If It Feels Like Allergies or a Cold, It Might Be Silent Reflux

04. 20. 2017

If you think it’s always easy to recognize when you have acid reflux, think again. Most of us are familiar with heartburn, the classic reflux symptom, but acid reflux has plenty of other tricks up its sleeve. This digestive condition can trigger unusual symptoms such as hoarseness, coughing, sore throat, and postnasal drip. These symptoms can easily be confused with allergies or the common cold, making it difficult to arrive at the correct diagnosis.

Silent reflux is a subtler version of acid reflux. Instead of experiencing painful heartburn and indigestion after meals, individuals may develop a persistent cough or feel like there is something stuck in their throat. While the symptoms of silent reflux may not seem severe, this condition can be just as damaging to the esophagus as other reflux conditions. If left untreated, silent reflux can lead to scarring of the voice box and esophagus, breathing problems, choking episodes, and esophageal cancer.

Trying to determine whether your symptoms are caused by reflux, allergies or the common cold can be tricky, but there are some signs that can help steer you in the right direction:

  • Allergies are often seasonal, which means your symptoms will start to flare up during particular times of the year. These symptoms will subside when taking antihistamines or limiting your exposure to common allergens like pollen, mold and pet dander.
  • Colds are caused by a virus and are much more short-lived than allergies or chronic reflux. Cold symptoms develop within one to three days of being exposed to the virus and typically disappear in less than 10 days.
  • Silent reflux symptoms will not respond to treatments for allergies or the common cold. Diet and lifestyle changes such as avoiding fatty or spicy foods, giving up smoking, losing excess weight, and avoiding lying down after meals may help improve symptoms. Antacid medications will also help with symptom management.

If you suspect that you are dealing with silent reflux, or if you have symptoms that warrant further investigation, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or gastroenterologist. A complete physical exam and testing can determine the exact cause of your symptoms and determine the right course of treatment to provide complete relief.


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What is GERD?

Esophageal Cancer: Why Waiting for Symptoms Could Take Too Long

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