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Constant cough for almost a year

This is a long story so please be patient and read it all. I will try to be as brief as possible.

I got married about two years ago. I moved in with my new wife, where she had been living for about 6 months. Shortly after that, we got two cats that had been her parents, that they didn't want. Both cats were healthy and about 10 years old. A few months later, one of the cats started having asthma attacks. We took her to the vet, who diagnosed the asthma and started her on steroids. A few months later, the other cat also started having asthma problems, and also got started on steroids. Over the summer of 2011, I went to Washington for about 3 weeks to do some field work (I am a structural geology grad. student). When I got back, I was home for about a month before I had to leave for Minnesota to do some analyses on my rock samples. I remember while my wife was driving me to the airport I had a scratchy throat and felt like I was getting a cold. The cold got worse while in Minnesota, but was getting better by the time I came home, about a week later. Once I got home, the cough I had didn't go away. After about 2 weeks I went to the doctor, who said I had bronchitis and a mild case of pneumonia. I was given antibiotics and sent home. A week later, when the antibiotics ran out, I was still coughing. I went back to the doctor, was given more antibiotics, and sent home. After those antibiotics ran out, I was still coughing. A third trip to the doctor and I was given steroids as well as another round of antibiotics, blood work, and a chest x-ray. The x-ray and blood work came back normal, other than a very faint fog on the x-ray, which the doctor and the radiologist weren't worried about.  This time, with the steroids, the coughing got a little better, but did not totally go away. At this point I had had this cough for about 6 or 7 weeks. After about a week, I was still coughing, though not as much, and decided to make an appointment with a pulmonologist.
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242587 tn?1355424110
Feline bronchial asthma is one of the most commonly diagnosed respiratory conditions of cats.  The question as I see it is the following:  Are you allergic to cat dander and your cough is a symptom of allergic (to cats) asthma or are you and the cats reacting to a common allergen.  The temporal relationship of your exposure to the cats and your wife’s residence certainly suggests a relationship between your respiratory illness and your introduction to a new indoor environment.

I am unfamiliar with cat asthma but I did a literature search and found the following report that bears on this question.  Rather than my speculating on cause and effect, I recommend that you share it with your doctors and that you or they or both contact the investigators who reported these findings.  This study was published in 2009 and it is very likely that these researchers have gained a much better understanding of the relationship between cats and your condition.

Many academic medical centers now have Cough Clinics

Good luck,

Authors Full Name Reinero, Carol R. DeClue, Amy E. Rabinowitz, Peter.

Institution Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri-Columbia, 900 East Campus Drive, Columbia, MO 65211, USA. ***@****

Title Asthma in humans and cats: is there a common sensitivity to aeroallegens in shared environments?. [Review] [83 refs]

Source Environmental Research. 109(5):634-40, 2009 Jul.

Abstract Cats spontaneously develop eosinophilic airway inflammation and airway hyperreactivity that is very similar to human allergic asthma. In addition, household cats share environmental exposures to aeroallergens with humans. We review the scientific literature concerning the pathophysiology of feline asthma, including similarities to human asthma and evidence regarding environmental aeroallergen triggers. Results of pathophysiological studies suggest important similarities between human and feline responses to inhaled allergens. Only a few studies were found that examined the development of disease in cats to environmental aeroallergens. Limited evidence suggests that some environmental allergens can cause disease in both cats and humans. It appears that there is a need for greater communication between human and animal health professionals regarding environmental causes of asthma. Specifically, additional research into linkages between human and feline asthma using both molecular techniques and clinical epidemiological approaches could lead to improved understanding of the environmental risks. Finally, there should be consideration of use of naturally affected and/or experimentally induced (using clinically relevant allergens) asthmatic cats in preclinical trials for novel therapeutic interventions. [References: 83]

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Avatar universal
(Ran out of space)

The pulmonologist looked at my x-ray and also concluded that there was nothing to worry about there. He prescribed some inhalers and more steroids. These helped, but still did not stop the coughing. A few weeks later, I went back to the pulmonologist still with a faint cough. He prescribed more inhalers and steroids. This continued to help a little, but did not stop the coughing. At that point, I had had this cough for about 4 months. That was about 6 months ago. Since then the coughing as not gotten much better, or worse, but I still am coughing an abnormal amount. I have also gained about 20 pounds since getting married, and been experiencing a lot of heartburn. I initially started getting the heartburn while on the steroids, but it has not gone away after getting off them.

I have had allergies in the past, but never this bad. Thinking that this may just be allergies, I started taking Zyrtec. It seems to help a little, but I am still coughing. My father used to have bad allergies to our cats, and my parents think that maybe the cats are causing the problem. This seems to make some sense, except that this all started with a cold while in Minnesota, and also, remember the cats have been sick as well. They were sick before me. That led us to believe that it might be something in our apartment. We had the air tested for mold and some other common problems, which came back as normal. However, this entire time with the cats having asthma problems and me coughing, my wife has been perfectly fine.

So, what could be giving the cats sever asthma, me a long lasting cough, but not effecting my wife? Are the cats problems and mine related? I could believe that the cats could be making me sick, but then what's making them sick? Is it just a coincidence that both the cats and I are having respiratory problems?
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