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A to Z: Asthma, Cough Variant

May also be called: Cough Variant Asthma, Cough-Variant Asthma, Cough-Dominant Asthma

Cough variant asthma (KOF VAIR-ee-ent AZ-muh) is a type of asthma in which coughing is the only symptom.

More to Know

Asthma is a lung condition that affects the bronchial tubes, or airways. When someone breathes normally, inhaled air passes through the bronchial tubes on its way to the lungs. When someone has asthma, certain triggers — like exercise, dust, or cigarette smoke — can irritate the airways and make the muscles around the airways tighten up. This can reduce airflow through the airways and lead to breathing problems, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

If someone with asthma has coughing but no other symptoms (like wheezing), the condition is called cough variant asthma. People with cough variant asthma can get tight, swollen airways in response to a trigger, but they usually have normal (or close to normal) results if they get lung function testing during an asthma flare-up. Almost everyone with cough variant asthma has a longstanding or chronic cough that lasts for more than eight weeks. Over time, cough variant asthma can turn into regular asthma (also called classic asthma) with its normal symptoms.

Doctors generally treat cough variant asthma in the same way as regular asthma. People with cough variant asthma usually do well with bronchodilators (medications that help open airways) or inhaled corticosteroids (drugs that reduce airway swelling).

Keep in Mind

In some cases, a chronic cough can go away on its own without treatment. But since cough variant asthma can become worse, anyone with a chronic cough should seek treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment may help reduce the chances of cough variant asthma turning into classic asthma.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.