What is an Asthmatic Cough?

Jacob Queen

Asthmatic cough is the name given to any kind of cough that comes as a symptom of asthma. Most patients with asthma have some degree of problem with coughing, and for some sufferers, coughing can be the primary symptom. Asthmatic cough is generally aggravated by any respiratory illnesses the patient may suffer with, and any allergies can also potentially make it worse. Many treatments that are used for other asthma symptoms can also be effective in dealing with this kind of coughing.

An asthma inhaler.
An asthma inhaler.

When patients suffer from asthmatic cough, it can be hard for doctors to be sure of the cause. There is generally no obvious difference between a chronic cough that’s caused from asthma and many other possible causes. This difficulty in distinguishing is further complicated by all the potential for other illnesses and allergies to be contributing factors in cases of asthmatic cough. In some situations, doctors may need to do certain tests for asthma to determine the source of the chronic coughing, and they may not realize this is needed until other treatments fail.

An illustration of the pathology of asthma.
An illustration of the pathology of asthma.

Some people with asthma may only have occasional problems with chronic coughing, but there's a variety of asthma where coughing is the only visible symptom. This is sometimes referred to as "cough-variant asthma," and just like most other forms of asthma, the cause is generally unclear. When people suffer from this kind of asthma, they may have no symptoms at all until they get sick or are exposed to something that aggravates their lungs. After that point, they may develop a chronic cough that lasts for months at a time and doesn't respond to conventional treatments. When doctors are trying to diagnose this illness, the main distinguishing factor is generally the length of time the coughing has gone on compared to what would be considered normal.

Some patients can have more problems with asthmatic cough at night after they go to sleep. The reason for this is somewhat mysterious, although scientists have a few theories. Certain hormones decrease in the body while a person sleeps, and some of these may help inhibit coughing. Another possible cause is the way gravity affects mucus in the throat while people are lying down. There is generally a greater chance for any mucus dripping down the throat from the nose to make its way into a person’s lungs when they’re positioned vertically, and once it reaches the lungs, it can trigger a coughing reaction.

Coughing can be the primary symptom of asthma.
Coughing can be the primary symptom of asthma.

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