Dry cough for over 4 months

Age 37, white male, 181cm, 160lbs, UK, no previous health issues, not on any medication. I have never smoked.

I've had a dry, non-productive cough since around the beginning of September. It started off as an occasional  very slight, tickly cough. Now it is a loud barking cough that I get when I'm active, worse if it is cold. In warm conditions when I am sedentary I slowly feel better.

The worst I felt was around November, when I felt a kind of coldness or irritation in my right lung with every breath (I've never felt anything in the left lung). It was never pain or wheezing though. It seemed to shift to different parts of the lung over time, sometimes upper right, sometimes more central, etc.

I've been to the doctor a number of times. The first two in October and November with my regular doctor, then with a doctor my dad recommended twice in December. The first doctor told me my lungs sound clear and there is nothing to worry about. The second also said I sound fine and she wasn't worried, but she did send me for an x-ray. I haven't seen this personally but she told me it came back clear. She then gave me a weeks course of antibiotics, then a few days after that completed, another weeks course of different antibiotics. I'm not sure whether it was these pills or just time but the constant discomfort dialled down a fair amount.

On Tuesday (as the doc advised) I made an appointment with an asthma nurse. She said she couldn't give me the spirometry test because she said it's pointless with a lung infection, but I was to blow into a device called a peak flow meter. Apparently for my height I should be getting 640 but I'm only getting about 550. I've to record this for a couple of weeks to see if it varies a lot over the day which would point to asthma. But she did have me use the asthma inhaler and wait for 15 minutes to try again with the blow test, the result stayed the same at 550.

I have an Easyhaler inhaler at home, I just tried it for the first time as I woke up in the cold air and felt the lung irritated. The label says salbutamol sulphate 100 micrograms. If it is asthma, should I be feeling a lot better after using this? I can't say I noticed much difference. Or maybe it is a cumulative thing.

My current doc is very helpful and I trust her. My problem is I tend to think of the absolute worst and dwell on it. So right now I'm fixated on either COPD or Pulmonary Fibrosis, things never mentioned once by my doctors. I'd love to hear some ideas about less harmful things it could possibly be, so I don't feel so depressed and hopeless about it all.

10 Replies

  • Hi Ringoko we all fear the worst but usually its not. I went to the docs with a non productive cough and after about 2months it turned out to be asthma. A call to the helpline might help to settle your fears they are open during office hours they are unbelievably kind and helpful . I find after using salbutamol I feel a lot better quickly . you have to be patient as it takes a while for the medics to find the correct diagnosis good luck :-)

  • Hi ringoko

    Welcome to this site.

    You have had these symptoms a long time, since September, so l would make a list of all your symptoms and how long you have had them, and show them to your GP.

    Just because he has failed to find out what the problem is, doesn't mean you are not suffering with something.

    Tell him you cannot put up with it any longer, and you need it investigating further.

    Ask him for a referral to a specialist.

    Don't move your bum off the chair until you are satisfied with his solution to your problem.

    Good luck

    Velvet xx

  • Morning Ringoko

    Welcome to the site. I'm not a doctor, but I think it is unlikely to be COPD. Asthma? Maybe, but you are right to think that the medication should clear it up. Certainly the test done before and after inhaled salbutamol makes it look NOT like asthma. You must push for further investigations. I can appreciate that you are worried and are thinking about all sorts of possibilities. Whatever it turns out to be we all want answers and diagnoses. Once you know what it is it will be manageable. But the nightmare fog of NOT knowing is far worse.

    Sometimes we have to be quite assertive with doctors.

    All the best and let us know how you get on.

    All the best

    K xxx

  • Ask for ct scan if you can no cough should be neglected. Would give a longer reply but am going to get told off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Should be out by now and have just got. K

  • I am not a doct but to me if I go by my wife it is asthma as my wife gets a cough for months at a time put come spring she is not to bad it is the damp air what you need to do is get a humidifier in your bedroom as when you sleep your givening off convention I you close your windows at night you will see a big difference after a week as I have copd plus a muscle disorder plus my wife has asthma so try it and see the meds you have just been given do take a few days to work as well

  • Hi everyone thanks so much for the replies. Strangely today I have felt very slightly better. Perhaps it is just my lung is very weak. I am going to start eating healthier, more protein, taking vitamins, and going for a walk every day. I am so confused by this thing, whatever it is, some days I feel hopeful and others I feel hopeless.

  • Hi Ringoko, coming from a family line of asthmatics from what you say it does sound like Asthma. Give the inhalers a go and if things don't improve go back for further investigation, the damp weather at present will make a difference to your health if it is asthma. Keep warm, take care and maybe soon you will feel a lot better. Best wishes.

  • Hi Ringoko, Maybe you're allergic to something. Have you thought of seeing a homeopath.

  • Hi Ringoko, I understand your worry about having a lung problem. However, until you are diagnosed try not to worry so much. In my case I was so glad to have a diagnosis (at least then I could be given meds to help). The peak flow meter is one way we asthmatics can know when our asthma is not being controlled, so keep on using your inhaler and keep the peak flow reading - day and night for a few days. If you still feel no better go back to your GP and ask for help. Not all lung problems show up on xrays and you may need further investigation. I understand this is very worrying for you and I also know what it is like to be depressed and down right frightened. Lots of our members will identify with this. Salbutamol is taken to aid breathing when taken and is not an inhaler medicine which helps over time. You need help and I would suggest you keep a daily log of how you feel, see the doc and show him/her the log. If your GP knows how you feel on a daily basis this will aid them to help you. Take care and good luck. Maximonkey

  • Hi jayel I do wonder if maybe I am allergic to a fungus. I have never smoked but have lived for a while with a slight possible mildew in my bedroom. I have since completely cleared it and sent photos to mould experts who said it doesn't look like mould, more like harmless plaster condensation, but you never know.

    Thanks maximonkey, I know it doesn't show much backbone but I feel completely floored by this. I feel like I'm unable to do my goals anymore like keeping fit, I feel like I will end up a parasite to my family. Before this cough I had never even heard of COPD, emphysema etc. All I thought was if I don't smoke then I'm fine. It just seems to have come out of nowhere.

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