Cough Variant Asthma

Cough variant asthma is a type of asthma, characterized by a chronic and dry or non-productive cough. Unlike asthma, it is usually not accompanied by symptoms other than a dry and non-productive cough. The cough can however, last from 6 to 8 weeks. The typical symptoms of asthma like wheezing and shortness of breath are usually not observed in cough variant asthma.

The wheezing sound is actually produced when the airways get constricted during an asthma attack. But cough variant asthma usually does not constrict the airways, and so, it does not necessarily cause wheezing and shortness of breath. However, this type of asthma can cause the inflammation and swelling of the airways.

Possible Causes

The exact causes are not known properly, though the same allergens associated with asthma attacks, such as dust and pollen can also trigger chronic cough. Even cold air can trigger this asthma. Another important cause can be the use of beta blockers. Beta blockers are used for treating a number of health conditions, including high blood pressure and heart disease. Apart from these, some other important causes are, post nasal drip, sinusitis, acid reflux disease, and smoking. Many times, chronic cough has also been observed to follow an infection of the upper respiratory tract.

Cough Variant Asthma Symptoms

A non-productive or dry cough is the classic, and many times, the only symptom produced by this condition. The cough can worsen, particularly during the night and while exercising. As mentioned already, this type of asthma may not present the typical asthma symptoms, like shortness of breath and wheezing.

Diagnosis and Treatment

This condition can be a bit difficult to diagnose, as chest X-rays and tests like spirometry or the lung function test can show normal results, due to the absence of any blockage in the airways. So, even when the results of such tests are normal, physicians can carry out another test, known as ‘positive methacholine inhalation challenge’ (MIC) test.

In MIC test, the patient is allowed to inhale methacholine, which causes spasms and narrowing of the airways, if the patient has asthma. But even when the methacholine inhalation challenge (MIC) test is positive, it cannot be definitely concluded that the individual has cough variant asthma. This condition is confirmed only when the symptoms respond to the usual asthma therapy or treatment.

This condition is treated with the same medications that are normally used for treating asthma. Bronchodilators like albuterol and ipratropium are more commonly used for treating this condition. In addition to bronchodilators, inhaled steroids are used for its treatment. It may take several days for the symptoms to improve or resolve completely. Occasionally, the cough can worsen after using inhaled steroids. Therefore, it is important to take medications only under the supervision of a physician.

Recognizing this asthma is a bit difficult due to the absence of the usual asthma symptoms. So, if your cough lasts for more than 6 to 8 weeks, talk to a physician to find out and address the underlying causes. Along with proper treatment, it is important to avoid the specific allergens, like dust, pollen, and cold air to reduce the frequency and severity of this condition.