Does Acid Reflux Cause Coughing?

Man Coughing

Yes, acid reflux (gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) can cause coughing. When stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, it can irritate the lining of the esophagus and trigger a variety of symptoms, including heartburn, regurgitation, and coughing. This condition is known as “acid reflux-induced cough” or “reflux-associated cough.”

Here’s how acid reflux can lead to coughing:

  • Irritation of the Throat: Stomach acid is highly acidic, and when it reaches the lower part of the esophagus and the upper part of the throat, it can irritate the delicate tissues in these areas. This irritation can lead to a persistent, dry, or tickly cough.
  • Aspiration: In some cases, stomach acid and partially digested food can make their way into the airway and the lungs, a condition known as aspiration. This can irritate the airways and trigger coughing, particularly when lying down or during sleep.
  • Nerve Stimulation: The esophagus and the respiratory system share some nerve connections. When stomach acid irritates the lower esophagus, it can stimulate these nerves, leading to a cough reflex.

It’s important to note that not all coughs are caused by acid reflux, and there are many other potential causes of chronic coughing, such as respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, or medications. Therefore, if you have a persistent or chronic cough, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare provider for a proper evaluation and diagnosis.

If acid reflux is identified as the cause of your cough, there are several treatment options available. Lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, and medications (such as antacids or proton pump inhibitors) can help manage acid reflux symptoms and alleviate associated coughing. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on the most appropriate treatment plan based on your specific situation.

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