Women Are More Cough-Sensitive

May Explain Why Women More Common in Cough Clinics

From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 4, 2002 -- Does the slightest thing set off a five-minute coughing spell? The reason may have more to do with your sex than anything.

A new study was the first of its kind to look at men and women with chronic cough and determine what sets them off, says Alyn H. Morice, MD, of the Academic Department of Medicine, University of Hull, Castle Hill Hospital, Cottingham, England. The study appears in the October issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

To get a better understanding of what may lie behind some people's coughing spells, 118 men and women were asked to breathe in red pepper extract, which is very irritating to the airways, as you can imagine. Participants inhaled the irritant for one minute and then coughs were counted for 10 minutes. The women in the study coughed more frequently and more quickly. The same result was seen when the participants were exposed to citric acid -- the acid found in citrus fruits.

And as the concentration of the irritants was increased, it took less time for the women to start coughing and the number of coughs increased. These same results were seen among people with asthma and acid reflux.

The researchers are uncertain why women have a lower cough threshold but one theory is that the women inhaled higher concentrations of the compound because of smaller airways. -->

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