Respiratory Disorders Expert Forum
Reactive Airway Disease
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Reactive Airway Disease

Every year for the last 32 years, I have come down with a cough and congestion starting around September and going through the cold weather months. I have been dealing with this as best as I could, considering that I also have a low thyroid disease and have been taking medications for it for 31 years. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my sister has decided that I have Reactive Airway Disease and has me trying all sorts of new treatments. Some have worked and others have not. I say that this is just allergies and congestion. She thinks that it is an inflammation of my lungs. The cough is just in my throat and I have had some wheezing, but not much. I have been taking some decongestants, but as I have a thyroid disease, I cannot take them for long. I have become a firm believer in humidifiers and have one going all the time. That helps, but there is nasal drippage which sometimes causes the coughing. For the most part, the coughing is a dry cough and gets into coughing fits. Just today I had to leave church and have a coughing fit. Sometimes I have not made it to the sink before the coughing is so bad that I have thrown up a bit.
I say that this is just allergies and the same old thing with which I have been dealing for the last 32 years, but my sister is convinced that I have this Reactive Airway Disease. Except for the chronic coughing, I can deal with my allergies. The decongestants have opened up my sinuses and the congestion is clearing up. There is some post-nasal drip, but mostly just a runny nose at this point in time. I have searched online for this Reactive Airway Disease in adults, but mainly find articles related to children and asthma. I do not believe that I have asthma and since I do not have medical benefits, I cannot go visit my doctor about this. Any information you can give would be helpful.
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The term reactive airway disease, in a strict sense, describes the distinguishing feature of asthma, hyperreactivity of the airways and that means the airways of people with asthma constrict in response to allergens and/or irritants in low concentrations that do not cause constriction of the airways of people who do not have asthma.  Practically speaking, the term reactive airways disease is used interchangeably with the term, asthma.  Your sister may be right, given the seasonality of your cough and congestion.  Most people with asthma wheeze, as you have, but for some the dominant symptom is cough.  However it could be allergic inflammation of your nose, called allergic rhinitis, and the postnasal drip associated with rhinitis could also be the cause of cough, with or without asthma.

Your use of decongestants and antihistamines is fine, especially since they seem to give you good relief.  But, if the cough persists despite these medicines, especially if you also have some wheeze, then you will probably need asthma medicines to control your cough and other symptoms.  Eventually, you will probably have to see your doctor to sort this out.

In the meantime, consider what substances you might be allergic to in the home and workplace, substances in the house or in the heating/cooling system.

Good luck.
2 Comments
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Is it possible to blow/injure an ear drum during a coughing fit? Since I first posted, my left ear drum continues to hurt only when I cough. My sinuses have cleared up and my runny nose is minimized, but the cough persists occasionally. When I cough it is bad and I have to hold my left ear to stop it from hurting. The cough is being controlled now by cough drops and continual fluids - mainly water. Anything else upsets my stomach too much.
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