I'm very new to this. I got a cold and a cough at the beginning of October 2010 and basically, haven't been able to stop coughing since. It's not unusual for me to get an ongoing cough after a cold, but it usually disappears after 4 weeks. In the middle of November I went to the doctor who told me it was a viral thing and there was nothing they could do.

By the middle of January, I had excrutiating pain in my ribs and, because I wasn't able to get a doctors appt quickly enough, I went to my nearest walk-in centre and was told the muscles around my ribs were bruised and inflamed due to coughing. I was advised to take Ibuprofen.

At the end of January, I missed out on a whole nights sleep because of coughing; I was hardly able to breathe, and therefore couldn't go into work. I managed to get an appointment with my doctor that day - even the receptionist was concerned!

She listened to my chest and diagnosed asthama because of the wheezing going on. I was prescribed ventolin inhalers and I have a spirometry booked for 9th March.

I am still coughing but I am very confused as to what is causing it. Sometimes I won't cough for a couple of days but then all of a sudden something will catch in my throat and I can't stop coughing for up to an hour. It doesn't always cause my chest to tighten and start wheezing, and will sometimes go away if I drink water. It's only when my chest and back start tightening and hurting will the inhaler help the cough settle.

Is this common? Apart from seeing my doctor at the end of January I haven't had any advice at all. I literally don't know whether this is asthma, a cough-induced wheeze or just a cough!!

Any advice would be gratefully received.

Thanks (sorry it's a long one!!)

23 Replies

  • Hi. I know exactly how you feel. I too started coughing at the beginning of October and it's only just easing off now. It's exhausting and can be very scary in the middle of the night when you're desperate to sleep but can't because of the coughing. For me, this happens if I get a cold or am exposed to something I'm allergic to and usually lasts for a month or so - 4 months is a bit of a record for me and I'm very fed up with it. However, because I can mostly avoid the things that trigger this response I can get weeks or (crosses fingers) months when I have only minor symptoms. With any luck you find the same.

    As for medication, I'm afraid I'm not a lot of help with that because mine has made no difference at all, ny GP has felt that there's nothing else to offer and I've just had to wait it out. BUT if you look back over past posts on this site you'll see that everyone's symptoms and response to medication is different and you could well respond to your medication better than I did. Let me know how you get on.


  • Hi there, I used the Ventolin Inhaler and Becotide Inhalers. I had my first attack in December (First in 20 Years), which was put down to a chest infection. I get one every year but there was a lot of flu going around in October / November. Anti-biotic was generally the way to go, however if you keep taking them, you can become immune in later life. I would suggest maybe getting the flu jab from the doctors, which you are entitled to. Failing that I would make an appointment with your local asthma nurse. I found that the best remedy for asthma, is exercise. I go through stages of playing football, then not playing. Once I am in a fit state, I find my resting heart rate is a lot lower than it has been in the weeks before. Which keeps me calmer and keeps me in control of my breathing. Another good home remedy is a shower, or even better a sauna. I find it hard to breathe when inside, but when I get out, I feel so much more better. I hope this helps and looking forward to reading any other remedies.

  • Scoody you are SO right about the Sauna but don't stay too long at first.

  • Thanks for your messages.

    I do try as often as I can to get out a do a bit of exercise, ie, running, but I don't often get time inbetween my daughters social commitments!! The last time I did, mid-Jan (before diagnosis) I came back ready to collapse to the floor from coughing and wheezing!! It's a bit scary.

    We don't have a shower fitted at the moment but I do sit in the bathroom while running a hot bath which does help I find.

    I will definitely ask about the flu jab.

    The inhaler does help but like I said only when the cough goes to my chest, which is probably 1 out of 3 times.

    The pain in my ribs is starting to get to me, and lets face it I can't take Ibuprofen forever, and somehow is worse when I lie in bed trying to get to sleep which is ridiculous!

    Can I also ask, will the cough ever go?!?!?!

