How to Prevent a Cough from Worsening at Night?

Jun 14, 2023

Urgent Care

How to Prevent a Cough from Worsening at Night?

If you have a cough, it may be causing disturbances in your sleep, which prompts one simple question, “Why does my cough get worse at night?” There are many reasons behind this experience. One primary reason is that infections, like the flu or a cold, release massive amounts of mucus at night. However, other aspects account for the constant coughing at night.

This blog will address the root cause of nocturnal cough and provide tips to prevent it.

Understand Why Your Cough Gets Worse at Night

One possible reason behind nocturnal cough is that moving around during the daytime helps in loosening trapped mucus. But, when you lie down, mucus starts pooling in the back of your throat, causing you to cough at night.

Another reason for constant coughing at night is acid reflux. Acid irritates the throat, just like mucus, germs, or allergies. People with this condition may experience terrible nocturnal cough because lying down forces acid to travel up the esophagus, activating the cough.

Other Causes for Your Cough Worsening at Night

There are several additional, possible causes behind a nocturnal cough. Here are some of the considered causes.

  1. Upper Airway Cough Syndrome

    Also known as a Post Nasal drip, upper airway cough syndrome is one of the common causes of coughing at night. It occurs due to mucus dripping down your throat, which tickles the nerves, triggering coughing fits. Eye irritation, sneezing, and blockage may also be due to upper airway cough syndrome.

  2. Respiratory Disorder

    People with respiratory disorders, such as asthma, have swollen airways, which can cause difficulty in breathing, possibility of hyperventilating, and coughing at night. Besides chest tightness, shortness of breath might accompany respiratory disorders.

    Doctors most likely order spirometry, a lung function test to check for respiratory disorders. In addition to the doctor’s direction, there are two types of medications available: quick-relief drugs, which provide symptom relief, and prescribed drugs you take daily to keep asthma under control.

  3. Acid Backflow

    Gastroesophageal reflux happens when acid from your stomach flows back into your esophagus. If you only cough at night, acid reflux could be the reason, since stomach acid can start to sneak up when you sleep. The sign of a nocturnal cough is characterized by starting when you lie in bed at night. Other symptoms can include-

    • Chest pain
    • Difficulty in swallowing
    • Difficulty in breathing

    Diagnostic tests may include an x-ray of the upper GI tract or an endoscopy. Gastroesophageal reflux is treated with medication, lifestyle changes, or surgical procedures. In addition to these solutions, consider eating the day's final meal three to four hours before bed to avoid constant coughing at night.

  4. Acute Pneumonia

    Pneumonia causes inflammation in the lungs. Pneumonia can also cause-

    • Coughing
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Difficulty in breathing
    • Chest pain when coughing

    Usually, pneumonia is detected by listening to your chest with a stethoscope. However, doctors might order an x-ray and blood tests to determine if it's viral or bacterial. Antibiotics are the best treatment for bacterial pneumonia. If it's viral, the only remedy is getting proper rest and taking over-the-counter cough medicine prescribed by the doctor.

  5. Whooping Cough

    Whooping cough is a bacterial infection in the respiratory system. Coughing is the main symptom, which can become fierce at night. The symptoms include-

    • Common cold
    • running nose
    • Watery eyes
    • Fever
    • Cough

    After a week, coughing starts with intensity. Whooping cough is very contagious, but there is a vaccine to prevent the spread. Whooping cough is diagnosed with blood tests or by taking a mucus sample. Doctors can also treat this condition with antibiotics.

Ways to Avoid or Manage Worsening Cough at Night

If you are already dealing with constant coughing at night, it is important to prevent it from worsening at night. Here’s a list of things you should avoid when you have a cough-

  1. Avoid late nights

    If you have a temporary cough due to sickness, it’s important to remember that your body will need more rest than normal to fight off the infection. Try to go to bed early to get the necessary sleep. Adjusting your schedule to attempt sleeping simply an hour before your normal timeframe could make a difference.

  2. Avoid staying in smoky environments

    Being in smoky environments makes breathing difficult and certainly won't help if you already have a cough. These environments could worsen your cough and leave you coughing even more at night.

  3. Prevent sleeping in a freezing bedroom

    Avoid sleeping in a cold bedroom if you have a nocturnal cough. An allergic cough can alter your body temperature, negatively affecting your sleep quality. Add an extra blanket while sleeping, or alter the temperature to a relaxed level.

  4. Take prescribed medication

    If you regularly take medication for asthma or any respiratory disorder, you should continue to take them routinely. It’s particularly important to ensure you do not miss doses if you’re suffering from an intense cough, as your airways will be more inflamed, and your body will produce more mucus.

Complications Associated with Coughing at Night

Constant coughing at night can happen due to a disease of the upper airway, lower airway, gastrointestinal system, or cardiovascular system. The following complications are often associated with constant coughing at night-

  • A viral respiratory tract infection
  • Postnasal drip
  • Asthma
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Bronchiectasis
  • Heart failure
  • Tracheoesophageal fistula

Adults with nocturnal cough longer than eight weeks often experience this phenomenon due to upper airway cough syndrome, asthma, eosinophilic bronchitis, or gastroesophageal reflux.

Ways to Ease Coughing at Night

The following tips include methods that can ease coughing at night-

  • Before you sleep, take a prescribed cough syrup or hard candy (cough drop) to soothe your throat.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking fluids throughout the day - fluids help thin the mucus.
  • Adding honey to warm water or tea has shown moderate benefits in reducing nocturnal cough.
  • Take nocturnal cough medication, which contains an antihistamine that helps you sleep properly.

The Right Time to See Your Doctor

If you have any of the following symptoms, it is the right time to see your doctor-

  • High fever
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain

For more information, contact MI Express Urgent Care.

Get Effective Treatment for Cough at MI Express Urgent Care

There are several underlying factors behind nocturnal cough- treatments for this concern are determined by keeping the specific cause of the condition in mind. However, connecting with your doctor before the condition worsens always proves beneficial.

MI Express Urgent Care provides complete medical assistance for nocturnal cough. Our doctors perform a complete diagnosis and begin treatment immediately. Reach out to us for relief today.

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