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Cough Variant Asthma: Symptoms & Treatment

What is Cough Variant Asthma?

Asthma is a condition that occurs as a result of inflammation of the airways as a response to certain allergens or triggers. The primary symptom of asthma is problems with breathing along with chest pain and tightness. These symptoms also occur when the muscles around the airways become tight causing the airways to produce more mucous. However, there is a variant of asthma in which the only symptom is cough that is caused due to abnormality with the airways. This is what is termed as Cough-Variant Asthma.[1]

What is Cough Variant Asthma?

Cough-Variant Asthma only produces a dry cough without any phlegm. The patient does not have any wheezing, chest pain, or problems breathing with this variant of asthma. Cough-Variant Asthma is commonly seen in children. Even though the symptoms of Cough-Variant Asthma may not be similar to the regular asthma but the impact it has on the body is pretty much the same. Another similarity between regular asthma and Cough-Variant Asthma is that they are both triggered by allergens and environmental conditions. The airways become extremely sensitive and there is swelling of the airways interfering with the airflow.[1]

However, in people with Cough-Variant Asthma the radiographic changes in the lungs seen on x-rays are mild when compared to classic asthma. Some studies suggest that approximately 40% of people with Cough-Variant Asthma go on to develop classic asthma at some point in the future. However, if the diagnosis of Cough-Variant Asthma is made and treated then it can go a long way in preventing classic asthma.[1] This article gives an overview of some of the symptoms of Cough-Variant Asthma and ways to manage the condition.

What Are The Symptoms Of Cough Variant Asthma?

Chronic non-productive cough is the primary symptom of Cough-Variant Asthma. In majority of the cases this is the only symptom the patient experiences. The cough will not be amenable to any treatment and will persist for more than 8 weeks in adults and 4 weeks in children. Cough-Variant Asthma does not affect the lungs seriously but there may be some interference with the functioning due to the cough. As a result of the cough, the patient will not be able to have a restful sleep because of which he or she will remain fatigued and exhausted throughout the day.[2]

Some people also complain of feeling giddy and have vomiting. All these put together interfere with the quality of life of the patient and professional life as well. If Cough-Variant Asthma is not treated, then it goes on to become classic asthma. In such instances, the patient will have problems with breathing along with chest pain and tightness. There will also be audible wheezing. The patient will have periods of asthma attack that occurs as a result of not enough oxygen reaching the lungs.[2]

An uncontrolled asthma can lead to a variety of complications of which the most common is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Some of the serious complications of uncontrolled asthma include permanent narrowing of the bronchioles along with pneumonia and collapsed lungs or complete failure of lung function.[2]

How Is Cough Variant Asthma Treated?

The aim of Cough-Variant Asthma treatment is to prevent the condition from progressing and causing complications. The treatment strategy for Cough-Variant Asthma is pretty much the same as that of classic asthma; however, there may be some variations. Inhaled anti inflammatory and corticosteroids are the primary form of treatment. These medications calm down the inflammation and reduce swelling of the airways.[2]

People with asthma should always carry inhalers with them to be used during an asthma attack. These inhalers decrease the inflammation instantly. Antihistamines are also quite vital for people with asthma as they inhibit production of histamines on exposure to allergens and prevent an asthma attack. The patient will also be given medications that keep the airways open. The best treatment however is avoiding substances and conditions that may trigger the symptoms.[2]

Some of the tips to prevent any asthma attack include

  • Taking medications as advised
  • Avoiding exposure to allergens
  • Abstain from smoking

In conclusion, Cough-Variant Asthma is quite similar to classic asthma with the difference being the nature of symptom in which the former has only chronic cough as the primary presenting feature. Another difference between the two conditions is the radiologic changes affecting the lung which is more in classic asthma as opposed to Cough-Variant Asthma [2].

If Cough-Variant Asthma is not treated then the patient will go on to develop classic asthma with its inherent symptoms. It is important to keep asthma in control as it may lead to potentially serious complications. Thus it is recommended that if an individual has chronic cough that is non-productive and is not amenable for more than 8 weeks in adults and 4 weeks in children it is best to consult with a physician for Cough-Variant Asthma [2].


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 27, 2020

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