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Types of Asthma

Do you know the different types of asthma? Advances in our understanding of asthma have helped experts define specific types of asthma, such as exercise-induced asthma (asthma that occurs with physical exertion) and nighttime asthma (asthma that makes sleeping miserable and is quite serious). Understanding the type of asthma you have can help you seek the most effective treatment when you have an asthma attack.

Allergies and Asthma

Allergies and asthma often go hand-in-hand. Allergic rhinitis (also called hay fever) is inflammation of the inside lining of the nose and is the single most common chronic allergic disease. In those with allergic rhinitis, increased sensitivity (allergy) to a substance causes your body’s immune cells to release histamines in response to contact with the allergens. Histamines, along with other chemicals, lead to allergy symptoms. The most common allergens enter the body through the airway.

With allergic rhinitis, you may feel a constant runny nose, ongoing sneezing, swollen nasal passages, excess mucus, weepy eyes, and a scratchy throat. A cough may result from the constant postnasal drip. Many times asthma symptoms are triggered by allergic rhinitis. Your doctor may prescribe medications to control the allergies and, in doing so, the cough and other asthma symptoms may subside.

For more detail, see WebMD’s Allergic Asthma.

Exercise-Induced Asthma

Exercise-induced asthma is a type of asthma triggered by exercise or physical exertion. Many people with asthma experience some degree of symptoms with exercise. However, there are many people without asthma, including Olympic athletes, who develop symptoms only during exercise.

With exercise-induced asthma, airway narrowing peaks five to 20 minutes after exercise begins, making it difficult to catch your breath. You may have symptoms of an asthma attack with wheezing and coughing. Your doctor can tell you if you need use an asthma inhaler (bronchodilator) before exercise to prevent these uncomfortable asthma symptoms.

For more detail, see WebMD’s article Exercise-Induced Asthma.

Cough-Variant Asthma

In the type of asthma called cough-variant asthma, severe coughing is the predominant symptom. There can be other causes of cough such as postnasal drip, chronic rhinitis, sinusitis, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD or heartburn). Coughing because of sinusitis with asthma is common.

Cough-variant asthma is vastly underdiagnosed and undertreated. Asthma triggers for cough-variant asthma are usually respiratory infections and exercise.

For any persistent cough, contact your doctor. Your doctor may order specific asthma tests, such as lung function tests, to show how well your lungs work. You might need to see a lung specialist for further tests before an asthma diagnosis is made.

For more in-depth information, see WebMD's Cough-Variant Asthma.

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