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Ear, Nose, and Throat Disorders

Annoying cough after eating



I have had a dry cough for over a month. I went to a walk-in clinic over a week ago and was told that I was probably at the tail end of a cold and I just needed to ride it out. I`ve had coughs due to colds before and this seems different. I only cough when engaging in conversation or after eating. I almost always happens after eating. Are there other things that can cause a dry cough like the one I describe? Thank you!


While some of the symptoms associated with a cold can last a few weeks, the symptom that you are describing does not sound like a cold in resolution. 

There are only a few things that come to mind that can give cough after eating.  You could be: aspirating (food going down the wrong passage); you could have a Zenker's diverticulum which is a pouch extending off the swallowing passage that collects food allowing for regurgitation of its contents after eating; you could have acid reflux.

To help make the diagnosis you need a thorough head and neck evaluation by an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor.  A swallowing study would be helpful and you might need to have an esophagoscopy which is a study where a lighted scope is passed into your swallowing passage to take a better look.  The interesting problem here is that if you have acid reflux you may not experience the classic symptoms or heartburn or indigestion.  This is often difficult for people to understand.  You can have acid reflux without having heartburn or indigestion.  The other interesting thing about acid reflux is that you will often need to be on the medications for 3-6 months before your symptoms resolve.  Usually there is improvement in 3-6 weeks but complete resolution can take up to 6 months.

Good luck with this problem.



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Response by:

Keith M Wilson, MD Keith M Wilson, MD
Associate Professor of Otolaryngology, Director of Head and Neck Division
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati