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Iron deficiency can lead to chronic cough

Some women suffering from chronic cough may need iron supplements instead of cough drops.

Iron deficiency can lead to chronic cough

Some women suffering from chronic cough may need iron supplements instead of cough drops. Women are more likely than men to suffer from otherwise unexplained chronic cough. Also, iron deficiency is very frequent in women due to pregnancy and menses. To correlate these two unrelated facts, Italian researchers from the University of Turin studied 16 women with chronic cough. These women had normal lung function, with no signs of asthma or other respiratory disease and no evidence of acid reflux from the stomach that could explain their coughing. Tests on these women with chronic cough showed that all had iron deficiency anaemia and a simple iron supplement often cleared up the cough. All the women had signs of swelling in the back of the mouth and red, inflamed mucous membranes. Their vocal cords were also very sensitive, making them cough and choke easily, such as after vigorous laughing. These women were given iron supplements to improve their iron stores, and when these had normalised, after about two months, they were checked again. The results showed that after iron supplementation, coughing and signs of inflammation in the mouth and vocal cords were improved or completely resolved. The hypersensitivity was nearly gone or vastly improved in all the women. This was attributed to the fact that iron helps regulate the production of proteins in the immune system that control inflammation, and iron deficiency might make the upper airway more prone to inflammation, leading to chronic cough. Further research is required to study this association in detail. However, women patients with chronic coughs should be checked for iron deficiency.
Reuters Health,
October 2007
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