ZocdocAnswersCan acid reflux cause chronic coughing?

Question

Can acid reflux cause chronic coughing?

Can acid reflux cause a chronic cough? I've heard differing answers to this question, and I have to say I don't really understand how having stomach acid in your throat would irritate your lungs so badly. Still, my doctor is investigating whether my cough could be caused by GERD.

Answer

Yes, in fact coughing is quite a common side effect of GERD. The mechanism is not completely clear, but likely has to do with the fact that early in development, the esophagus and the trachea (windpipe) form from the same embryonic structure and are linked through a common neuronal reflex arc. what this means is that irritation in your esophagus can cause a reflex through the nervous system which your brain perceives as irritation in the trachea and the result is a dry, nagging cough. Another theory is that very small amounts of refluxed acid are aspirated from the esophagus down the trachea and the direct caustic irritation of the stomach acid on the sensitive lining of the trachea causes cough. The most common approach to determining whether GERD is at fault for your chronic cough is to treat your GERD and see if the cough improves. The recommended therapy is a three month trial of a proton pump inhibitor (eg: omeprazole) as this class of medications has been shown to be most effective in the treatment of GERD. If the cough persists after an adequate trial of this medication, then GERD is a less likely cause and further evaluation will be necessary to determine the source of cough (other common causes include post-nasal drip, side effects of ACE inhibitor medications, and low grade asthma). Hope this helps!

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.