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Douglas Street | That nagging night-time cough

Published:Monday | April 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM

One of the most irritating things that can occur at nights is a cough. It can easily rob you of any entire night's sleep. And the terrible thing about is that it can also disturb those in the vicinity as well. It is not unusual for coughing to actually get worse at nights.

The cough is a reflex that is produced by a rapid build-up of pressure in the lungs followed by sudden, directed release. Cough can produce air speeds of hurricane strength! It can quickly remove irritants from the upper airway. Problems arise, however, when the irritants are not easily removed or are being constantly produced, in which case the cough becomes persistent.

Persistent cough can produce a whole range of problems. It can elevate blood pressure, break ribs, puncture lungs, break blood vessels, cause sleep deprivation, cause muscular strain in both chest and abdomen, precipitate vomiting and produce airway irritation.

Coughing can get worse at nights for various reasons. The change in temperature and humidity can cause cough to worse. This is especially so for persons with allergic tendencies, including and especially asthmatics. In fact, nocturnal cough is one of the defining features of asthma. Also, the change in environmental conditions may trigger off coughing. A smoking relative, mould, a dirty fan, poorly maintained air conditioner, certain plants, carpets, pets and airborne chemicals in the environment can trigger off cough when in certain locations.




If one is in a location with these conditions present only at nights, then one may get a night-time cough. Change in posture (lying down) is another factor that occurs at night which may trigger off coughing. This is because pooling of saliva now occurs at the back of the throat, where gravity would have normally caused it to drain down into the stomach. This saliva can trigger off coughing. Lying down can also aggravates acid reflux, which can trigger off coughing at nights. This may happen as the stomach acid that flows up to the upper airway causes irritation and cough. Night-time cough may also be a sign of serious diseases like heart failure, pneumonia and lung cancer.

Some remedies for night-time cough include sleeping with the upper body elevated, herbal tea with honey, drinking water, using steam (if not asthmatic), avoiding exposure to offending chemical, and using cough medicine.

If these fail, then seek medical attention.