People cough for a number of reasons. A cough is one of the most common reasons for making an appointment with the family physician. Smoking and an acute viral upper respiratory tract infection are the most common causes of coughs. However, a cough that persists for weeks may be cough-variant asthma.
In most cases asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that is characterized by a cough, along with breathlessness and wheezing. In cough-variant asthma the primary symptom is a dry, nonproductive cough. An attack can occur at any time of day or night and becomes worse with the inhalation of cold air, exercise or a viral infection.
The exact cause of cough-variant asthma is not known, but it is known that allergies are the main cause. Some of the things that trigger coughing are: exposure to allergens; upper respiratory infections; breathing in cold air; and ingestion of beta blockers. Beta blockers are drugs used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines; some eye drops used to treat glaucoma; and other conditions.
With cough-variant asthma the cough, lasting longer than six to eight weeks, can occur at night and interrupt sleep. In the daytime the cough often becomes worse after exercise. In the winter when the person goes outside into the cold air the coughing worsens. House dust, cigarette smoke, pollen, animal dandruff, molds and other allergy-causing substances can trigger an attack of cough-variant asthma.
The diagnosis of cough-variant asthma is difficult to make since the only symptom is a cough. The many other causes of coughing make this condition difficult to pin-point. The physician will ask a number of questions of the patient and conduct several tests to determine if cough-variant asthma is the problem.
After the person is diagnosed with cough-variant asthma, the physician will usually prescribe a bronchodilator, such as albuterol, to give temporary relief. Another medicine generally prescribed is a corticosteroid which reduces the inflammation in the airways.
There are natural herbal remedies that can be used to relax the cough and give a soothing effect. The herbs dilate the respiratory system making the person breathe easy and prevent a hypersensitivity reaction.
As preventive measures it is important to keep the house cleared of allergens. The patient should use dust proof mattresses and pillows and products with strong smells should be avoided. These measures will help prevent a cough-variant asthma attack caused by irritants that trigger an excessive immune reaction in the body.