They think I have asthma, not sure whats happening - help!

The weekend before last (5th-6th of Feb) I started off with a sore throat and then eventually a cold. My housemate had been ill with it recently but it had only lasted 2-3 days. The sore throat soon dyed down but my nose was still blocked, yet I kept feeling really out of breath - my chest felt restrictive as if I couldn't get enough air in or out, I was coughing a lot (but dry). The only ""cold"" symptom I had really was a sore throat and a blocked nose. Breathlessness for me is fairly normal, thinking about it - I often get breathless going up the stairs, doing any exercise and my boyfriend often laughs at me for getting breathless just by walking on a windy/cold day, for example - saying I must be unfit. I had mentioned it to a doctor before but he said I probably needed to exercise more.

I went to the doctors a few days after the shortness of breath (SOB) started, and she gave me some antibiotics even though she said my chest was clear. She asked about asthma, I said I didn't think there was any in my family and I really didn't take her seriously. She asked me to see my GP for an asthma test but I was either in denial or not convinced. Around this time I started to wake up at night, especially when my nose was really blocked - and felt like I wasn't breathing, and was hyperventilating. This happened about 3 times last week and each time it took about half an hour for me to be able to attempt to lie back down to go to sleep again, at one point I was on the verge of calling for help. I phoned my mum to tell her I was unwell later on and she told me to go to the GP for the asthma test because lots of people in both sides of my family had asthma, and when I was born my mum was warned to look for signs of it.

Yesterday and today I was feeling breathless, tired and my chest was hurting pretty much all day, but particularly if I had been outside. This morning I had an early appointment (not medical related) and I was struggling to finish sentences - someone commented on it and asked if I was ok, suggested I went to my doctor. I went to a walk-in centre and while I was in the waiting room I was coughing and felt like my breathing was restricted. He couldn't do a breathing test and told me to go to my GP in the morning and take an inhaler he would prescribe for me now, or he'll have to admit me to hospital. I took the inhaler and GP option. My technique is rubbish - it keeps hitting my tongue instead and making it numb, but since I've used it my breathing feels better (but still not 100%).

So basically, I'm still reeling from them telling me it might be asthma. Going to the GP early tomorrow to try and get a breath test. Not sure what to do. Any advice would be appreciated, thanks.

16 Replies

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  • Hi Kindle and welcome,

    Actually I'm a newbie as well, so far everyone on here has seemed really helpful and welcoming.

    Hopefully someone with more experience will be able to advise. I'm actually not sure if I have asthma yet either. Without wanting to diagnose because I'm not remotely qualified and that's not what this is for, it does sound like you might have asthma, but what you're doing is probably the best approach - go back, get a breathing test if you can (I didn't know you could get those at the GP, if you mean spirometry, only ever had peak flow), see the GP again and tell her what you've had since last time and that you have a strong family history of asthma. They can probably also show you how to use the inhaler properly (never been shown but I think the nurse or someone can instruct you in technique so more gets in, or maybe give you a spacer).

    Oh and I'm sure someone else will say this, but I will too: even if you don't wheeze, it doesn't mean you don't have asthma. I would also say, from my own experience (though I will say I'm not yet 100% sure about the asthma myself) that high peak flow readings and even a normal breathing test also don't necessarily mean you don't have asthma, and they don't always match up with how you're feeling (I can do a really good peak flow even when very breathless). I just wanted to say that in case it happens to you, as I was so confused when it looked like asthma in every other way but the tests were apparently saying, 'no, def can't be.' Now I know it's possible, which at least stops me imagining all sorts of horrible exotic things it could be (yes, I admit I watch too much House).

    Good luck and let us know how you get on. Hope it gets sorted!

    xx

  • Thank you for your advice :)

    I do think it might be asthma, but can it really come on so suddenly? I do have a past history of SOB but this is like really bad all of a sudden. I keep getting hot flushes and a warmness in my chest too sometimes while I'm feeling SOB, can that be related? Often I get headaches too but I think thats related to stress and if I cough a lot I get a headache too.

