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Valarie, Nurse (RN)
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 1228
Experience:  36+ yrs exprience medical, surgical, wound/skin care, nutrition, geriatrics, rehab, management
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How to treat a tickle in throat that causes coughing fits?

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My mother has coughing fits. She is in her 70's. Both her and her sister get this. She gets this tickle in her throat and has coughing fits which are almost debilitating - anything sweet, spicy or sometimes for no reason at all. No dry or soar throat complaints; just a tickle that comes on and she coughs until she turns red sometimes. Has been to many doctors and none have been able to treat it. Please help. Thank you!


Thank you for writing in today. I want to provide you with the best possible information, so I have a few questions. I hope you understand.

Any other medical conditions?

What medications and supplements is she taking?

Does she take an ACE inhibitor drug, such as lisinopril? If so, how long has she been taking the medication?

When did these symptoms start?

Any other associated symptoms?

Please let me know.

Customer: replied 8 years ago.

No medical conditions




In her 40's; not in her 70's.

No other symptoms. Can be irritated by something she eats like salty, sweet, spicy etc. Had read something somewhere about a nerve in her throat?


Thank you for responding. Unfortunately, due to some commitments, I will be unavailable over the next couple of days, so I will be opting out of this question. By opting out, your question will be available for other Experts to answer.

Have a great day!


There are a few possibilities she can discuss with her doctor. Sometimes, these kinds of symptoms are caused by things that are not obvious.

She may have allergies that caused her throat to itch. This could be seasonal allergies, inhaled irritants or could be food allergies.

She takes Reglan---if she is taking this for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), she may want to ask her doctor about a different treatment to control stomach acids and reflux. It is possible for her to have reflux that causes no other symptoms but to stimulate nerves in the esophagus that connect to nerves going to the lungs and would trigger coughing episodes.

She may have an allergy to one of the medications she is taking.

She can try these things before seeing her doctor:

  • Try over the counter anti-histamines to see if this will help with any allergy symptoms she may have.
  • Pay attention to what foods she eats that then results in a coughing episode (keep a food diary for a while).
  • Try some over-the-counter medications for acid reflux, like Pepcid and/or liquid antacids.

If these things don't affect the condition at all, she needs to see an ENT physician to do further tests. If she is having problems with reflux, this should be taken care of fairly soon to prevent injury to the esophagus and complications like inflammation and ulcers.

Valarie, Nurse (RN)
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 1228
Experience: 36+ yrs exprience medical, surgical, wound/skin care, nutrition, geriatrics, rehab, management
Valarie and 6 other Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Here's the thing. I don't think it is food related. The tickle in both my mother and her sister's throat can be brought on by something sweet, spicy, etc. But, it can also be brought on without food. A smell (perfume) or similar. My aunt says even after applying lipstick, inhaling the smell of it can cause a coughing fit. It appears to be a nerve in the throat that is easily irritated by numerous things. Is there something that be taken to make this nerve less susceptible? Thank you.


It sounds like it could be a possibility that she has acid reflux that is stimulating the nerves in her esophagus that are also linked to the lungs. This will cause coughing.

So, you need to deal with the acid reflux? May be the Reglan is not working for her? Or, if she is not taking it for reflux, she may have developed acid reflux. It is common at her age.

Try over the counter acid reducers you can get at a local pharmacy. Just ask the pharmacist which ones are the best. She should try this and see if it helps. If not, she needs to see her doctor to find out about issues with acid reflux or allergy symptoms.

If this answered your question, you do not need to reply.
I wish you both well.

Here's some more info.

MedicineNet's page on GERD.

Look at page 4, under Complications at the section about asthma and coughing.

It should explain about the nerve thing.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

That might make sense if it were not for the fact that her sister who does not have acid reflux, have the same problems. Their mother did as well.


I am going to give you a link to a site that explains "laryngeal sensory neurophathy" which causes a chronic cough. This is not a site I usually give people because it is an advertisement, but the explanation of the problem is good, and there are links to studies that have been done. "Mystery Chronic Cough" is a site put up by Fauquier Ear Nose and Throat Consultants of Virginia. Please understand, I don't know anything about this doctor, but the page seems to sum up the problem in a nutshell. It also explains that other things need to be ruled out first like asthma, reflux disease, allergy and infection.

The other site is one that explains that a study has been done linking a chromosome to sensory neuropathy with chronic cough and esophageal reflux, which would make it hereditary. Here's the link.

What I am suggesting here is:
Make sure all other possible causes have been ruled out: asthma, allergies, reflux disease and infection. Then have her see an ENT (ear nose and throat physician) and ask about the above information. It may also require a neurologist to check it out.

If this is the cause, the information includes possible treatment with medication like amitryptyline or neurontin that would calm the neuropathy and stop the cough.

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