  • HI. I really feel for you. You sound as if you're at the end of your teather but that's ok - you're entitled to be. It's so hard to deal with being exhausted all the time, non stop coughing, working and, for you, taking the kids to all of their activities. Don't try to do it all - let someone else sort out some housework for you (even the children can do a bit of washing up or bed making), give in and take some time off work, do whatever you need to take the pressure off yourself. At the beginning of December, when I was at my worst, a good friend of mine dragged me off to stay with her for a couple of nights. It wasn't until I got there and didn't HAVE to do anything that I realised how much I was pushing myself to carry on as normal and how much worse it was making me. I took a week off work and did nothing but potter about, wrapped myself up and sat in the garden and basically just let everything sort itself out. It didn't make the cough go away but it did a lot for my state of mind. I know you have a family to look after so it won't be that easy for you, but take any help you can get to do what HAS to be done and let the rest go until you feel better.

    You will feel better eventually, although I know it doesn't feel like it now. Try going back to your GP or the asthma nurse to ask for help with the cough you never know what they'll come up with. Perhaps someone else will have had the same problem and found some medication that helped.


  • My son has cough variant asthma, and we find that the blue ventolin doesn't help at all. He uses a white atrovent inhaler called Ipratropium Bromide. This helps to ease the coughing. My doctor also suggested taking Cetrizine (hayfever medication), to see whether it would help. We think that it does help us - so perhaps its worth a try with you?

  • Hi fistfulofglass,

    That sounds horrible! Mine isn't nearly that bad, though like you and Annista I've been coughing since the start of October (was there some kind of coughing event no-one told us about?) and it's incredibly annoying, much worse if it makes your ribs hurt. Does it sound kind of like you're breathing out really noisily through your throat when you cough? I've found mine is different from when I cough with a cold normally.

    I'm afraid I don't have any brilliant suggestions (I was given a variety of asthma medications none of which worked either for the cough or the bad breathlessness that comes alongside) but I would say be persistent, if it's still bothering you keep going back and ask to try something else, and maybe explain that you're confused because the cough seems to come in two varieties, you're not sure what's causing it all the time and do they have anything that could help when the inhaler doesn't, like a prescription syrup? I've found that my cough is sometimes there on its own and sometimes comes with not being able to breathe, and in my case have confused my GP so much she's referring me because she can't think what it is (hopefully you won't get to that stage, but if you do maybe you'll get some answers?)

    Good luck, hope you stop coughing!

    Philomela xx

  • Glitter, not glass, haha! :)

    I phoned the nurse at my surgery yesterday morning because my ribs are so painful and I have trouble sleeping because of it, and she got me an appointment with my doctor. After waiting for over an hour, I finally went in. She listened to my chest and said it was clear, then explained what had happened to my ribs and the fact that it takes so long for them to heal because you are using them every minute of every day.

    She toyed with the idea of prescribing me codeine (a central nervous system repressant to see if that stopped the urge to cough) but she said it has horrible side effects and didn't really want to do it.

    She basically told me what I already knew, that I'm not coughing properly because it hurts and that the lungs can't clear what it needs to clear because of it. What could possibly be left in my lungs after all these months?!

    I have been taking Ibuprofen since mid-Jan, and she said to add paracetamol on top of that, which I have now, and although it helped last night and will help during the day, when I'm in bed, laying down and trying to sleep, every time I move it's a horrible, excrutiating sickening pain. So none of it really helps!

    Doc also said that she really needs to wait until my spirometry on 9th March, until and IF I get an actual diagnosis of asthma, (I thought a doctor telling you that you have asthma is a diagnosis!?) can she help further, and start prescribing further inhalers if needs be.

    Sorry it's a long one again, and yes I definitely think there was a cough-related something going around at the beginning of October!!

    Thanks for the advice, I hope all gets sorted for you too, let me know how you get on??


