why does coffee make me cough

Why Does Coffee Make Me Cough?

It can be disheartening for those who need our daily caffeine fix to find out that the hot beverage may be causing more issues than we’d like.

When you think of side effects from drinking coffee, the common answers are usually jittery hands or an inability to sleep.

However, coughing is one not-so-common side effect of indulging in too many cups.

This article will dive deep into why coffee might make someone cough and what steps you can take to prevent it.

Why Coffee Makes You Cough

There are several reasons why drinking coffee might lead to a coughing fit, and most are harmless. Here are some of the most common causes.

1. The Caffeine in Coffee Can Irritate the Throat

Caffeine is a stimulant drug in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and hot solid cocoa.

While it is an energizing pick-me-up for many people, caffeine can cause irritation of the throat when consumed in high amounts.

This is because caffeine is an acid that can affect the delicate tissue in the throat, causing an unpleasant burning feeling or even scratchiness.

Reducing consumption usually results in less irritation to your throat, although those particularly sensitive may need to discontinue use altogether.

The amount of caffeine needed to produce these symptoms varies among individuals, so paying attention to your body and limiting intake is essential if you start feeling irritation or discomfort.

2. Acidic Drinks May Aggravate a Coughing Reflex

With a typical pH that falls below 5.0, coffee is quite acidic. The liquid can irritate the delicate mucous membranes in your throat and digestive system when consuming acidic drinks.

This acidity can be disruptive for people who experience coughing fits due to pre-existing conditions like a dry or damaged throat or those suffering from allergies or viral infections.

The acidity of these drinks sometimes induces an already present mucous membrane irritant that has gone undetected while simultaneously making it more challenging to expel mucus by decreasing the lubrication of these membranes.

In other words, acidic drinks make persistent coughing more likely and increase the intensity of an individual’s coughing fit.

3. Allergies or Sensitivities to Coffee Beans

A coffee allergy or sensitivity can cause a person to have respiratory and gastrointestinal reactions upon drinking coffee.

A person allergic or sensitive to coffee beans may experience a dry cough or tight throat after consuming it.

Some people might also develop wheezing. It can be difficult for people to pinpoint coffee as the source of an allergy since it’s common to add cream, sugar, and other additives.

An allergy to coffee beans is something to remember when experiencing prolonged coughing after drinking your morning cup of joe.

4. Caffeine Intolerance and Its Effects on the Respiratory System

Caffeine intolerance, also known as hypersensitivity to caffeine, can cause many uncomfortable symptoms.

These effects are not only limited to the digestive system; caffeine sensitivity also affects the respiratory system.

Symptoms experienced in this area can include heavy coughing and chest congestion.

A direct effect of the stimulant on certain parts of the respiratory tract causes this. Such reactions can create difficulty breathing and irritation in the lungs and throat.

Caffeine-triggered coughing can range from mild to severe, depending on how sensitive someone is to its effects.

For some individuals, these bouts of coughing last for several minutes and are challenging to stop without taking a break from consuming caffeine products altogether.

5. Dehydration After Drinking Coffee

While coffee can provide an occasional energy boost, it can also cause dehydration in its consumers.

Caffeine is a diuretic that encourages your body to produce more urine. This, in turn, can impact your hydration levels and dry out your throat, which could lead to coughing fits.

Monitoring your daily water intake is essential to ensure you get the most out of your coffee-drinking experience.

If you’ve had several cups of coffee, you can replenish yourself with plenty of fresh water and other liquids.

6. Too Much Sugar

Adding sugar to your cup of coffee might make it easier to gulp down, but beware–this habit could cause you to break out into a coughing fit.

Consuming excess sugar can lead to throat irritation, leading directly to the reflex action of coughing.

Furthermore, if the added sugar is from artificial sweeteners, additional ingredients and sugars like sorbitol could be more likely to cause a cough than regular table sugar.

Fortunately, you can still enjoy that sweet flavor without sacrificing your throat. Try a bit of natural honey or agave for sweetness that won’t irritate your throat.

How To Prevent Coughing From Drinking Coffee

In most cases, making a few substitutions to your daily cuppa joe will prevent coughing.

When you’re dealing with coughing fits after drinking coffee, you might find these precautions helpful:

  • Add natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit to your coffee to protect against irritation from regular table sugar.
  • Switch to decaffeinated coffee if you suspect caffeine intolerance is causing the coughing.
  • Brew high-quality dark roasts, which are naturally less acidic than lighter roasts and cause less irritation.
  • Find a reliable brand of allergy-friendly coffee.

With a few simple adjustments, you’ll be able to enjoy your cup of coffee without any uncomfortable coughing.


Still, wondering how coffee affects your health? Check out these frequently asked questions for more information.

What are the symptoms of a caffeine allergy?

Common caffeine allergy symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Facial flush
  • Rash or hives
  • Nausea and abdominal pain
  • Rapid heart rate

These symptoms can occur immediately after consuming anything with caffeine, like tea, coffee, or energy drinks.

Can you drink coffee with a dry cough?

While regular caffeinated coffee may help temporarily reduce the feeling of fatigue associated with a dry cough, it can also further dehydrate your body and make your cough worse.

If you miss the taste of coffee, opt for decaffeinated instead.

Final Thoughts

Drinking coffee can lead to coughing in some individuals. Generally, this is due to irritation from the acidity, caffeine content, or sugar added to coffee.

While most of these issues are minor, if the coughing continues or becomes unmanageable, it is advised that they consult with a healthcare professional for further assessment and guidance.

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