Coughing is the body’s way of clearing obstructions from airways, and it’s not unusual to experience occasional Coughing after eating. Here are some reasons you might have a post-eating cough.
RELATED: Why Do We Cough?
In this article:
- Coughing After Eating From Food Allergies
- Acid Reflux and Related Conditions
- Infections That Cause Coughing After Eating
- Aspiration Pneumonia
- Coughing After Eating | When to See a Doctor
Common Causes of Coughing After Eating
Coughing After Eating From Food Allergies
If you start coughing within two hours of eating, you might suffer from a food allergy. While a food allergy usually emerges during childhood, it can develop at any age.
You may even develop an allergy to something you’ve eaten your whole life. Some typical food allergy culprits are:
- Peanuts and tree nuts
When you have a food allergy, your immune system regards the food as dangerous. Consequently, your immune system overreacts and releases chemicals to get rid of the harmful substance.
For example, one of these chemicals is histamines, which prompt your body to make more mucus. As a result, you end up coughing after eating.
Common food allergy symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Runny nose
- Tingling or an itchy mouth
Severe allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis, a condition that affects your ability to breathe. It’s a rare condition, but it’s life-threatening and needs immediate medical attention.
In most cases, symptoms are mild. However, it’s still a good idea to pinpoint your reaction’s exact cause to manage it properly.
Acid Reflux and Related Conditions
Acid reflux occurs when acid from the stomach travels upwards through the opening of the stomach. The acid makes its way to the food pipe, which irritates your throat and causes a cough.
Acid reflux may also cause a burning sensation in your chest and a bitter or sour taste in your mouth.
Acid reflux is usually more annoying than anything serious, but chronic acid reflux could indicate a more severe condition.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a more severe form of acid reflux that is chronic. GERD symptoms include:
- Excessive gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble swallowing
Another condition, LPR, or laryngopharyngeal reflux, causes acid to travel to the nasal passages, which produces a nasal drip and hoarseness as well.
A doctor can help manage both conditions, but there is, unfortunately, no cure.
For less severe acid reflux, there are some steps you can take to prevent discomfort and Coughing:
- Eat slower and chew food thoroughly before swallowing.
- Identify food that triggers your acid reflux.
- Eat smaller meals.
- Don’t lie down after a meal.
- Don’t drink acidic beverages, such as fruit juice.
- Avoid fizzy drinks.
- Drink more water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Infections That Cause Coughing After Eating
Some infections, such as an upper respiratory infection, may result in coughing after a meal. In some cases, a cough may persist long after the initial infection has cleared.
A persistent cough after an illness is difficult to treat because the Coughing prevents healing. Furthermore, the inflammation of the airways leads to more Coughing.
In such cases, your doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory drug to break the cycle.
Other viral, bacterial or fungal infections may affect the windpipe or larynx, such as strep throat or laryngitis. Similar to a respiratory infection, the throat becomes inflamed and results in Coughing, particularly after eating.
Generally, treating the infection will treat the cough as well.
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Coughing caused by asthma is usually worse at night, but some irritants in food, especially sulfite, may exacerbate asthma symptoms.
Coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing are common symptoms associated with asthma.
To reduce Coughing, avoid foods containing sulfites such as:
- Dried fruit
- Pickled vegetables
- Potato chips
- Soft drinks
Any food that causes an allergic reaction can also worsen an asthma attack. So, it’s best to speak to your doctor to determine which foods to avoid.
When a healthy person inhales small particles, such as food, the lungs expel it by coughing. On occasion, however, these particles become trapped and cause a bacterial infection called aspiration pneumonia.
People who suffer from acid reflux or have trouble swallowing are at higher risk of developing aspiration pneumonia. Besides wheezing or coughing after eating, other symptoms include:
- A fever that starts within an hour of eating.
- Excess saliva.
- Congestion after eating or drinking.
- Fatigue or shortness of breath while eating.
- Painful swallowing.
Aspiration pneumonia is a severe condition that requires treatments. Without treatment, it can lead to a lung abscess or even respiratory failure.
Dysphagia is a condition that makes it difficult and painful to swallow because it takes food longer to reach the stomach. Additionally, it causes a sensation of food stuck in your throat, which leads to coughing or gagging while eating.
Other conditions, such as acid reflux, oesophageal cancer, or a head injury, may cause dysphagia. A doctor can help determine the underlying medical condition and prescribe treatment.
If left untreated, it may result in weight loss or repeated chest infections.
Coughing After Eating | When to See a Doctor
While not all cases require medical treatment, it’s best to talk to a healthcare provider about coughing after meals if:
- The reason for your cough is unknown.
- You frequently cough after meals.
- There’s blood in the mucus.
- You experience additional symptoms.
- Coughing gets worse or lasts longer than two weeks.
In short, coughing after eating is not uncommon, but an underlying condition may be the reason for your cough. While some of these conditions may be chronic, you can take steps to reduce the symptoms.
Finally, speak to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns. A doctor can help determine the cause and prescribe a treatment for your condition.