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Metallic Taste While Coughing: Causes And Treatment

Having a metallic taste in your mouth can be unpleasant. It is moderately common to have a metallic taste [1] in your mouth. It can be due to certain medications, mouth injury or any recent mouth surgeries, or due to poor oral health. In some severe cases, it can be an indication of various severe illness. These may include liver or kidney problems, cancer or undiagnosed diabetes. It can also be caused due to radiation therapy or cancer treatment.

Metallic taste while coughing [2] can be alarming. The major and mostly, the common reason behind the situation is an infection in your upper respiratory system. An infection, such as a cold can make you feel like you have an old penny in your mouth. The taste can be very unpleasant.

The metallic taste is due to the minute traces of blood in your phlegm, that is coughed out from your respiratory tract. The level of blood in the phlegm [3] can vary and will result in causing a distinct metallic taste. Although the metallic taste while coughing is an indication of the common cold, there are other reasons that can cause the condition.

Causes Of Metallic Taste When Coughing

1. Upper respiratory infection (URI) or a common cold

A URI is a type of viral infection. It can spread from one individual to the other and can cause irritation in your nose, lungs and throat. Common cold [4] causes a constant cough and chest congestion. The mucus, phlegm and any discharge caused by the infection can have a metallic taste. This will be felt by the individual while coughing. Other URIs [5] such as strep throats or sore throats are not accompanied or associated with a cough, therefore will not result in causing a metallic after taste.

2. Asthma or breathing trouble (caused by exercise)

Individuals who have trouble while breathing due to excessive exercising [6] or asthma can feel the metallic taste while coughing or wheezing. It does not happen constantly but has been reported to have a metallic taste when the breathing [7] becomes arduous.

3. Anaphylactic reaction

Anaphylaxis, a type of severe reaction [8] caused by being in contact with any element that causes allergy (allergen) can be intense in various individuals. The affected individual will undergo shock as a result of their body and immune system trying to fight off the allergen [9] .

An anaphylactic reaction is accompanied with wheezing [10] and coughing. These can leave a metallic taste in your mouth once the airways are forced closed by the reaction.

4. Pulmonary oedema

This condition is caused when the intense physical activities, such as exercise causes the pressure in the chest to increase [11] and results in the pumping of fluids into the lungs. The red blood cells in the fluid may enter the lungs and will cause coughing. The coughing will come with a metallic taste due to the presence of the red blood cells [12] .

Some of the other cause of metallic taste when coughing are

  • bronchitis,
  • medication reaction or side effect,
  • chronic mucus congestion[13] ,
  • antibiotic use,
  • exposure to dust,
  • viral pharyngitis,
  • smoke exposure,
  • goitre [14] ,
  • emphysema (a chronic lung condition), and
  • poisoning.

Treatment For Metallic Taste When Coughing

If the condition is caused by common cold, you can wait out for the virus to run the course as it cannot be cured with antibiotics. Although, you can treat the symptoms with medications used for treating a common cold.

1. Cough medicine

Suppressants used for reducing and treating coughs [15] can help you get some relief from the metallic taste, as well as a cough.

2. Pain relievers

If the respiratory infection has caused any sort of pain in the lungs or your throat, pain relievers like acetaminophen can help in providing some temporary relief.

3. Decongestants

These will help in reducing the congestion caused by the phlegm [16] and mucus. You can use decongestants like phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine for this purpose.

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When To Consult A Doctor

The metallic taste caused in your mouth along with coughing is generally due to a common cold. The cold will last for a few days and will subside. However, if the condition lasts for a period of a long time and has the following symptoms, you should immediately consult a doctor.

1. High fever

If the fever does not subside and lasts for a period longer than the usual, seek medical attention. If the temperature goes above 103°F (39°C), it is critical that you get medical help.

2. Wheezing or trouble breathing

If the cough with metallic taste is severe and causes trouble while breathing or wheezing, go to a doctor. The wheezing is caused as a result of your airways being blocked by the congestion. It can be a sign of severe medical conditions such as a heart attack, anaphylactic shock, asthma attack or a pulmonary embolism.

