Q. I was interested in a column about a person who developed cough while taking lisinopril. I myself was put on this medicine for high blood pressure and immediately began having violent coughing spells. If they started in a meeting, I’d have to excuse myself. It became extremely embarrassing. Nothing worked, no cough syrup or cough drops.

I never got more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted sleep at a time. Sometimes the coughing was so severe it caused vomiting. My doctor put me on different medicines but never took me off lisinopril.

Then I went to a new doctor who immediately switched me from lisinopril to Benicar. The coughing stopped immediately.

A. Not everyone develops a bad cough while on an ACE inhibitor like lisinopril for high blood pressure. But you are certainly not alone.

Another reader wrote: “My doctor was pleased with the results of the ACE inhibitor, but my cough became so frequent and violent that I could not sleep for weeks. I couldn’t even lie in bed. When coughing, I would involuntarily empty my bladder, so I could barely leave the house. We eventually found another medication (Benicar) that I do not react to, and my blood pressure is even lower than when I was on the ACE inhibitor.”

We discuss the pros and cons of common blood pressure medicines in our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment.

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  1. Wendy
    Reply

    I have been coughing to the point of vomiting for the last two years. My primary said it was post nasal, asthma or heartburn when none of those proved true, I called an Allergist who asked me tight over the phone about my BP meds. I called back my GP and he said, Oh yes, that causes cough too! I could have screamed! So tomorrow I quit and see how long it takes to clear out of my system!

  2. lp
    Reply

    I have been on 20 mg of Lisinopril since May and I have had this horrible cough, sinus drainage, white junk in my throat that fills up and gags me all the time. I noticed this site after trying to see what to do about the constant cough. My cough would keep me up at night and the cough was very powerful. My body feels like someone has been beating me and I have no energy at all.
    My Mom told my whole family that I was dying. I went off this med a few days ago and my cough is starting to get better. I was to the Dr. last week and she did not mention the BP med side effect she just looked at me like I was crazy, because my lungs were clear. She said it was acid reflex. I told her my feet were swollen, she did not mention the BP med side effect of that. She gave me a water pill. I have also had vision blurring and confusion. These are all side effects.
    My blood pressure was 132/84 with the med. She wants me to come back to check my bp. I am going to see if I can be on Amlodipne. Thank You for the information from this site. It makes me feel like the consumer has a voice.

  3. JY
    Reply

    I started on lortel, a different brand, but had the same problem. The very first day I took it, within 2 hours I had my first ever panic attack. I thought I was dying. I had my employee call 911. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t move, but I could hear. My breathing was fast and staggered, and after 10 min, it just stopped. A week later I had flu-like symptoms with a nagging cough. The flu symptoms went away, but the cough persisted. In mid-January, because my bp continued to hover around 160/110, the doc doubled my bp meds to twice a day.
    Within days, the fever came back and coughing became fierce. The fever only lasted a day or two, but coughing only got worse. The tickle was horrible and constant. It would send me into bouts of violent coughing, gagging and vomiting 2 to 3 times a day. It was so violent, my right eye hemorrhaged after vomiting spontaneously from a sudden coughing bout while sitting at work. I couldn’t even get to the trash can in time, it went everywhere.
    The blood in the white of my eye is nearly cleared up, and because I was vomiting up these pills I pay $2.50 each for despite being unemployed, I skipped 3 in a row. I can’t afford to waste $150 a month down the toilet like that.
    Today I noticed the tickle was gone for the first time. I got curious and did an internet search for chronic coughing and saw one of the causes on the list is bp meds. I had no idea! I haven’t thrown up since that last day I took the full dosage, and after reading all of this, I don’t plan to take another one again.
    Shortly after my eye hemorrhaged, I developed incontinence. I have to wear a pad 24/7 now because I wet myself with every cough. I don’t know if that part will get better, but the embarrassment of not only that horrific attention-drawing sound of violent, hacking cough followed by a screaming vomit was only compounded by the fact that I would completely wet myself in full saturation down both legs.
    I’m switching to diet and exercise for a while. The meds never worked for me anyway. It was just $500 I didn’t have to spare, flushed down the drain.

