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Stomach, heart, or ears to blame.

The common cough is almost as ubiquitous as the common cold, but its origins can be just as varied, even during the sniffly season. According to William Bria, a lung specialist at the University of Michigan Medical Center, it can be caused by almost any system in the body, including the stomach, the heart, and even the ear.

Impacted wax can stimulate a nerve in the ear canal which, in turn, brings on coughing. "While the problem is more common in children, we've seen it in adults, too. The solution is to dissolve the wax, flush it out, and you've cured the cough."

Problems of the stomach can trigger both coughing and shortness of breath. For example, in acid indigestion and heartburn, acid rising from the stomach can stimulate nerves in the esophagus and trigger a coughing reflex or an asthma attack. Congestive heart failure can bring on the same symptoms when the lungs fill with fluid, a condition known as cardiac asthma.

"To fix the cough, you have to fix the cause," notes Bria. He warns against the common consumer response of heading for the medicine cabinet at the first sign of a tickle in the throat. "Cough medicine decreases the cough for a period of time, but you're basically committing yourself to perpetual use of medication without reaching the real cause."

Physicians treat indigestion-related coughing by decreasing stomach acidity with prescribed medications. Similarly, coughs caused by post-nasal drip can be stopped by decongestants and agents such as inhaled steroids, which also are commonly used to treat asthma.
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Title Annotation:coughing
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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