A metallic taste when you cough can be caused by an upper respiratory infection. Repeatedly coughing up phlegm can lead to small amounts of blood in the mucus, giving it a metal flavor.
This symptom of a common cold will usually clear up on its own. However, a bacterial infection like strep throat may require antibiotics.
A metallic taste when you cough can be a sign of an infection, or it could be a side effect of some medications. It can also be a warning symptom of some medical conditions, such as heart disease or kidney problems. In most cases, the metallic taste is temporary and goes away when the underlying cause of the cough is treated.
For example, a COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection can cause a metallic taste in the mouth, as well as loss of smell. These symptoms occur because the virus damages cells that help you smell and taste things.
Other causes of a metallic taste include dental problems such as gingivitis and periodontitis, or mouth injuries from sports or accidents. Some medicines can also cause a metallic taste in the mouth, such as antacids, antidepressants, benzodiazepines and lithium.
Some people who have a condition called Sjogren’s syndrome, an auto-immune disorder that decreases saliva production, report a metallic taste in the mouth. Similarly, if you have chronic kidney disease, the taste may be caused by a buildup of urea in the blood.
If you’re pregnant, a metallic taste in the mouth is sometimes the first symptom of a serious allergy, such as to shellfish or tree nuts. It can also be an early symptom of a potentially life-threatening reaction, called anaphylaxis.
If the metallic taste is accompanied by other severe or life-threatening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, coughing up blood or a high fever, seek medical care immediately. Your doctor can help diagnose the cause of your metallic taste, and may recommend treatments such as acetaminophen or an asthma inhaler. If the metallic taste is drug-related, you can ask your doctor to change or stop the medication that’s causing it. You can also try using artificial saliva if you have dry mouth, drinking plenty of water and chewing sugar-free gum or sour-tasting drops to reduce the taste. An oral rinse called MetaQil is available over-the-counter and can provide immediate symptomatic relief. You can also reduce the metal taste by avoiding eating or drinking hot or cold foods and not using metallic utensils.
When a metallic taste is paired with coughing, it often indicates an upper respiratory infection like the common cold. Coughing up phlegm during a cold can bring traces of blood into the mouth and onto the taste buds, creating a metallic taste. If this symptom is accompanied by a fever, it could also be an indication of a more serious illness like kidney disease or undiagnosed diabetes.
Other symptoms of a metallic taste include a headache, dry mouth, and a hoarse voice. Some people with Sjogren’s syndrome, an immune disorder that causes a decrease in saliva, also experience a metallic taste when they are coughing. If you experience these symptoms, talk to your doctor about the cause and treatment options.
The metallic taste can sometimes be caused by medications, such as antidepressants or antibiotics. If this is the case, the taste should go away once you stop taking the medication. If the taste is a long-term problem, talk to your doctor about alternative medications.
Certain vitamins and supplements can also cause a metallic taste. These can include multivitamins, chromium, copper and zinc supplements, antacids, and prenatal vitamins. If the taste goes away once you stop taking these supplements, it’s important to find another solution for the underlying issue that is causing your symptoms.
A metallic taste can also be a sign of acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The lingering phlegm and the abrasive taste may result from stomach acids irritating the throat lining. Symptoms of GERD can include heartburn, abdominal pain and bloating, so be sure to see your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.
The abrasive taste of metal can be difficult to get rid of, but there are ways to help mask it. Drinking water, eating cold foods and using plastic or glass utensils can all reduce the metallic taste. Chewing sugar-free gum and sucking on mints can also mask the taste. If the taste is still present, consider taking an over-the-counter oral rinse called MetaQil. This product can quickly eliminate the sour taste of metal. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as these can make the metallic taste worse.
There are a number of treatment options available to people who develop a metallic taste when they cough. Depending on the cause, these treatments can include medications, oral hygiene practices, chewing gum or avoiding certain foods and beverages. If a metallic taste is caused by a medication, changing the medicine to one that doesn’t have this side effect may help. If it is caused by gum disease, treating the disease can help to prevent further damage. A mouth injury or oral surgery can also cause a metallic taste. This may require visiting a dentist for treatment.
An upper respiratory infection can cause a metallic taste due to the phlegm and mucus that are produced. This phlegm may contain blood, and when coughed up, it can have a metallic taste. Treatment for this condition can include over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and decongestants to reduce congestion.
Gum disease can also produce a metallic taste, and it can be treated with brushing and flossing, as well as mouth rinses such as MetaQil. Gum disease is a serious issue that can lead to tooth loss and other health problems, so it’s important to visit your dentist when you notice this symptom. A dental exam will allow your dentist to identify and treat the underlying cause.
In some cases, a metallic taste can be an early symptom of an allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This is a severe and life-threatening reaction that can occur shortly after contact with an allergen. People who are at risk for anaphylaxis should seek emergency medical care immediately if they experience a sudden and intense metallic taste in the mouth or throat.
A metallic taste while coughing can also be a side effect of chemotherapy or other cancer treatment. The chemicals used in these therapies can damage healthy cells, which can leave a metallic taste in the mouth. In many cases, this will go away once the cancer therapy is completed. If the taste is not going away, your doctor may prescribe other strategies to reduce it. These can include using a mouthwash to cover the taste, eating cold foods and avoiding metal utensils.
If you’re experiencing the unpleasant taste of metal when you cough, make an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to tell you whether the taste is due to an illness or if there are other underlying issues.
If the metallic taste is caused by a medication or treatment, the doctor will probably recommend changing your treatment. A variety of medications can leave a chemical taste in the mouth, including antibiotics, cancer treatments and other medicines used for chronic conditions such as gout or high blood pressure. Some drugs may interfere with the body’s ability to use certain vitamins and minerals. The body then excretes these unabsorbed chemicals through the saliva, leaving a chemical flavor.
A metallic taste when you cough can also be a side effect of some nutritional supplements. For example, some multivitamins, cold medications and prenatal vitamins can contain high levels of minerals such as copper, zinc, chromium and calcium. These can disrupt the ion channels that signal our sense of taste. The metallic taste should resolve once the underlying condition is treated, and you’re no longer taking the medication that’s causing it.
You can also develop a metallic taste when you cough as a result of poor oral hygiene. Bleeding gums can have a metallic taste, which is due to the iron in the blood. If you experience this, schedule a dental visit with your dentist or otolaryngologist to see what’s causing it.
Some foods can trigger a metallic taste in the mouth, especially those that are very acidic or salty. This is often an early sign of a food allergy such as shellfish or tree nuts and can be life-threatening.
Intense exercise can increase the pressure in the chest, causing fluid to build up in the lungs. This can cause coughing, wheezing and a metallic taste in the mouth. This is known as exercise-induced pulmonary edema, and it’s a common problem for people with asthma or who are new to intense exercise.
Many people who are very dehydrated or have chronic kidney disease experience a metallic taste when they cough. The underlying problem needs to be addressed before the taste will go away, and the best way is to drink water regularly and avoid sugary beverages that can contribute to tooth decay.