Cough Variant Asthma??

Hi everyone,

I’ve been having problems for over a year now. The docs said it was asthma up until about just over 2 months ago when the doc said it may be acid reflex. I was getting treated for asthma up until this time. I was on Seretide, Singulair and Ventolin. The main issue with my doctor was he wouldn’t stop going on about me not having a wheeze. I’ve never had a wheeze but I have had shortness of breath, chest pains and tightness especially in the morning and a terrible hard barking hacking cough that has continually got worse and worse especially over the last 2 months. I finally got referred to the hospital for tests.

I got a lung functions test, x ray and various other tests blood etc. Everything was fine in fact more than fine but during and after the lung function test I was coughing very violently and painfully. A couple of the nurses commented on the harshness of the cough and I had to use my ventolin to help stop the cough. When I discussed the results with the consultant he said my lung function is very good and my lungs were clear on the x ray. I should probably tell you have been playing the bagpipes for almost 18 years now and the consultant thinks this may be helping with the lung function as its exercising my lungs well. Why is it then, that after all this time he things I have Cough Variant Asthma? What is the difference between this and Asthma? I have been put on prednisolone and I have to go back to my GP next week. The consultant said if this has helped I should be put on Flixotide inhalers. My cough has improved a bit but I still have very bad chest pains and tightness especially in the morning. Will the Flixotide help this?

I know my condition is probably not near as bad as a lot of people on here and I really can't imagine how you all cope but its been getting me very down the last 6 months or so. The lack of sleep has been catching up with me and my whole body aches from coughing. I’ve just felt very run down and exhausted with it all.

Sorry it’s a long post but I don’t feel my GP explains enough and I don’t go back to the consultant until the 3rd Dec.

Thanks any advice or info.


12 Replies

  • Welcome to the forum. Many of us have cough variant asthma and it's taken years to be diagnosed. I used to be asked how many packets of cigarettes I smoked, when I'd never smoked in my entire life. Grr. There is loads of support on here. Feel free to lean against us in the threads or PMs.

    Best wishes,

    Moira xox

  • Thanks Moira

    I have found this forum useful and everyone is always so helpful and friendly. I'm just frustrated and confused by it all.


  • Well - I'm not sure and I've not heard it called cough variant but essentially I reckon that it's just that not everybody wheezes - as a lot of people on here will testify to - myself included and so maybe he has decided to use that term? As far as i know it doesn't make any difference what your presenting symptoms off the list are and they don't all have to be present to give a diagnosis of asthma.

    Someone leap in if I've got this all wrong!

    Hope your symptoms improve!


  • hi-i know that when my hiatus hernia is playing up and i get reflux it can mimic the signs of asthma so i always do my peak flow if im not sure. i would have thought if you were coughing like that after a lung function test though that it prob is asthma-but then again im no doctor. the preds should help to make you feel better xxx

  • I've read it called cough variant asthma in reading material from USA but Its not a term I've heard in the UK much.

  • I absolutely feel your pain (sometimes literally!) It is so depressing when you go to the doctors and they say well I can't hear a wheeze, your peak flow is fine and your chest sounds clear - so why do I feel so rubbish! Thanks to my lovely Asthma Nurse who again (as I hear so many times on this site) is a real hero. She listens to me and has assured me many times that I have asthma and has really pushed my doctor for me to see a consultant. I hope things get sorted soon. We, the non-wheezers are always here for you!

  • Hi!

    I suppose I have cough variant asthma too. I rarely wheeze (only when I'm very ill). I'm from the US, and we do call it that here. I'm given a hard time when I'm not wheezing sometimes, but most doctors understand if say ""well I never wheeze."" I also have reflux. My cough only truely stops if I take both asthma meds and relux meds. I can usually tell the difference though from how I feel.


