asthma cough

Just wanted a few peoples opinions on this really after having a discussion with a friend.

How does everyones asthma cough present and how does it differ from a normal cough?

Aside from when I have a chest infection, when I have an asthma related cough, it is generally a dry cough which tickles inside my chest and as a reflex I cough and I cant suppress the cough. The only way to stop the constant cough is to have some ventolin.

My ' friend ' who is a mild asthmatic seems to think this isn't an asthma cough and that I'm just trying to make out my asthma is worse than hers! Why I would do this I have no idea? I'd love to control my asthma with ventolin alone! ( Plus I'm sure the gp wouldn't prescribe me inhalers/tablets/pred or give me nebs at the surgery, nor would my peak flow drop by 50% if it wasnt asthma.)

Anyway, so I thought I'd ask your opinion?

13 Replies

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  • I have two different ones:

    1. The irritating dry one you describe, which seems to be irritation due to inflammation and tends to come at the beginning of an exacerbation. It can get so persistent that I can't actually breathe out without coughing, but is usually just intermittent and annoying.

    2. A really deep chesty cough which tends to be when things have got worse quickly - usually due to going out in cold air or a cold triggering.

    I don't know why your ""friend"" would say that, but personally I wouldn't want to be friends with anyone who did!

  • Yes that's I exactly, I get into a vicious cycle of tickle so I cough, then breath in, get tickle so cough etc etc, its a constant cycle only relieved by ventolin.

    Yes I too get the second kind you describe, i guess its because your lungs suddenly fill with mucus in reaction to the trigger. This is the only asthmatic cough that my friend thinks there is.

    She is only really my friend by default, she a friend of my friend, and likes to make her opinion know about a lot of things!

  • I have two as well. That dry one you've described is there most of the time and if I'm honest I have to admit that I don't even notice it any more.

    Then I get the really impressive (and scary) one, which is usually triggered by a cold. It starts as a bit of a chesty cough but then it goes into overdrive and I'll cough continuously for over an hour at a time before I get a short break for a few minutes. I don't get the usual nasty mucus when I've got this cough, but it's more clear and watery looking and there seems to be GALLONS of it! (TMI, sorry!) My GP has been totally unimpressed by it, but the last time it started up it took about 6 months to get rid of. My ventolin/flixotide combination did nothing to help but the Symbicort did eventually see it off. Or it may have been coincidence.

    Anyway, whichever type of cough you get, it probably isn't a good idea to ignore it (I know, but I'm not ignoring mine, I just don't realise I'm doing it!).

    As for your friend, well, she's currently lucky with her asthma but that might not always be the case and it would be very generous of you to be prepared to offer help and support in the event that she finds out the hard way just how difficult it can be coping with stroppy lungs.

  • As for your friend, well, she's currently lucky with her asthma but that might not always be the case and it would be very generous of you to be prepared to offer help and support in the event that she finds out the hard way just how difficult it can be coping with stroppy lungs.

    I agree, she is very lucky and what I'd give to trade places with her. I hope she doesn't have to go through what I have to on a daily basis, relying on drugs to enable me to breath, a function most people take for granted.

  • For me also there are a few different asthma coughs.

    a) post-cold: (usually) dry from-the-gut piss-in-the-pants cough that simply will not go away without help from either inhaled or oral steroids. May or may not be spasmodic. I can count on one hand the number of colds I've had in the last 20 years that didn't end in this cough.

    b) irritant cough: dry mid chest or from the gut spasmodic cough. First cough is due to trigger, follow on cough is due to trying to catch my breath after the first cough. I suppose what others have said about a tickle triggering the cough fits. Triggers include irritants (smoke, dust or mold spores stirred up in the air) and when my lungs are particularly irritated: changes in body position, 5 or so minutes into a conversation if I haven't been talking in a while, or the start of exercise or going out for a walk.

