Cough variant asthma is the one which shows the symptoms of dry cough without any sputum that lasts for more than six to eight weeks. This type of asthma does not show other symptoms that are common to any kind of asthma like wheezing and shortness of breath. Cough can be frequent either in the day time or at nights. If the coughing is very recurrent at nights you cannot have enough sleep, making you feel sleepy in the day time and also reduces your work output.
The root cause for cough variant asthma is unknown, but is found to increase with exercises or by exposure to allergens like cold air or dust. It is most commonly develops after having beta blockers that play a role in controlling heart diseases, palpitation or migraines. This type of asthma is predominant in childhood and may result in development of the regular asthma type with all symptoms of coughing, excess mucus secretion and wheezing.
Cough being the only symptom is hard to diagnose as having cough variant asthma. It can be mistaken for lung diseases like bronchitis or post nasal drip syndrome which is caused by allergic rhinitis, sinusitis and nasal polyps. Regular examination by your doctor may not reveal this type of asthma. Even the spirometry test which measures the amount of exhaled air after a deep breath and chest x-rays will be normal. The methacholine challenge test is the one that exactly reveals the presence of cough variant asthma. In this test you will asked to inhale large amounts of methacholine mist. If you have asthma your airways will narrow down and this will be revealed through a spirometry test where you exhale reduced amounts of air. If you do not have cough variant asthma, airways will remain normal.
The treatment for cough variant asthma will be the same as in other asthma types. This involves the use of bronchodilators to free the air passages and steroids to reduce the inflammatory reactions of the air ways caused due to allergens. Inhalers loaded with albuterol, ipratropium and other steroids that are used with classical type of asthma are used to treat cough variant asthma. If the cough still persists by the use of above drugs, more potent drugs like oral predisone will be recommended by your doctor. Zafirlukast is the drug generally recommended for patients with high blood count of eosinophils. This will reduce the cough very effectively.
In most of the patients, the cough variant asthma soon develops into the regular asthma with symptoms of wheezing and sputum. In such cases, the normal asthma medications are used.
Intake of balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps to gain control over the symptoms as in the regular asthma type. Regular yoga practice especially, breathing exercises helps to regulate the cough. If the cough variant asthma has transformed in to the regular type you can try the herbal medicines such as licorice, lobelia and ephedra.
Whatever the asthma type is, it is essential to take immediate measures to prevent it from worsening which can even lead to death in more severe cases.