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Profile of cough triggers and their relationship with capsaicin cough sensitivity in chronic cough.

BACKGROUND: Cough hypersensitivity is an important part of the neurophysiology of cough, which presents with increased cough response to a lower level of stimuli or triggers. Classification of stimuli might bring about additional insight into the underlying mechanisms and management.

OBJECTIVES: This study investigated the profile of cough triggers in chronic cough patients and their relationship with capsaicin cough sensitivity.

DESIGN: This was a cross-sectional observational study.

METHODS: We enrolled patients with different causes of chronic cough from 2006 to 2021. Cough triggers were defined as cough response to chemical triggers, mechanical triggers, meal triggers, or thermal trigger. Cough sensitivity to capsaicin was evaluated by the capsaicin challenge test, which was expressed as the lowest concentration of capsaicin inducing 5 or more coughing (C5).

RESULTS: Among 1211 patients with chronic cough, 1107 (91.4%) patients reported at least one cough trigger. Chemical triggers (66.9%) were the most common cough triggers, followed by thermal exposure (50.6%), mechanical triggers (48.2%), and meal triggers (21.2%). There was no difference in the proportion of chemical triggers among different etiologies. Patients with refractory chronic cough reported the highest prevalence of cough triggers (97.1%). A higher number of meal triggers (34.9%) was associated with gastroesophageal reflux-related cough, and meal triggers and mechanical triggers were more common in refractory chronic cough. Among 254 patients who completed capsaicin challenge test, both the number of total triggers and the number of chemical triggers had a significant but mild correlation with capsaicin cough sensitivity.

CONCLUSION: Cough hypersensitivity as reflected by a variety of cough triggers is a common feature in chronic cough patients, but different etiologies present specific profiles of cough triggers, which could not be evaluated comprehensively by capsaicin cough sensitivity.

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