CVA aka Cough Variant Asthma

I'm 52 in February and have suffered all of my life for an irritating dry coug which comes twice a year following on from a cold and leaves me exhausted and debilitated for six weeks. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was I my mid twenties and prescribes inhalers but as I didn't have the 'classic' symptoms I didn't take them consistently.

My asthma deteriorated a few years ago with no control over the symptoms and since then I have religiously taken my inhalers. I am now on Symbicort, ventolin, montelukast, and anti-histamines, but so far I have had three episodes since August last year and am currently suffering from the annoying coug which started up on the 27th of December. I have normal lung function tests, never any wheeze but cough to the point of choking, being sick and unable to hold a conversation to any degree. It makes working in an open plan, air-conditioned office near impossible when I am ill.

During one of my nighttime sessions (sitting up in bed trying not to cough) I came across CVA on my iPad and it has opened up a new world to me. Fortunately my GP practice now has a doctor who recognises my coughing fits as asthma and will prescribe me oral steroids where as the other two or three Drs listen to my chest and refuse to prescribe me the medication I need. Oh I am so looking forward to proving them wrong. I just wish I could show all the other doctors who have fobbed me off all these years with diagnoses such as post nasal drip, gastric reflux, feeble excuses for their lack of knowledge.

I am waiting to see a consultant who I am hoping will be as knowledgable of CVA as I am getting and that 2016 will see me finally getting this under control, being able to carry on my life without not having to be afraid of every cold and being able to get fit again like any person.

5 Replies

  • Happy New Year, that sounds like a good resolution to have! I also suffer CVA and have run into similar issues trying to get treatment - I've been having a flare-up since Boxing Day, and I finish my steroids tomorrow. I had to argue with the nurse practitioner to get the out of hours GP appointment I needed to get the steroids, usual thing of clear chest and normal peak flow so they didn't want to give me anything. At least I didn't have to argue with the GP for once! I think things are definitely better than they were but I am going to the GP this week as I still don't feel very well controlled. My New Year's resolution is to be more proactive with getting my asthma investigated and better controlled too.

    Do you feel your lungs spasm when you try and breathe out? I've tried to explain how it feels to my doctor but it's so hard to get it across. As long as I still have those spasms I need my reliever inhaler. I'd like to try Montelukast as my mother in law swears by it and says it really helps with the exercise induced component of her asthma. I dunno how useful it is in CVA though, how is it helping you?

  • I used to be like this following an infection, accolate (works the same as montelukast) has really helped and I can't remember the last time I had a post-infection cough. I also have an emergency pack of antibiotics and steroids which means I don't have to see out of hours doctors who don't have my medical file. My surgery also prioritise appts for me so if I ring with a problem with my chest even if theyre full they will fit me in somehow. I also have a respiratory nurse at the hospital I can ring for advice and if she thinks I need to speak to or see my consultant she'll sort it out. All of this means I can finally keep on top of my asthma and shows it can be done, if GPs are willing to engage.

  • That gives me hope, thank you!

  • Hi Julie,

    Your story sounds similar to my own. Since September I have had regular coughing events which are not easy for me or others to be around. I haven't come to a full understanding of what is going on but neither have my doctors. What I have found is that my bad coughing events happen a couple of hours or so after eating any dairy. I am vegetarian through choice, so cutting cheese etc has been extra challenging and I'm still going through "cold turkey" but my coughing events have become much less violent. They were so bad I damaged my ribs in October through coughing. Obviously this may not be a factor for you but I think that it is worth experimenting with, and it won't cost you a lot. It's horrid having a long term cough and so isolating. I wish you all the best with it.....


  • This sounds similar to my asthma pattern - or at least similar to the misunderstandings that I've experienced from GPs. Comments such as: "this isn't asthma, you would know if you had real asthma". Unfortunately/ fortunately I have a very high normal peak flow rate which doesn't help the box tickers.

    I totally understand your problems at work as I have similar problems with no air conditioning and lack of ventilation during winter months.

    Good luck, and please post how you find the specialist consult. Frankly, I've given up on the NHS in this area for anything - they are just going through the motions.

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