  4. D Jones
    Reply

    I was taking Lisinopril for about three months, it was crazy. The coughing was sooooo bad I too was unable to sleep or eat. One day I started feeling ill, I was thinking flu. My body was hurting all over and the coughing was so bad I started gagging with violent coughing spells. My back felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife. Seeing that I was thinking flu I forgot to take the Lisinopril it was like my body was going Withdrawal Symptoms. My body almost shut down, I was not able to sleep for three days, I was having panic attacks and was unable to eat.
    My husband and daughter stayed home for three days to take care of me. On the third day my doctor was able to see me, by that time my body was so weak and my skin was pale that it was hard to get dress (THANK GOD for a wonderful husband) I had reached out to all my family and friends and asked them to pray for me. I was thinking… am I going crazy? I was not able to stop crying maybe due to no sleep or food. When my doctor walked in the room she was so surprised to see how I looked. My husband was very upset my doctor just said the coughing was from Lisinopril but not the other symptoms.
    We found out that other people had the same issues. I have been off Lisinopril for two weeks now WOW!!!! I feel GREAT!, no back pain, very little coughing and lots of sleep. PRAISE GOD everyday I would read Psalm 139:14 something my mother would say. So start with prayer it work.

  5. ma
    Reply

    I was on Lisinopril for 11 days, and developed the Horrible Cough that you all are talking about. I have been off of it now for 2 weeks. The cough is no better. I may be OK for a few hours, then it starts again with gagging and vomiting. Eating food may start the process.
    Cannot believe how debilitating it is!! I have lots of Sputum with the cough that I spit up. I do not know how much more of this I can take. Took some Phenergan with DM last nite, and was able to get some sleep, but I did do some coughing.
    You just do not know when the cough is going to hit. Have not been able to go to Church, restaurants. When I get the cough feeling, my throat feels like there is a lump there. Has anybody come up with a way to get rid of it fast?
    Any help would be appreciated.

  6. Claudio R
    Reply

    I had the same problem after using Lisinopril for more than a year.
    After my doctor changed the medicine, the cough started slowly to go away.
    To be able to sleep, I used Nyquil Cold & Flu every night.
    Now, after 2 weeks without Lisinopril I’m feeling well again.

  7. s.h.
    Reply

    I have tried taking lisinopril two different times, a year apart. Diovan was horridly expensive out of pocket.
    Last night not only was I awakened from sleep but I had horrid mucous in my lungs and they crackled when I coughed; it always starts with an itch /tickling in my throat (I told my Dr. that it feels like a spider crawling down my throat and stopping around or just above my voice box area.)
    My doctor has ordered me a new Rx of 50 mg losartan; I surely hope that it works; I have been coughing for months and months; with small gaps of a few days during this past year; I have not slept well in a long time. I KNOW it is lisinopril related, as I coughed with altace, too.
    Some of the coughing even hits with the first bite of food or water. It is hard to eat a meal while coughing; it is embarrassing in a restaurant, as I have to get up and go outside, etc.; people stare at me like I have TB or something; my husband is worried about me! My lungs rattle because the tears start flowing down my face and my nose begins to run (normally I do not sneeze or have tears or running nose!). Then all the stuff drains into my chest and the coughing fits start and it is awful; then it stops as suddenly as it started!!! IT might stop for a couple of hours, then it starts again!!!!!

  8. DEB
    Reply

    Please someone tell me if there is any relief from this cough, I don’t think I can go another night without sleep.
    Is there any medicine or home remedy I can use to relieve me from the cough?

  9. DEB
    Reply

    I also try eating ice and some times it will give be a break in the coughs, but it doesn’t last long though.
    I really need some sleep.

  10. DEB
    Reply

    So what did you do?, I hope did you get any sleep? I haven’t had any sleep in 3 weeks.
    I don’t know if I can continue this.

  11. Cindy
    Reply

    Wow I’m so glad I found this website. I too have had this “nightmare cough” I did get off the bp med, Diltiazem to see if that could be my cough problem. But Diltiazem is a calcium channel blocker not an ace inhibitor. Could this still be what has been giving me this tickle-cough? I coughed so hard I broke a rib. Oh how long does it take for the cough to go away???? I have been off Diltiazem for about a week now but it seems to be increasing with frequency, what is going on??
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: DILTIAZEM DOES NOT USUALLY CAUSE A COUGH. PLEASE SEE YOUR DOCTOR TO FIND OUT WHERE THE COUGH IS COMING FROM.

  12. bsf
    Reply

    I started taking Benicar about 3 months ago. My doctor told me that coughing was a side effect, but I didn’t know how bad it would be. In the last 2 months I have coughed so hard that I have passed out 3 times. This last time, I twisted up my ankle and now can’t even get up. I’m afraid to drive because of the passing out. Like others, it starts with a tickle in the throat, and then, boom – I wake up on the floor. Any suggestions? I asked the Dr. to change me to another medicine because of the cost of the benicar, but they said they didn’t want to change it because it was working so well. I haven’t yet got to talk to him about the passing out spells.

