Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is common and can cause a bad, ongoing cough. This happens when stomach acid moves up into the esophagus. It leads to coughing, wheezing, and chest discomfort. Treating a GERD cough involves lifestyle changes and perhaps medicines.

The cough often gets better a few days after starting treatment. But, it might take a few weeks to go away fully. Quitting smoking, choosing healthy foods, and staying away from certain foods and drinks can ease GERD cough. If these steps don’t work, your doctor might suggest medicines like antacids, histamine blockers, or PPIs.

GERD cough might look like a cold or the flu at first. If your cough won’t go away, it’s vital to see a doctor. They can find out what’s causing your long-lasting cough and make a plan to treat it.

What is GERD Cough?

GERD cough happens when stomach acid goes back into the throat. This acid can irritate the throat, causing coughing. When a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter gets weak or relaxes, stomach contents can go back up.

This condition is called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. It may cause the throat to get irritated, leading to a cough.

Symptoms of GERD Cough

GERD cough has many symptoms. These include coughing, wheezing, and hoarseness. You may also feel chest congestion or have trouble swallowing.

Other symptoms are throat irritation, a sore throat, or feeling like something is stuck in your throat. Bad breath, regurgitating food, or feeling nauseous are also signs. The cough might be dry or produce phlegm. At first, it might seem like a cold or the flu because the symptoms are alike.

Causes of GERD Cough

GERD cough is caused when stomach contents go up the esophagus. This can happen because of a weak or relaxed lower esophageal sphincter. Also, acid and other stomach contents irritating the throat can make you cough.

GERD Cough Treatment: Lifestyle Changes

To manage GERD cough, start with lifestyle changes. Quit smoking to breathe better and lower mucus in the throat. A healthy diet helps the digestive system work right, so avoid foods and drinks that make GERD worse.

Quit Smoking

Stop smoking to cut down on GERD cough. Smoking weakens a muscle that stops stomach acid from moving up. This muscle is the lower esophageal sphincter. Without smoking, you breathe better and make less mucus, which eases GERD cough.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating balanced, healthy meals can help with GERD cough. Choose foods that are not processed and break down easily. This keeps your stomach from making too much acid. Stay away from foods like citrus fruits, chocolate, and spicy and fatty meals. They are bad for GERD.

Avoid Trigger Foods and Drinks

Know what triggers your GERD cough and avoid them. This might be acidic foods, caffeine, alcohol, or fizzy drinks. Lessening how much you have of these helps keep stomach acid from irritating your throat and causing coughing.

Manage Stress

Stress can make GERD cough worse. Use things like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing to relax. Enough sleep and regular exercise are also helpful. They keep your gut healthy and lower stress effects on GERD.

Try these lifestyle changes to handle your GERD cough and make life better. But if these tips don’t work well, see a doctor. They might suggest other treatments like medicine or surgery to help with your GERD.

Medications for GERD Cough

If lifestyle changes don’t reduce your GERD cough, medications might be needed. Antacids like Alka-Seltzer or Tums quickly work by neutralizing stomach acid. There are also histamine blockers, such as Pepcid, that reduce acid production. Meds like omeprazole are strong against GERD, including coughing. You can get these over the counter or with a doctor’s prescription.


Antacids are usually the first thing to try for a GERD cough. They stop stomach acid fast, easing the irritation that leads to coughing. You can find antacids like Alka-Seltzer at the store. Take them as needed to help control your GERD cough.

Histamine Blockers

Histamine blockers, or H2 blockers, are also an option for your cough issues. They lower stomach acid, which cuts down on acid reflux and coughing. Drugs like Pepcid can be bought without a prescription, and you can also get them from your doctor.

Proton Pump Inhibitors

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) stand out in fighting GERD coughs. Omeprazole and others in this group block acid better than antacids or histamine blockers. For more serious coughs from GERD, doctors might suggest prescription-strength PPIs. But you can also find them at the store.

medications for GERD cough

gerd cough treatment

Treating a GERD cough involves lifestyle changes and medicines. Lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, eating healthy, and managing stress. They can lower GERD symptoms. If not effective, doctors may prescribe antacids, histamine blockers, or PPIs. Surgery might be needed for severe cases.

Approximately 25% or more of chronic cough cases link to GERD. This issue affects around 20% of Americans. While up to 70% at first see relief with PPIs, newer studies show they may not always work. Only about a third experiencing GERD see success with PPIs for cough. Yet, for those with successful PPI trials, the rates range from 25-50%.

High doses of PPIs twice a day for 2-3 months don’t work for most either. For these tougher cases, newer options like gabapentin might help. Studies suggest about 75% of patients using gabapentin notice a 50% improvement in their cough.

Using gabapentin to target the abnormal cough reflex shows great results. It leads to a significant improvement in patients’ quality of life. The chance of improvement with this treatment is 1 in 4.

Treatment ApproachEffectiveness
Lifestyle ChangesCan help reduce GERD symptoms
Antacids, Histamine Blockers, PPIsVarying degrees of success, with some patients not responding
GabapentinApproximately 75% of patients experience at least 50% improvement in cough
Surgery (Fundoplication)Effective option for long-term relief from GERD in treatment-resistant cases

Combining lifestyle changes with proper medicines can help many with a GERD cough. But, if symptoms persist, looking into gabapentin or surgery may be the next step for better results.

Surgery for Persistent GERD Cough

If medicines, changes in your life, and different foods do not help your GERD cough, surgery might. The main surgery used is called fundoplication. It’s a small surgery that helps stop acid from coming back into your throat.

Lots of studies show that this surgery works well for people with a long-term cough from GERD. In 2021, a research in the Asian Journal of Surgery said that surgery makes breathing problems better for many people.

A 2015 study in the World Journal of Surgery also looked at this. It found that surgery can cure a cough that keeps coming back because of GERD problems. Another study in 2006 showed that this surgery helps improve breathing symptoms from GERD for a long time.

Your health insurance might pay for the surgery if your cough from GERD is really bad and nothing else has worked. For a lot of patients, this surgery can bring relief when nothing else could.

Time Frame for Symptom Relief

Living with a GERD cough can be tough. But, you should feel better within a few days of treatment. The cough might go away completely after several weeks. Stick with your treatment plan and follow your doctor’s advice closely. This will help you get better and reduce the cough fast.

Symptom relief time can change from person to person. There isn’t a single way to treat GERD. Your doctor might suggest lifestyle changes and medications. Or, if these don’t work, there is also surgery. This depends on what’s best for you.

If your cough doesn’t get better with treatment, talk to a doctor. It could be something else, like pneumonia or bronchitis. It’s key to get the right care.


Distinguishing GERD Cough from Other Conditions

It is vital to see a doctor if you have a prolonged GERD cough. This is because other problems can cause similar cough symptoms. Making sure it’s GERD is important for the right treatment and care.

Signs of Pneumonia

Pneumonia is a dangerous lung infection that leads to coughing, chest pain, and breathing issues. Its symptoms are not like those of GERD cough. Pneumonia’s cough and other signs start quickly and might include wheezing and struggling to breathe.

Signs of Bronchitis

Bronchitis causes the airways to swell, leading to coughs, chest pain, and mucus. The cough may be similar to GERD cough, but it’s usually wetter and brings up mucus. Other symptoms include chest tightness and a hard-to-clear throat.

Getting a doctor’s opinion is crucial for a long-lasting cough. It could be caused by GERD, pneumonia, bronchitis, or something else. By diagnosing the real issue, the right treatment can be found, helping you feel better.

GERD Cough in Children and Infants

GERD doesn’t just affect grown-ups. It can also be seen in kids and babies. A main sign may be lots of coughing. They might also have heartburn, vomit often, a rough voice, and trouble breathing.

Symptoms in Children

Coughing from GERD is tough for many kids. It can be a big bother in their day-to-day. They might cough a lot, feel a burn in their chest, vomit often, sound hoarse, or have troubles breathing, which can be really hard and upsetting for them and their family.

Symptoms in Infants

Even babies can get GERD, with some different signs. They may not want to eat or get fussy after feedings. They might arch their back, look colicky, and have breathing troubles, like wheezing.

Handling GERD in kids and babies often means changing a few habits and maybe some medicine. But it’s super important to work closely with a doctor. This way, you can have a plan that really helps and makes the cough and other signs go away.

