Is My Chronic Cough An Asthma Symptom?

Chronic Cough Is a Common and Annoying Asthma Symptom

Woman seeing a doctor about chronic cough
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Chronic cough is common among patients developing asthma symptoms and is also a sign of poorly controlled asthma. Other common, classic symptoms you may experience with asthma include:

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What a Chronic Cough Means

Chronic cough is a common reason why patients seek care from a doctor and also one of your body's normal defense mechanisms.

While a chronic cough can be a sign of infection or asthma, a cough is appropriate as your body tries to expel infection, mucus and other foreign material from your body.

Cough is not always a sign that something is wrong, but any chronic cough -- lasting more than 3 weeks -- should be investigated. The most common reasons for a non-smoking person to develop chronic cough are:

  • Asthma
  • Post nasal drip
  • GERD

However, there are a number of other less common causes of chronic cough including:

  • Pneumonia
  • Pertussis
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • COPD
  • Sinusitis

Chronic cough related to asthma commonly occurs at night (coughing at night is not normal and should almost always be investigated) and its frequency is one of the factors used to determine how well your symptoms are controlled. A cough with asthma may be made worse by viral infections and cold air.

When a cough occurs with other common asthma symptoms like wheezing, chest tightness, and a shortness of breath or when someone has a significant nighttime cough, asthma should be suspected and you may need to undergo tests to diagnose asthma.

With a chronic cough your doctor is likely to do a chest X-ray. A chest X-ray is usually normal in patients with asthma, but could show hyper expanded lungs. Your physician is more likely to order one if you are presenting for the first time with wheezing. In an infection or other cause of chronic cough the chest X-ray may show a sign of infection.

If the chest X-ray is not specific enough, your doctor may order a test like a cat scan or MRI of the lungs.

Peak expiratory flow rates (PEFR) or spirometry may provide more info to make an asthma diagnosis. PEFR tells you how well you can forcefully exhale air from your lungs. Spirometry is done in your doctor's office and allows for a more sensitive determination of how severe your lung disease is.

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Treating Chronic Cough

The first step in treating a chronic cough is to make sure you have the correct diagnosis. After taking a history, asking about medications and allergies, your doctor may order a number of tests like a ​chest X-ray or ​spirometry. If you have never been diagnosed with asthma, your doctor may begin treatment or change your treatment if your doctor feels the cough is a sign of worsening asthma.

Your doctor may prescribe medications if your chronic cough is due to asthma. These could include inhaled steroids such as:

Your doctor may also prescribe medications for acute symptom control of chronic cough. These could include short-acting inhalers such as:


When Should I Call a Doctor About Chronic Cough?

You need to make sure you contact a physician if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Chronic cough lasting more than 3 weeks
  • Nighttime coughing or trouble sleeping
  • If you cough up blood
  • Significant pain with a cough
  • Passing out when you cough

You may want to track your chronic cough symptoms with a symptom diary. This will help you identify and avoid your asthma triggers and cause of chronic cough. Make sure you follow your asthma action plan.

Could My Chronic Cough Be Something Else Besides Asthma?

If you think your chronic cough could be something else besides asthma, why not go to the symptom checker and see what else might be causing your symptoms.

What Is Your Biggest Asthma Problem?

We want to help you get control of your asthma. I want to hear about your biggest asthma problem so that we can try to help you develop a solution or better understand how to help. 
 You are probably not the only one with the problem. Take a few minutes describing your problem so we can develop a solution together.

Need Even More Support?

Want to ask questions or get advice from other patients or parents of asthmatics? Our private Facebook group to interact with others with asthma or parents of asthmatics. Joining our community will allow you to ask questions, interact with other parents of or members with asthma, get helpful information and realize that you are not alone in dealing with asthma.


Up To Date. Patient Information. Chronic Cough.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

Asthma. In Chest Medicine: Essentials Of Pulmonary And Critical Care Medicine. Editors: Ronald B. George, Richard W. Light, Richard A. Matthay, Michael A. Matthay. May 2005.

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