    With my poor inhaler technique, I keep ""missing"" and it hits my tongue and makes it numb, I know that means I've done it wrong (the 2nd puff for each time it happened I got it right) but is that a normal symptom when its incorrect? And how long will I have to wait for it to have an effect? I have salbutamol, and I think I noticed a difference straight away, but I'm watching myself so closely I'm concerned I'll start to see things that aren't there so I'm going to reserve judgement on the inhaler until after using it a few days, not a few hours. I have to say though several minutes after using it my breathing was better.

  • Hi,

    I don't think it's that uncommon to have mild SOB and then something kicks it into life and it gets much worse. I had mild childhood asthma which had pretty much gone away by the time I went to uni, though I could never run very well, especially when it was cold.

    Then about 18 months ago I had swine flu, and got SOB loads after that, but they thought it was hyperventilation as there was nothing else with it and tests were normal. In October last year I had a cold, not a very bad one but with a cough, and that's set it off to what it is now, with SOB practically all the time, loads of coughing and a chest that feels irritated most of the time. So yes, I'd definitely say it's not unusual if you had a kind of 'background' asthma/SOB for even just a cold to kick things off and make it worse.

    I think the inhaler is supposed to help within a few minutes, so that sounds right. Can't say from experience, as I've forgotten what it was like when I was younger and none of the relievers I've tried recently have worked for me at all. Don't know about the numb tongue either, but if it's not there the second time it probably is your technique. I've never had that but can imagine if loads hits your tongue it might make it go numb for a bit.

  • I know how you feel - I'm not convinced I have it either, but I have my spirometry on 9th March so that will diagnose I suppose. (Also, how come you can get one so quickly but I have to wait 6 weeks, not fair, lol!!)

    Mine came on from a cough and all of a sudden one night I just couldn't breathe so didn't sleep all night, went to GP and she said I had it. Who knows?!

    Also, tilt your head back when taking the inhaler, that helps me.

    Keep us updated on how you're getting on, if they can get a diagnosis, or even if they can't, I hope something or someone helps!!

  • Thank you again for the responses.

    Oh I haven't been told I'll have a spirometry at the appointment, the doctor at the walk-in said that my GP could ""sort one out for me"" and do a lung function test on the spot. Didn't realise the GP couldn't do it straight away =S I read your thread by the way and wish you the best, you're a bit further along than me but we are pretty much in the same boat.

    I felt like I had to take my inhaler again about an hour ago. I took 2 puffs and managed to get both of them almost right - only a tiny bit went on my tongue. Within a few minutes it felt slightly easier (I was watching TV though so my attention wasn't 100% on my chest) but certainly between 10-15 minutes later I could really tell that breathing in and out was easier but the chest tightness was still there to some extent, and the pain. Is that normal too? It's now an hour after I took it and I can do things without thinking about my breathing, which is good.

    I really feel like I've been given an inhaler and palmed off to my GP. I don't know when I'm supposed to use my inhaler and when not to. I've been told to use it when I get symptoms, but is that an ""asthma attack""? I thought that was only if you were on the point of needing to go on A&E.

  • I think that a lot of people often feel alone / isolated / fobbed off when they are having breathing problems, whether it be asthma or not.

    It is quite a strange / weird / scary feeling both not being able to breathe properly or watching somebody else struggling to breathe.

    Whether it be a GP prescribing an inhaler and sending you home, a paramedic or a doctor in AnE not appreciating the distress or worry caused alongside the physical medical issues, more time is needed explaining to and reassuring the patient. I appreciate most doctors etc are busy but for the sake of 5 minutes it could make a difference.

    We all know that asthma can come in many shapes and sizes ad effects many of us differently and assessment, diagnosis, tests, course of action etc is a long drawn out job, but surely this is why new sufferers need those extra few minutes.

    Asthma UK do a great job offering support and advice, as do any members of this forum.

    I hope that you get things sorted sooner rather than later Kindle, my only advice to you is if the inhaler is working keep using it.

    All the best and good luck

    Mark

  • Isn't it funny that your GP have you antibiotics even though your chest was clear and yet just on Monday I went back to my GP for more help because of the pain in my ribs and my cough, and she wouldn't/couldn't give me anything because my chest was clear!

    I also can't really understand how and why asthma can come on so suddenly, before this I was- luckily - completely healthy! There were a few tears!!

