Asthma Cough

OVERVIEW OF ASTHMA COUGH

Asthma and cough are strongly related. The American Academy of Family Physicians recognize any cough lasting for 8 weeks or longer as chronic cough. A persistent cough is a really defining feature of chronic cough. Try to know more about chronic cough and how to manage its symptoms.

Asthma cough
Photo Credit: CNN.com

HOW TO RECOGNIZE AN ASTHMA COUGH

Coughing is a reflex mechanism that is protective in that it helps to get rid of foreign particles and microorganisms that would have led to an infection. Cough can either be productive or non-productive. A productive cough is one in which phlegm is expectorated and thereby ridding the lungs of harmful substances whereas a nonproductive cough is one which is dry and without expectoration.

Coughing is a natural defense mechanism of the body and it is particularly useful in asthma. An asthmatic cough that is productive will help to remove phlegm and mucus from the lungs. Most cases of asthma cough are nonproductive. A dry cough is produced in response to a foreign body that is causing irritation which makes the airway to constrict or narrow. Inflammation and subsequent constriction of the airways which results in dry cough is characteristic of asthma.

An asthma cough usually occurs with wheezing, a whistling sound that is high-pitched, occurring due to narrowed airways.

SYMPTOMS COMMONLY SEEN IN ASTHMA

Symptoms related to asthma cough

A cough is a frequently seen symptom in asthma. It may even be the only presenting feature of the illness. To know if your cough is due to asthma or if it is not, you may have to assess any other associated symptoms you may have such as:

  • The tightness of the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Tiredness
  • Cough that wakes you up at night
  • Exercising difficulties
  • Persistent illness or infections
  • Shortness of breath

Asthma cough is a nocturnal one and can be very disturbing. It makes one not to be able to sleep well and may even need a special form of treatment. When compared to other airway conditions such as emphysema, asthma is the one most associated with night coughs.

Symptoms not associated with asthma cough

There are some symptoms you should be aware of even when they are not related to asthma cough. These symptoms need a medical evaluation if you experience them.  When you have a cough with any of the following symptoms, speak to a doctor:

  • Chest pain or chest tension that is  not the kind seen in asthma
  • Hemoptysis, meaning cough with bloody sputum production
  • High or persistent fever
  • Appetite loss
  • Night sweating
  • Inability to complete sentences because of breathing difficulties
  • Skin discoloration due to breathing difficulties
  • Weakness
  • Involuntary weight loss
  • Difficulty in covering long distances when walking

DIAGNOSIS OF ASTHMA COUGH

Before you are placed on anti-asthmatic cough drugs, the doctor will request for breathing tests that will show the functionality of the lungs. These lung function tests may be done periodically after commencing treatment to determine the potency of the medications you are taking. Mayo Clinic reports that the diagnostic tools are really effective for those older than the age of 5. An allergy testing can also be done by the doctor following suspicion of the presence of allergens that trigger asthma cough.

TREATMENT FOR ASTHMA COUGH

Traditional treatments

Medications used to control the symptoms of asthma are often used in asthma treatment. Corticosteroids in the inhaled form help to reduce lung inflammation, a major cause of asthma cough. Inhaled corticosteroids are for long-term use, unlike oral corticosteroids that are only used short-term when there is an acute episode.

Quick-relief inhalers are prescribed by doctors for the patient to carry on-hand in case of a flare-up of coughing and wheezing.  The drugs that are mainly used are short-acting beta-antagonists.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology recommend a once-weekly or twice-weekly use of inhaled corticosteroids, further use may be before an exercise session or during illness but this will be recommended by a doctor. If you notice that you have to make use of the quick-relief inhalers more than prescribed then you should speak to a doctor.

Asthma cough can also be relieved by long-term oral drugs such as leukotriene modifiers such as montelukast which is marketed as Singulair. The mechanism of action of leukotriene modifiers is by treating asthma symptoms that are related to allergic rhinitis. 

Alternative treatments for asthma cough

Alternative treatments for an asthma cough are those complementary treatments that may be helpful in the management. They are never used alone but used alongside prescription medications. Inquire from the doctor if the following treatment options can help your asthma cough:

  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal treatment using dried ivy and gingko
  • Hypnosis
  • Meditation
  • Yoga breathing (pranayama)

PREVENTION OF ASTHMA COUGH

Prevention, they say, is better than cure. The symptoms of asthma cough can be prevented by doing some lifestyle adjustments. For example, ensuring that the room you sleep in is well ventilated, if the air quality for that room is low then, limit outdoor activities. Also, placing a humidifier in the room at night will help to reduce night coughs.

A very important preventive tool for asthma is to know and recognize your triggers. Being aware of these triggers will help you to avoid irritants or triggers that will exacerbate the cough. The triggers for asthma include:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Chemicals and disinfectants
  • Weather extremes
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Low humidity
  • Animal Dander
  • Viral infections

If you are the type that allergy worsens your asthma, you may have to prevent and treat exposure to the allergen before the asthma symptoms can get better.

OUTLOOK

Asthma is not a curable disease. The symptoms can be managed for you to live a normal life. It is essential to treat the symptoms of asthma such as cough as this will help to prevent lung damage, mainly in children. Asthma cough usually subsides when proper care is instituted. If the cough is persistent despite having received treatment, call your doctor.

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