Coughing is one of the most common reasons for doctor's visits, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A doctor's visit is often necessary because there are different causes for a cough, particularly one that worsens when you are lying down. Often, a doctor will need to determine the cause before prescribing treatment.
Often a cough that is worse when you are lying down is caused by acid reflux, or acid from the stomach backing up into your throat. Other reasons for a cough that worsens while lying down may be the post-nasal drip from a cold, or bronchitis or asthma. According to American Family Physician, coughing while lying down is sometimes the only symptom of a bronchial obstruction. If you have frequent bouts of bronchitis, your doctor may consider a diagnosis of asthma.
If your cough is caused by acid reflux, avoid highly acidic foods that aggravate your heartburn, particularly before bedtime. If you smoke, stop, since tobacco can also make your condition worse. You can also try using extra pillows to prop your head higher, or put a pillow or blanket under your mattress to elevate your head. Wash your hands frequently to minimize the risk of catching a cold or other viral infection.
Coughing may be dry or productive. If your cough is productive, it means you are bringing up phlegm as you cough. It can also be acute, meaning it does not last for more than two to three weeks at a time, or chronic, lasting more than four weeks.
Medications may be prescribed to reduce symptoms related to heartburn. Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat bronchitis, though according to American Family Physician, they have not been found effective in reducing symptoms. Symptoms caused by asthma may be improved with an inhaled medication.
If your cough continues for more than two weeks, consult your doctor. He will take a medical history, gather information about the type of cough and how long you have had it in order to help you determine the cause. He may also order further diagnostic tests, such as a lung function test, electrocardiogram or X-rays. Once he knows what is causing the cough, he will be better able to prescribe appropriate treatment.