A cough is the body's reaction to an irritant such as mucus, allergens, stomach acid or odor that affects the respiratory tract. Generally, a cough clears foreign secretions or substances from the lungs to avoid infection. However, causes like respiratory tract infections, postnasal drip, acid reflux or bronchitis can promote coughing. Coughing at night can interrupt sleep and further the complications of the illness. Find out what you can do to get some sleep.
Take an antihistamine. Over-the-counter antihistamines work by suppressing the histamines that are being released by the body because of allergies. These medications include Benadryl Allergy, Vicks NyQuil, Dramamine Original, Singlet and Robitussin Allergy & Cough Liquid.
Combine your antihistamine with a decongestant. According to the Mayo Clinic, both of these medications, when paired, work well for postnasal drip. Decongestants work by narrowing the blood vessels in the nose, so blood flow reduces and swollen tissues shrink to allow easier air flow. Buy a decongestant medication like Sudafed PE. According to Harvard Health Publications, people with high blood pressure or heart disease should ask their doctor before using the medication.
Treat acid reflux either by making dietary changes and lifestyle changes or by taking medications. Certain foods are known to cause heartburn and coughing. Lying down after a meal will cause hydrochloric acid to seep past the esophageal sphincter. Avoid eating a meal before bedtime. Limit foods high in fat, spicy foods, fried foods, onions, garlic and citrus juices. Drink a glass of water with meals to wash down the acid in the back of the throat. Take a medication like Prilosec, Aciphex or Nexium.
Take a cough syrup containing dextromethorphan. There is a wide variety of these over-the-counter medications available. Look for a cough syrup that ends in DM or TUSS. Be wary of side effects of this drug like nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, sweating and skin rashes. Refrain from driving on this medication.
Use an alternative method like honey for stopping your cough. Honey has been used for centuries to relieve coughing. The Mayo Clinic's Dr. James M. Steckelberg recommends using honey based on a 2007 study that found that honey was actually as effective as dextromethorphan and other conventional medications. Take 2 tablespoons of honey at bedtime. Avoid giving honey to children under 1 year of age to prevent infant botulism.
Use a chest rub that contains camphor or menthol. Right before bed, use a rub like Vicks VapoRub, Vaporx Balm or Mentholatum Chest Rub for Kids on top of your chest. Test one of these products on a patch of skin prior to use. If you are allergic to eucalyptus oil, avoid these products. An allergic reaction to a chest rub generally consists of hives, swollen hands or tingling in the mouth. Do not get medicine in the mouth, eyes or open wounds. Wash immediately if it gets into any of these areas.
Avoid eating any dairy products because they can cause mucus production.
Do not take dextromethorphan-containing cough syrups with alcohol or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Consult your health care provider before taking any over-the-counter medications if you are being treated for existing medical conditions or are on medications. Take all medications as labeled.