A metallic taste when you cough can be a lingering symptom of a cold or allergy. It can also be a side effect of certain medications.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some people to experience a change in their sense of taste and smell, especially when they cough. This can be concerning, but it is typically not a serious problem.
A cold often comes with phlegm, mucus and a nagging cough that can leave a metallic taste in your mouth. The change in taste is caused by irritated throat tissue, which can be made worse when you cough. If your metallic taste is accompanied by other symptoms, it may indicate an infection or health condition that needs to be treated.
The common cold can cause a metallic taste when you cough, but other infections like sinus or upper respiratory infection and strep throat also can have this effect. A bacterial infection such as strep throat typically will not have this side effect but does come with a sore throat and may also cause a fever, vomiting or strep throat.
Acid reflux can also change your taste in your mouth, especially if you are pregnant. If you have a recurring acid reflux, try to make lifestyle changes and take over-the-counter proton pump inhibitors that will reduce your gastric acid levels. This should also relieve your nagging cough.
Coughing up a lot of phlegm can leave you with a metal taste, especially if there is a little bit of blood in the phlegm. A decongestant such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed PE) or phenylephrine (Delsym, Robitussin) can help reduce congestion, which will decrease the phlegm and metallic taste that you are experiencing.
Some types of cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, can also leave you with a metallic taste when you cough. This is usually a side effect of the medication and should go away once you finish your treatment.
Other reasons for a metallic taste when you cough include:
Maintain good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing and tongue scrapping. Stay hydrated to prevent dry mouth, which can make a metallic taste worse. Avoid using metal cutlery and water bottles, which can exacerbate metallic tastes. Rinse your mouth with a solution of baking soda and warm water before you eat, as this will regulate the pH balance in your mouth and neutralize acid, which can also make you feel the taste of metal. Quit smoking, which can exacerbate the metallic taste in your mouth and may have other negative impacts on your health.
A metallic taste paired with a cough could signal an upper respiratory infection, like a cold. This is because the irritated lungs may produce phlegm that contains traces of blood, and repeated coughing will bring these particles into the mouth where they’re detected by the taste buds. A bacterial infection, such as strep throat, typically won’t cause a metallic taste because the phlegm does not contain blood.
If the taste is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever, it’s important to see a doctor right away, especially if you are otherwise healthy and not experiencing any other serious health problems. The doctor will determine if the underlying condition is causing the metallic taste, and prescribe any necessary treatment.
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers can help alleviate the aching and pain in the throat and chest that can be associated with a cold. The acetaminophen in OTC medications such as Tylenol and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can also reduce a metallic taste when you cough.
Other OTC medications can also create a metallic taste, such as antidepressants and some antifungals. A low iron level in the body may also contribute to a metallic taste when you cough. If you are taking any vitamins or medications that are causing this side effect, talk to your doctor about changing your dosage or discontinuing the medication altogether.
Some cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation, can also lead to a metallic taste in the mouth, and these should only be taken under a doctor’s supervision. Kidney disease can also cause a metallic taste, and this can be an indicator of severe kidney problems, which require immediate medical attention.
To prevent a metallic taste, drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and rinse your mouth with baking soda. Try to avoid consuming foods that can trigger the metallic taste, including processed cheeses and other dairy products, and opt for natural or organic options. It’s also a good idea to stop smoking and swap out metal cutlery and water bottles for glass, plastic or ceramic versions. Lastly, quit consuming foods and beverages that can increase your risk for an allergic reaction, such as acid reflux and some cold remedies.
A metallic taste when coughing is a common symptom of many health conditions and can be annoying, but it doesn’t always have serious underlying consequences. In most cases, it’s a sign of an upper respiratory infection or GERD and can be alleviated with some medication or lifestyle changes. However, it’s important to check in with your doctor if you experience other symptoms such as chest pain or wheezing, which could indicate more serious health issues like a pulmonary embolism or heart attack.
A lingering metallic taste in your mouth can be a symptom of gum disease, burning mouth syndrome and a mouth injury or recent oral surgery. Gum disease can be prevented with good oral hygiene, including brushing, flossing and using mouthwash daily. Burning mouth syndrome can be treated with over-the-counter medications, such as antacids and topical anesthetics. A mouth injury or surgery can also cause a metallic taste, which may last until the bleeding stops and the wound heals. Medications that can trigger a metallic taste include antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants, and benzodiazepines, which are used to treat anxiety. The metal-like taste can also be caused by certain minerals, such as mercury and lead, which are found in old building materials and lead paint, as well as some cancer treatments and diabetes medications, such as metformin.
A metallic taste may be a sign of a food allergy, especially to shellfish or nuts. An allergic reaction to these foods can be fatal, so it’s important to get a diagnosis and seek immediate treatment. A metallic taste during coughing can also be a sign of acid reflux, which is treatable with over-the-counter antacids, proton pump inhibitors and lifestyle changes such as eating smaller meals, drinking plenty of water, chewing sugar-free gum or avoiding carbonated beverages. A specialized oral rinse such as MetaQil may also help reduce the metallic taste. For severe cases, a visit to your dentist is recommended. Gum disease can be treated with proper oral hygiene, while a dental cleaning and oral surgery may be needed for more serious injuries.
The symptom of a metallic taste when coughing can be an indicator of many conditions, from minor to serious. A change in taste can be a side effect of certain medications, including chemotherapy treatments. It may also occur as an early symptom of an allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis.2
A metal flavor in the mouth and nose, or a feeling that food tastes metallic, is sometimes accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain and difficulty breathing. These may be indications of more serious conditions, such as a bacterial infection, tuberculosis or lung cancer.2
If you are experiencing a metallic taste with other symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. A metallic taste paired with other signs of infection requires immediate medical attention, particularly if the symptoms are accompanied by chest pain or wheezing. These symptoms could indicate that you are suffering from a pulmonary embolism or heart attack.
Often, a metal taste in the mouth is temporary and will go away once the underlying cause of the taste is addressed. If you are taking any medications that are causing the metallic taste, consult with your doctor to determine how to resolve this issue.
For example, a metallic taste in the mouth can be caused by an overdose of OTC decongestants such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine (Sudafed PE). This will often resolve once you stop taking the medication.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is another common cause of a metallic taste with a cough. The acid that refluxes up from the stomach can damage the throat lining, leaving you with a metallic taste. GERD is typically accompanied by other symptoms such as acid reflux, stomach pain and heartburn.
A metallic taste may also be the result of an overabundance of sodium in the diet. Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables that are low in sodium can help alleviate this problem. You should also avoid using metal cutlery and instead use glass or plastic cookware to decrease your exposure to salty foods. In addition, you should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and to flush out any excess sodium in your body. You should also consider using a solution of baking soda and water to rinse your mouth before eating, which can help to neutralize any acid that causes the metallic taste.