Ask the Doctor: Teething, runny nose, acid reflux

Doctor Rob Riley joins us from Memorial Family Medicine every Tuesday to answer viewer questions.

Here are the questions he addressed during NewsCenter 16 at Noon on January 31, 2017:

"My 10-month-old daughter has had a fever that comes and goes, usually after a bath or when Tylenol wears off. Some slight congestion, too. She doesn't act sick at all. Could this be her teeth cutting?"

Dr. Riley: It's pretty common for parents to report low-grade fevers in association with new teeth coming in. There isn't a lot of science to support that, however. And in any event, teething alone should not cause a significant fever—say, greater than 101 degrees. If babies are having fever, it's more likely due to an infection, most commonly one caused by a virus which just needs to run its course. In general, if the fever is high or persistent, if the child appears ill or is less than one month old, a physician should check things out.

"What causes someone's nose to run every time they eat, no matter what it is they are eating? Is this reason for concern?"

Dr. Riley: We actually have a name for this condition: gustatory rhinitis. We think this is caused by a reflex. The same reflex that causes salivation with food causes a runny nose in some people, usually particularly with hot, spicy foods. It can be pretty annoying or embarrassing for those who have this. There is a medication called Atrovent nasal spray, available by prescription, that can be used just before eating for people who have a tough time with this. It's generally well-tolerated and not addictive. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to fix this permanently. We sort of have to just manage it.

"I have acid reflux. I cough a lot when I go to bed. Is that normal?"

Dr. Riley: Actually, acid reflux is one of the common causes of chronic cough and it tends to be worse when lying down as our viewer describes. What's happening is that some of the acid in the stomach is going backwards, up into the esophagus or swallowing tube. Sometimes, this acid gets high enough that it can spill over into the lungs. That causes the irritation and cough. It's worse at night because we don't have gravity helping us the way it does when we're upright. So, in addition to reducing the amount of stomach acid with medications, we often advise people with this problem to prop the head of their bed up. Lying even a little more upright at night can really be helpful.

Dr. Riley joins us from Memorial Family Medicine.