Cough Variant Asthma
Asthma becomes more difficult to treat if your child only has a cough and is not wheezing. Many doctors seem hesitant to treat these children aggressively and might think that your child just has a cold or bronchitits. If your child has a chronic cough lasting more than a few weeks, especially if it is worse at night or following physical activity, then you should ask your doctor whether or not it could be asthma.
Like other types of asthma attacks, cough variant asthma usually has to be treated aggressively, with frequent use of a bronchodilator, such as albuterol or Xopenex, and an oral steroid. Just using an inhaler a few times a day might not be enough.
Pediatric Pulmonologists (lung specialists) and Allergists do often see children with asthma. If your child has asthma that is difficult to control, with frequent attacks and regular use of a 'reliever' medicine or an oral steroid, then you might ask about a referral to an asthma specialist. You should also see a specialist if your child has a chronic cough that is not improving, or if your doctor is uncomfortable using preventative asthma medicines on a daily basis.
Other Tips for Controlling Asthma Symptoms
In addition to regular use of any prescribed asthma medications, you can help to control your child's asthma by figuring out what triggers his asthma and avoiding those things. Common asthma triggers
include smoke and other irritants, dust mites, cockroaches, molds, changes in the weather or exposure to cold, animals, upper respiratory tract infections, air pollution, and having uncontrolled allergies. Exercise is also a common trigger, but instead of avoiding physical activity, exercise induced asthma symptoms can be improved by using a 'reliever' medicine before those activities.
It can also make it easier to control your child's asthma if you become more educated about asthma. While it may be hard for your Pediatrician to spend a lot of time at each visit talking about asthma, especially if your child is sick at the time, it may help if you schedule specific visits to talk about asthma. Things you should know about include how to use an inhaler and/or nebulizer, avoiding triggers, the differences between reliever and preventative medications and when to use them, use and interpretation of your child's peak flows, and how to manage an asthma attack. It is also helpful to have a specific asthma management plan, both for use at home and at school or daycare, so that you and other caregivers know what to do when your child has problems with his asthma.