The Asthma Center

Cough-Variant Asthma

Cough-variant asthma is characterized by repetitive bursts of coughing. The asthmatic cough is usually dry, hacking, or barking and often repetitive. Usually, little or no phlegm is produced early in an attack. Shortness of breath and chest tightness also may be experienced, but wheezing usually is not present.

Symptoms do not respond to cough suppressant medication. In contrast, symptoms of coughing respond well to some combination of asthma medications. If you have cough-variant asthma, it is likely you have normal or near normal pulmonary function tests, so the best way to make an accurate diagnosis is with a methacholine challenge (a special breathing challenge test). It is important to have an objective support for this diagnosis since there are so many causes of chronic coughing other than asthma.