The study, presented at the scientific meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Chicago, suggests iron deficiency may help explain why some otherwise healthy, non-smoking women had persistent coughs.
Instead of cough drops, some women may need to reach for an iron supplement to treat that pesky cough, Italian researchers said on Tuesday.
Tests on women with chronic coughs and iron deficiency showed that a simple iron supplement often cleared up the cough, said Dr. Caterina Bucca of the University of Turin and colleagues.
Bucca said women also are more likely than men to suffer from otherwise unexplained chronic coughs.
"We put the two together," Bucca said in a telephone interview. "Cough is much more frequent in women and iron deficiency is very frequent in women due to pregnancy and menses."
In addition, immune function can be affected by iron deficiency, which is defined as having low iron levels, sometimes to the point of anemia.
Bucca and colleagues studied 16 women with chronic cough who were found to have normal lung function, with no signs of asthma or other respiratory disease and no evidence of acid stomach reflux that could explain their coughing.