Morning Cough: Causes and Home Remedies

Woman lying in bed struggling with morning cough.

Do you have a persistent cough that only happens in the morning? If so, you’re not alone. A morning cough usually occurs when you first wake up. It can either be dry or wet.

While it may be a normal reaction to an irritant in your respiratory system, such as allergies or post-nasal drip, if it happens frequently, it can be a warning sign of an underlying condition.

In this article, we’ll explore the common causes of morning cough, how to find relief, and when to contact your doctor.

Types of Cough

Let’s take a moment to understand the types of coughs you might encounter when you wake up in the morning:

  • A dry, or unproductive, cough doesn’t produce mucus or phlegm. Essentially, you’re coughing up air, which is triggered by a tickling sensation or irritant in your throat.¹
  • A wet, or productive, cough produces mucus or phlegm. It happens when your lungs try to mobilize and break up excessive mucus blocking your airways.²

If your body is doing its job of breaking up mucus in the lungs, a wet cough doesn’t sound like a bad morning routine. However, if a dry or wet cough is accompanied by other symptoms, such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, or a respiratory infection—and lasts longer than eight weeks (also known as a chronic cough)³—it could be a more serious issue.

Why Am I Coughing in the Morning?

Did you know that coughing in the morning is a fairly common occurrence? The reasons for it can range from airborne allergies to acid reflux or respiratory infections, smoking, or exposure to smoke.

Let’s take a closer look at the causes of morning cough.

Graphic icon of seasonal allergies. Graphic icon of asthma inhaler. Graphic icon of woman blowing nose into tissue.

Graphic icon of acid reflux. Graphic icon of patient coughing into hand. Graphic icon of lungs.


When you’re exposed to an allergen, such as pollen or pet dander, your body produces histamine, which can cause your airways to become inflamed and produce excess mucus.4

This can lead to a cough, particularly in the morning when mucus has pooled in your airways overnight.

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With asthma, your airways become inflamed and narrowed, leading to difficulty breathing and coughing. Many people with asthma experience symptoms in the morning (referred to as morning allergies), particularly if their asthma is triggered by environmental factors, such as dust or pet dander.5

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Post Nasal Drip

Post-nasal drip occurs when excess mucus builds up in the back of your throat and irritates your airways, triggering your coughing reflex.

When you lie down to sleep, the mucus can accumulate in the back of your throat, causing irritation and coughing when you wake up in the morning.

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Acid Reflux

Acid reflux can also cause morning cough because the acid in your stomach can leak into your esophagus while you’re lying down, irritating the lining of your throat—again, triggering a coughing reflex.6

Certain foods, such as chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol, can cause you to experience acid reflux more frequently, in addition to smoking and weight gain.7

If you frequently experience a morning cough along with other symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and chest pain, it’s important to see a doctor to determine if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or another related condition.8

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Chronic Bronchitis

Chronic bronchitis is a type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) typically caused by smoking that leads to inflammation and excess mucus production in the airways.9

People with chronic bronchitis often experience a persistent cough that produces phlegm. Your cough may worsen in the morning as fluids settle in your lungs overnight, which need to be coughed out to clear the airways.

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Other Respiratory Conditions

Respiratory conditions like COPD and bronchiectasis can cause you to develop a chronic cough, which can affect you in the morning, at night, and any time in between.

Both conditions cause inflammation and damage to the airways, leading to a persistent cough that produces mucus.

In the case of COPD, the cough may be accompanied by:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness

Similarly, bronchiectasis causes you to experience a chronic cough that worsens over time and recurrent respiratory infections that repeatedly damage the lungs. As a result, your lungs struggle to mobilize and clear mucus independently, starting the cycle of infection over again.

Bronchiectasis can also cause other symptoms to occur, such as:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you’re experiencing a persistent cough that’s accompanied by other symptoms (i.e., shortness of breath, respiratory infection, etc.), it’s important to seek medical attention and get a proper diagnosis.

A clinician can help identify if an underlying health condition exists and develop a personalized treatment plan to manage your symptoms, like high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) therapy, and help improve your quality of life.

Learn about The SmartVest Airway Clearance System

Graphic icon of person contacting a respiratory therapist.

How to Combat Morning Cough

Struggling with morning cough? There are several home remedies you can try to find relief.

  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water and other fluids to help loosen mucus in your respiratory system
  • Humidify the air: Use a humidifier or take a steamy shower to help relieve dry airways.
  • Avoid irritants: Stay away from cigarette smoke, dust, and other irritants that can trigger coughing.
  • Invest in an air purifier: Air purifiers help remove irritants in the air, such as allergens, dust, pollution, etc., which can help reduce inflammation and irritation in your respiratory system, particularly if you have asthma.
  • Elevate your head: Use an extra pillow to keep your head elevated while sleeping to reduce mucus settling into the back of your throat.

It’s important to note that these home remedies are not a cure for underlying health conditions that may be causing your morning cough.

If your cough persists or worsens, contact your clinician to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Further Reading

Coughing Fits: Causes and How to Find Relief

Is My Cough Chronic or Acute?

What Is a Productive Cough

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[1] Medical News Today. “What causes a tickle in the throat and how to get rid of it. ” Retrieved from

[2] Medical News Today. “Wet coughs: What to know.” Retrieved from

[3] Cleveland Clinic. “Chronic Cough.” Retrieved from

[4] Cleveland Clinic. “Histamine.” Retrieved from

[5] Carolina Asthma and Allergy Center. “Why Are Allergies Worse in the Morning?” Retrieved from

[6] Medical News Today. “What Can Cause a Cough in the Morning?” Retrieved from

[7] Cleveland Clinic. “Acid Reflux and GERD.” Retrieved from

[8] Medical News Today. “What Can Cause a Cough in the Morning.” Retrieved from

[9] John Hopkins Medicine. “Chronic Bronchitis.” Retrieved from