Chronic cough as the sole presenting manifestation of bronchial asthma

N Engl J Med. 1979 Mar 22;300(12):633-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJM197903223001201.


Six patients with chronic cough, without history of dyspnea or wheezing, had normal base-line spirometry but hyper-reactive airways, as demonstrated with methacholine. Maintenance therapy with bronchodilators promptly eliminated the cough in all patients. Three to 12 months later therapy was discontinued for three days, cough returned, and detailed pulmonary-function studies were carried out. Again, base-line values were normal, but after methacholine one-second forced expiratory volume decreased an average of 40 per cent in the patients as compared to 30 per cent in normal controls (P less than 0.001). The point of identical flow was increased by methacholine to 43.5 per cent of vital capacity in the patients, as compared to 6 per cent in normal controls (P less than 0.001), and the alveolar plateau was 4.8 deltaN2 per liter, as compared to 1.4 in normal controls (P less than 0.01). Specific airway conductance was lowered in patients and controls, but the post-methacholine value was significantly lower in the patients. On the basis of their persistently hyper-reactive airways, inducible diffuse airway bronchoconstriction and excellent response to bronchodilator therapy, these patients appear to have a variant form of asthma in which the only presenting symptom is cough.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / etiology*
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methacholine Compounds
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Vital Capacity


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Methacholine Compounds