ZocdocAnswersWhy do I cough a lot at night?

Question

Why do I cough a lot at night?

I am a 19 year old female in generally good health. When I lie down, I have noticed that I coughing fits, usually occurring more at night. It is a dry cough but it is persistent and wakes me up. I have tried to use cough drops but they don't help much. I don't have the cough when I'm sitting up or standing.

Answer

One cause of your cough to consider is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). With GERD, the acid that is produced in the stomach refluxes up through a weakened lower esophageal sphincter and irritates the inside of the esophagus. Sometimes associated with this process is irritation of the nerves involved in the cough reflex. GERD symptoms are much worse at night and in the morning in many people, due to the effect of laying flat, making it easier for the stomach acid to reflux upwards. While heartburn is a frequent result of this process, it is not always present, and cough may be the only initial symptom that is experienced. You can try using some Tums or Prilosec OTC before dinner to see if this alleviates your coughing. If this is the case, then you should talk with your primary care doctor about using a daily medication to treat your GERD and other lifestyle modifications that can be made to reduce your symptoms (such as avoiding late-night meals, elevating the head of the bed while sleeping, cutting down on alcohol and spicy foods, etc).

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

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