Definition: what is a nocturnal cough?
Nocturnal cough, as its name suggests, is an incapacitating cough that occurs mainly at night, when sleeping or trying to fall asleep. It can be caused by many factors: allergies, inflammation of the airways, respiratory infection, asthma, or even gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Cough can be exacerbated when we lie down, as mucus builds up in the airways and causes irritation. It is unfortunately more difficult to control because patients are immersed in sleep and have more difficulty controlling it. Result : jagged nights and sleepy days.
Given the repercussions coughs can have on our daily lives, it is essential to consult your doctor if she persists ! He or she can prescribe appropriate treatment including new dietary and lifestyle rules, taking medication, or evenrespiratory therapies.
During the night: dry or oily, acute or chronic cough?
As a reminder, the cough is a defensive reflex which helps to deal with irritation in the upper (nose, vocal cords, trachea) or lower (lungs) airways. Coughing facilitates the elimination of phlegm or irritating agents that obstruct our airways.
As noted above, nocturnal cough manifests when falling asleep, in the middle of the nightand is often accompanied by an irritating cough during the day.
Like all coughs, it can be acute (less than three weeks), subacute (between three and eight weeks) or chronic (more than eight weeks), but also dry or oily. There wet nocturnal coughalso called productive, is characterized by expectoration of mucus. Dry nocturnal coughit is manifested by persistent and irritating coughing fits that can quickly become exhausting, even painful.
Why does my throat scratch and make me cough at night?
First of all, know that the lying position greatly exacerbates the nocturnal cough: it complicates the evacuation of mucus and further stimulates the cough reflex.
The air in our room can also be involved in these episodes of coughing: it just needs to be too heated and / or not ventilated enough to irritate our airways.
Note also the significant impact of smokingwhich can cause nocturnal and diurnal coughing fits.
Several other medical causes may come into play:
Certain respiratory diseases
Several respiratory diseases can promote nocturnal cough, including poorly controlled asthmaa viral or allergic rhinitisa bronchitis, etc. So many situations that generate hyperreactivity of the bronchi, which, coupled with the lying position, promotes nocturnal cough.
When a cough lasts more than three weeks, it may signal the presence of whooping cough. And other respiratory diseases can cause bouts of coughing at night such as tuberculosis, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary embolism, or pulmonary emphysema.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Patients with gastroesophageal reflux disease, are also more prone to a dry nocturnal cough. It is often accompanied by acid reflux if patients lie down too soon after their meal.
Nighttime cough may be related to an allergy to dust mites, pollen, animal hair, mold, etc. In some cases, it is the harbinger of a crisis that can lead to breathing difficulties. It is then accompanied by wheezing which alerts the patient.
Taking certain medications can cause a nocturnal cough, which is often dry and irritating. It is most often aconverting enzyme inhibitors (IEC), prescribed in the treatment of arterial hypertension or heart failure. The cough can occur a few hours after taking said medications, but sometimes also a few weeks or even months later.
Some nocturnal coughs are sometimes difficult to pass and do not seem to depend on any known factor. The experts therefore incriminate psychological factors such as stress and anxiety. The management of these coughs therefore requires better management of one’s emotions.
Beware of bronchial cancer!
In very rare cases, a nocturnal cough can betray bronchial cancer. It often occurs in people who smoke, and is accompanied by traces of blood from the respiratory tract (hemoptysis)
When to worry about a persistent nocturnal cough?
Nocturnal cough has a heavy impact on the daily lives of patients who have trouble falling asleep and sometimes wake up at night. In fact, they are plagued by great fatigue and deleterious drowsiness during the day.
Surroundings can also be affected : parents, spouse, or even roommate(s) are often awakened by nocturnal coughing fits.
To limit the damage, it is better to make an appointment with your doctor if the nocturnal cough persists for more than four to five nights. And if you have other symptoms such as of the feverchest pain or difficulty breathingconsult as soon as possible!
How to calm a nocturnal cough and stop coughing quickly?
Treatment for nighttime cough obviously depends on the diagnosis. First of all, it is essential to treat any medical cause (allergy, GERD, colds, etc.). In case of gastroesophageal reflux, the doctor generally prescribes a treatment based on proton pump inhibitors. Treatment with inhaled corticosteroids can be administered in case of asthma. Etc. in addition, several measures make it possible to limit the nocturnal cough.
Raise his head
The first trick is to raise his head slightly with ears to end up in a semi-sitting position. This allows secretions not to stagnate in the bronchi, thus limiting nocturnal fits.
Humidify your room
The air quality in your bedroom is essential for good quality sleep. Think carefully about air your room for ten minutes, morning and evening. And in case of dry cough at night, remember to turn off the heating and do not hesitate to use an air humidifier. If necessary, you can place a basin of water near a radiator or dry damp laundry in your room. The recommended humidity level? Between 30 and 50%.
Good to know : a good hot shower before going to sleep will also have the effect of decluttering your airways. In fact, heat and humidity have a vasodilating effect that helps our body eliminate mucus. To increase the benefit, you can also hang a branch of eucalyptus in your shower, which will clear your bronchial tubes.
Avoid Air Pollutants
To limit indoor pollution and potential irritation, avoid smoking in your room, to light candles, home fragrancesbut also to use aerosols Or of the insecticides. This may further damage your airways.
Take care of your nose
As indicated at the beginning of the article, coughing helps to evacuate cumbersome mucus. As much to implement everything, therefore, to limit its stagnation. As soon as you start to have a stuffy nose, or runny nose, don’t hesitate to blow your nose regularly and to use saline or sanitizing sprays based on seawater. Objective: moisten the nasal septum and thin the mucus.
What natural remedies to avoid coughing at night?
Bet on inhalations
Nothing like an inhalation to relieve a cough. In case of wet cough, bet on inhalations of essential oil of eucalyptus, Scots pine, green cypress, or niaouli. The user manual ? Pour a few drops of essential oil into a large bowl of hot water, place a towel over your head and position yourself over the bowl (at a safe distance to limit burns), then inhale the vapors through your nose or the mouth. To simplify the process, it is also possible to buy inhalers in pharmacies. Perform said inhalation 15 minutes before falling asleep and be sure to blow your nose thoroughly to remove mucus.
Drink herbal teas
To thin the mucus, there is nothing like hydrating, this will allow germs to be evacuated more quickly when urinating, and to thin the mucus. Ichamomile, thyme, liquorice or marshmallow herbal teas are therefore ideal to relieve your cough before falling asleep.
Do not sulk honey
To calm the night cough, nothing beats a good spoonful of honey before sleeping. This will soothe any irritation. In the event of a wet cough, it is preferable to put on thyme or eucalyptus honey. In case of any dryness, we prefer lavender honey or Manuka honey. Most ? You can dilute this spoon of honey in an herbal tea or in a glass of hot milk to soothe the throat. You can also opt for propolis, known for its antiviral and antimicrobial properties.
Sleep with an onion by your bed
Many naturopaths indicate that the vapors given off by the onion, soothe nocturnal cough. The instructions for use are very simple: place an onion in a cup, and place it near your pillow. You won’t lose much by trying, better put the odds on your side!
What treatments to relieve nocturnal coughing fits?
There are several options for overcoming a nighttime cough:
- expectorant syrups (to be used in case of oily cough), which make it possible to thin the secretions.
- cough syrups(to be used in case of dry cough), which are divided into several categories according to their mode of action – central or peripheral – and their active ingredient(s).
- Tablets and sprayswhich can be effective in prevention, to soften the throat and perhaps limit the fits.
Good to know: whether your cough is nocturnal or diurnal, better to avoid self-medication because of potential side effects, and consult your doctor!
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