What is night cough?

Night cough is a cough, or tussis, that occurs primarily at night, typically when you are lying down. 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. Gastrointestinal reflux disease, which causes stomach acid to be forced back up into the esophagus and mouth, can also result in night cough. Night cough can occur for a few weeks, in cases of allergies, or for long periods of time, when caused by chronic disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In young children, night cough may be caused by croup, a contagious viral laryngitis (inflammation of the throat).

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.


What other symptoms might occur with night cough?

Night cough may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the respiratory tract may also involve other body systems.

Respiratory symptoms that may occur along with night cough

Night cough may accompany other symptoms affecting the respiratory system including:


What causes night cough?

Night cough is a forceful expulsion of air from the lungs that occurs primarily at night. Allergic reactions are a common cause of night cough. Such reactions may be caused by pollen, animal dander, foods, or medicines. Infections, such as the common cold, flu, and acute bronchitis, that cause inflammation of the lungs, throat and sinuses are also common causes of night cough.

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Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Lungs, Breathing and Respiration

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