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Morning Cough: 7 Common Causes and How To Treat Them

The Hyfe Mind

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April 22, 2021
CoughPro is not a medical product. It is a wellness app intended only for users to obtain a better understanding of their cough. It is not intended to diagnose, monitor, or treat any illness.

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.

Young man coughing in bed on the early morning

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.

What Causes Morning Cough?

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.

Common Cold

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.

Dry Throat & Mouth

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.

Asthma

A man using a device to treat asthma

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.

Postnasal Drip

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.

GERD

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.

COPD

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.

Bronchitis

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. 

Why Is My Cough Worse In The Morning?

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.

How To Treat Morning Cough?

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. 

  • Opt for lighter meals and have your last meal at least two hours before you go to sleep at night. This can lower the chances of reflux of stomach acid when you sleep. This simple change may improve your morning cough over time.
  • Clean out your room and reduce clutter. The collection of dust and dust mites around the room and on your bed might be contributing to your cough at night. It can also be aggravating your underlying asthma.
  • Consider using a humidifier in your room. This helps to build some moisture in the air and lower the likelihood of drying out your respiratory pathways.
  • It would be a great time to quit smoking if you haven’t already. For many conditions like COPD and bronchitis, quitting cigarette smoking in the early stages can help restore some lung function.
  • If anyone within your vicinity has a cough or cold, best stay away from them. With the looming pandemic, wearing a mask and optimizing your hand hygiene can help prevent the spread of respiratory infections.

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.

Conclusion

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.

Your Cough Matters

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Based on our results in Google Play & App Store
  • Excellent, insightful
    By dust mite dan - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    This app is easy to use, aesthetically pleasing and has provided me with useful information about my cough and disease patterns that have improved my overall health!

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  • Great app!
    by Imtfx0019 — Dec 6, 2022 - App Store
    Impressed with how well it detected my coughs, even very slight ones.
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  • App is Great!
    by HBert Quach — Jan 22, 2023, - Google Play
    App is great at tracking cough when little ones are sick. I treat it as a early warning indicator before the cold gets back. Customer service is awesome, they actually respond to all my questions.
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  • Great Experience
    by Christi Hammock — Mar 7, 2023, - Google Play

    I had an issue logging into the new app but I contacted the support team and they were awesome in helping me figure out the issue. It turned out to be a technical issue which they resolved very quickly and I was kept in the loop on the status from start to finish. This app is really helpful when talking to my doctor too..
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  • Impressive app
    By KayakTina - Apr 7, 2023 - App Store
    "The app accurately is recording my coughs with excellent ways to review the results. I can add notes to help me identify patterns or have accurate information for my physicians. I’ve hoped for an app like this for years to help me accurately track the amount of coughing I’m doing"
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  • Accurate count of coughs
    by Beardonna — Mar 8, 2023 - App Store

    Just installed the app. Very accurate measuring coughs so far! Cannot wait to see how much coughing I do while sleeping. I'll have a better picture to discuss with my physician at my next visit.

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