Understanding Cough Variant Asthma

The HealthCentral Editorial Team | Mar 28th 2012 Feb 22nd 2017

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Common asthma symptoms are not present

People with CVA do not generally have other common symptoms of asthma, such as wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

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Children are commonly diagnosed with CVA

CVA is especially common in young children, and it often progresses into full-blown asthma down the line.

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CVA is a dry cough

The cough lasts for more than 6-8 weeks, can occur any time of day (night coughing that wakes you is typically CVA), and worsens during exercise.

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Diagnosing CVA can be difficult

Unlike with regular asthma, people with CVA usually have normal pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry.

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Methocoline challenge test needed for diagnosis

A methacholine challenge measures microscopic changes in the airways that are typical of cough variant asthma. With this test, the person inhales increasing amounts of an aerosol mist called methacholine while performing spirometry. While that is going on, the doctor watches for the airways to spasm and narrow. If lung function drops by 20% or more, then a diagnosis of asthma will be made.

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Treatment for CVA is the same as for asthma

an inhaled steroid for daily or twice daily control, plus a short-acting bronchodilator as a rescue inhaler when symptoms do crop up. It can take a week or two for the cough to be relieved when therapy first starts.

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People with CVA should avoid triggers

Just as with regular asthma, people with cough variant asthma should take care to avoid things they notice cause their coughing to start up. Common triggers of cough variant asthma are cold air, allergens, and exercise.