    It's really unfair that they've not given you any advice, could you phone the nurse at your surgery and talk to her? I was told to take two puffs twice a day - in the morning and before bed, but that you can't really overdose on it so you can take a puff or two as and when you need it. I have the blue ventolin inhaler.

    I'm not using mine regularly at the moment as the cough I have doesn't always make my chest tighten and start to wheeze, I'll only use it if that happens, but I am taking a puff before bed to ensure I get a good nights sleep and don't wake up wheezing which is what had been happening.

    I'd say we are in the same boat as well, I'm still really unsure about it all!! All I'd say is just keep asking for advice and phone anyone you can if you're not sure about anything! Let us know how you get on at the GP.

    xx

  • Hey everyone, thank you all again for you replies.

    I went to the GP this morning on an emergency appointment and she listened to my chest again. Unlike the other doctor she could hear some restriction in my lungs, and she said that was due to inflammation. She said she doesn't want to prescribe me some steroids yet, and wants me to continue using my blue inhaler whenever I feel I need to - as the label says, or 20 times a day if I have to. She thinks it might be inflamed because of a virus I had and is taking a while to settle down, and thinks I should wait for 3 weeks and if I still have SOB I should book a spirometery with reversibility. I quote - ""I'm not saying it is or isn't asthma"" I told her I had a family history of it, but I'm worried now that I didn't tell her enough about my symptoms. I did tell her about the chest tightness, the SOB and how I feel worse if I'm talking or moving around a lot or going outside but I think if I did go on about it more it wouldn't change the outcome.

    Is this normal for everyone else? I'm contemplating phoning the asthma nurses and asking them about it too.

  • inhaler technique

    Hi Kindle

    I'm a newbie too. I was given instructions to use a spacer all the time with my inhalers. I'm useless without it! Like you it hits my tongue. By using a spacer you get a much bigger dose to your lungs. The doctor or practice nurse should prescribe you one with no problems. If they won't you can buy one at any pharmacy quite cheaply.

    I hope you get sorted soon.

  • Hi Kindle, Welcome to the forum. If you have a family history of asthma, the chances are it is asthma but hopefully in a mild form and the inhalers will help. By all means ring the AUK Asthma nurse - they are really nice and helpful. I recently purchased a book 'Understanding Asthma' which is very good - it's published by British Medical Association and I brought it in our chemist (otherwise try Amazon). It was about £4.75 I think, very good value.

    Good luck and I hope things improve for you.

  • Hey everyone, sorry I've been slow to respond - I blame life lol

    I'm considering buying a spacer to use while I'm at home - where can I buy one that's cheaper than the prescription charge?

    My SOB isn't getting worse - or better. Using my blue inhaler helps make breathing easier but I'm having to use it at least 5 times a day, even if I'm not doing that much (e.g. food shopping, cleaning around the house, going for a walk, etc.) I like to go to the gym but I haven't dared to go for the past 3 weeks.

    I really can't put up with this for another 3 weeks, which is the length of time my GP wants me to go before he'll send me for a spirometery. The thing is I don't want to go back again and complain about my SOB for a FOURTH time in the last 3 weeks in case the doctor just says the same thing ""It's too early for a diagnosis."" Huh? It's really upsetting =[ I'm a student nurse, so I'm always busy on wards and I keep having to have short and frequent breaks so I can use my inhaler and it's embarrassing. Can I just call my surgery and just book myself in for one even though my GP wants me to wait? I don't know what to do. =[

  • Hi, I really sympathise. I only saw my doctor on Thursday and have had the ventolin since then, and have been up the last two nights to take it in the early hours, as well as several times during the day. Have been having two puffs but last night had to have 6 before it settled enough to go back to sleep.

    I'm confused about why the reliever isn't lasting on the first two puffs because the symptoms aren't what I would describe as severe - tight band around the ribs, tightness in top of chest, irritated feeling inside chest, sometimes a cough sometimes not, sometimes a wheeze on a deep breath.

    I have another appointment in two weeks but think I will go back earlier if two puffs doesn't work again because I find it quite scary when that happens.

  • Hi,

    Don't know if I have anything useful to add except sympathy - I hate that situation! I was counting the days last time I was given an inhaler to try because I could tell quite quickly it wasn't working but my GP said I had to wait 2-3 weeks to give it a chance. Now I'm waiting for cons. appt and have no medication at all so no relief because I have to wait to see the consultant before they know if it's asthma and to get any more relievers as they don't work.

