A persistent cough can be more than just an annoyance; it might be your body's cry for help, signaling an underlying problem like acid reflux.
Acid reflux, commonly associated with heartburn, often manifests as a chronic cough. Understanding this connection is the first step toward attaining real symptom relief — and protecting your long-term health. Left untreated, persistent acid reflux can damage your esophagus and elevate your risk of esophageal cancer.
Our expert team at Allergy & Asthma Clinic of Maryland has an extensive understanding of the interplay between these two conditions, offering a lifeline for patients in Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, and Bethesda, Maryland, the greater Washington D.C. area, and beyond.
Dr. Vasif Kalfa helps patients identify the real culprits behind their symptoms, and offers a full scope of diagnostic tools and treatments for various ailments, including chronic cough.
Here, he dives into the relationship between acid reflux and chronic cough, exploring the causes and symptoms and, most importantly, shedding light on the available treatment options that can help you regain control of your health.
What is acid reflux?
Imagine you've just had your favorite meal, but instead of feeling satisfied, you experience a burning sensation in your chest. This may be acid reflux at play.
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acids back up into your esophagus — the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Common acid reflux triggers include spicy foods, citrus, tomatoes, chocolate, and caffeine.
While occasional acid reflux is common, recurrent episodes may indicate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which requires medical attention.
What is a chronic cough?
A chronic cough is one that lasts eight weeks or longer in adults, and it can be incredibly frustrating. Common culprits for a chronic cough typically include allergies, asthma, and infection; acid reflux is another frequent cause of chronic cough.
The link between acid reflux and chronic cough
When stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, not only can it cause heartburn, but it can also lead to inflammation and irritation of your throat’s delicate tissue lining. This, in turn, can trigger a cough reflex.
Additionally, in a phenomenon known as aspiration, small amounts of acid can get into the airways and lungs, causing a chronic cough.
Studies show that GERD is a leading cause of chronic cough. This is particularly true for people who don't exhibit typical acid reflux symptoms, such as heartburn. This type of chronic cough is often termed “silent reflux,” because the acid reflux symptoms are atypical.
Spotting the signs of acid reflux
With acid reflux, knowing what to look out for is half the battle. If your chronic cough is accompanied by frequent throat clearing, a sour taste in your mouth, difficulty swallowing, or a burning sensation in your chest, acid reflux could be the culprit.
Conversely, if you’ve been diagnosed with GERD and you develop a chronic cough, it's essential to understand that they’re likely related.
Treat the cause, ease your symptoms
Addressing the issue means not just relieving your cough but treating your underlying acid reflux. Lifestyle changes like avoiding foods that trigger reflux, losing weight, and elevating your head while sleeping can be beneficial.
We might also recommend over-the-counter antacids and prescription medications. Moreover, for some, surgical procedures may be necessary to manage severe cases of GERD.
If your chronic cough persists despite trying common remedies, or if you suspect it might be linked to acid reflux, don't hesitate to seek medical advice. Proper diagnosis and treatment are crucial to improving your quality of life.
With our patient-centered approach and wealth of expertise, Allergy & Asthma Clinic of Maryland is the place to go to regain control of your health. Give us a call today, or book an appointment online any time.