What Causes a Persistent Morning Cough?

Are you experiencing a persistent morning cough? Find out five common causes of this condition and what you should do if you have it.

Do you often wake up in the morning with a dry, irritating cough? A persistent morning cough can be a sign of a variety of medical conditions and may be an early indicator of more serious lung disease. This is why it’s important for any cough that lasts more than two weeks be evaluated by a doctor. What are some of the common causes of persistent morning cough?

Post Nasal Drainage

Post nasal drainage is a condition where mucous drains from the sinuses into the back of the throat – leading to a dry, irritating cough. The cough is usually most bothersome when lying in bed or immediately upon awakening in the morning. Some people with this condition have a sensation of mucous being “stuck in the back of their throat” which is difficult to clear even with coughing. The most common cause of post nasal drainage is a seasonal allergic condition – most commonly, hayfever. The cough can be present all year round if there’s an allergy to something that’s non-seasonal. Antihistamines and decongestants may help this condition as can the use of nasal steroids. It’s important to get this condition diagnosed rather than self medicating since many drugs used to treat allergies have side effects.


Many people believe they couldn’t have asthma because they don’t experience the pronounced wheezing and shortness of breath characteristic of this disease. In some cases, asthma can present with only a cough at bedtime or a persistent morning cough that’s dry and non-productive. This type of asthma is sometimes called cough-variant asthma.  If this condition is suspected, your doctor may give you an asthma inhaler to see if it helps the symptoms. This diagnosis is more common in people who have a family history of asthma or other allergic diseases.

Gastroesophageal Reflux

This common condition occurs when acid from the stomach moves backwards into the esophagus – causing irritation. This irritation can lead to a persistent morning cough. Many people with gastroesophageal reflux or GERD have other symptoms such as heartburn, but this isn’t always the case. In some cases, cough may be the only symptom – making the diagnosis a challenge. Your doctor may rule out other causes of cough and then give you a short trial of an acid suppressing medication to see if helps the symptoms.


Some medications can cause a persistent morning cough. One of the most common examples are the ACE inhibitors used to treat hypertension. Up to one in five people taking an ACE inhibitor develops a dry cough as a side effect. If you’re taking a blood pressure medication and experiencing persistent morning cough, let your doctor know. Sometimes switching medications will take away the cough.

Smoking-Related Lung Disease

A persistent morning cough can be a sign of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD related to smoking. If you’re a smoker with a chronic cough, it’s important to see your doctor for a chest x-ray.

The bottom line? A persistent cough is one symptom you don’t want to ignore. If you’ve had it for more than two weeks, particularly if you’re a smoker, make an appointment with your doctor.

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  1. Many people have these coughing episodes and few do anything about it. Sad! Maybe your article will make them listen.

  2. Very helpful

  3. Very helpful indeed!! I’ve had this nasty morning cough for years and never did anything about it. It never occured to me it might be astma, even though astma runs in my family. I’ll call my doctor tomorrow.
    Thank you :-D

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