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Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Why am I coughing so much at night?"

Question

I am a 37 year old female. About 3 weeks ago I came down with a bad cold. I started to get better last week and was almost over it except for the cough. The cough has almost completely stopped during the day, but at night when I go to bed it intensifies. Even when I sleep sitting up, I get almost no sleep due to coughing. I have tried taking cough syrup, cough drops, cold medicine, and even my allergy meds. The allergy meds seem to work the best but nothing in my bedroom has changed so I do not know what could be provoking my allergies?

Answer

Based on your description, you may be slowing getting over a case of bronchitis. This is an infection of the lower airways. It can have very similar symptoms as the upper respiratory tract infection (common cold).

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The main difference is that with bronchitis there is a more robust cough that hangs around after the other cold symptoms have gone away. This cough from bronchitis should not last much longer than a month. The major exception to this is if you are a smoker, then the symptoms will last much longer. Post viral cough can be due to nasal drip, but this would be associated with a runny nose. The fact that your allergy medicine helps for the cough is a little peculiar. If you have recently been exposed to a new animal or plant, then you could entertain this as a possibility, but I would not consider this at first. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with primary care physician. He or she can take a more detailed history of your cough and other symptoms and perform a thorough physical exam. If your doctor thinks that this cough is related to your recent viral infection, then you can get a prescription for a short course of a steroid inhaler. This will help calm down the inflammation in your lungs and help reduce the cough.

Zocdoc Answers 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 (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.