  • For the last few days I've been using Benedryl and Sudafed to deal with allergies (itchy eyes, runny nose etc.) and I don't know if it's my imagination but the coughing seems to be improving a bit - it's still happening but not for so long and not so violently. I'm cautiously optimistic and almost confident enough to reduce the meds, which means that I'll start to sleep better over the next few weeks and then I'll start to feel a lot better. I'll let you know how I get on.

  • Are they all symptoms of asthma too?! I have had a really itchy eye since last night, and I've been reading on here that fatigue is also a symptom but I don't know if mine is an actual symptom or because I've not been sleeping properly because of the pain!

    Please do let me know how you get on, I will keep antihistamines in mind for when I next go shopping!

  • The itchy eyes and runny nose (posh name is rhinitis) are an allergic reaction, in my case it is to feathers, housedust mite, and about 25 other substances too boring to mention. The asthma also reacts to these things, but it's pretty unpredictable.

  • Oops, sorry! I was thinking glitter but typed glass - that would actually be quite painful! I'd much rather have glitter in my hand.

    I hope the ibuprofen/paracetamol help, that does sound horrible. Also confused by the fact she can't give you anything, mine tried several inhalers without a firm diagnosis of asthma before giving up and referring me (STILL waiting for my letter and it's been 3 weeks since I first tried to book, grrr).

    I know the feeling about there being something in your chest. I always feel like there's something lurking in there, like the tail-end of a chesty cold, and sometimes it makes my voice a bit funny (also like during a chesty cold). I thought I had a chest infection for a while, but even though it feels irritated most of the time, my GP can't hear anything, which is frankly annoying (if I'm going to have a furry chest, I want it to be obvious so they have more of an idea what's going on).

    You don't mention whether cold air sets off your coughing, but it's a major trigger for me (coughing lots today because yesterday, thanks to Google %^&*( maps, I was walking in the cold for half an hour), so worth watching out for that and being careful about it when you can.

    Good luck, hope things improve and if they don't, keep at them to help you! Let us know how you get on with it.


  • I've got to say, it's SO nice to be able to come on here and talk to other people who have the same symptoms/problems and have them know what I'm talking about!

    My family are supportive but don't really get how it makes me feel.

    The cold air doesn't set off my cough, but warm air does! In the mornings when I get into the car and turn the heating on, that's what sets me off coughing, so now I have to leave it on cold! Frrrrreezing all the way to work :-S

    It's odd, I've read on here so many people's coughs are set off by cold air but mine is the opposite!! I wonder why she hasn't tried other inhalers then, maybe because my chest was clear?

    I do have a cat and I've read that long-haired pets can be a trigger but I've had him for nearly 6 years now with no problems?! Eek!!

  • Really wish you could see all posts when replying not just the first - having to do this from memory. I know what you mean about being able to talk on here - I'd freak my family out if I talked about it too much and would also feel like I was always complaining about being ill - nice to be able to just discuss it.

    I wouldn't worry too much about your cat - they can be a trigger for some people but not for everyone, and without being expert in any way I'd have thought you'd have had problems before now if the cat were causing it. As I could never get my PE teacher to understand, not everyone has the same triggers (she had asthma but not exercise-induced, so didn't see why I couldn't run around outside in the cold, the one thing when I was younger that would set me off!) I've never had an issue with cats except one (rescue, short-haired ginger) and that was obvious pretty quickly. What's yours called? I wish I had a cat now, I could do with a fix and the neighbours' is too shy.

    Maybe you actually have a problem moving from very cold to very warm air? I've noticed this tends to make me cough, when I come inside from the cold. Perhaps if you tried to warm up gradually it wouldn't happen, though most car heaters are useless at that.


  • Oh and forgot to say, no idea why she hasn't tried any more inhalers - my chest was clear too AND I had really good peak flow! Perhaps because the one you had seemed to be sort of working so she thought that was enough?

