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Introduction

What is night cough?

Night cough is a cough, or tussis, that occurs primarily at night, typically when you are lying down (postural cough). Physiologically, coughing is a rapid expulsion of air from the lungs that happens reflexively to keep the airways clear. Night cough may be a symptom of conditions specifically affecting the lungs and throat or a more generalized condition, such as a cold or the flu.

Inflammation of the lungs or throat, due to smoking, colds, or flu, is a common cause of night cough. Smokers produce excess mucus in their airways and the lung struggles constantly to clear these passages. Remarkably, this symptom is one of the first to improve, even completely disappear, with smoking cessation.

In rare cases, night cough can be a symptom of a serious infection of the lungs, bronchial tubes, or throat. Night cough can also be a symptom of congestive heart failure if it occurs together with pink frothy mucus in the mouth, severe shortness of breath, wheezing, and rapid heartbeat. Night cough can also be a sign of lung cancer, especially if it is accompanied by hemoptysis (coughing up blood).

Depending on the cause, night cough may occur only while you are lying down or also while you are sitting up, and it may be accompanied by sputum production, sneezing, shortness of breath, wheezing, or gastric contents moving upward into the mouth.

In some cases, night cough can be a sign of a life-threatening condition, such as congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, or a severe respiratory infection. If you, or someone you are with, have night cough that is accompanied by serious symptoms, such as chest pain, a high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), or severe breathing problems, seek immediate medical care (call 911).

If your night cough is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.


Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 20, 2013

© 2014 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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