How To Stop Coughing From A Hiatal Hernia (Does Omeprazole Work?)

Yes, omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid) and other proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) like lansoprazole (Prevacid) and esomeprazole (Nexium) may stop your cough if you have acid reflux due to a hiatal hernia. Some lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding acidic drinks and fatty food, improving posture when sitting or lying down, quitting cigarettes, and wearing loose clothing, may also help you manage your symptoms. When your cough worsens after following your doctor’s medical advice and prescriptions or if there is a cut-off of blood supply in your stomach, you need to get surgery immediately.

Coughing does make us go crazy! Well, that happens when our trusted OTC cough medicines can’t seem to stop it. How much could it get worse when it keeps bugging you even from just picking up a crumpled paper on the floor? 

I hate it when I keep on coughing like I’m about to throw up my entire lungs, which also makes me want to rip my throat open to end the constant torment. I know you felt that too but, maybe you could say it’s worse if you have a hiatal hernia.

Things got crazier for me when I found out that people with hiatal hernia may experience more coughing if they kept on coughing or left the symptom untreated. 

Geez, that’s so messed up! But, maybe if you keep on reading below, you might find ways to stop your cough from hiatal hernia.

What is hiatal hernia?

When a part of your stomach pushes upward through the opening of the diaphragm into your chest cavity, it becomes a medical condition called hiatal hernia.

This opening is the esophageal hiatus, where the esophagus and stomach meet.

Hiatal hernia commonly occurs in people over 50 years old and have weakened diaphragms.

Those who constantly experience pressure on their abdomen due to activities listed below are also at risk:

  • Persistent vigorous coughing
  • Forceful vomiting
  • Straining during a bowel movement
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Sudden or excessive physical strain

Newborn babies may also get hiatal hernias if they have an underdeveloped stomach or diaphragm during pregnancy.

People who are at significant risk of having hiatal hernia are mostly:

  • Pregnant women
  • Obese or overweight
  • Smokers

Symptoms of hiatal hernia

A hiatal hernia may not give you any symptoms, but you will most likely get acid reflux symptoms, especially if you have a sliding hiatal hernia (Type I)

On the other hand, a paraesophageal hernia (Type II, III, or IV) may give you similar symptoms to a heart attack, such as chest pain and shortness of breath.

Below are common symptoms you might experience if you have a hiatal hernia:

  • Acid reflux symptoms like burping or belching, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, sour taste in the mouth due to regurgitation of stomach acid
  • Abdominal or chest pain
  • Abdominal bleeding, which results in blood in vomit, red or black, tarry stool; blood loss or anemia
  • Change in voice or hoarseness
  • Early satiety, or feeling full after eating only a small amount of food
  • Occasional trouble swallowing, most often with solid food 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble breathing after eating

Hiatal hernia and chronic cough

A persistent or lingering chronic cough with mucus stuck in the throat could be a sign of a hiatal hernia.

If a part of your stomach pushes through the hiatus, it may affect the function of your lower esophageal sphincter or compress your stomach resulting in the backflow of stomach acids into your throat. The acidic contents will irritate the thin, protective lining of your esophagus, resulting in a dry cough.

When acid reflux happens at night, the liquid may enter your airways. As a natural defense mechanism of your respiratory system, mucus will coat the liquid and clear your airways through coughing.

That’s why it’s common in patients with hiatus hernia to experience a nagging cough at night, primarily when they lie down after having a huge meal during dinner.

Coughing may also increase the severity of acid reflux thus, resulting in a long-term chronic cough if left untreated.

Please check with your healthcare provider if you’ve been experiencing a prolonged, nagging cough with acid reflux symptoms as it may indicate a hiatal hernia. When left untreated, it may lead to inflammation, ulcers, bleeding, or scarring of your esophagus and, in worse cases, cancer.

When the acid does enter your airways, and into your lungs, it may result in asthma and pneumonia.

Tips to stop chronic cough

The best way to stop your chronic cough due to hiatal hernia is by managing or reducing the onset of your acid reflux.

You may find relief or at least lessen your bouts of having a nagging cough by following the tips below:

1. Make some lifestyle changes

Lose weight and avoid food triggers

Doctors will recommend you lose some weight if you are obese or overweight. You have to identify which food and beverages trigger you to have acid reflux symptoms and avoid them.

However, several common food and drink triggers will aggravate acid reflux, including:

  • Spicy, fried, and greasy foods
  • Acidic food and drinks like citrus fruits and juices, sodas, alcohol, vinegar, chocolates, onions, and tomatoes.
  • Popcorn (unless it’s homemade)

Avoid eating, drinking, or exercising close to bedtime

Wait for 3-4 hours before going to bed after eating your meals.

Eating slowly and having frequent, smaller meals than eating two to three times a day may also help you prevent acid reflux symptoms.

Doing exercises that involve bending over may result in acid reflux, so better avoid doing that. 

Quit cigarettes and alcoholic drinks

Cigarettes and alcohol may worsen acid reflux symptoms. So, it’s best to quit them before you develop chronic acid reflux.

Avoid heavy lifting, straining, and bending over

Lifting heavy objects and exercises involving many bending over may cause pressure in your abdomen. When sitting down, make sure not to slouch.

Elevate your head when sleeping

Incline the head of your bed or mattress for 4-6 inches. Piling extra pillows may not help at all.

Wear loose clothes

Avoid wearing tight clothes or belts, including control top hosiery and body shapers.

2. Take over-the-counter drugs or stronger prescriptions

If changes in your lifestyle approach do not relieve nor improve your symptoms, you may need to take medicines. You can ask a pharmacist for antacids or alginates to help with your acid reflux.

Some common acid reflux medicines include the following:

  • Antacids – Mylanta, Rolaids, and Tums
  • H2-receptor blockers – Cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC) and nizatidine (Axid AR). 
  • Proton pump Inhibitors (PPIs) – lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid), rabeprazole (Aciphex), Pantoprazole (Protonix), Esomeprazole (Nexium).

In some severe cases, you may need stronger prescriptions from your doctor. 

3. Surgery

A hiatal hernia doesn’t necessarily require surgery. If your doctor finds a cut-off of blood supply in your stomach due to strangulated hiatal hernia or your symptoms don’t respond well to lifestyle changes or medications, you might need surgery. 

Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of getting surgery. Your surgeon may suggest you get a laparoscopic hernia repair, a minimally invasive surgical operation that may provide faster recovery with less risk of complications. 

A Nissen fundoplication may also help with your hiatal hernia symptoms and prevent or provide relief from gastroesophageal acid reflux disease (GERD).

Remember that a strangulated hernia is a medical emergency so, it requires immediate surgery.

If the symptoms listed below occur, please visit your doctor immediately to get a proper diagnosis.

  • Sudden, sharp shooting pain in the chest 
  • High fever
  • General fatigue or weakness
  • Bloating and inability to pass gas
  • Severe constipation
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Bloody, tarry stools due to internal bleeding
  • Warmth or redness over the area of the herniation

Strangulation may lead to a fatal complication called severe septic disease, leading to the death of your abdominal tissues (gangrene) if not treated immediately. 

Takeaway

Chronic cough due to hiatal hernia may result from the acid backflow in your esophagus, which has irritated your esophagus or, in worse cases, entered your airways.

Following medical advice, such as making some lifestyle changes and taking doctor’s prescribed medicines to relieve your hiatal hernia symptoms such as acid reflux, may help you from your nagging cough.

When symptoms become severe after following your doctor’s advice and taking medications, you may need surgery. If in doubt, talk to your doctor about the procedure. They will make sure that the benefits of the operation will outweigh the risks.