BACKGROUND--To evaluate the effect of inhaled beta 2 adrenergic agonists on the sensitivity of airway cough receptors, the effect of inhaled procaterol on cough induced by aerosolised capsaicin, a stimulant of C fibres, was studied in patients with asthma or chronic bronchitis and in normal subjects. METHOD--Eleven patients with asthma and 10 with chronic bronchitis and 14 normal subjects participated. Increasing concentrations of capsaicin solution were inhaled for 15 seconds by tidal breathing through the mouth at one minute intervals until five or more coughs were elicited, before and 30 minutes after inhalation of 20 micrograms procaterol or placebo (freon gas alone) through a metered dose inhaler. Cough threshold was defined as the lowest concentration of capsaicin that elicited five or more coughs. To evaluate the bronchodilator effect of procaterol and the bronchoconstrictor effect of inhaled capsaicin, forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) was measured before and one minute after a capsaicin provocation test. This test was carried out both before and 30 minutes after treatment with procaterol or placebo. RESULTS--The geometric mean value of cough threshold to capsaicin was significantly increased by procaterol and placebo in both groups of patients but not in the control subjects. The increment in the cough threshold was not significantly different between the treatments with procaterol and placebo in each group. FEV1 was significantly increased by procaterol but not by placebo in all three groups. CONCLUSIONS--Inhaled procaterol has no effect on airway cough receptor sensitivity to capsaicin. The attenuation of the cough sensitivity seen after inhalation of procaterol in patients with asthma and bronchitis may result from tachyphylaxis to capsaicin.
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