    Never tried ventolin to quell it because it is self limiting. It goes away when the trigger does.

    c) sneeze-cough: if I catch cough A or B in its very early stage I can sometimes redirect the force up through the nose. It sounds a lot like a sneeze to most people. This is good for sparing vocal cords.

    d) from the gut cough with wheeze at end, sometimes isolated and sometimes spasmodic: this is new for me and appeared in the last week or two. Sometimes it seems to just happen and sometimes it seems trigger induced.

    My doctor suggested using ventolin to treat it given that he wanted to lower the oral pred I've been on,and it worked like a charm. I had been coughing this way on and off on Monday morning before I saw him, and after I used the ventolin, all gone for several hours. But I imagine this is a special circumstance, because of all the steroids I'm on. In the past he treated asthma coughs with inhaled or oral steroids.

    IMHO, your friend who thinks you should only treat asthma coughs with ventolin doesn't quite understand that for some coughs there is a persistent inflammation process that is facilitating the cough in the first place and that throwing ventolin alone at it instead of steroids is simply putting a band-aid on the problem.

    As for your friend, well, she's currently lucky with her asthma but that might not always be the case and it would be very generous of you to be prepared to offer help and support in the event that she finds out the hard way just how difficult it can be coping with stroppy lungs.

    Love it!

  • Glad you like it, Beth. I'm a firm believer in coals of fire!

    I think you get the prize for the largest number of different asthma coughs - I feel quite inadequate with my two!

  • I dont tend to cough much with my asthma unless I have a cold (and then it ALWAYS has a bad cough with it) when i have a cold i have the 'wheezy old man' cough that amuses me greatly, i watch funny programmes but by the end im laughing at the sound of my lungs rather than the programme! lol! and then i have my 'finishing off an asthma attack' cough - i dont know if during an attack my lungs are too cross to cough or what but i only know that i'm finishing the attack and starting to get better once i start coughing, and then its a dry tickly cough!

  • I've had a chesty cough for 4/5/6 months now (I've actually forgotten when it started since I have no longer remember not having it!) that apparently is only viral, though I gave up going last month. I forget my inhalers a lot too, so that probably has an impact.

    I have a review in a few months. It'll be interesting to see if it's still being ignored then!

    Wow, one type annoys me! I feel for everyone who has many!

  • i generally have one type of cough - the dry tickly one that actually is relieved by salbutamol which is the main reason i can confidently callit asthma. I used to think that the asthma cough was supposed to be chesty / gurgly but i've come to realise that's not necessarily true. The cough is my main asthma symptom but so many people don't realise it is asthma - when i wasn't coughing in church one week ""oh you've got rid of that cold you had

  • I used to think that the asthma cough was supposed to be chesty / gurgly but i've come to realise that's not necessarily true.

    I think that is what my friend believes, I have tried to tell her otherwise but she thinks I'm just making it up! Maybe I should show her some of the above posts!!

  • when I've got infections, I get really chesty and sound like I've been smoking a stupid amount for years. when I'm asthma-y, I get a really dry irritating wheezy cough.

  • I do have a few asthma coughs

    I get a dry cough which i can't stop or control until i have ventolin. When I get this it's hard to breathe in and cough out, so sometimes it seems a bit pathetic even though i'm putting lots of effort into it. It doesn't usually tickle but sometimes does.

    After I've had a dry cough/tightness/difficulty breathing i cough up clear or white mucus, but i can usually hold off coughing if i need to.

    Also get a wheezy cough when i've been exercising.

    And the chest infection cough which is mucky (of course), wheezy, crackly, uncontrollable, painful, sound like I've smoked all of cuba's cigars etc.

  • I can only comment on my little girl's cough, hers starts as a dry, high-pitched, whistly type cough for a few nights (hers only usually presents as soon as she gets into bed/lies down!), then after a few nights it loosens up and becomes very gunky/chesty!

    Why on earth would a friend say your are trying to sound worse than her! Bizarre!

    Edit: Her cough initially is just how Lou describes her dry cough!

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