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If you have asthma, chances are good that you also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Doctors know there is a connection between GERD and asthma. For some people, GERD makes asthma symptoms worse while other people find that asthma makes their acid reflux worse. In some cases, treating one condition can also help ease symptoms of the other condition.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is also known as acid reflux, is a condition that allows the acidic liquid in the stomach to flow the wrong way up the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the stomach to the mouth. Because the liquid from the stomach is full of strong acid, it can cause inflammation in the lining of the esophagus which we know as heartburn. GERD can also cause nausea and regurgitation (the return of stomach contents to the mouth).
GERD is a chronic condition, which means once you have it, you will probably have it for the rest of your life. Approximately 75 percent of all people who have asthma also have acid reflux. In children, about half who have asthma also have GERD. (Mayo Clinic)
Having both asthma and acid reflux may mean your asthma medications don’t work as well as they should to control symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath. Possible reasons for this include:
• Inhaled acid – If acid from the stomach enters the esophagus, it may trigger nerves to close down the airways to keep more acid out, which makes breathing difficult.
• Coughing – Acid from the stomach can irritate the throat and airways, making you cough more.
• Acid damage – If the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid, it may feel like it is harder to breath.
If you have both asthma and GERD, it is important to take all your asthma medications as prescribed. Treating acid reflux may also help improve asthma-type symptoms including coughing and shortness of breath. Treatments for GERD include:
• Medications – There are many over-the-counter (OTC) medications to treat acid reflux.