Counting Down a Decade of Asthma – No. 7, Deconstructing the Cough

Part of the series A Decade of Asthma

The progression of my understanding of the notorious asthma cough over the last decade with AG:

Post-diagnosis by about a year, circa 2002
Wait, you mean all my kid’s coughing is the actual asthma attack?

Still 2002, about six months later (What can I say? I’m a slow learner sometimes.)
Hold on, hold on, just HOLD THE PHONE. If all this coughing is her asthma, then all those “colds” when she was a baby and toddler weren’t really colds?

2002 and the next couple of years
Okay, got it. So I’ll treat all my daughter’s coughing fits with bronchodilators then.

Somewhere around the early-middle of the decade
Oh, great. I’m lost again. There’s asthma coughing and there’s throat coughing, and sometimes there’s both. Good thing this kid is old enough now to describe her symptoms to me now.

Seriously, though, I get a lot of questions about this one. Number seven of the top-10 lessons I learned about raising an asthmatic child? Understanding the difference between an asthma cough and a throat cough. This is the rough outline of the list I follow in my own head, not that it will necessarily work for you as your kid is different from mine, and not that any of this proves true all the time for my daughter, either. Still, though: carrying on!

Asthma Coughing Is Usually
- dry and tight
- patterned and/or occurring in fits
- compulsive
- accompanied by faster breathing and/or chest tightness
- unproductive

Throat Coughing Is Usually
- wet and congested
- irregular
- sometimes/somewhat eased by blowing nose, clearing throat, taking a drink, or using a cough drop
- accompanied by a sore or scratchy throat

Whether to treat an asthma kid’s cough outside the normal bronchodilator routine is partially a judgment call and also depends on the doctor’s advice, the age of the child, and the severity of the asthma symptoms.

I treat AG when she coughs from her throat, but that’s a fairly recent development as she’s gotten older and only occurs under specific conditions (which are mentioned in the link above).