We at Hyfe, Inc., are a company devoted to working on tools to better understand the importance of cough. It is Hyfe’s intention in the future to seek regulatory approval for medical products that analyze cough in order that they may be used to diagnose, monitor, and facilitate better treatment of respiratory illnesses.
As we know, cough is our body’s defense mechanism to manage an irritant within our respiratory pathways. A morning cough is no different.
There could be a large variety of causes for your cough, particularly in the morning. However, a morning cough is often not a serious sign of underlying disease, particularly if it subsides throughout the day.
However, if the cough is more serious in the morning and lingers throughout the day, seek medical attention.
It would be great to start tracking your cough when you continually experience a morning cough. For one, track the quality of the cough. If you have phlegm production, it can indicate a wet cough. A dry cough variant doesn’t have any production of phlegm. A dry cough can have phlegm production only in the morning, which makes journaling your cough important to narrow down a possible underlying cause.
As the name implies, a common cold is a common reason for developing a cough early in the morning. It is estimated that an adult can have 4 to 6 episodes of the common cold in a year.
As phlegm accumulates overnight, you will notice a cough as soon as you wake up. However, with a common cold, it is possible to notice having a cough throughout the day as well.
Additionally, you might notice a mild fever, body aches, sneezing, a runny nose, and fatigue.
When you wake up in the morning, you may have felt that your mouth and throat are often dry. A possibility is the moisture within your surroundings is limited. Additionally, the mucus production in your respiratory system decreases at night.
This dryness can increase if you sleep in a dry room, switch on the air conditioner, have limited fluid intake, or are breathing with your mouth open.
In addition to having a morning cough, you will notice having a hoarse voice and difficulty swallowing. This usually subsides in a little while after you take that first sip of water.
A chronic condition, asthma causes inflammation of the small respiratory airways. Triggers to this inflammation are being exposed to allergens within your surroundings. For many, persistently being exposed to these allergens might only present as a chronic cough. And this cough might often be observed only in the morning.
Additionally, with asthma, you might have episodes of difficulty breathing or hear a whistling sound when you breathe. The severe depiction of asthma is often more commonly observed among children whose immune systems are in their development phase.
However, asthmatic adults can also notice episodes of extreme difficulty in breathing which makes a chronic morning cough a reason to get checked up for possible asthma.
For some, there is excessive mucus that is produced within the upper respiratory passages, particularly in the nose, that slowly drips down to the back of the throat to the cough centers. This constant irritation with a postnasal drip can result in a chronic cough.
Frequently certain conditions like having a cold, exposure to allergens, seasonal flu, or having a spicy meal can increase mucus production. For some, there is no significant known cause for the increased mucus production resulting in a postnasal drip.
The constant exposure to this mucus can result in a dry, persistent cough. At night there can be a buildup of mucus resulting in an excessive cough in the morning, which can have phlegm as well.
Even though gastroesophageal reflux is a common condition, a cough is rarely associated with it.
With GERD, there is a reflux of stomach acid into your esophagus. This constant reflux can make its way up to your throat and mouth. At night this increases when you lay down on your bed, which makes coughing in the morning a likely indication of underlying stomach acid reflux.
You might also notice a metallic taste in your mouth, chest discomfort, heartburn, and hoarseness with your voice with GERD.
A chronic respiratory condition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, where difficulty breathing and cough are the primary indications of underlying lung disease.
Smoking and occupational exposure are significant risk factors for the development of COPD. There is long-term damage to the respiratory sacs in the lungs. This is often irreversible with persistent exposure. While coughing is observed throughout the day, it increases in the morning. This is due to a buildup of mucus within the throat which results in a phlegmy cough in the morning.
Because you are low on oxygen with COPD, experiencing fatigue, headaches, and a general uneasiness can also be observed.
Inflammation of the bronchus and bronchioles (airway passages in the lungs) results in bronchitis. Viral or bacterial infections can result in acute bronchitis. Long-term smoking or occupational exposures can also result in bronchitis.
With bronchitis, there is also difficulty in breathing, possible fever, and chest discomfort, along with a cough. Morning cough can be a frequent finding since mucus accumulates, resulting in a coughing spell on waking up.
While you may have a persistent cough throughout the day, it is possible to notice that your cough worsens as soon as you wake up.
When you sleep, a lot of your normal reflexes slow down. This includes the repeated need to cough as well. While having a cough wake you up from sleep is possible, irritants often collect around your coughing centers in the throat and provoke a bout of coughing when you wake up in the morning.
Additionally, having dry air in your room and reduced mucus production in the night aggravates the cough further as soon as you wake up.
So while there is a possible underlying cause for your morning cough, a combination of factors worsens it in the morning.
While a morning cough, especially one that subsides, is not a significant reason for concern, it is best to track it for a few days. This will help you understand whether you require medical management for it or not.
For some conditions, you can start with some lifestyle changes.
For a morning cough that doesn’t go away, speaking with your healthcare provider would be essential. Often over-the-counter medications like an antihistamine or cough syrup can help reduce your morning cough. Sucking on a lozenge might also assist with providing some relief.
A few home remedies such as a spoonful of honey, some ginger tea, or steam inhalation can help clear out blocked airways and soothe a sore throat.
A morning cough can often be a mysterious and irritating presence to a morning routine. It can fluctuate with the season, meals, and external exposures. A crucial way to understand and finalize a diagnosis for a morning cough would be to diligently track your cough, its variation through the day, along with any symptoms you notice.
Today a morning cough can also be an early indication for COVID-19 exposure. Especially if coupled with fever, headache, and alterations in smell. In this scenario, consider checking in with your healthcare provider at the earliest.
Morning coughs do subside on their own with proper care and simple lifestyle changes. If your cough is persistent, your doctor should be able to help you narrow down a cause once you relay all your signs and symptoms that come in along with your morning cough.