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The Familiar Asthma Cough

Times of exacerbation or worsening asthma truly sucks. This summer, I had a loss of asthma control, this was likely due to my current treatment no longer being effective and needing adjustment. I have had the worst bout of cough that I have had in some time. This meant that I had to track down the source. Was it environmental allergies that we’re now adding to the mix? Was my loss of asthma control getting worse?

What is asthma cough?

Chronic cough is defined as a cough that lasts more than eight weeks.1 Unfortunately, my cough was approaching the eight-week mark. I had already made one medication modification that seemed to help some but not fully. The cough was certainly cramping my lifestyle, the constant coughing, sore ribs, the not wanting to eat anything that could induce a cough or would be likely to be coughed up.

It is thought that chronic cough can be one of the most troublesome perceived symptoms that asthmatics experience. Personally, it is the symptom that most often causes people to turn and look. This is mostly done to ensure that I am not coughing up a lung, but honestly, it sometimes feels like I am. It has kept me up at night, and sometimes I just can’t seem to shake it.

Maintaining control over my cough

This bout of asthma cough came with sputum – also super annoying. The good news is that when I have good control, my cough is quite well managed and almost nonexistent. This bout was all about management and getting back to being in control.

I am fortunate that through a good working relationship with my physicians I was able to make some medication adjustments that have really helped. Unfortunately, the management entails getting a better handle on asthma symptoms, in my case my asthma cough was linked to a loss of inflammation control. Therefore, I had a change in inflammation management as well as a change in my bronchodilator. This also had me wishing that I could take a cough suppressant. As you may know, asthmatics need to be very careful about suppressing their cough. If your cough is caused by asthma, asthma-specific medications are the best.

New research on chronic cough and asthma

There is research being conducted on the role and impact of chronic cough on asthma.1 The purpose of the study was to identify if there was a linkage to asthma severity and/or a more severe phenotype in asthmatics with chronic cough. These individuals had greater health care utilization, lower lung function, and higher levels of systemic inflammatory biomarkers. The study also highlighted the difference between asthma and chronic cough entities however, there were some linkages between cough-variant asthma and those with chronic cough. This led to the connection between chronic cough and a more severe asthma phenotype.

Are you a cougher? Have you experienced periods of chronic cough? What have been your methods of coping? Let me know in the comments below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Colak Y, Afzal S, Lange P, et al. Role and impact of chronic cough in individuals with asthma From the general population. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice. 2019;7(6)1783-1792. doi: 10.1016/j.jaip.2019.02.021.


  • DebJ
    2 months ago

    I have a cough. I can’t get my pulmonologist to recognize it as an annoying symptom for me. I currently use Trelegy, ProAir as a rescue and took it upon myself to use a store brand Mucinex DM 1 tablet every night at bedtime to keep things moving yet try to keep the cough quiet. If I don’t take it, I can feel it in my lungs. My cough kicks in at night after I get home from work. It is awful for about an hour. We have tried other inhalers but I just don’t think she is taking my cough serious.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    2 months ago

    Sorry about your trouble with that cough and getting your doctor to recognize it as a symptom. Is it just after work that you cough, or is it persistent throughout the day? And how long have you been on your current asthma regimen? I ask these question just because it can sometimes take some time for a treatment regimen to improve symptoms. What do you think? John. site moderator.

  • Shellzoo
    3 months ago

    I don’t always notice my cough because it is so part of me but my family and co-workers say they can tell I am near when they hear my cough. I think it mostly is controlled and most likely chronic. I think being on Spiriva Respimat has helped with the mucous so I don’t feel I cough as much regardless of what my family says.

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo – I’m sure many can relate to that! It can become so much a part of who we are that we don’t even notice. I’m happy to hear that you feel like the Spiriva has been helpful. That’s great.
    Lyn (site moderator)

  • Debbiekayj55
    3 months ago

    I had my worse exasperation and was sick all of September and October. I have learned a few very important facts after numerous visits to Urgent Care and My Pulmonologist.

    A – Be in charge when visiting urgent care. I know my body better than anyone. Be firm, respectful, ask for the medications I know I need.
    B – Do not go to the mountains when your lungs are compromised. The higher altitudes have less oxygen, which you already can’t get enough of.
    C – Steroids are a necessary evil. Do not be afraid of high doses for extended times.
    D – I have to be diligent in avoiding my triggers.
    E – Go to the ER even if at a woman’s retreat in the mountains. My o2 levels got down into 87/89

    MOST IMPORTANT – Call Pulmonologist and leave messages with status updates. Medications can be adjusted over the phone but he can’t help if I don’t let him know how I am doing.

    Right now the fires have made California air quality unbreathable. How do I cope? I stay in my room, windows closed. I have no other choice.

    I refuse to have my death certificate state that my cause of death is ASTHMA

  • Lyn Harper, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi Debbiekayj55 – You have made some excellent points in your comment! Thank you for that. I’m sure others will agree with it. I especially like your point about being in charge. It’s true expecially when visiting a doctor/urgent care/ED where you are not known to them. You know best! It’s a mantra I’ve stood by my whole life when it comes to my health care. Good for you!
    My heart goes out to you and everyone dealing with the fires. I hope you’re able to cope until they’re under control.
    Regards, Lyn (site moderator)

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