What Is Asthma Cough Like And What To Do If I Have It?Cough that lasts longer than 8 weeks should be brought to the attention of your doctor.by Jocelyn Valle .
Editor’s Note: This article is intended for information purposes only. It does not substitute a doctor. It is vital to always consult a medically trained professional for advice that suits your needs best.
In this time of COVID-19 pandemic, people can't help but look with caution anybody who coughs especially in public places. Understandably so because cough is among the common symptoms of the highly contagious disease. But there could be other causes, like asthma, of cough.
As Dr. Geraldine DC. Garcia, a pulmonologist, puts it, coughing is not always a bad thing. In fact, she points out, coughing is the body's way to protect its airways from intruders. Those intruders can be expelled from the body through coughing.
Dr. Garcia recently gave an online talk, titled Usapang Lung: Chronic Cough, which is posted on the Facebook page of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians. She talked lengthily about cough in general, its classifications, causes, and chronic cough in particular.
What is cough?
Dr. Garcia notes that cough is one of the top reasons why patients see a doctor. She defines it as a "vagal reflex evoked by stimulation of afferent nerves primarily in the larynx down to the conducting airways."
She explains that anything that stimulates the throat and other airways in the body will send a message to the brain, saying that an intruder attempts to enter the system and it should be expelled. That message will then reach the cough center, so that the lungs will be compelled to enact coughing.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
When should you worry about cough?
As a rule, says Dr. Garcia, cough that lasts longer than 8 weeks should be brought to the attention of your doctor. But, she adds, there are other signs that you should watch for, especially if your cough is already interferring with your daily life.
The physical signs include:
- Tightness of the chest
- Difficulty in breathing
- Difficulty in speaking (dysphonia)
- Uncontrolled urination (urinary incontinence)
- Insomnia or sleep deprivation)
The emotional effects include:
- Social embarrassment
- Social isolation
- Annoyance to family, friends, and co-workers
- Difficulty in relationships
- Poor productivity
Causes of chronic cough
Dr. Garcia states that there are three classifications of cough:
- Acute cough—lasts less than 3 weeks
- Subacute cough—lasts 3 to 8 weeks
- Chronic cough—lasts longer than 8 weeks
Acute cough is caused by either a common cold, acute bronchitis, acute rhinitis, upper respiratory tract infection, or lower respiratory tract infection. But sub-acute and chronic cough can be an exacerbation of an underlying lung problem, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and bronchiectasis.
Chronic cough and asthma
Dr. Garcia says that asthma is one of the three common causes of chronic cough, along with upper airway cough syndrome (UACS)/post-nasal drip syndrome (PNDS) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
She elaborates on asthma, which, she says, is a hereditary disease and not an infection. If an asthma patient is exposed to anything that he or she is sensitive to, he or she then manifests these symptoms:
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- Episodes of breathlessness
- Varying intensity of cough, particularly at night or when it's cold
- Chest tightness
Asthma symptoms, Dr. Garcia points out, vary on the place, time, and circumtances that the patient gets into. These are called episodic symptoms, which occur after an incidental exposure. She adds that there are also the seasonal variability of symptoms, which the patient experiences at certain times in a year.
What causes an asthma attack, Dr. Garcia explains, is the patient's exposure to his or her triggers, which can be any of these:
- Mold and mildew
- Dust/dust mites
- After a viral infection
- Allergic rhinitis
- Cold air
- Strong odors
- Stress and Emotions
- Temperature change
- Tobacco and other pollutants
- Gastric reflux
- Food additives
Management of asthma
Dr. Garcia clarifies that there's no treatment for asthma yet, but it can be managed. She says avoidance of triggers plays a big role in the management of asthma "because it’s partly allergic."
It's a must for you to work hand in hand with your doctor, who will give you the right medication. These include inhalers, preferably a combination of bronchodilator (to loosen up the clogged airways) and anti-inflammatory (to lessen the inflammation of airways). When you're able to control your asthma, cough will also stop.
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