Monday, December 26, 2011

Well Hello, Cold-Air-Induced-Cough-Variant-Asthma...

... or whatever it is you actually are.

But cold air induced, cough variant asthma is the best diagnosis any doctor, other person, or internet has ever given me. Suggested by a co-worker, I spent way-too-much time trying to find information on the internet. There wasn't much. But it's a much better fit than the "I don't know" that most doctors have given me.

Every winter I have severe coughing fits. Severe as in people who aren't familiar with them will ask me (seriously) if I need them to call for help, or if I am dying.

For me, they are just a part of life. See, I had my first major coughing fit when I was nine months old. I was hospitalized for it, before given a diagnosis of bronchitis, a diagnosis that would follow me for the rest of my life, but that I no longer believe to be accurate.

These fits start right about the first cold spell of the year, and end with the last. I mean, I don't have them every single day of the winter, but... enough.

The longest run that I remember was the year in my early 20s when they started in September and lasted thru March. That was a rough year.

And this happening-during-the-winter thing resulted in me being wrongly diagnosed with an allergy to "furnace dust" (whatever that is) for several years when I was a child. Although I see why it sorta made sense - they started about the time the furnace had to be turned on, and stopped right about the time it got warm enough to turn it off.

During my school days I usually ended up missing at least a week-ish of school during the winter months, but it was really more due to exhaustion than the actual coughing, as to get any sleep at all I have to sleep sitting up, which isn't truly restful, and after doing that for weeks... well, something's gotta give.

And that's where I found myself about a month ago. In the middle of my first coughing fit spell of the year, I spent four of the five nights sleeping sitting up in the recliner. And ready to pass out by mid-afternoon. It's exhausting.

But I digress. I do continue to work (in [many] years past school), as my parents came to realize early on that whatever this is, doesn't appear to be contagious, as no one, no one, around me has ever gotten it, including family or close friends. Ever.

And since I went to the same fairly small school for K thru 12, it means that the staff was fairly familiar too, so no one ever tried to send me home. At least not that I recall.

What it does mean though, is that throughout the winter months, if I happen to catch so much as a sniffle, I'm done for. For weeks. So yes, I am that person that gets really annoyed when people come to work snotting all over telephones and door handles. Because your minor cold will set me back for weeks.

Anywho... asthma does run in my family. Like, the normal kind anyway. So the asthma thing does kinda make sense. And having had pleurosy twice during frigid winter months and being told that my lungs are sensitive to cold air and I should make sure I'm breathing through a scarf when walking in freezing temperatures... well, that seems to back up the cold-air-induced thing. And clearly it would have to be cough-variant, as the only sort of wheezing involved is when the coughing fit lasts so long that I am sucking in air to fill my lungs back up.

Random, but have you ever coughed so hard that your body bends into itself, so when the coughs repeat you almost look like you're having some weird seizure? No? Just me? Moving on then...

Oh, and while advice is appreciated, because I understand their good intentions, telling me to take cough syrup or Nyquil... well, I mean... c'mon, do you seriously think that in 34 years I never thought of that? The fact is that cough suppressants of any type have minimal, if any, effect. Honestly I'm better off taking a sleeping pill to get some rest, than trying to contain the cough at all.

But, in reality, the fact is that I am blessed. Oh sure, this really sucks. But at the same time, like I mentioned before, for me it's really just a way of life. The only time it really sucks is when people stare at me, or when it truly interrupts others' lives, like my family.

But luckily my husband and my daughter both sleep like rocks. So that's not really an issue most of the time. And all of my family, and friends who have been around long enough, realize what it is and how to ignore it because no, I am not gonna die. And most of my co-workers have been there long enough to realize that not only am I not contagious, it sounds worse than it is, and no, I am not gonna die.

So, for the most part, it is simply an annoyance for me for a few months of the year. And an occasional embarrassment, when I come across someone who is not familiar with my condition (whatever it actually is).

