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The Link Between GERD and Chronic Cough

GERD and chronic coughing

Table of Contents

Many people experience occasional acid reflux, some individuals can develop a more severe form of acid reflux which is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If you are experiencing acid reflux twice a week, then you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Many individuals with GERD have regular symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, dental decay, bad breath, nausea, breathing problems, and vomiting. These symptoms can contribute over time to more severe health issues. However, chronic cough is one of the most common symptom of acid reflux. This article discusses the link between GERD and chronic cough.

GERD and Chronic Cough

GERD is one of the most common cause of a chronic cough. Researchers report that over 25 percent of all chronic cough cases are because of GERD (1).

Most people with GERD-related cough do not experience the similar signs and symptoms of heartburn. Chronic cough can result from acid reflux or from the reflux of non-acidic stomach contents.

GERD-related coughing signs are such as regular coughing at night, coughing without having asthma, coughing right after a meal, coughing when you lie down, and coughing happens even though there are no common causes, such as smoking or allergies.

Reflux Related Cough in Children

Many children experience reflux during their first year of life, including coughing up or vomiting. In infants who are healthy, these symptoms may occur. Infants who develop acid reflux after 1 year of age, however, may probably have GERD. Recurrent coughing is one of the most common symptoms of GERD in infants and young children.

Symptoms include:

  • heartburn
  • irritation
  • refuse to eat
  • nausea
  • regurgitation
  • difficulty swallowing
  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • repeated vomiting
  • asthma
  • pneumonia
  • poor growth

These are some basic strategies for reducing acid reflux in children:

  • Feeding babies with small and daily meals
  • Hold babies upright for 30 minutes after feeding
  • Not feeding infants with food that can induce acid reflux

It is difficult to recognise symptoms of GERD in children, particularly when they are very young. Children under 1 can also show signs of acid reflux, such as frequent coughing or vomiting, with no adverse effects.

Risk Factors

The following beverages and foods will make GERD worse:

  • garlic
  • onions
  • spicy foods
  • mint
  • grapefruit
  • lemons
  • limes
  • pineapple
  • salsa
  • acidic drinks
  • coffee
  • caffeine
  • orange juice or oranges
  • carbonated beverages
  • tomato sauce or tomatoes

However, foods that cause symptoms can differ from person to person. People with GERD should try to exclude some food from their diet to see if their symptoms are getting better. If they don’t, they’ll add the food back to their diet.

Other risk factors include:

The above conditions weaken or relax the lower esophageal sphincter. It allows the content of the stomach to come up into the oesophagus when the lower esophageal sphincter is weak.

Lifestyle changes

Changes in lifestyle and some home remedies will always minimise or even remove the symptoms of GERD. These include:

  • stop smoking
  • don’t overeat
  • eat slowly
  • avoid tight clothing
  • don’t sleep after eating
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • use non-mint chewing gum
  • use 8 inches wedge pillow

Medications

Medications such as antacid are effective in treating GERD symptoms. These include:

  • proton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
  • foaming agents such as Gaviscon
  • H2 blockers such as Pepcid

If medications, lifestyle changes, and herbal remedies do not ease your symptoms, contact with your doctor. You should consider other care options with your doctor at that stage. Surgery may be the last option for those who do not respond well either to changes in lifestyle or to medication.

Testing GERD-Related Chronic Cough

It is hard to find GERD in people who have a chronic cough but no signs of heartburn. This is because asthma and postnasal drip are much more likely to cause a chronic cough. However, your doctor might refer you to a gastroenterologist who can conduct tests to find out what’s causing your problems (2):

Ambulatory acid probe test: This test measures how much acid you have in your stomach for 24 hours. Your doctor will thread through your nose and down to your oesophagus, a long, thin, flexible tube called a catheter. You’ll wear a small gadget to watch how much acid you get from your stomach to your oesophagus or throat. Your gastroenterologist can also tape a tiny device that looks like a capsule to the wall of your oesophagus. It tests the acid and signals the tiny system you’re wearing. It’s going to slip off your oesophagus and move through your stool about two days later.

Endoscopy: Your doctor will place a long, thin tube and a small camera in your digestive tract to check for damage. It’s going to thread through your nose and down to your oesophagus. They can also use the tube for a biopsy if a small amount of tissue is tested by your gastroenterologist.

Manometry: Your doctor will insert a long, thin tube into your oesophagus to calculate how your oesophagus functions and how it functions upwards. This is called the esophageal motility test.

X-rays: You’re going to drink a chalky substance called barium. It coats the inside of your throat, stomach, and upper intestines. This would make it easier for the doctor to see any problems with these X-ray organs. You may feel bloated, or it may disturb your stomach.

The Bottom Line

If you are suffering from a chronic cough, discuss the risk of GERD with the doctor. If you are diagnosed with GERD, ensure that you maintain your prescription regimen and medical appointments.

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Naeem Durrani BSc
Naeem Durrani is a freelance journalist who specializes in health and wellness innovation. His interests include medical research, nutrition, and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices that empower people to positively transform their lives.
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