That annoying winter cough could be more serious than you think.

It was a cold, snowy day about 15 years ago when I first cracked a rib from coughing so much. The annual "cold" that I was suffering from had become so bad that I found myself doubled over in pain, coughing uncontrollably and holding my side, unable to get air into my lungs. Thinking I had bronchitis or pneumonia, I visited the doctor who told me that I was perfectly fine. "It's just a cough," he said. Suggesting I try some cough syrup, he sent me on my way.

Every year since, that nasty cough has returned. And every time I visited the doctor I got a similar diagnosis. X-rays, scans and other tests turned up nothing. I was fine, it was just a cough and I needed to let it pass.

Eventually, one doctor suggested that I might have allergies. Since I already knew I had allergies and was on allergy medicine, he told me to add a nasal spray into the mix. That certainly helped dry up my nasal passages, but the dry, persistent cough remained.

Having a chronic cough during a global pandemic can be pretty embarrassing. Walking through the store, coughing through a mask will turn lots of heads -- and not in a good way. So this year I decided to try to get to the bottom of things and made an appointment with an allergist. It turns out, I do have allergies, but those allergies have triggered my asthma.

My asthma? But I don't have asthma. For decades my doctors told me I was fine.

Well, according to the specialist, they were kind of right. It turns out that my asthma is triggered by cold weather and indoor allergies, that's why it only appears in the winter. One of the places I spend several hours a day has been dealing with a mold issue for years, which is a likely source of what has triggered those asthma attacks. And while allergy medicine has worked to a point, it wasn't enough to keep things under control.

Piecing together the puzzle, I realized that other family members have also suffered from various forms of this "winter cough," so it's very likely that this is a hereditary issue that was just never diagnosed in my family for generations.

Luckily, I finally found an answer to this mysterious cough. And after just a few days of medication and a rescue inhaler, I'm already feeling better. So if you're suffering from a cough that seems to arrive every October and sticks around until spring, you could have asthma and not even know it. Of course, that's something that can only be determined by a doctor, so get that referral and head in to see a specialist. You could be suffering needlessly and finally find some relief.

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