Common causes of dry coughs at night
Coughs are most commonly caused by viral infections and they are usually the residue of the cold or flu. For most, signs of the infection resolve after a few days, but dry coughs can persist long after all other symptoms have gone. Coughs can be worse when in bed as small amounts of mucus gather at the back of your throat when you lie down and as the amount increases, the cough reflex is triggered.
Allergies can lead to dry coughs. This is most noticeable when pollen counts are high – hayfever is the most common form of allergy in the developed world. Unfortunately many confuse their hayfever symptoms for the cold or flu, especially if they have never suffered from the allergy before. If you are unsure about your symptoms, it might be worthwhile taking our quick test to find out more.
A lesser known problem is an allergy to house dust and dust mites. This is more likely to be the case if you, or someone in your family, suffers from eczema or asthma. Dust mites are found in large gatherings in mattresses and bedding because these contain an abundant source of skin flakes which is their favourite meal, and they adore higher humidity. So, if you are prone to allergies, dust mites could be the reason for your night-time cough.
Gastric reflux is increasingly recognised as a common cause of dry coughs at night. Reflux is the term used when the acidic contents in the stomach travel backwards and upwards into the gullet. If this reaches the throat, irritation occurs, leading to coughing. As you lie in your bed, the stomach and throat will come to the same level, making it easier for reflux to occur.
So what can you do about your night-time cough?
1. Drink honey and lemon before bed. A cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and a teaspoon of honey can often help to soothe irritation before you go to sleep. The sticky honey can also leave a protective layer on the back of your throat, preventing coughs all night.
2. Sleep alone. You will be less likely to disturb your partner and being more relaxed, you will tend to cough less.
3. Sleep with an extra pillow. This will reduce accumulation of mucus at the back of your throat if this is the cause of your dry cough; if you suffer gastric reflux, your throat will be less likely to be irritated.
4. Wash your bedding more often. If you have allergies, this will help to reduce the level of dust mites you come into contact with at night. If your mattress is past its best, a new one will reduce your exposure to these creatures even further.
5. Be prepared. We all know that a sip of water helps a cough so have a glass ready on your bedside table. If you are using a cough medicine, have this ready too. A convenient form of using cough remedies is in the form of a spray, such as with the new A.Vogel cough spray containing Mullein and Marshmallow.
6. Take Echinacea. If your cough is the residue of a viral infection, this herb will help to reduce inflammation and symptoms in your respiratory system.
7. Use bitter herbs. These will help if you suffer gastric reflux with symptoms of indigestion and bloating. Bitter herbs are best in tincture form and should be taken 5 to 10 minutes before each meal.
8. See your doctor. If your cough does not settle despite your best attempts, seek help from your doctor urgently. It is important to get to the cause of any unexplained cough – we do not want to miss a more serious health condition.