Background: A group of patients with asthma-like symptoms and sensitivity to chemical irritants has shown an increased cough sensitivity to inhaled capsaicin compared to patients with asthma and to healthy controls. The condition is called sensory hyperreactivity (SHR), and the patients often feel that they are socially handicapped because of the risk of exposure to chemical irritants in daily life.
Methods: Twenty-six patients with asthma-like symptoms after exposure to nonspecific irritating stimuli, but without IgE-mediated allergy or demonstrable bronchial obstruction, were selected for a study of the response to a capsaicin test and measurement of quality of life by a general health profile (the Nottingham Health Profile [NHP]). We also investigated whether there was a correlation between quality of life and sensitivity to capsaicin.
Results: The patients demonstrated a dose-dependent response to the capsaicin provocation, with coughing and respiratory and other symptoms, that significantly differed from 12 healthy controls. The health profile showed that patients with SHR had a significantly reduced quality of life compared to reference values, and there was a significant correlation between the health profile and sensitivity to capsaicin.
Conclusions: Patients with asthma-like symptoms verified by the capsaicin inhalation test for sensory hyperreactivity have a poor quality of life. The correlation between quality of life and sensitivity to capsaicin objectively demonstrates the validity of this general health profile study.