Cough is one of the symptoms of acid reflux disease, albeit a less common one. Since a cough can be caused by various other health conditions as well, it is important for one to be able to understand when a cough is caused by an acid reflux condition.
This article will help you understand how acid reflux causes a cough and you will also get a few pointers on how to stop acid reflux cough.
When do you know that you have acid reflux cough?
Before you decide that your cough is caused by acid reflux, you must first make sure that you are indeed suffering from acid reflux. To confirm whether or not you are suffering from acid reflux disease, you just have to know if you also suffer from heartburn. Heartburn is the number one symptom that is associated with acid reflux disease or GERD.
Heartburn is a type of pain that can be best described as a burning sensation in the chest area. More specifically, the pain will originate from the area between the breastbone and the abdominal cavity and can go as far up as the neck and shoulders. In most patients, however, the pain is restricted to the chest area.
If you don’t have this symptom, you are most probably not suffering from acid reflux and your cough could be caused by something else.
You can also determine if you are suffering from acid reflux cough by first eliminating the possibility that your cough could be caused by a common cold. If your cough is accompanied by sniffles, a runny nose, fever and other common symptoms of flu or cold, the cough could just be related to that.
Of course, the only foolproof way to diagnose acid reflux cough is to make a visit to the physician’s office. There is no substitute for that.
How does acid reflux cause a cough?
Acid reflux is a common disease that affects about 30% of adults, worldwide. The term reflux is used to describe the flow of acids from the stomach to the esophagus. The esophagus, in case you did not know, is the cavity that connects your throat to your stomach. It is designed to send food down and not receive anything from the stomach. A sphincter muscle at the bottom of the esophagus usually takes care of that function. In some cases, however, that sphincter muscle can fail due to different reasons. Some of these reasons could be factors such as the number of muscles in your diaphragm, the angle that separates your esophagus and your stomach, and even the posture that people maintain. Since these factors can vary from person to person, acid reflux can kick-in in about 3 out of 10 people, as mentioned earlier.
Now, where the problem starts is when the acids enter the esophagus. The esophagus, unlike the stomach, is not equipped to handle strong stomach acids. The stomach has a protective lining that will allow it to digest food with acids that are produced by the body. The esophagus on the other hand will just get irritated and result in side effects. Cough is one of the side effects.
Cough caused by acid reflux may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as a feeling of nausea, sore throat, difficulty in swallowing foods, and a feeling where one might feel that something is stuck in their throat. In rare cases, one might also suffer from a hoarsening of the voice when they are experiencing acid reflux cough.
How is acid reflux cough treated?
First, one must realize that acid reflux cough can be stopped by eliminating the acid reflux condition and not just by eliminating the cough caused by acid reflux. To eliminate acid reflux, one can simply use an antacid to see if it goes away. In mild cases, an over the counter antacid like Tums will be enough to stop the reflux and the accompanying cough.
When acid reflux is more severe and fairly consistent in terms of incidence, a doctor may prescribe medication that will be able to stop the reflux of acids and all the side effects associated with it. This medication will usually include stronger medication and the use of proton pumps. Even if you are just trying over the counter antacids, it is highly recommended that you first seek a doctor’s opinion to get tips on how to use them. Having too many antacids will just result in further problems like diarrhea.
One can also make some lifestyle changes to stop acid reflux and acid reflux cough. Eating smaller meals, eating well before bedtime, and eating the right type of foods are all recommended and advised when a patient is suffering from acid reflux. Doctors will generally advise patients to stay away from caffeine, citrusy foods, chocolate, high-fat dairy products, and minty foods when the patient has an acid reflux condition.