(Undated) July 4, 2005 - A sore throat, chronic cough and bronchitis that just won't go away may be symptoms of last winter's lingering cold. But doctors at Mayo Clinic say for some people, those symptoms might actually be caused by acid reflux.
Those doctors are in the midst of a study to find out if this is true, and if heartburn medications can help.
Mary Labrash thought maybe her symptoms were caused by an allergy to lilacs or some type of infection, "Bronchitis that wouldn't go away. A lot of the time it was like I had laryngitis."
So Mary was surprised when doctors at Mayo Clinic said her throat problems were not likely caused by a respiratory infection, but by acid reflux, "I didn't think I had acid reflux problems."
She had no heartburn and no sour stomach. Most people with reflux feel it as a burning sensation caused by stomach acid sloshing into the bottom of the esophagus.
But Dr. Yvonne Romero says, "In a small subset of people, it travels even farther up and causes throat symptoms."
Dr. Romero calls it supraesophageal reflux. Her research team is studying whether certain symptoms, chronic cough, the feeling that something's stuck in your throat, hoarseness, sore throat, or constant throat clearing, go away when you take a proton pump inhibitor.
The medication is commonly used to treat heartburn. It works by turning off many of the pumps that produce acid in your stomach.
Mary's symptoms decreased after she went on a proton pump inhibitor, so now she can chit chat with her granddaughter Madison as they craft bouquets.
In addition to causing hoarseness, laryngitis and recurrent bronchitis, reflux also eroded some of the enamel on Mary's teeth.
Dr. Romero suspects that up to ten percent of all visits to the ear, nose and throat doctor are actually acid reflux cases. She hopes to have results of the study later this year.
For more information on the study, go to www.mayoclinic.org.
Reported by Dawndy Mercer