3. Coughing blood

Although it is normal to see blood in the cough, coughing up large amounts of blood is naturally not a good sign. Small traces of blood in your mucus and phlegm is normal as it is the result of irritations in the respiratory tract. However, if the amount of blood is visible and more than usual, it can be an indication of severe conditions such as pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary embolism, lung cancer or tuberculosis.

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View Article References
  1. [1] Ala, A., Safar-Aly, H., & Millar, A. (2001). Metallic cough and pyogenic liver abscess.European Journal Of Gastroenterology & Hepatology,13(8), 967-969.
  2. [2] Nelson, S. L. (1998).U.S. Patent No. 5,766,622. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  3. [3] Cox, J. D., Stetz, J., & Pajak, T. F. (1995). Toxicity criteria of the radiation therapy oncology group (RTOG) and the European organization for research and treatment of cancer (EORTC).International Journal of Radiation Oncology• Biology• Physics,31(5), 1341-1346.
  4. [4] Bright, M., & Brennan, M. (2016). Is nasal saline irrigation helpful in reducing duration of cold symptoms in patients with acute viral upper respiratory tract infections (URI) compared with standard symptomatic treatment?.Evidence-Based Practice,19(12), 6.
  5. [5] Nuckton, T. J., & Moore, D. H. (2017). Does Swimming in Cold Water Protect Against Upper Respiratory Infections? A Preliminary Study of the Incidence of Upper Respiratory Infections in Cold-Water Swimmers.Journal of Exercise Physiology Online,20(1).
  6. [6] Mehlum, C. S., Walsted, E. S., Godballe, C., & Backer, V. (2016). Supraglottoplasty as treatment of exercise induced laryngeal obstruction (EILO).European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology,273(4), 945-951.
  7. [7] Depiazzi, J., & Everard, M. L. (2016). Dysfunctional breathing and reaching one’s physiological limit as causes of exercise-induced dyspnoea.Breathe,12(2), 120-129.
  8. [8] Greaves, M. W., & Mongar, J. L. (2017, January). Mechanism of the anaphylactic reaction. InImmunopharmacology: Proceedings of the Third International Pharmacological Meeting July 24–30, 1966(Vol. 11, p. 45). Elsevier.
  9. [9] Wu, T. T., Chang, Y. C., Lee, J. M., & Hung, M. H. (2015). Anaphylactic reaction to patent blue V used in preoperative computed tomography-guided dye localization of small lung nodules.JFMA, 1-2.
  10. [10] Grabenhenrich, L. B., Dölle, S., Moneret-Vautrin, A., Köhli, A., Lange, L., Spindler, T., ... & Scherer, K. (2016). Anaphylaxis in children and adolescents: the European Anaphylaxis Registry.Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology,137(4), 1128-1137.
  11. [11] Holt, N. R., Prasad, S., Ellis, S., & Naughton, M. T. (2017). Clinical masquerades of pulmonary oedema.Internal medicine journal,47(7), 827-829.
  12. [12] Gray, W. H., Hackmann, A. E., Starnes, V. A., & Kiankhooy, A. (2018). Successful rescue therapy with venovenous extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for re-expansion pulmonary oedema in a patient with one lung.European Journal of Cardio-Thoracic Surgery.
  13. [13] Lawless, H. T., Schlake, S., Smythe, J., Lim, J., Yang, H., Chapman, K., & Bolton, B. (2004). Metallic taste and retronasal smell.Chemical Senses,29(1), 25-33.
  14. [14] Van der Sandt, N., & Ramoleta, T. (2016). Mouth and throat preparations.SA Pharmaceutical Journal,83(8), 19-26.
  15. [15] Morice, A. H. (2006). Chronic cough: diagnosis, treatment and psychological consequences.Breathe,3(2), 164-174.
  16. [16] Lech, S., Schobel, A. M., & Denick Jr, J. (1997).U.S. Patent No. 5,681,577. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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