About 25 million Americans have asthma, and for most of those people, that means they also have a nagging cough. But asthma isn't the only medical issue that causes coughing. So how can you tell whether your cough is due to asthma or something else?
Diagnosing asthma as soon as possible is critical for keeping your symptoms under control. The Harbor Community Health Centers team offers complete asthma management plans based on each patient’s unique needs. Here’s how to tell if your cough means you need an asthma evaluation.
First, consider your cough
Coughing is one of the primary symptoms of asthma. But allergies, colds, and other upper respiratory issues can also cause coughing.
One of the main differences between an asthma cough and a cough due to one of these other problems is that once a cold or allergy resolves, the cough typically goes away, too. With asthma, coughing happens over a long period, meaning it’s chronic.
Another thing to consider is the type of cough you’re having. Most asthma coughs produce mucus. If your cough is dry and “hacking”, it’s most likely not due to asthma. On the other hand, if you have a fever and a cough, then it’s more likely to be a cold or other infection.
Know the other symptoms of asthma
Although chronic cough is characteristic of asthma, it’s not the only symptom. Knowing what other symptoms to look out for can help determine when it’s time for an asthma evaluation.
Asthma causes inflammation and irritation in the linings of your airways. Inflammation (swelling) narrows the airways, and it also triggers excess mucus production, another factor that interferes with normal breathing.
Breathing problems are especially evident during symptom flare-ups or asthma attacks. Attacks can be triggered by typical allergens, like pollen or dust, but they can also be triggered by changes in temperature and even exercise.
To sum up, you should have an asthma evaluation if your cough is chronic and accompanied by symptoms like:
- Excess mucus
- Intermittent problems with breathing
- Flare-ups in response to triggers
- Chest or airway tightness
Of course, any type of persistent cough should be evaluated. Some chronic coughs are linked to other serious medical problems, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cancer.
Find out what’s causing your cough
If you do have asthma, you’ll probably need to use an inhaler to manage your symptoms and reduce the risk of flare-ups. Our team will work with you to develop an asthma management plan that includes lifestyle tips, too.
Diagnosing asthma starts with an office visit, so we can listen to your lungs, review your symptoms, and perform other evaluations and tests aimed at identifying the cause of your cough. Call one of our offices in San Pedro, California, or book an appointment online to schedule your visit.