Effects of Excessive Coughing

Coughing is a normal respiratory reflex that occurs when the mouth or throat becomes irritated due to foreign material. However, coughing that lasts for more than eight weeks is medically dubbed the chronic cough. Experts at the Mayo Clinic report that its symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing up of blood, heartburn and a liquid sensation at the back of the throat. Postnasal drip, asthma and a respiratory tract infection are a few of its causes. If left untreated, excessive coughing leads to certain effects.

A young child is coughing. Credit: djedzura/iStock/Getty Images

Urinary Incontinence

Chronic cough can lead to urinary incontinence, a medical condition in which individuals can no longer control urination. Specifically, excessive coughing can lead to stress incontinence. The Mayo Clinic says that stress incontinence occurs when pressure or stress is placed on the bladder when coughing, laughing, exercising and even lifting a heavy object.

Treatment for urinary incontinence involves scheduling bathroom trips, retraining the bladder by holding in the urine for at least 10 minutes when the urge to leak urine occurs. Also, limiting fluids, managing the diet and performing pelvic exercises, such as squeezing the lower buttock muscles, may help strengthen the bladder. Medications, such as oxybutynin, imipramine and topical estrogen, can also be given. Still, more treatments exist such as inserting a device called a pessary into the vagina to hold up the bladder. Talk to a physician to find out more about treatment options.


Excessive coughing can result in dizziness. MedlinePlus says that dizziness symptoms include loss of balance, lightheadedness, fainting and vertigo (a spinning sensation). Treatment for dizziness involves changing posture, drinking fluids and taking such medications as sedatives, antihistamines and nausea pills. Sometimes, the dizziness may disappear after the bout of excessive coughing subsides.


Sometimes, excessive coughing can lead to a headache. MedlinePlus says that symptoms of a headache include a pressure-like dull pain that can affect the entire head. Sometimes, the pain may be worse in the scalp region, temple or back portion of the neck. Typically, headaches can last anywhere between 30 minutes to seven days.

Treatment for a headache involves resting, exercising and sleeping well. Drink plenty of fluids as dehydration can also trigger a headache. Over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen, are available to manage headache symptoms. Sometimes, stronger prescription medications, such as metaxolone, butalbital and aspirin or amitriptyline, can be prescribed.

Rib Fractures

The force from excessive coughing can lead to rib fractures, especially in people with such brittle bone diseases as osteoporosis. Aurora Healthcare indicates that symptoms of a rib fracture include pain in the ribs or when coughing, bruising and swelling at the fractured site and pain with breathing.

Treatment for a rib fracture includes resting and protecting the fractured ribs with a chest binder. This is made of protective material that wraps around the chest. Also, medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin and acetaminophen, can help reduce the pain from rib fractures. Intercostal nerve blocks and epidural anesthesia are stronger medications to help dull the rib pain. Sometimes, hospitalization may be necessary if the fractured rib punctures any important organs, such as the stomach or heart.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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