How We Can Help
Cough Treatment Information
Our physicians understand the difficulties associated with allergy and asthma and strive to improve your quality of life through the following services:
- Allergy skin testing. If other symptoms or your medical history suggest that you have allergies, we determine what allergens exactly your immune system reacts to. During allergy skin testing, we prick the skin on your arm or back with a needle and expose you to a small and safe amount of an allergen. If the area around the needle stick becomes red and swollen, it is a sign you are allergic to that substance. Skin testing is a quick and safe way to identify your specific allergies.
- Allergy blood testing. If you have asthma, skin testing may be deemed unsafe for you as it puts you at risk of having an asthma attack. Instead, we draw blood to look for antibodies. Antibodies are immune cells that are specific to the substance they are fighting off, whether it is pollen, dust, bacteria or a virus. By identifying what antibodies are present in your blood, we can figure out what you are allergic to. Blood testing is safer, but takes longer than skin testing .
- Lung spirometry. A spirometer measures how much air you breathe in and out as well as how fast you can push air out of your lungs. You breathe directly into a tube attached to the spirometer for this test. Spirometry is safe and gives our physicians a better idea of how well your lungs function. If you are not breathing as much air as is normal for someone of your age and gender, it may be an indication of asthma.
- Bronchoprovocation test. You may also undergo bronchoprovocation testing to see how sensitive your airways are to irritants like exercise or chemicals. You breathe into the spirometer during exercise or after breathing in a special, safe chemical. If the spirometer indicates decreased lung function, you likely have asthma.
- Allergy medicines. By controlling your allergies, you can get rid of cough associated with postnasal drip and reduce your risk for asthma attacks. Allergy medicines are available over-the-counter and by prescription as pills or inhalers.
- Antihistamines are oral medicines that keep your immune system from producing histamine, a substance that causes airway swelling. Antihistamines reduce mucus production and keep airways open even when you are exposed to allergens.
- Corticosteroids also reduce inflammation, but can be taken as nasal sprays, inhalers or pills. Corticosteroids have an increased risk of side effects, such as weight gain and high blood pressure, and dependence, so it is important to use them exactly how your doctor directs you to take them.
- Decongestants, which are taken orally, reduce swelling in the blood vessels in your nose, opening up your airways so you can breathe easier.
- Asthma medicines. We prescribe both long-term and short-term asthma medicines to control asthma attacks.
- Long-term medicines include corticosteroids, bronchodilators and leukotriene modifiers. These medicines work to reduce and prevent swelling or open up airways by relaxing muscles. They may be taken as pills or inhalers depending on your needs.
- Short-term medicines, also called rescue medicines, are used during an asthma attack to stop the attack and restore your ability to breathe. They are taken through an inhaler. Short-acting beta 2 antagonists quickly relax the muscles allowing your airways to open back up while anticholinergics block a substance in your blood that causes asthma attacks.
- If you have severe allergic asthma that is difficult to control, you may also be prescribed anti-immunoglobulin E (anti-IgE) medicines. IgE is a substance in your blood that starts allergic reactions. These prescription-only injections keep IgE from attaching to allergens in your blood so that you do not experience allergic reactions. You have to be injected with this medicine every two to four weeks in your physician’s office.
- Education. Learning to avoid your allergy and asthma triggers can reduce the number of attacks you have. We teach you strategies for reducing your exposure to triggers in the environment, in your home and at work by using different products or changing your habits.
- Referral to specialists. If your cough is not caused by allergies or asthma, we will refer you to other IU Health experts for diagnosis and treatment. IU Health Respiratory & Pulmonology physicians commonly treat chronic cough, whether it is caused by emphysema, bronchitis or other causes. They have years of experience in treating these conditions and are backed by the award-winning pulmonology services at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, which U.S.News & World Report ranked as a national leader in high quality care.
Cough Locations & Physicians
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Cough Support Services
Your cough may come from a variety of causes. Learn more about the causes behind your cough at the websites below and be sure to speak to your physician.
A Sampling of Cough Support Services
National Heart, Blood and Lung
This website discusses the many causes of a cough that may not be related to allergies or asthma. It also includes information on cough treatments and diagnosis.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI)
This physician association website shares information about chronic cough and guidelines on when to see an allergist about your symptoms.