their symptoms become severe or persist for longer than a few days.

If a medication or cancer treatment is causing the problem, always see a doctor before making any changes. A doctor might be able to prescribe a different medication or advise on other possible changes to make.

A metallic taste when coughing can be a side effect of a certain treatment or medication. It can also be a symptom of an underlying health condition.

The metallic taste should go away once treatment ends. Treating the underlying cause of the metallic taste should resolve this symptom.