  • Yes maybe that's why she doesn't want to prescribe more inhalers, both the GP and the nurse asked if it was working and I said yes but only when it makes my chest tighten, whereas other people I've spoken to who have asthma say it helps their cough regardless, which isn't the case with me.

    Also, what is a peak flow?!


  • Oops, sorry! I forgot you were very new to this, I had it when I was younger so used to a lot of the terms, though fortunately not with the stuff that goes with very severe asthma.

    Wikipedia can probably say it better, or at least more concisely:

    However, I get the impression from my own experience and from things people have said on here that peak flow and symptoms don't always match up, just so you know - though they can be very good indicators for some people. The chart on there is interesting, I've just discovered that the peak flow reading I usually get, even when breathless, suggests I'm probably a 5'3"" man (in fact I'm a 5'8"" woman, at least I thought so ;)) Just shows that predictions and reality don't always match up - my best predicted is about 150 lower than my actual best (actual best makes me a 5'8"" man!!)


  • Ooh I'll have a look in a mo, thanks.

    Also, when you cough does it taste nutty? Every time I cough that's what I can taste, rather minging! Wondered if that was normal...?!

  • Hmm, never had nutty taste I don't think. Sometimes I can taste something metallic, right at the back as though it's coming from the chest.

  • Just a short update to my post about using antihistamines. I'm still coughing but my peak flow has gone up over the last few days and I've started to decrease my meds very cautiously, so far with no problems. I really don't know if the antihistamines have helped or if things were starting to improve anyway, but I figure that it doesn't really matter as long as I'm feeling better! Hope you see some improvement soon. X

  • Hi

    The coughing and everything you described does sound like asthma to me as well - my major symptoms when it flares up (usually as a result of a cold or similar, but can be due to pollen as well as I am allergic to grass and flower pollens)... cough, shortness of breath, tight chest...

    9th March is still some time away... I would make an appt and go back asap. Tell them you don't feel better and its having a severe impact on you, in terms of work and day to day, and ask what else can be done before the spirometry appt.

    You could specifically ask if they would consider letting you try a preventer inhaler as well - given that the Dr diagnosed asthma at the time based on the wheezing, this would not be unreasonable... the usual one that my Drs try first is beclomethasone (Clenil or QVAR are the brand names)

    If it makes a difference, that combined with spirometry results would give them more to go on for a diagnosis...

    Also, another thought - have you noticed any worsening of the coughing or shortness of breath on taking ibuprofen? that can make things worse for some people....

  • The advice keeps coming! Love it, thank you all very much.

    To be honest, I'm inclined not to bother with my GP at the mo, as when I went on Monday I sat waiting for an hour and 15 minutes after my appointment time to see her. And then she told me there was nothing she could do until the spirometry, I was so angry! Work weren't too happy either.

    After having not needing my inhaler for a week or so, on Wednesday I had an 'attack' (what constitues calling it an attack?) and needed two puffs then, then last night in the bath all of a sudden I needed a puff because I got all wheezy, then this morning at 4:45am I started coughing and wheezing so needed a puff. Does it sound normal that it can just come and go as it pleases?!

    As far as the Ibuprofen goes, again I'm not really bothering as my ribs, luckily, don't tend to hurt during the day anymore, it's only at night time when I'm trying to sleep and even if I do take the painkillers before bed/at bedtime it doesn't help anyway.

    I am trying to keep something of a diary as to when, what times and how many puffs I need, does asthma tend to follow a particular pattern??

  • Hi again

    Yes - asthma can go in patterns - most likely unique to you - as you are exposed to whatever triggers it

    I would definitely keep a diary, and try to note what you were doing / eating/ the weather etc each time then see if there is a pattern....

    It may be exercise, allergy, viral illness, hormones .... All forts of things can trigger asthma symptoms, you just need to workout what does for you

    And, once it has flared up, you may find things that font normally bother you may make it worse too

    Good luck - hope you can find a pattern and what are your triggers

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