For me, the dreaded night cough can be the cause of so many different CF issues: post nasal drip, lungs that just can't seem to stop clearing mucus, GERD, allergies, and the list goes on. Over the years and with some tips from other CFers I created a mental checklist that I go through while trying to combat my night cough. I figured I would put words on paper because it took me 30 years to come up with this list and thought it may help someone else that is on the brink of sanity because of a CF night cough.
- Inhaler: Sometimes this does the trick to open my airways and clear out whatever is causing my cough. Sounds too easy, right? Yeah, it usually isn't this simple.
- Cough Drops: Cough drops do nothing to my CF cough, but sometimes when I start coughing due to CF my throat gets irritated and it turns into a constant cough that isn't so much CF related. Or there are times when my cough is due to a cold and this can help. Again, it isn't usually this simple, but I always try the easy fixes first.
- Snacks: I learned this trick pre-diagnosis when I was a kid and used to sit on the couch at 2am and eat pretzels when my night cough would attack. Something about not being able to cough and swallow food at the same time can be enough to settle a nonstop cough. Weird, but true. Tea may work for some people, but for me it has to be actual food. Between night time cough drops and snacks I am sure my dentist hates me.
- Pillow Mountain: This is a tip another CFer gave me. Bare with me because it sounds crazy. Sometimes if my cough is due to sinus issues this does the trick. I sit with my legs crossed. Next, I stack as many pillows as I can into a tall pile right in front of my crossed legs. When the tower is tall enough that it comes at least chest level (but higher is better) I can then drape my body (face first) over them. Basically, I sleep sitting up (slightly hunched forward) with my head leaning forward on the pillows to keep the mucus from draining down my throat. The first time someone suggested this to me I thought they were crazy. But you know what? Coughing all night is even crazier and this trick has allowed me many nights of (slightly uncomfortable) sleep which beats a sleepless night any day!
- Vest: I personally don't think the Vest is the best for of airway clearance for me in the waking hours, but I do it because I am stuck doing nebs anyway. However, the vest can be my night cough miracle cure. When I have tried everything to calm my cough and sleep and am at the brink of going crazy I can usually convince myself to move to the living room with my blankets and pillows. I then stap on my vest and set the time to 60 min (the max), and start shaking. My body is usually so exhausted the second my cough stops I fall asleep despite the shaking of the Vest. It can be so hard to drag yourself out of bed, and it can feel so unappealing to shake violently while coughing and trying to sleep, but this set up has seriously saved my sanity more times than I can count.
Can you tell what I have been doing the last few nights? Yup, coughing and all of the above: #1-5.