Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Man in a blue t shirt coughin

What Triggers the Coughing Bouts?

For the last few weeks, I have been trying to pay particular attention to what triggers the fits of coughing from COPD. Some of them are simple enough to understand, while others leave me wondering.

There are obvious triggers like allergens in the air or dust collecting in a relatively small or closed environment. Most of the time I can ease the coughing by using my inhaler. It does not stop them immediately, but typically does not take long before things are back to normal.

Manual Labor

Physical work does not usually make me cough, unless I get winded in the process. It would appear that the combination of losing my breath and getting hot, directly affects the coughing fits. They range from just a few coughs, to attacks lasting what seems like forever (or until I give in and take something for the cough).


The fits that have me intrigued right now, are the ones that seemingly come from nowhere. These are tough to predict because there is no real trigger that I can see. It happens randomly when my wife and I are watching television, or in the car driving somewhere. There are no obvious signs like pollen or dust, but when the coughing starts, it is difficult to make it stop.

At times, these coughing fits can be worse than others. I have found that often I will cough hard enough and for long enough that it will trigger a debilitating migraine. In these cases, I have to use my inhaler, some type of cough medicine, and just give it time to run its course.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t give it much thought, except that I remember reading something in one of the pamphlets that my doctor gave me when I was diagnosed with COPD. There was a specific mention of trying to minimize, anything that exacerbates the symptoms. I cannot remember every word, just that you could do more damage to your lungs in cases where the coughing gets too severe.


Prior to my diagnosis, I had a bad case of pneumonia. With that, I was coughing so much that I was coughing up blood. My pulmonologist ordered X-rays which apparently showed multiple lesions in my lungs. In my own mind, that must have been the reason I was coughing up what I was. Once antibiotics had had enough time to start helping, in addition to a rescue inhaler, I was able to get the coughing under control. While it was still a productive cough, the blood almost immediately went away.

Since the pneumonia has been dealt with, all I am left with is the random fits of coughing. I am sure that part of the coughing comes from our home currently being in a state of disrepair. We are still living in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. We have finally managed to get our roof replaced, but on the interior of the house, there is still a large amount of drywall and insulation left unfinished. The only thing we are sure of at this point is that it is not a mold problem. After the storm, we had a group come through and help us with interior demo and clean-up. Afterwards, they treated everything for mold to keep anyone from getting sick.

I suppose the only thing we are uncertain about is, particulates of fibre glass in the air from the exposed drywall and insulation. We continuously run an air purifier with a HEPA filter in the rooms of the house that we are currently using.

Do you have any special triggers that set off fits of coughing? Have you tried anything unique to get the coughing under control?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • lizlizardrn
    10 months ago

    Did you ever think you may have THRUSH ??? I have cough that comes without reason and will last “forever”. I know it’s coming from my throat , not my lungs. About 2 years ago, my GP insisted he saw no thrush as did my pulmonologist …. I went to an ENT doctor…. he dropped a camera down my nose and there, in the hidden areas of my throat was thrush ! This has happened often since then… I now know the symptoms well. Nystatin -swish & swallow -works wonders!!! I can’t be the only person plagued with this!! All the steroids and also -from what I’ve read-the albuterol causes this fungal infection. The medication is a sure cure … maybe others need to be checked too. It’s not obvious by just looking into the mouth so be prepared to go to a specialist -ENT . Worth the money !!!

  • Barbara Moore moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi lizlizardrn,
    It is probably more common than we realize because it is a side effect of our meds. Some may think it is not serious enough to push the issue with the doctor.
    Barbara Moore (site moderator)

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    10 months ago

    What an experience, lizlizardrn! You’re right, you’re not the only one to have this happen. Sadly, I think just like you, it can go undiagnosed and create problems.

    The steroids are the main culprit, no question. But now many people are on combination therapies that have both the bronchodilator and the steroid combined – which can be confusing. I think the best thing to do is always rinse, even when you don’t think you need to. As you’ve found out, better safe than sorry!

    Thanks so much for sharing – I’m sure it will help others.

    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi lizlizardrn and thanks so much for sharing your anecdotal experience with thrush. It’s amazing to hear that the third doctor (the ENT) was the one who finally diagnosed the condition. Especially, after it got past both you GP and the pulmonologist! As Lyn said, others will read this and gain valuable experience for themselves from what you have gone through. Warm regards, Leon (site moderator)

  • ron41
    1 year ago

    I ve been coughing a lot too lately .. however its mostly just in the evening when I m relaxed and watching t v …. keep telling the wife I m allergic to her .. and have to trade her in after 51 years …. however seriously maybe I m too relaxed ???

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Ron41 – It’s hard to imagine that being too relaxed would be the cause of the increase in coughing. More likely it’s the evening air or since you mention allergies, perhaps there’s something in the room where you watch TV that aggrevates an allergy. It’s probably not your wife as I’m pretty sure there would have been signs before now:)… 51 years??!! Amazing!

    Lyn (site moderator)

  • lovinggrandma
    1 year ago

    Hi Steven, IDK, I might be unusual. In my case, I used to cough a lot more before I was diagnosed Jan 2017. I must have had copd for years without realizing it bc I got sick 2-3 times a year with chronic bronchitis but my Dr. Of 20 years never mentioned copd–it was always asthmatic bronchitis, excercise induced bronchitis, or leaf/mold allergies. However, this year our pollen has been extremely high and I have been coughing and have excessive mucous that is driving me crazy. I have 4th stage so I have to be really careful when I even go outside. I even started my dreaded albuterol nebulizer that I hate for it makes me so jittery, I want to pull someone’s ear. It could be such a number of things and everybody is different. I’m not so sure I’m not on the verge of pneumonia, but my pulmonologist app is Thursday, so that’good. My PcP is on maternity leave. Try some peppermint candy for your cough. It has helped me. Good luck with this dreaded cough.

  • Jacquelyn
    1 year ago

    I too have been experiencing this continuing cough. It started in January after a visit to the hospital which had nothing to do with the COPD. As with lovinggrandma the mucus that comes with it is very frustrating also the continuing runny nose. Anything can start the coughing, too warm, too humid, sneezing, eating, walking, name it I start coughing. Sometimes just for a short burst other times until I think I will pass out from lack of air.

    I have tried Mucinex which does help with the mucus and cough but makes me sick to my stomach and dizzy, maybe it would help one of you.

    I have stopped going out to dinner with my family because I am afraid I will go into a coughing fit and embarrass myself and them.

    Any suggestions to stop this coughing will be greatly appreciated.

  • Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi Jacquelyn and thanks for your post. As you mentioned, others in our community have had similar experiences to those you’re reporting to us. Sometimes coughing is just that, for no apparent reason one goes into a coughing jag, and it takes a while for it to dissipate. Other times, the coughing may be indicative of the medication regimen needing some tweaking. You may want to check with your physician to seek his/her opinion as well.
    I thought you might find it interesting and informative to look over this article on the ‘persistent cough’:
    All the best, Leon (site moderator).

  • Poll