It is possible it could be both or either. Patients who have Vocal Cord Dysfunction (VCD) and asthma can often have trouble telling the difference in their symptoms. It is actually very common that doctors may miss VCD and treat patients as if they have asthma. This commonly leads to a delay in the diagnosis of VCD since the symptoms both bring upon shortness of breath. Triggers for both types of symptoms may be airborne irritants, stress, or many other exposures. The duration of a VCD attack can also vary, and asthma symptoms can be short or extended as well. A lot of patients who have both conditions feel that their VCD does not get better when they take their asthma medication (rescue inhaler), which tips them off to it being their VCD.
I would encourage you to discuss the symptoms with your doctor. If your VCD was diagnosed by an Ear, Nose, and Throat surgeon, they likely recommended voice therapy, which is also an important part of getting VCD attacks under control. If your asthma is not under control, this is an important event your doctor can consider in determining your optimal asthma management plan. They may want to do an in-office spirometry (measurement of your breathing) with an inspiratory loop to get a better picture of what things look like.
Thanks so much for taking an interest and your input. I take care of a lot of folks with asthma and also patients with AERD--Good luck with your aspirin desensitization sgbl88!
Regarding your asthma symptoms and the summertime, I completely agree that if you have a known trigger to your asthma symptoms, you should try your best to avoid them. For some people, it can be anything from exercise to second hand smoke exposure, strong smells or perfumes to pet dander (i.e. cats), and even changes in the weather like humidity, air quality, pollen, and other factors can have a huge impact on their symptoms and trigger flares.
I would encourage you to perhaps discuss some of your thoughts on triggers with your doctor or a board certified allergy specialist. Sometimes patients who have summertime symptoms may actually have a lot of grass pollen sensitivity. If you have not been allergy tested, this could be a trigger that might be treatable by immunotherapy (allergy shots). Sometimes in the summer, the air quality in certain areas drops to dangerous levels--you might hear on the weather report that it is "code orange" or "code red" as the air quality index. During these days, the ozone concentration (used to calculate the score) may be at levels that could exacerbate or worsen your asthma. Before participating in outdoor activities, it might be helpful to check the local weather before deciding to spend time outdoors. Finding out your triggers is definitely a helpful way to avoid flares.
However, it is just as important to get your asthma symptoms under control so you can possibly tolerate some exposure. This is where it is important to take your asthma medication as directed by your doctor. Patients who have a type of asthma categorized as persistent asthma may need to take a daily inhaler in order to Prevent asthma symptoms. This may seem counter-intuitive, but prevention and control are crucial in avoiding a major flare of symptoms that could cause more difficulties.
As far as natural therapies are concerned, I do have a significant interest in complementary/alternative practices. It is important to remember that herbal remedies and supplements as well as mind-body medicine and other practices are still being researched and these are not substitutes to taking your medications. I emphasize two main points with patients: 1) ensure that what you are taking is SAFE. Just because it is natural does not mean it is necessarily safe. It might interact with something you take, so always do your homework (and discuss with your doctor) before starting something 2) is it EFFECTIVE? Anecdotal reports from a friend may seem good, but there are many reasons people might feel better after taking something. A recent study on IBS done at Harvard reported that patients who knew they were taking placebo felt better because they were taking a therapy, and they knew they were taking placebo. You could be spending a lot for something that is just like a placebo.
That being said, I encourage a few things for patients in terms of more natural therapies: 1) Deep breathing exercises incorporated in meditation, yoga, and others can help a lot with subjective symptoms. 2) stay well hydrated (drink lots of water) if you have a large component of coughing--as liquid intake helps with thinning mucus, helping you get it out. 3) healthy sleep habits, exercise, and a good diet are crucial (vitamins and antioxidants may help).
If you absolutely want to take something, there is some weak evidence for the benefit of these supplements, but this is not high-quality evidence: fish oil, choline, and pycnogenol, as well as soy isoflavones (we are studying this currently). I have posted a few natural medicine resources in a previous post, and I would encourage you to check those websites (webmd, NCCAM, Natural standard, etc) to research the individual supplements if you are interested in taking them.