It’s not unusual for many people to wake up during the winter months with a bit of a cough and a splutter. Morning cough is common and has a number of potential causes – but not all mean you’re getting sick.
While you are laying down sleeping at night, mucus and phlegm can pool in the back of your throat and your lungs. Once you are up and active in the morning, the phlegm starts to break up and may trigger a cough.
Coughing is a natural reaction and is one of your body’s way it protects itself by clearing the airways of mucus, small particles and micro-organisms, and any food or drink that may have been accidentally inhaled.
One of the most common causes of morning cough is post-nasal drip. Post-nasal drip is the term used for mucus that runs down the back of your throat from your nose and sinuses. It is often a symptom of the common cold and the ‘flu’, but it can also be triggered by hay fever and sinusitis.
The common cold and respiratory tract infections like the ‘flu’ often increase mucus and phlegm production. This overnight build-up can then cause a morning cough.
A dry mouth during the night can cause the back of the throat to feel irritated and scratchy. This can lead to a morning cough, but may be rectified by drinking plenty of water.
Allergies and hay fever are immune reactions to allergens in the air. There are a number of triggers for these reactions but some of the most common are pollen, dust mites and pet dander (tiny, microscopic flecks of skin shed by animals like cats, dogs and birds).
People with dust mite allergies usually experience worse symptoms at night and in the morning (including morning cough) as dust mites often live in the bedding. People with pollen allergies often experience morning cough as pollen counts are generally highest in the morning.
Most often morning coughs aren’t serious, but if it doesn’t go away or if it’s causing any breathing difficulties, it is best to speak to your health professional.
References available upon request.