Treatment differs, depending on whether you have primary or secondary cough headaches.
Primary cough headache
If you have a history of primary cough headaches, your doctor may recommend that you take daily medication to help prevent or reduce the pain.
These preventive medications may include:
- Indomethacin (Indocin, Tivorbex), an anti-inflammatory drug
- Propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL), a medication that relaxes blood vessels and reduces blood pressure
- Acetazolamide (Diamox), a diuretic that reduces the amount of spinal fluid, which can reduce the pressure inside the skull
Other medications used to treat primary cough headache include methysergide, naproxen (Naprosyn), ergonovine, intravenous dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45) and phenelzine (Nardil).
Rarely, a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) may be recommended. With this procedure, the doctor removes some of the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. This may help reduce the pressure inside your skull that may be causing the headaches.
Secondary cough headache
If you have secondary cough headaches, surgery is often needed to fix the underlying problem. Preventive medications usually don't help people who have secondary cough headaches. However, responding to medication doesn't necessarily mean that you have a primary cough headache.
Feb. 19, 2015
- Cutrer FM, et al. Cough, exercise, and sex headaches. Neurology Clinics. 2014;32:433.
- Ropper AH, et al. Adams & Victor's Principles of Neurology. 10th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2014. http://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/book.aspx?bookid=690. Accessed Jan. 19, 2015.
- Waldman SD. Atlas of Uncommon Pain Syndromes. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 21, 2015.
- Cutrer FM. Primary cough headache. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Jan. 21, 2015.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=4. Accessed Jan. 19, 2015.