BACKGROUND: In children with asthma little is known about the direct effect of the bronchoconstrictor and bronchodilator response on the cough threshold, or the relationship between bronchial responsiveness and the cough threshold. A study was undertaken to determine the effect of histamine-induced bronchoconstriction and salbutamol-induced bronchodilatation on the cough threshold in response to inhaled acetic acid, and to examine the relationship between the acetic acid cough threshold and bronchial hyperresponsiveness to histamine in children with asthma. METHODS: Nineteen children with asthma (16 boys) of mean (SE) age 10.6 (0.6) years were enrolled in the study. On day 1 each underwent a histamine inhalation challenge to determine the provocative concentration causing a fall in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) of more than 20% (PC20) as an index of individual bronchial hyperresponsiveness. On day 2 the acetic acid cough threshold was determined before and just after the inhalation of the PC20 concentration of histamine, and then salbutamol (1 mg/m2) was inhaled to relieve the bronchoconstriction. Ten of the 19 patients (eight boys) of mean age 12.2 (0.7) years also tried acetic acid inhalation challenge just after salbutamol inhalation. RESULTS: There was no relationship between the bronchial responsiveness to histamine and acetic acid cough threshold in these patients. The acetic acid cough threshold after histamine inhalation was similar to that before histamine, although FEV1 decreased after histamine. In the 10 patients who also tried acetic acid inhalation challenge after salbutamol the cough threshold did not change. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that acid-induced cough sensitivity and bronchomotor tone are independently regulated in children with asthma.
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