Contributing Factors to GERD Cough

Several things can make GERD symptoms worse, like a bad cough. Tobacco, being overweight, and pregnancy can relax a muscle in your chest. This muscle is important because it keeps stomach juices from moving up into your throat. When this muscle doesn’t work well, you may get a GERD cough. Certain foods and drinks, such as alcohol, coffee, chocolate, and spicy foods, can also cause or worsen a GERD cough.

Did you know that over 25% of chronic coughs are linked to GERD? You can help your cough by making some lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, keeping a healthy weight, and avoiding certain foods and drinks are great places to start. By knowing what makes a GERD cough worse and taking steps to fix it, you can feel better and enjoy life more.

contributing factors to GERD cough

Diagnosing GERD Cough

Pinpointing the reason behind a chronic cough can be tricky. This is because a cough from GERD might happen without usual GERD signs. Doctors will suggest different tests to look for GERD, including an upper endoscopy, 24-hour pH monitoring, and testing with a proton pump inhibitor (PPI).

Upper Endoscopy

With an upper endoscopy, a doctor can check your esophagus for GERD signs. These may include inflammation or damage from stomach acid coming back up. This check-up helps make sure GERD is truly causing the chronic cough.

pH Monitoring Tests

pH tests, or 24-hour pH testing, show how often stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. Knowing this can be key in diagnosing a GERD cough, especially when the usual signs aren’t clear.

Trial of Proton Pump Inhibitors

When other tests don’t give a clear answer, trying PPI medicine might be a next step. PPIs work on reducing stomach acid and are often used for GERD. If the cough gets better with PPIs, it indicates GERD might be the issue.

New Developments in GERD Cough Treatment

Gabapentin for Chronic Cough

Recent studies looked into using gabapentin for treating chronic cough. This includes cough from GERD. These studies showed that taking a low dose of gabapentin at night improved cough symptoms in 75% of patients. This happened even if they didn’t have GERD.

This new way of using gabapentin targets the unusual cough reflex. It’s a fresh method for managing chronic cough. It could be a game-changer for those who don’t get better with standard GERD treatments.


GERD cough is a common sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease. It leads to an ongoing cough. Lifestyle changes can help, like not smoking and eating well. Medicines including antacids and proton pump inhibitors are often used too.

If your GERD cough doesn’t ease up, you might need surgery or try new treatments like gabapentin. No matter the treatment, talking with your doctor is important. This will help you manage GERD cough and feel better.

GERD is becoming more common in the United States, especially among the young. Knowing the reasons behind GERD cough is key. By tackling these reasons, you can get a hold of your condition and find the relief you’ve been looking for.


What is GERD cough?

GERD cough happens with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Stomach acid comes back up into the esophagus. It leads to coughing, wheezing, and chest pain.

What are the symptoms of GERD cough?

You might notice coughing, wheezing, and hoarseness. Chest congestion and a dry cough or phlegm might be present with GERD cough.

What causes GERD cough?

GERD cough comes from the stomach’s acid rising into the esophagus. This triggers a protective cough effort. Also, acid may get to the throat, leading to coughing.

How can lifestyle changes help manage GERD cough?

To help GERD cough, quit smoking and eat healthy foods. Avoid foods and drinks that trigger your symptoms. Also, stress management is important.

What medications are used to treat GERD cough?

Antacids, histamine blockers, and PPIs are common medicines. They help relieve symptoms of GERD cough.

When is surgery recommended for GERD cough?

If GERD cough is severe and doesn’t get better with other treatments, surgery might be needed. Fundoplication is a common surgery to reduce reflux.

How long does it take for GERD cough symptoms to improve with treatment?

Symptoms may get better in a few days with treatment. But, it can take weeks for them to go away entirely.

How can GERD cough be distinguished from other conditions?

GERD cough might seem like pneumonia or bronchitis. A doctor can figure out what’s causing your cough.

How does GERD cough affect children and infants?

In children, GERD shows itself as a frequent cough. Infants may refuse to eat, seem colicky, and arch their backs.

What factors can contribute to or worsen GERD cough?

Smoking, being obese, pregnancy, and certain foods and drinks make GERD cough worse. These include alcohol, caffeine, and fried foods.

How is GERD cough diagnosed?

Doctors use tests like upper endoscopy and 24-hour pH monitoring. A PPI trial can see if GERD is the cause of a chronic cough.

What new treatments are being explored for GERD cough?

Some studies look into using gabapentin for chronic cough. This includes coughs in GERD cases.

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