4 Common Coughing Triggers for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public meeting in September 2014, where people living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) were asked about the daily effects of the disease and the therapies that were available to them.

MORE: Six pulmonary fibrosis complications

One of the main themes of the meeting was how coughing affected people living with the condition. More than three-quarters of people attending the meeting said that coughing had a significant effect on their daily lives, with patients reporting episodes of violent coughing, uncontrollable coughing, coughing with thick sticky mucus, and some patients explained how their coughing fits led to shortness of breath, hypoxia, chest and rib pain, sleeping difficulties, and exhaustion.

For the majority of IPF patients, the coughing was usually triggered by one of the following four events:

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Physical Activity
Many patients reported that physical activity associated with everyday tasks such as housework, climbing stairs, walking, showering, getting dressed and other activities that led to shortness of breath brought on coughing episodes.

MORE: Pulmonary Fibrosis News columnist shares her tips for coping with tough days

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  1. David orr says:

    I have just found your Webb site ,I have never been offered any breathing advice or physiotherapy,But have in the last six months have been having tests at Guys Hospital on London and this week I have been told that the new drug NINTEDANIB is to be made available to me as from next week the consultant seemed to be a little vague as to what I can expect from this treatment as it appears there is only been available on the NHS for about a year and I have so far only a little feedback regarding benefits and side-effects know I found your website I will keep you informed I would be grateful if anyone has experience of this drug could give me some idea what I can or cannot expect

    • Mike Montague says:

      > David Orr My brother and I are on the nintedanib. He’s been on longer, I started recently. I have experienced only minor nausea on an occasional basis.

    • Bill Wilson says:

      I’ve been on Nintananib (sp) aka OFEV since Nov 2015 – about 2-1/2 years. I’ve experienced some diarrhea, occasional nausea & high sensitivity to spicy foods. My diagnosis stabilized after 23 months or so, the best outcome one should expect. Admittedly less stamina & quick drops in SaO2 with activity but quick rebound. Sleep with CPAP & O2 @ 2L. Use portable O2 concentrator to travel, fly & a few strenuous activities. I believe – per empirical data & my Pulmonologist – OFEV has slowed fibrous tissue growth substantially. Fortunate to be here.

  2. Anne Philiben says:

    Having a bad time here with smoke from all the forest fires. But I have found that robatussin (sp?) with codeine works best for the cough. I have some codeine syrup left over from a surgery and I put a few drops in the cough syrup. Pray we get some rain or snow soon.

  3. Jerry Sue McCoy says:

    With this disease,everyday is different! All kind of ailments start coming your way! Just pray and trust in the Lord and take 1 day at a time! A very frustrating illnes! God bless!

  4. Vijaya Srinivasan says:

    I experienced all the symptoms everyone mentioned. Was on 24/7 oxygen. Finally received bilateral lung transplant 58 months ago. I am on several medications. Currently doing well. I am very greatful to the donor whose donation of lungs is helping me have a second life. I thank my surgeon, transplant team doctors, nurses, therapists and coordinators. I am very blessed to have caring family and friends. Without their. Help I would not have survived. God bless.
    Survivor of IPF.
    Vijaya Srinivasan.

    • Jayshree nair says:

      Dear Miss Vijay, my husband suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, just wanted to know where did you get your lung transplant done.

    • Gisele Lapointe says:

      So happy for you! I was diagnosed with IPF 5 years ago, am doing well, stable with few problems except a dry cough once in a while, staying active. My younger brother who had it too and was on the list for a lung transplant died of pneumonia a few weeks prior. I am 82, so a lung transplant will never be a possibility for me, but I am OK with it.
      Stay well!

      • nan young says:

        Gisele, glad to hear you are doing so well for five years with this illness. Just wondering if you are on any of the new medications to slow the disease. My husband was diagnosed 6 months ago and has been on Ofev for two months now. He continues to lose weight which is his greatest challenge. He has good days and bad days, but I don’t know if the medication is helping. He goes to pulmonary rehab, but all of the other patients in his class have cope. I wish he had a way of connecting with others who have IPF, I think it would offer him more hope and inspiration. Hope you continue to do well.

  5. Anne Philiben says:

    Since I started using ANORO my coughing episodes have deceased significantly. I have no idea why it works. But I am very happy.

  6. Anne Philiben says:

    For some reason I’ve found the inhaler ANORO has really controlled my cough. Physiologically I have no idea why it works but I cough a lot less.