The only thing I do worry about is FireGirl. It appears that she has inherited this condition (whatever it really is). The good thing is that for her, it appears to be much better controlled when we keep the temp in the house at least 72 degrees during the winter months. Which is much warmer than we did before she came along, and raises our heating bill a bit, but well worth it.

Of course, that only adds to the cold-air-induced theory, doesn't it?

So that's that. And now you know a little bit more about me. Thanks for checking in.


areyoukiddingme said...

I'd say I have the same thing, although it's only really been obvious for the last 17 years or so. I initially attributed it to a smoker's cough, but I quit smoking 12 years ago and I have "exercise-induced" asthma (in quotes, because it doesn't happen when I exercise, only when I run) which gets exponentially worse when it's cold outside.

So, every year when the temperature drops into the 40s or so, and I go outside walking (which I do most days, if possible), or if it's in the 30s and I just go outside, I get my annual bronchitis. It's an accurate enough name - your bronchioles are swollen/inflamed. I cough for several weeks - sometimes to the extent where I'm bent over. One time the doctor gave me antibiotics, but that was only because I had something else going on at the same time.

My doctor, who is sometimes an idiot, suggested keeping the air moist. Yeah, what good does that do when I have to go outside eventually? And a humidifier doesn't seem to help anyway. I do drink lots of water, though, and I swallow kind of hard to try and get that coolness to the irritated part of my trachea. And then I keep coughing until it goes away.

Amber said...

It is true. Coughing is usually the first sign of an asthma attack. Cold air can aggravate your bronchioles inducing a coughing/wheezing fit, similar to an "exercise" induced asthma response.. An inhaler, used seasonally, should eliminate it completely for you.

Source: 30 years of the same thing. You're not alone. A doctor, about 20 years ago, told me it was a mild seasonal form of asthma and I get prescribed an inhaler every November. My oldest inherited it - so she gets an inhaler too.

Unknown said...

I have the same thing. Although not to the extent that you do. I am embarrassed several times a year as people assume I am dying, and want to know if they can call someone. It has become a way of life for me too. I don't think about it too much anymore unless someone else is distresses. My doctor just suggested I start using an inhaler last year. It made a lot of difference. Didn't take them away, but reduces the severity. Hang in there, and know you are not alone.

Unknown said...

I have the same thing. Although not to the extent that you do. I am embarrassed several times a year as people assume I am dying, and want to know if they can call someone. It has become a way of life for me too. I don't think about it too much anymore unless someone else is distresses. My doctor just suggested I start using an inhaler last year. It made a lot of difference. Didn't take them away, but reduces the severity. Hang in there, and know you are not alone.

Unknown said...

OMG, all I can say is wow. Finally someone who understands- and I mean to the T. If I get a cold I get this a few days after. Nobody ever gets it from me, not even family. Was first diagnosed with "acute bronchitis". I just went to the Dr yesterday and he said he thinks I have a "reactive airway", but the cough variant type. I googled away and since reactive airway is sometimes used synonymously with asthma, I googled that too and found your blog. Have you started any long term inhalers? He put me on flovent 2 days ago, and it's supposed to take up to 2 weeks. Meanwhile I want to scream, as I bend over from violent coughing which has now created a headache and sore throat from coughing so much. I want to scream or punch a wall but I'm 6 months pregnant so I should keep my cool. Anyway, if you find any more info please PLEASE let me know... Thanks!

Unknown said...

Oh and I will use flovent right away next year and if it works I will let you know (this year they started me on it after I have been coughing for 6 weeks)

Lisa said...

Your story sounds exactly like my poor 11 year old daughter's. She has been on a nebulizer, inhaler, meds since she was 6 months old. Only in winter/cold months. Spring and Fall bring seasonal allergies which are nothing compared to what she endures in the winter. She loses about 30 days of school a year. Thankfully she's an A student. She is actually home now - coughing away - - her poor body is hurting from coughing so hard and for so long. Dr's at 4:15 today - only for a note for school - as there really isn't much they can do for her.

jroooo said...

