If You're Coughing at This Time of Day, Get Your Thyroid Checked, Experts Say


The average healthy adult coughs about 19 times a day, according to research published in the European Respiratory Journal. So reacting to a tickle or clearing your throat a couple of times an hour certainly isn't anything to panic about. Coughing is a spontaneous and important reflex to remove mucus, dust, and germs from your throat. But if your airway seems to always be dry and you even have shortness of breath, it could be something worth looking into. Additionally, if your urge to cough frequently comes in the morning, you should get your thyroid levels checked. Read on to find out why, and for more on symptoms related to this key gland, check out If You Notice This on Your Nails, Get Your Thyroid Checked, Doctors Say.

If you cough in the morning, it could be a sign of hypothyroidism.
sturti / iStock

According to Medical News Today, coughing in the early hours of the day could be a sign of hypothyroidism, which is one of the two most common thyroid disorders, the other being and hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid doesn't produce enough essential thyroid hormone.

"Some people also have a sensation of something stuck in the throat, which can cause a cough," the medical news outlet states. "While some notice a cough throughout the day, it may be worse in the morning when the throat is dry."

Endocrinologist Brian Jameson, DO, told Geisinger Health System, a regional health care provider in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, that while a persistent cough is common and could be caused by allergies, a cold, or merely something irritating in the air, "if you notice you have a cough that won't go away when you're not sick, you should see your doctor because it could be a sign of something more serious."

And for more signs of thyroid trouble, know that If This Happens When You Eat or Drink, You Need Your Thyroid Checked.

Hypothyroidism can also cause changes in your voice.

If you have a morning cough and you notice a change in your voice, that's even more reason to see an endocrinologist or have your general practitioner check your thyroid levels with a blood test. A study published in Jun. 2019 in The Eurasian Journal of Medicine looked at voice characteristics in patients with thyroid disorder, and found a connection between thyroid disease and voice quality. "Thyroid gland disorders cause minor changes in acoustic voice parameters of patients with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, but perceptual deviations in these patients are especially noticeable," the study concluded.

Due to the thyroid gland's location in the body, under the larynx (voice box) and in the lower front part of the neck, a change in hormone levels can lead to a fluid build-up in the vocal folds. "And when the thyroid gland enlarges due to disease, the vocal cords can become pinched or partially paralyzed due to their snug proximity," Thyroid Symptoms explains.

And for more health news sent right to your to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Hypothyroidism is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms are so subtle.

According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million people in the U.S. have some form of thyroid disease, but up to 60 percent of those people are unaware of their condition. That's because it can be difficult to diagnose.

"At first, you may barely notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism," the experts at the Mayo Clinic explain. "Or you may simply attribute them to getting older. But as your metabolism continues to slow, you may develop more-obvious problems."

Other signs and symptoms of an underactive thyroid could include tiredness, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, puffy skin, thinning hair, impaired memory, and muscle aches, depending on the severity of the condition, according to Mayo Clinic.

And for more helpful health tips delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Coughing in the morning could also be attributed to other serious underlying medical conditions.

In addition to thyroid disease, coughing in the morning could be related to asthma, bronchitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and cancer.

"Certain types of cancer, including lung cancer, may cause a chronic cough," Medical News Today explains. "In some people, this cough may be worse in the morning. It can be difficult to tell the difference between a cough from cancer and other types of coughs, so it is important to speak with a doctor about any persistent coughing." Anyone with a persistent cough lasting more than a few weeks, a bloody cough, fever, or trouble breathing should seek medical attention, they note.

And for more ways to decipher whether you have a serious medical condition, read If You're Sweating at Night, It Could Be a Sign of These Kinds of Cancer.