  • Hi Ash,

    You're not alone! I've Brittle asthma and the majority of my attacks are coughing ones; I regularly feel as though I've been used as a punch-bag my a heavyweight boxer. The steroids I take have caused my bones to become quite brittle and I now tend to crack ribs during the worst attacks, and have so far managed twice to break one with the force of my coughing. Now that is b****y painful, and not to be recommended.

    As for sleep, it is either catarrh that keeps me awake at night, or the pain as a result of a bad attack during the day - sometimes both. Tonight it is just the catarrh which is driving me mad!

    But I'm also very lucky as the NHS team that care for me are second to none!

    Take care,


    p.s. For your geek side: I'm a Mac :oD

  • I had heard the term 'cough variant asthma' before and wasn't entirely sure what it meant! So I had a quick look on Medline etc. It seems to be asthma where the only symptom is a cough and you often get normal lung function results. Have a look at this paper

    I think cough variant asthma doesn't just mean asthmatics who don't wheeze.

    Have you tried phoning the asthma Uk asthma nurses as I am sure they will be able to answer your questions? Saves you having to wait till December!

    Hope you get some answers.


  • Thanks everyone all the advice and information. This place is certainly more helpful and informative than my GP. Sometimes I feel they think I’m just being a moan or making it up.

    I called the AUK helpline when my GP said it may not be asthma it may be acid reflux. The AUK nurse suggested I talk to my GP to get a referral to the hospital which I did and that’s where I am now. It is rubbish that so many of us on here get fobbed off or treated incorrectly just because the GP’s are so obsessed with all asthmatics having a wheeze. I think having a wheeze must be terrifying and I know I’m lucky not to have a wheeze but why do some GP’s not recognise people are having problems without a wheeze?

    I know when I go back to my GP next week he is still going to question whether I have asthma or not. I’m just so confused. I don’t know what I have but I know I certainly feel terrible every other day and so exhausted. I can’t exercise without having a violent coughing fit which leaves me very breathless and shaking like mad. My young nephews get upset when I try to play in the garden with them then end up in that state and that’s only from 5-10 mins of being in the garden.

    I think I will try the AUK nurses again as you suggested Bryony. I wish I had your asthma nurse LovelyMissC she sounds better than my GP.

    Thanks again guys.


  • ashm

    Your posting could have been written by me. I don't wheeze and my peakflow rarely drops. However I also get the persistent cough, breathless with a tight, painful chest. My own GP and all the other docs I have seen at my surgery have been very sympathetic. In fact the only medics that haven't believed it is asthma were the docs at A & E when I was taken in by ambulance a few months ago. I was left in a corridor with a paramedic for 3 hours. The paramedic was great and had put me on a nebuliser, so things had started to improve.

    My condition is made more complicated as I am on a number of other drugs for Breast Cancer. These seem to exascerbate my asthma, but is difficult to know which symptoms are actual asthma and which are side effect of the other drugs. I have recently been put on Montilukast to see if this helps to relieve the problems. It doesn't seem to be having any affect at the moment as my cough has got worse and my chest is bad. I am now on preds again and have to go for a chest x-ray on Monday, though I am not expecting tht to show anything.

    I must admit this is really getting me down at the moment, but then I feel guilty as I know that there are so many people in a far worse position than me with their asthma problems.

  • I am not alone then - I have recently been told that I am asthmatic and thought this was incorrect. I have never had a wheeze but whenever I got a cold I ended up with an annoying cough which would last several weeks. Earlier this year I had a cold which did go to my chest but left me with a hacking cough which went on and I was coughing persistently. I went to see my GP and hence the diagnosis.

    Over the summer and because I was not given an adequate prescription I reduced the dosage and stopped using the inhalers. Had another cold and the cough has returned and I have restarted the medication.

    I am trying to find out why I am now suffering so badly so would like to pose a question and would appreciate views and opinions,

    I live in a new flat - 2 years old - There has been a problem with a leak from the soil pipe which resulted in the contents finally reaching my ceiling but most going somewhere else. It has all dried out now, but is it possible that this has exacerbated my condition. Thanks and apologies for the length.

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