    Sorry for lengthy digression there, really was trying to get round to saying maybe you should email/ring the asthma nurses here if you haven't already? I've just sent them an email asking if there's anything I can do while I'm waiting, won't get the reply for a bit but maybe they could give you an informed opinion on whether you should get spirometry sooner, then you have some authority if the GP asks why you didn't wait! Maybe also you could say to your GP that it's interfering with your work and daily life, which it clearly is, and you want to get some answers.

    Don't know why they're making you wait so long tbh, mine wanted to book me in as soon as I went back with the first inhaler not working, and only didn't because I said I'd had spirometry last year and it was better than normal (I'm officially weird in that respect though).

    Hope you get this sorted, sounds annoying and I hate just sitting there being out of breath but not able to do anything useful!

    xx

  • I've spent the last 2 weeks feeling SOB all of the time so I'm booking myself in for a spirometery with reversibility on Monday, first thing. It's horrible. I can still do all my normal things it just exhausts me more often. There's a pharmacy about a 3 minute walk from my front door, and just walking there left me with chest tightness across my chest, coughing, and feeling like I couldn't get enough breath - yet not feeling the urge to hyperventilate, as if breathing was really hard but I wasn't low on oxygen. The GP (last time I went) checked my oxygen levels and I was saturating at around 98% but that doesn't rule out asthma, is that right?

    I brought a spacer for my blue inhaler today and it's made a big difference - I no longer have a numb tongue/nasty taste in my mouth when I use it! It was £8 something, only slightly more expensive than the prescription charge but this one is really small and can easily fit into my handbag and I don't have to wait for my annoying GP to drag their heels into prescribing me one.

    I've noticed today that when I breath out I make an audible wheezing sound, which is new. Really scary - I think my symptoms are getting worse.

  • Hi,

    Sounds like you've made the right decision - good luck with booking it, let us know how it goes! And if it shows normal or better than predicted and you still feel rubbish don't stop pestering your GP etc to get things sorted, doesn't mean it's not asthma (I don't think the good O2 sat necessarily means it can't be either, but know less about that). The wheezing I imagine is scary but may actually help with the diagnosis - I get the impression from reading posts on here that wheezers always get taken more seriously than non-wheezers as asthmatics, even though it doesn't necessarily mean it's more serious.

    Am curious though - can you just book yourself spirometry? I've always thought someone has to refer you, but sounds like you can do it yourself where you are, which is obviously much better in your situation.

    Sorry if any of the above sounds repetitive btw - I think I may have said it all before, to you and/or someone else on here! I just remember being really confused when tests and the way I felt didn't match up and was so relieved when people on here confirmed that they'd had the same and it happens a lot that now I keep saying it so other people don't get the same confusion!

    xx

  • Yeah I can just book it, I did today and it's booked for this Friday, I will post again then.

    I went to the GP this morning after my boyfriend encouraged me to go last night, as my breathing was so bad I couldn't walk home from work so had to hang around for 2 and a half hours until he finished so he could drive me home, the blue inhaler helps but I would of had to use it every 100m or so and its a 45min walk - I would of had to buy a new one on my way past my doctors. But my GP really made me feel like I was wasting her time. She listened to my chest and couldn't hear any wheeze this time, but when I saw her last week she said she could hear an ""almost wheeze""! So she basically gave me some advice about keeping calm, and that because I'm now being forced to be conscious of my breathing I might be making it worse by worrying about it! The benefit of going though was that she changed her mind about the spirometery - I no longer have to wait 3 weeks, I'm going to be seen this week - the nearest appointment is this Friday afternoon which is now booked. I'm kinda getting fed up of being made to feel that I'm imagining it, might see a different doctor about my spirometery. She speaks to me in really simple terms, and I work in healthcare so I know all the terminology and how inhalers work etc but she keeps explaining things to me as if I don't know anything - and when I tell her where I work and my job, she says ""Yes I know."" then continues! Hmph.

    Thank you for listening to me rant :) It's nice to know that some other people know where I'm coming from and are willing to give me some advice.

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