What Is a Paroxysmal Cough?

A paroxysmal cough is a type of intense, uncontrollable cough that comes in bursts. Imagine you’re trying to enjoy a peaceful day, and suddenly, you’re hit by a wave of coughs that you can’t stop. This isn’t your regular cough; it’s like a coughing fit that has taken over. These fits can be so severe that they leave you gasping for air.

The coughs often end with a “whooping” sound, especially in children. Conditions like whooping cough, bronchitis, and even some types of pneumonia can trigger these coughing spells.

Why Does It Happen?

So, why do you get hit with these coughing fits? Usually, it’s because your body is trying to fight off some kind of infection. Your lungs and airways are like a fortress, and when invaders like bacteria or viruses breach the walls, your body sends in the troops. In this case, the coughing is like your body’s alarm system going off to clear the area.

What Causes a Paroxysmal Cough?

Whooping Cough

Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is a big-time cause of paroxysmal coughing. This bacterial infection attacks your airways and causes intense bouts of coughing. If you’ve been vaccinated, you’re less likely to get it, but it’s still around.

What Is a Paroxysmal Cough?


Bronchitis is another frequent offender. It’s an inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which carry air to your lungs. When these tubes get inflamed, they become narrower, making it harder for you to breathe. So, your body reacts with a cough to try and clear things up.


Pneumonia is a more severe lung infection that can also cause paroxysmal coughing. In this case, the air sacs in your lungs get filled with pus or other liquids, again setting off your body’s alarm bells.

Allergies and Asthma

If you’re prone to allergies, these can also spark a paroxysmal cough. Pollen, pet dander, or even certain foods can irritate your airways. Similarly, asthma can make you more susceptible to this type of cough. Your airways narrow and become inflamed, so you end up coughing to try and clear them.


Ever walked into a room and been hit by a strong smell, like cleaning chemicals or smoke? These environmental irritants can be another culprit. They can make your airways spasm, triggering a coughing fit.

How Is It Diagnosed?

If you’re experiencing these intense coughing fits, a visit to the doctor is in order. They’ll usually ask you a bunch of questions about your symptoms and may perform tests like a chest X-ray or a mucus sample test. Sometimes, they’ll even do a blood test to see if an infection is the root cause.

What Are the Treatment Options?


If an infection is to blame, antibiotics can help clear it up. For allergies and asthma, antihistamines or inhalers might be prescribed to manage symptoms.

Home Remedies

Sometimes, simple home remedies can offer relief. Drinking warm fluids, like herbal teas, can soothe your throat. A humidifier can also add moisture to dry air, which can help ease your cough.

Lifestyle Changes

If you find that certain irritants trigger your cough, avoiding those triggers can make a big difference. For example, if you smoke, quitting can significantly improve your cough and overall lung health.


Vaccination is a great way to prevent diseases like whooping cough. Other general tips include washing your hands frequently and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. After all, the best way to deal with a paroxysmal cough is to avoid getting one in the first place.

FAQs About Paroxysmal Cough

What Is a Paroxysmal Cough?

A paroxysmal cough is a type of intense, uncontrolled cough that comes in bursts or fits. Imagine suddenly being caught in a coughing storm that you can’t escape from.

Is It Contagious?

Whether or not the cough is contagious depends on its root cause. If it’s due to something like whooping cough, yes, it can be highly contagious. So, it’s better to steer clear of others until you get it checked out.

What Does Paroxysmal Cough Sound Like?

The cough often has a distinct sound, especially in children. After a series of rapid coughs, you might hear a high-pitched “whoop” sound as the person tries to inhale.

How Long Does Paroxysmal Cough Last?

The duration varies depending on what’s causing it. For instance, if it’s due to whooping cough, the coughing fits can last for several weeks. On the other hand, if it’s from a less severe infection, it may only last a few days.

What Triggers a Paroxysmal Cough?

Common triggers include infections like whooping cough and bronchitis. Sometimes, allergens or irritants like smoke can also trigger a bout, although this is less common.

Can Adults Get Paroxysmal Cough?

Absolutely. While it’s often associated with children, adults are not immune. In fact, adults can get it from kids, making it a family affair.

How Do I Know If I Have Paroxysmal Cough?

If you’re dealing with intense, uncontrollable coughing fits, it’s a good idea to see a healthcare provider. They’ll likely perform tests like a chest X-ray or take a mucus sample to determine the cause.

Are There Any Complications?

In severe cases, these coughing fits can lead to complications like rib fractures or even fainting. So, if you’re experiencing symptoms, don’t ignore them.

Further Reading: What is a Chronic Cough?

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