Why Do Spicy Chips Make You Cough?

Chips are delicious, but spicy chips give you an added kick of taste. However, the only drawback to eating spicy chips is that they can make you cough. So, why do spicy chips make you cough? 

Spicy chips make you cough because they contain capsaicin, maltodextrin, acetic acid, and citric acid, which are cough triggers. If you have acid reflux, overeat, or your parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, you may cough while eating spicy chips. 

Read further for more details on why spicy chips cause coughing and how to stop coughing while eating them. 

Can Spicy Chips Trigger Coughing? 

You’re tucking into your favorite bag of spicy chips, and you suddenly start coughing. Are the spicy chips the cause of your coughing? 

Spicy chips can trigger coughing because they contain acetic acid, citric acid, and capsaicin, ingredients that can make you cough. If you have acid reflux, spicy chips can exacerbate the symptoms and make you cough. 

I’ll discuss these coughing triggers in more detail below: 

Acetic and Citric Acid 

If you read the ingredients list on your favorite bag of chips, you’ll probably find acetic and citric acid listed. 

These acids aren’t responsible for the hot and spicy taste, but they enhance the flavor by providing a tart and slightly sour taste. Unfortunately, acetic and citric acid can trigger your body’s coughing mechanism, the reason you might cough after eating spicy chips. 

Scientists don’t know for sure why these acids provoke coughing, but some medical professionals use low-pH (or acidic) agents when investigating a patient’s coughing. 

According to the National Library of Medicine, acids may disturb your respiratory tract’s pH, a possible reason it causes coughing. This mechanism directly affects the airways instead of the digestive tract.


Have you ever coughed or sneezed when seasoning your food with pepper? Pepper contains capsaicin, a key ingredient in spicy chips that is partly responsible for its spicy taste. Capsaicin can cause gustatory rhinitis, a non-allergy-based form of rhinitis (or a runny nose). 

While eating spicy chips, the secretions from the gustatory rhinitis can run down your sinuses and into your throat, causing you to cough to expel the foreign elements. 


Maltodextrin is a common, artificial ingredient found in many snacks, including spicy chips. It helps extend the shelf life, provides a subtle sweet taste, and can improve the food’s texture. 

Most people can digest maltodextrin without any issues, but some folks are allergic or sensitive to it. If you are one of these unlucky people, your maltodextrin allergy or intolerance can give you a rash, breathing difficulties, or make you cough. 

Acid Reflux

If you suffer from acid reflux, you probably already know that certain food types (including spicy chips) can exacerbate the symptoms. 

Spicy chips can make acid reflux symptoms worse because they contain capsaicin, which is thought to slow down the digestive process. This can cause the food in your stomach to remain there for longer, increasing the chances of the stomach acid irritating your esophagus and causing coughing. 


If you’re a fan of spicy chips, you’ll know that they’re incredibly moreish, and it’s difficult not to eat the entire bag, let alone only a few chips. If you’ve been absentmindedly eating from a bag of spicy chips while watching a movie, you might have eaten too many and could start coughing. 

After eating spicy chips, particles might have accidentally entered your respiratory tract, and coughing is your body’s way of clearing these irritants. 

Parasympathetic Nervous System Stimulation

When sitting down to relax and enjoy a meal or a snack, like spicy chips, your body’s parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to help you digest the food effectively. 

This involves stimulating the digestive tract’s involuntary muscles. During this process, the lung’s muscles can also start to work harder, resulting in coughing up any mucus or other secretions and causing you to cough. However, you’d notice this more if you had a respiratory tract infection. 

How Do I Stop Coughing When Eating Spicy Chips? 

Now that I’ve explained why spicy chips make you cough, you might wonder if there’s anything you can do to stop it. 

You can stop coughing when eating spicy chips by eating a dry carbohydrate, taking an antacid, or moderating your consumption. You can also switch to non-spicy chips and avoid water. 

I’ll discuss this in more detail below: 

Eat a Dry Carbohydrate 


When you cough after eating some spicy chips, eat dry carbohydrate, such as a: 

  • Small piece of dry bread 
  • Cookie, or
  • Cracker 

The dry carbohydrates will help absorb the capsaicin, acetic acid, and citric acid and could alleviate your coughing rapidly. 

Take an Antacid Before Eating 

If you’re a known sufferer of acid reflux and know that eating spicy chips will make you cough, take matters into your own hands by taking an antacid before eating them. 

TUMS Extra Strength Antacid Tablets available on Amazon are a popular choice because they work quickly and neutralize stomach acid in the esophagus effectively. 

If you don’t like the idea of an antacid tablet, you could use a natural remedy, such as eating a ripe banana. Its high potassium content makes it very alkaline and an excellent acid neutralizer. 

Moderate Your Consumption 

This is not what you want to hear, but if your spicy chip coughing bothers you a lot, you might want to eat fewer spicy chips per sitting. If that’s not an option for you, eating them more slowly could help ease the coughing. 

Switch to Non-Spicy Chips 

If you love all chips, whether they’re spicy or mild, consider switching to a non-spicy chip type and see if you still cough. 

You can buy Doritos Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips in bulk from Amazon, and they’re a delicious alternative to spicy chips. Although they contain citric acid and maltodextrin, they don’t have acetic acid or capsaicin and may not cause you to cough. 

If you believe that maltodextrin makes you cough, you could make homemade spicy chips as follows: 

  1. Thinly slice a few baking potatoes (peeling is optional). 
  2. Season them with chili powder or flakes, ensuring that the seasoning you use doesn’t have maltodextrin. 
  3. Scatter them on a greased baking sheet and spritz them lightly with a little olive oil. 
  4. Broil the chips on high heat for 15 minutes or until they’re crispy. 
  5. Allow them to cool and enjoy! 

Alternatively, you could head to your local health food store or farmer’s market to check out their range of spicy chips. After reading the chips’ ingredients label, you might find some that don’t contain maltodextrin, acetic acid, or citric acid. 

Avoid Water

Dont drink water

It can be tempting to reach for a glass of refreshing water when you start coughing while eating spicy chips. Unfortunately, water can make your reaction to the spicy ingredients worse. 

Milk is an excellent antidote to spicy food because it contains casein, a protein that binds with capsaicin and breaks it down. 

If you’re lactose intolerant or don’t like drinking milk, a teaspoon of honey or a swig from a sugary drink can help. The sugar molecules bind with the capsaicin and dissolve it, providing you with instant relief. 


Snacking on spicy chips can be a welcome treat if you love spicy food. Unfortunately, spicy chips can make you cough, and the leading causes are the following: 

  • The capsaicin, maltodextrin, acetic acid, and citric acid content 
  • Overeating 
  • Acid reflux 
  • Parasympathetic nervous system stimulation 

You can get immediate relief from coughing caused by spicy chips by drinking milk or sugary drinks. Therefore, keep these kinds of drinks close at hand when you plan to snack on spicy food.


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Bill Kalkumnerd
Bill Kalkumnerd

I am Bill, I am the Owner of HappySpicyHour, a website devoted to spicy food lovers like me. Ramen and Som-tum (Papaya Salad) are two of my favorite spicy dishes. Spicy food is more than a passion for me - it's my life! For more information about this site Click

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