Cough: Cold or asthma?: I caught a cold... - Asthma UK communi...

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Cough: Cold or asthma?

Paradigm profile image

I caught a cold about a week and half ago. It's pretty much done now, except for a cough that seems to be worse.

Everyone else I spread it to (at work, whoops) has a milder cough than mine.

My PEF scores vary between good (twice this week) and just into the amber zone, so completely disproportionate to the cough.

The cough appears in response to irritants, laughing/exercise (but not always) and is worst in the evenings.

In terms of asthma attacks, the intensity of the coughing isn't that bad - though I did have trouble speaking yesterday in a fit that lasted less than 10 minutes. I had to come back from my break to fetch my inhaler (in the classroom I work in) and one of children was asking other staff if I was going die. But as I say, my peak flow was only just amber.

4 puffs later, the cough was gone. I took another 2 about 15 minutes later for a slight cough and tight chest and a couple of hours someone else asked me if I wanted my inhaler for more coughing but I figured it probably wasn't going to do much.

Although, my inhaler was running out so I chucked it after an evening dose.

The combination of so much ventolin and an 'ok' PEF makes me wonder if it is more cold than asthma. I really don't want to the GP surgery for just a cold/a cough that would resolve anyway, but I also don't want it to get worse.

8 Replies

If your reliever inhaler helps, than it's definitely asthma.

If you're an asthmatic and coughing continously then most likely your asthma is not under control. I suggest you consult your GP.

Paradigm profile image
Paradigm in reply to mackro

Thanks! I went to see the GP yesterday and now have some prednisolone. I feel much less worried now.

Probably sensible to take Ventolin - I believe 8 puffs a day is the recommended maximum, plus any preventer inhaler you're taking. Coughs can last a long time because the body's immune system destroys the infected cells in your throat and it takes a while to regenerate these. But always see the doctor if the symptoms get worse.

Lysistrata profile image
LysistrataCommunity Ambassador

My asthma tends to get worse after a cold rather than during it. If the Ventolin is helping the cough that suggests asthma - if it's not helping for long, that suggests asthma that isn't being well controlled. Although peak flow can be helpful it shouldn't be treated as the be all and end all aa some drs do! How is it responding to the Ventolin? Does it go up after and actually stay there for long? If you haven't already, before nd after measurements when you can may be more useful than isolated numbers. My peak flow can look, from an already high baseline, not too bad when I am in hospital with dodgy blood gas results but Ventolin at that point will do nothing to it. Before that point it will still be responding but not as much or for as.long as it should, so I use that as a.guide.

What do you have in terms of preventer as you may need to ask GP about increasing temporarily?

Paradigm profile image
Paradigm in reply to Lysistrata

Most of the time it responds - I think sometimes it may just be the cold/cough but the longer coughing fits are the most helped by the ventolin but it seems to wear off within an hour or two.

PEF wise, it goes up by 40-60 most times but after a certain point refuses go up further. Occasionally it just stays the same, or worse (whether or not the coughing stops). What does tend to happen is that the range between highest and lowest narrow - from say 300 and 350 to 350 and 340.

But I also don't want to misread coincidences.

I have montelukast and Fostair 200/6 x2 twice a day. So they give me pred if I go in.

Lysistrata profile image
LysistrataCommunity Ambassador in reply to Paradigm

I think if you find it's helping the cough and then wearing off in a couple of hours plus the peak flow then you can consider it more than coincidence! I realise not all drs might get that but would suggest it's reasonable to do whatever you would for stirred up asthma. If you have a plan it might be worth including this situation. I realise it's confusing with a cold but does seem as though a significant part is asthma.still.

Thanks! I think sometimes I need a bit of a push into going.

After this post and some pointed hints from my colleagues after a small asthma attack/coughing fit with 12 puffs, I booked my appointment but freaked myself out about asking for a same day one so went on Friday by which point I was fine.

I saw a nice GP and explained that my peak flow was and showed her my spreadsheet and my concerns about a cold and therefore not needing prednisolone. She took my oxygen and listened to my chest (no wheeze, as usual) and said she didn't think it was unreasonable to suggest prednisolone.

But if I worry that if I went in after 1-2 days as on my normal plan, then it wouldn't be seen as a problem.

I forgot to ask about my plan and colds, though - I guess the asthma nurse would probably be better placed than a GP I've never seen before anyway. The local plans are very vague - they work on a 'catch-all' basis with any doubt meaning to contact them, I just hate/feel guilt/worried doing it. (For example, in an asthma emergency, the first step is 'call an ambulance' and then take reliever to 20 puffs rather than calling after 10.)

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