Friday, September 08, 2006

Cough season resumes

Sometimes I think it never really stops here in Denver where we all cough, clear our throats, and paw through our purses for Kleenex on a regular basis due to the dry air and dust. Now, of course, we're also hacking from colds brought home by school-aged children aggravated by all the residue in the air from raging forest fires nearby and a big-time ragweed crop.

Short of moving to Portland, is there any relief from all this upper respiratory aggravation? Some hackers of the pulmonary variety may benefit from inhaled steroids if their coughs are due to airway irritation from undiagnosed asthma. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic just reported that a simple breath test may easily identify which sleep-deprived coughers are likely candiates for this therapy.

They measured exhaled nitric oxide (NO) in patients, noting that increased NO in exhaled air is a good marker for bronchial inflammation. Of 41 patients with elevations in exhaled NO, 36 reported improvement in cough after use of inhaled steroids such as Flovent. On the other hand, only 2 of 23 patients with normal NO levels responded favorably to the treatment.

As always, the researchers called for more research prior to implementing this test as a routine screen in chronic coughers.

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