A metallic taste when you cough is not a medical emergency, but it does signal an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. The most common reason for the flavor is a sinus or upper respiratory infection that leads to heavy congestion and coughing.
But it can also be a side effect of medication, chemotherapy or GERD. Other causes include gum disease, a mouth injury or oral surgery and vitamin deficiencies.
A metallic taste accompanied by a cough may be an early symptom of an upper respiratory infection. The phlegm that’s produced during this type of illness contains small amounts of blood. Coughing up this phlegm can cause a metallic taste in the mouth because the body is trying to remove it from the lungs, says Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, an internal medicine physician.
Infections of the sinuses, which are empty spaces behind the cheeks and forehead that connect to the nose, can also lead to a metallic taste in the mouth because they can affect the sense of smell. In addition, Covid-19 infections may produce a metallic taste as the virus damages supporting cells in the roof of the nose.
A vitamin deficiency can also result in a metallic taste when you cough. The condition can be caused by some prescription drugs, including antibiotics and lithium, or a lack of nutritional support during cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.
The lining of the throat can change when you experience chronic acid reflux, which is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This can make the taste of food in your mouth seem metallic and cause a persistent cough.
Pregnancy is another common cause of a metallic taste when you cough. It is sometimes known as dysgeusia and usually happens during the first trimester of pregnancy. This is because of the rise in hormones, particularly estrogen, that can impact the taste buds and trigger a metallic taste.
A variety of vitamins and minerals can help prevent a metallic taste in the mouth, but you should talk to your doctor before taking any supplements to make sure they are safe for you. Medications such as antidepressants and some steroids can also produce this unpleasant side effect. A lack of saliva production, gum disease or mouth injuries may also be to blame. Eating with plastic or glass cutlery and using less salt or sugar in your cooking are ways to reduce the taste. If your underlying problem is addressed, the metallic taste should disappear. For instance, if you are diagnosed with GERD and given a proton pump inhibitor, the symptoms of acid reflux should reduce along with the taste of metal in your mouth.
A metallic taste when you cough could be a sign of a respiratory infection. A viral infection such as the common cold often causes phlegm, which tastes metallic. A bacterial infection such as strep throat also may cause a foul taste. Usually, the taste disappears when the infection clears. If the symptom persists, you should see your doctor.
You may also taste blood in your mouth when you cough. This happens when irritation and inflammation in the lungs cause minute amounts of blood to leak into the mucus that you cough up. This may be an early symptom of pneumonia or some other serious condition such as a heart attack or stroke.
Allergies can also produce a metallic taste when you cough. This is because your body’s immune system tries to fight off the allergy-causing substance, triggering an allergic reaction in your chest and sinuses. If you experience a metallic taste along with other symptoms such as hives or a life-threatening asthma attack, seek emergency medical care immediately.
A recurring metallic taste when you cough can be a side effect of some medications or cancer treatments. If this is the case, your doctor can prescribe a different medication or treatment that will reduce or eliminate the metallic taste and other symptoms.
Some people experience a metallic taste when they cough due to acid reflux. This occurs when stomach acids that are intended to help digest food rise back up into your throat and mouth. In this case, a antacid will usually fix the problem.
If you’re experiencing a lingering metallic taste when you cough, try to avoid foods and drinks that contain metal or chemicals such as mercury or lead. These substances can cause a metallic taste in your mouth if they enter your system through contaminated water, medications or food. You can also try a solution of baking soda and water to rinse your mouth before you eat, as this can help regulate the pH balance in your mouth and neutralize acid, including that metallic flavor. You should also stop smoking as it can worsen this taste.
A metallic taste when coughing can be a symptom of an underlying health condition that requires treatment. In many cases, the problem should resolve once the underlying cause has been treated.
Most people who feel a metallic taste when they cough do so because of an upper respiratory infection or common cold. The phlegm they cough up may contain varying amounts of blood, which can trigger the metallic taste. Treatment options include rest, over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and nasal decongestants to reduce congestion.
Cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy may also cause metallogeusia, or a metallic taste in the mouth. The reason is that these types of therapies can damage the taste buds and salivary glands, resulting in a dry mouth. This can make it easier for bacteria to grow in the mouth, causing the metallic taste. The metallic taste usually goes away once the cancer treatments are completed and the underlying effects have subsided.
For bacterial infections, antibiotics can often help. In addition, OTC over-the-counter cough remedies such as eucalyptus, decongestants, or antihistamines can also ease the symptoms of a cold.
If a metallic taste when coughing is a sign of GERD, medications such as proton pump inhibitors and lifestyle changes can be used to manage the condition. These strategies can greatly reduce a person’s acid reflux, which can contribute to a metallic taste when coughing.
Allergies can also lead to a metallic taste in the mouth when coughing. The best way to treat this symptom is to identify and avoid the allergen that’s triggering it. For severe allergies, emergency care may be necessary if the reaction is life-threatening.
Exposure to certain chemicals, such as mercury or lead, can also trigger a metallic taste in the mouth. Taking precautions to limit exposure and following medical recommendations regarding the proper disposal of mercury or lead products can help prevent this problem.
A metallic taste when you cough is often an unpleasant side effect of a cold or upper respiratory infection. Fortunately, the unpleasant flavor usually goes away when the infection clears up.
If the taste is a side effect of a medication, discuss it with your doctor. If the drug is essential, a different medication may be available to prevent or treat your condition without the unpleasant side effects.
For a common cold or sinus infection, rest and over-the-counter medicines such as nasal decongestants, fever-reducers like acetaminophen (brand names include Tylenol), and cough medications can help reduce symptoms. In more severe cases, such as an asthma attack or anaphylaxis, visit your local emergency room for life-saving treatment.
Chronic coughing can also be a sign of gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD. The lingering acid that causes stomach pain and bloating can also cause a metallic taste when you cough.
If you are taking any medications that have a metallic taste as a side effect, stop them. It is important to take the medication as prescribed, and a change in dosage or a different medicine may be helpful. However, you should never discontinue any prescription drugs without first consulting your doctor.
The lingering metal taste can be caused by infections in the mouth and gums, such as gingivitis or periodontitis. These can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene, including brushing twice per day and flossing once per day. You can also drink plenty of water, chew sugar-free gum, and use mouthwash that contains baking soda to balance the pH of your mouth. In addition, you can swap out metal utensils and bottles for plastic or glass ones to avoid irritation.
A metallic taste while coughing can be a symptom of some serious conditions, such as kidney failure or uremic toxicity. Therefore, if you notice this symptom along with other symptoms, you should seek medical attention right away. The doctor will determine the underlying problem, and prescribe appropriate medication or therapy to alleviate the symptoms. In some cases, the doctor may recommend a medical procedure to treat the underlying cause of the metallic taste when you cough.