  7. Cindy wong says:

    Hi everyone,
    I was diagnose lung fibrosis during a stage 3 thymaic carcinoma surgery back dec 2009, further with chemo and chest radiation treatments early 2010, had supplemental oxygen for the remainder of 2010, than in 2014, got a new diagnose with dermatomyositis which is disease to your own immune system attacks your muscles and skin, so my lung was affected, could not walk lost 15 lbs of muscles in 3 weeks, was on wheel chair for 6 weeks, my son put me on the vibration machine to build my leg muscles and I was walking and not falling in 6 weeks, was send home with full time oxygen since sept, 2014 on 4l, and 8l when I am active, happy to say gratually reduce to 1l and 4l during 2017, now I am oxygen free except when I shower, so I don’t excerpt myself, still struggle with coughing/mucus, I started with dry cough 2009, and it change about 2014 to a lot of mucus, I try muncinex, delsym, drink a lot of water, Ricola, fisherman’s friend lozenges to keep me from not coughing. I hope this sharing will help, we are all on a journey of trial and error with this disease.


  8. Jeanette Brooks says:

    I was diagnosed with IPF almost a year ago. When can I expect to start coughing – not that I’m looking forward to it!

    • Janis says:

      I was just diagnosed with IPM 2 months ago. I have an apt at the Cleveland Clinic next week for further tests. I have no idea what to expect. The doctor thinks it may be autoimmune related since I had a positive ANA.

  9. Clara Gamberella says:

    I was diagnosed was ipf 3 1/2 years ago. Unfortunately I’m allergic to all the Good Meds so I’m stuck and limbo when it comes to that choice. at least three nights a week I cough for about 5 hours without stopping until I cannot breathe and my body goes into spasms very painful spasms the cough has become unbearable. I have lost weight I have a hard time eating and I see no hope for the future. I have a bad heart lots of issues with it so I’m not a candidate for any kind of lung transplant or any other goodies out there that they have to offer. I have gone through a lot of emotions until I find it became to acceptance and I am at peace now. this is a horrible disease but no care and you get very little sleep from the coughing the acid reflux sinus problems restlessness and whatever else that comes with it. I have become so exaggerated that I cannot cook anymore play my house or do my laundry as a matter of fact I have to come home bound. I wish all of you the best of luck I’m God’s blessings and he may have mercy owned all of us. I have never smoked or did anything harmful to my body God brought this on it just came very unwelcomed but I know that it won’t leave.

  10. Lisbeth says:

    Hello, my father was diagnosed with IPF in 2017. He is on oxygen 24/7 and cannot do much without exerting himself even though him and my mom get out to the store or go out to eat. Otherwise my dad sits at home in his chair. I just gotvtrested for bronchitis and IS ON antibiotics. HE has a cough and has phlem that comes up when coughing. I worry about him every day! What can help with the cough?
    Thank you, Lis

    • Ryan says:

      Hi.. my father also has ipf… diagnosed 2015/6.. He also has the terrable cough! Codeine linctus and menthol sweets def does help…but its not great.Currently on esprit but soon changing to ofev. Oxygen is needed to be mobile.We are searching for any cough suppressant to help him. If you or anyone find anything that helps please post it.Best wishes.

    • Peter Samardzija says:

      Dear Clara, I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis about 15 years ago and what helped me through was Prednisone I was on 150mg to start. it is really nasty stuff and the side effects include weight gain which is mostly water, chipmunk cheeks, you get hyper, irritable, mood swings and for lack of a better term .. stoned. It is also hard on the heart. A 150mg dose is alot, but I had no other option, it was my only shot. I think I was on the 150 dose for 2 years before I started to slowly wean off and I could do that because I was relatively stable as far as the PF goes. I was prednisone several more times when needed. Lung capacity has dropped since but it is not really due to the PF but rather age and as they say … if you do not use you lose it (lungs). I am on oxygen 24 7 and I do not have much time left. My doctors are great and what really helped was that I was kept in the loop by my family doctor by going through the med, lab, test and x ray reports reports, with me and making sure that I understood what was going on. That was amazing. My Pharmacist and Physiotherapist did the same. This team was with me from the beginning and still is. I cannot thank them enough. I like to say that I am to stubborn and to stupid to realize that I should be dead, Clara I wish you well and it is very easy and natural to be depressed. One thing at a time and one day at a time. There are lots of us who care.

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