Coughing is a common physical reaction —we all do it from time to time. It’s our body’s natural way of responding to irritants in our airways, and the forceful expiration of air that happens during a cough acts to clear those irritants.
Coughing is also a common asthma symptom, a chronic respiratory condition that affects about 25 million Americans. The key to getting the right treatment is identifying the underlying cause of your cough: Is it something “temporary,” like an allergy or cold, or is asthma (or another long-term problem) to blame?
With three locations in San Pedro, California, Harbor Community Health Centers offers asthma diagnosis, and management plans to help patients relieve chronic coughing and other symptoms. If you have a persistent cough, here’s how to tell if asthma may be causing it.
If you have asthma, your airways are prone to irritation and inflammation. No one knows what causes asthma, but researchers believe it’s a combination of genetics and environmental factors. Childhood respiratory infections and exposure to respiratory irritants early in life — when the lungs are still developing — may also play a role.
Asthma symptoms typically are triggered by irritants like pollen, dust, or dander. But cold air,
respiratory infections, and even exercise can cause symptoms to flare up, too. During a flare-up, increased inflammation and irritation cause airways to narrow and increase your production of mucus. Together, these symptoms often make breathing difficult.
Coughing is a very common asthma symptom, but it’s not the only one. Other symptoms include:
- Wheezing when you breathe
- Tightness in the chest or airways
- Difficulty breathing, especially during asthma attacks
- Mucus production
If you have a cough along with one or more of these symptoms, there’s a good chance it could be asthma — but again, the only way to know for sure is to schedule an appointment with our team, so they can confirm the diagnosis and rule out other possible causes.
Coughing and asthma
Coughing is a physiologic response to irritation in your airways. When your throat or lungs are irritated, tiny nerve endings send signals to your brain. Your brain initiates a coughing “mechanism” to try to clear out the irritant.
Because asthma causes chronic airway irritation, your body initiates that coughing response repeatedly. If you have asthma, repeated coughing typically exacerbates airway irritation and inflammation, which triggers more coughing — and the cycle repeats itself.
To manage that cough — and asthma’s other symptoms —you need an asthma treatment plan. Your treatment will vary based on your asthma symptoms and triggers. Most asthma plans include inhalers that dispense medicine that you breathe in. We’ll also help identify your asthma triggers, so you can take steps to avoid them.
Find the cause of your chronic cough
Asthma isn’t the only cause of chronic coughing. Depending on your symptoms, your medical history, and other factors, our team prescribes chest X-rays, blood work, and other tests and evaluations to confirm an asthma diagnosis and eliminate other possible causes, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), so you can feel confident you’ll receive the most appropriate care.
To learn more about asthma management at Harbor Community Health Centers, book an appointment online or over the phone with our team today.