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Morning Cough: 8 Common Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Cough can occur at any time, but several conditions might cause morning cough. Morning coughs might have various underlying causes. To explore more about morning cough, its causes, diagnosis, and treatment, read the following array of the article.

Morning Cough: 8 Common Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

About Morning Cough:

Cough is usually the body’s natural defense mechanism that aids you expel mucus, micro-organisms, or foreign particles from your respiratory system. Generally, coughs are quite common and harmless. Though cough can occur in anyone at any time of the day, some people might experience morning cough at times. Some phlegm or mucus and fluids build-up in your lungs in the night when one is asleep andupon waking up, the accumulated mucus or phlegm starts to loosen, thus trigger a cough in the morning, or after being active.

Some of the common health conditions that might cause morning cough are the common cold, bronchitis, asthma, COPD, GERD, Allergy, Postnasal drips, and respiratory infections.

Causes of Morning Cough:

A cough that produces mucus or phlegm is a wet cough or productive cough. When there is no phlegm in the cough, it is known as a dry cough or unproductive cough. You should know the type of your cough that would help you narrow down the cause of your morning cough. Let us now examine the potential causes of morning cough.

Common Cold:The average American experience 2-3 colds every year, and children usually experience more cold.(1) One of the most common symptoms of the common cold is a persistent wet cough.

Many people have their cough worse in the morning from the accumulated phlegm or mucus overnight. Some other symptoms of the common cold might include sore throat, headache, fatigue, body aches, runny nose, and sneezing.

Respiratory Infections:Respiratory infections can also cause morning cough. These infections are a group of infections in your upper or lower respiratory tracts. Some examples of respiratory infections are the common cold and COVID-19.

Like the colds, various other respiratory infections might have the potential to increase the buildup of phlegm overnight, which results in coughing fits in the morning. Apart from cold-like symptoms, you might experience symptoms like fever, wheezing, general malaise, chest tightness, nasal congestion, and gastrointestinal symptoms.

Postnasal Drip: Postnasal drip is when there is an excessive production of mucus by your body that starts building up in the back of your nose and drips into the throat. Usually, postnasal drip is a symptom of allergies, colds, and eating spicy foods. Symptoms of postnasal drip include morning cough or a wet cough that gets worse in the morning and night, a constant feeling of clearing your throat, nausea, bad breath, scratchy or sore throat.

Asthma: Asthma is a chronic health condition that causes your airways of the lungs to swell. This swelling of your airways makes it hard for you to breathe. The severity of Asthma can range from barely noticeable to life-threatening. Dry or wet coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, trouble breathing, and fatigue are some of the common symptoms of asthma. You might experience a morning cough if you have asthma. Make people with asthma generally experience worse cough in the early morning and at night.

Allergic Rhinitis or Hay Fever: Allergic rhinitis or Hay fever could be another cause of morning cough. This condition is an immune reaction to airborne allergens like pet danders, dust mites, or pollen. Some of the symptoms of this condition include nasal congestion, runny nose, dry cough, headaches, wheezing, watery eyes, shortness of breath.

Since dust mites tend to live in bedding, individuals having dust mite allergies, generally experience worse symptoms in the morning or at night. Pollen counts are usually highest in the morning and thus it might worsen your cough in the morning, especially if you have a pollen allergy.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Or COPD:Morning cough can also signify a condition called COPD. COPD or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a group of progressive pulmonary disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Smoking tobacco is one of the most common causes of COPD. Wet cough and trouble breathing are the primary symptoms of COPD. Some other symptoms of COPD are wheezing, frequent sickness, chest tightness, and fatigue.

It must be mentioned that late-stage of COPD might cause various emergency symptoms like confusion, bluish lips, or gray fingernails because of low oxygen levels, rapid heart rate, and inability to talk or catch your breath.

Though symptoms like cough, wheezing, fatigue due to COPD can occur at any time of the day, they are mostly frequent and worst during the morning time.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Or GERD:Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD can also cause a morning cough.

It is though that above 25% of chronic coughs are because of GERD.(2) Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD occurs when the stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus from the stomach. Symptoms of GERD include chronic cough, chest pain, burning in the chest, usually after eating; difficulty swallowing, and feeling of a lump in the throat.

Commonly, people with GERD experience a cough after eating or when lying down. However, some people might also notice that their cough gets worse in the morning after lying down in bed for the whole night.

Bronchitis:The inflammation of the bronchial tubes present in the lungs is known as Bronchitis. It can be either acute or chronic. Acute bronchitis is usually caused by a respiratory infection or the common cold. However, smoking causes chronic bronchitis. A wet cough, chest discomfort, general symptoms of cold, and slight fever or chills are some of the symptoms of bronchitis.

People suffering from bronchitis usually find their cough getting worse in the morning from phlegm that accumulates overnight. So, bronchitis could be one more reason for your morning cough.

Causes Of Morning Cough In Babies:

Babies might experience morning coughs because of several reasons. These reasons may be the same as in the case of adults and older children. Some of the potential causes of morning cough in babies are the common cold, allergy, respiratory infection, sinus infection, and pneumonia.

How is Morning Cough Diagnosed?

If you are suffering from a chronic cough, your doctor would ask you about your medical history and they would perform a physical examination and check your breathing with a stethoscope. The doctor might also refer you to undergo a blood test and send a sample of your mucus to the laboratory for finding out any viral infection.

If your doctor suspects you might be having COPD or asthma, they might measure your lung function with the help of a spirometry test.

You might be ordered for imaging tests, such as X-ray or a CT scan if none of the previous tests identify the underlying cause of your cough. The imaging tests would be done for checking your pneumonia, lung cancer, or other lung diseases. They might also consider a scope test known as Bronchoscopy to look inside the lungs using a small camera.

Treatment for Morning Cough

The treatment for morning cough depends on the underlying cause.

Treating Morning Cough Caused Due To Allergy:

For treating morning cough that is caused due to allergies, you should take corticosteroids, antihistamines, and decongestants.

Treating Morning Cough That Is Caused Due To Common Cold, Respiratory Infections, Postnasal Drip, Acute Bronchitis:

You should get plenty of rest to help your body fight the infection faster in case your cough is due to the common cold and respiratory infection.

Cough medications can help in suppressing the urge to cough while decongestants might help in managing postnasal drip that might be resulting in cough.

Treating Morning Cough That Is Caused Due To GERD:

Treatment options for GERD include medications to reduce stomach acid production, antacids, prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors, prescription-strength H2 receptor blockers, surgery.

Treating Morning Cough That Is Caused Due To COPD:

COPD treatment includes bronchodilators, oxygen therapy, and surgery. Apart from all these, you should also quit smoking if you are smoking.

When To See Your Doctor?

You should consult with your doctor if your morning cough does not go away in several weeks. Apart from this, you should also visit your doctor if you experience wheezing, greenish-yellow phlegm, fever, shortness of breath, fainting, swelling of ankles, and unexplained weight loss.

Some signs say that you should seek emergency medical attention. These signs include choking, vomiting, trouble in breathing, difficulty swallowing, coughing up blood, and pain in the chest along with morning cough.

Final Words:

So, morning cough has so many potential causes. In general, a morning cough is not a need for a big concern. But, if your morning cough persists for more than 2 weeks or if you experience trouble breathing, you should visit a doctor for an appropriate diagnosis and relevant treatment of your condition.


Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 11, 2022

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