SO the raised eyebrows waiting for a lung to fall out is a look that you must also be familiar with. Just had my first of the season; watery eyes, and a couple hiccups for good measure apparently. It's good to know as I crawl up to the computer, very aware of my breathing pattern with intercostal muscles exhausted that I'm not completely crazy. (And yes, I'm TRYING to clear my throat... but gently. So I don't start again.) And then the fears of being diagnosed as a hypochondriac when my wife finally talked me into a chest x-ray proved completely healthy, unconclusive. My dad had just passed away from lung cancer so we were all a little on edge.
Oh well, I guess it's good to find a blog of fellow coughers. "Hi my name is Drew and I cough a lot. I mean A LOT. When I start I just can't seem to stop... I think I have a problem." At least I can admit it and embrace it now.

Jen Knight said...

This sounds familiar, though I'm a much milder case. When it's cold my lungs generally feel irritated and tight and I will cough if I breathe deeply. My son ended up with croup and RSV a couple times last winter and was put on albuterol. I accidentally got a lungful while struggling to keep the mask on his face (he was 5 months old and hated the thing). The constant tightness in my chest actually eased and I was able to breathe better than I had been able to do in months. However, come spring when everything starts to flower is when I REALLY get hit with it: horrible coughing fits that I can barely breathe through. I can pretty well control it with allergy meds, though.

mommyofangels said...

Same thing happened to me this year for the first time, I figured it was cold air induced asthma, because it started the same time as my son who has allergy induced ashtma. I took a breathing treatment for 4 days and it helped me sleep at night. I now have my own inhaler.

Unknown said...

I get this too. I was told it was Tracheobronchitis. Set off by the cold air. I was prescribed an inhaler (steroidal bronchiole dilator) and told not to drink cold drinks, stay warm and if the phlegm in my cough turns yellow/green (irk, yeah I know) then go and get antibiotics. I am a teacher and it's rather annoying to have to stop mid-lesson to deal with a coughing fit, my face goes red, eyes and nose stream, and I cough up a lung. This year, Winter seems to have come a month early. and suddenly, I am getting tight in the chest, cough and I can feel the phlegm building up in my trachea. I have had this for so many years, and it only occurs in winter, but last year was the first time that any doctor named it, or listened hard enough to diagnose me (hopefully) properly. Only the steroid puffer help, staying warm and antibiotics when it all goes to hell (at least twice a year).

Unknown said...

Glad to see I'm not alone. I've been diagnosed with asthma, been prescribed all kinds of pills, inhalers, nose sprays that I take twice daily except for the emergency inhaler (albuterol)but still have coughing episodes, brought on by cool air, being in the air movement of a fan or air vent, getting chilled. I am SO tired of the sympathetic "Are you alright?". Maybe I should be using the Albuterol on a regular basis with the other meds. Turn my furnace up a notch. Or move to Hawaii.
I feel like my body isn't as warm as everybody elses' (they're in short sleeves and I've looking for a sweater). Anyone else notice that? Thanks for your input.

Ghio said...

Besides asthma inhaler, you could try propolis spray to ease the coughing and soothe the throat.

Unknown said...

For me; when the cold comes I start coughing as soon as first I walk outside. To the point where I often spit up my coffee. Once my morning fit passes im usually ok for most of the day depending on activity level. I'm extremely active. If I come in contact with a cold I will have it for months. Used to end up coughing up small amounts of blood end up with pneumonia by spring and have inhalers, steroids and anti biotics to get rid of it. Adjustments I've made that have a big impact; installed a whole house humidifier on my furnace and and keep the humidity around 40% and slowly decrease as winter continues. I also change the filter on furnace a couple times a season. In fact gonna do it today. I do use an inhaler as needed (when I have insurance). I do where a head sock when working outdoors so I breath through it which helps significantly. I also notice a difference when i hydrate properly and sleep with my head elevated.

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