  13. JB
    Reply

    When I was put on lisinopril, I was immediately miserable with choking mucous and gagging. I went on quinipril and still had a cough, but not so much gagging and heaving. I put up with the symptoms for nearly 8 months till I started to take a supplement, magnesium! It lessened with one tab, then I read about it on the web, increased it to three times a day, and now I tolerate the BP meds with no coughing or gagging! (unless I forget to take the magnesium) What a relief!
    When I told my Dr a couple of months ago, he said he had never heard of this! I told him maybe he could help others with this information!

  14. terrance
    Reply

    I was taking lisinopril maybe 7 months I had bad foot pain leg cramps too the point of not being able to walk. After reading other leg cramp complaints I stop taking it within two days a lot of the pain is gone.

  15. stll
    Reply

    I went on Lisinopril-Hctz about 6 weeks ago. Just figured out this week my constant coughing was coming from the medication. I either have drainage or dry tickle in throat. I stopped taking it today and already feel much better. Some coughing but nothing like I was doing. I also have had cramps in my rib cage and fingers and do believe it started when I started taking Lisinopril. Call my Doctor today to get my old medication back.

  16. Carolyn
    Reply

    I had the same problem. I was on Benicar and then switched to Lisinopril because of the cost. Got severe cough….could hardly function….got off Lisinopril and back onto Benicar, but still have the cough, but not as bad. How long does it take for the effects to wear off from the Lisinopril?

  17. spe
    Reply

    Wow, I’ve had this horrible cough for years, and years, and it never occurred to me until recently that it was my blood pressure medicine. I read above where some people said they switched to Benicar, but that’s what I was taking.
    Within about two days of switching to a new BP medicine (Amlodipine, 10mg), I’ve already noticed a difference. Not as much coughing or, worse, coughing/gagging after eating (which seems to have gotten worse recently). And, that constant drainage that I was having and phlegm in the back of my throat has decreased noticeably. Hopefully, by the time I see my doctor again (she wants to see me in 30 days to see how the new medicine is working), I’ll feel like a normal person again.
    But, the cough, it was embarrassing. Like some here, I’ve been in meetings and have had to walk out for a coughing fit.

  18. crys2
    Reply

    I was put on Lisinopril/HCTZ. My cough started about 3days-week into the medication. I called the doctor’s office (I see the PA) and told her about the cough. She said, “Well let’s hope it’s allergies and not the lisinopril.” I have no allergies. I’m a cardiac nurse. I knew right away it was the lisinopril. The cough is occasional during the day and incessant at night. I’m going to talk to one of the cardiologists I know about the benicar testimonies I’ve read on this site.
    I know better, but I have skipped three doses of my medication simply because I’m annoyed by the cough. My blood pressure is incredible. At times it’s 108/68. That’s down from 190s/120s. But HTN is knew to me. I’m not a sick person. I’m not used to being sick and this coughing is becoming intolerable and embarrassing. -plus it worries my family. They thought I was aspirating in my sleep…And I’m absolutely not.

  19. sjl
    Reply

    I was changed to lisinporil in March, started coughing and running a fever, I have had numerous rounds of antibiotics, cough medicines, and allergy medicines. Saw two nurse practitioners and three different Doctors. Three weeks ago they switched me back to Divon, I was still coughing so they said I could go back to the Lisinproil, and prescribed another round of Allegra.
    This is August and I am still coughing to the point of throwing up. I am afraid to eat out in public because I start eating and coughing to the point of gagging, it really turns the other people off.

  20. kc
    Reply

    I’m so glad to find this information. I switched from Benicar to Lisinopril 2 years ago and developed a nagging cough. although not as bad as most describe, I also thought it was allergy related though I’d never had anything so persistent. I had never had a cough with a gag reflex.
    So now I know. I’m not sure I can afford the Benicar since it went from $60 a month to almost $90 in less than a year, but I also don’t know if I can afford this cough.
    Time to talk to the doctor.
    thnx

  21. Jean
    Reply

    I started taking Lisinpril in September, went on a cruise in October. I thought I had a cold, I mentioned this to my doctor in November but she did not mention the new med I was on. It was only a couple of weeks ago that my doctor told me it was the BP medicine. I switched almost 2 weeks ago but still have the cough. The Pharmacist told me until it was completely out of my system I would still cough, but it would go away. At least I’m no longer scared of what is really going on especially since I read it from other readers.
    Thanks

  22. sksin
    Reply

    I started taking lisinopril from November of last year & can’t stop my coughing. I can’t sleep, cough all day to the point of gagging and throwing up. I stopped taking the medicine last week & half, however I am still coughing.

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