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Bronchial spasms vs. asthma?

Hi guys, forgive me for the long post, this is my first one and I hope someone can point me in the right direction :)

I’ve included a ‘bit’ of history, but I’ll put my questions here so you don’t bet bored reading. I have just been diagnosed with exercise induced bronchial spasms after having two episodes of severe chest tightness and inability to take a full breath in the past month. I have had sporadic chest tightness and breathing issues for the past 3 months or so. These seem to be triggered by running, but the two severe episodes weren’t. Incidentally, I have read that bronchial spasms are associated with cold housing, and my house is like an igloo. No mould, just freezing cold all the time.

So my questions are – how do bronchial spasms differ from a diagnosis of asthma? From what I’ve read, the symptoms and treatments seem to be very similar.

Should I be taking Salbutamol pre-emptively before exercise, or afterwards when I feel I need it? As the frequency and duration of my runs have increased, I find the chest problems are more frequent, but less severe and I recover quicker from them. However, if I leave it a few days between runs then I’m back to square one, with chest tightness lasting into the following day after exercising.

Thanks for any advice/insight,

Lara x

A ‘bit’ of history:

[*]I was diagnosed with perennial allergic rhinitis when I was 15 and have been on antihistamines since. I'm what you could call 'sensitive' - cigarette smoke, perfume, flowers, pollen etc. can set me off with typical hayfever symptoms all year round. I had regular nosebleeds and had to have my nose cauterised which pretty much stopped them, although not completely.

[*]Around this time, I developed a really bad dry cough that lasted for about three weeks. It felt almost reflexive in that I would cough if say, I laughed a lot or breathed in deeply. This culminated with me waking up during the night having a coughing fit and my airways suddenly completely closed up, opening again when I had another coughing fit. I went to the hospital where I can only remember them measuring my peak flow, saying I was fine and sent me on my way. I've never had anything like this happen since.

[*]Jump to 12 years later, I'm now living in London and over the last 3 months or so, I've been experiencing some intermittent chest symptoms that started not long after I took up running. The day after, my chest would feel tight and it was like I wasn't able to take a full breath, but not breathless as such. If I tried to inhale deeply, I would cough. My nosebleeds have returned, all spontaneous, sometimes waking up during the night. (I should point out that I have previously exercised in gyms and done martial arts with no problems).

[*]On two occasions in the past month, I developed severe chest tightness, similar to what I get after running but much worse and were not associated with exercise. After the first, I went to my GP. My chest was clear and I had no wheeze. She told me to keep a peak flow diary for two weeks. My morning readings ranged from 390-410 and my evening readings were 390-470.

[*]The second occasion was actually last night, and I had my follow-up appointment with my GP this morning. Again, my chest was clear, air entry was fine and there was no wheeze. She told me that that there was nothing wrong with my lungs per se, but said I probably have bronchial spasms triggered by exercise due to my hypersensitivity and increased allergens from the lovely London air getting into my lungs when running. She gave me a Salbutamol inhaler, and after taking it I feel much better, but my chest still isn’t 100%.

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