Asthma, or panic?

Hello all,

I've been on a strange trip these past few days.

The night from Wednesday to Thursday I woke up not being able to exhale. So I woke my husband, decided on the nearest ER vs ambulance and he drove me there. After a blood test and an ecg they diagnosed hyperventilation and a panic attack. Ok. When I felt better again hours later I was sent home. I did wake up the previous nights a few times, thinking I had a nightmare, but it's possible I had actually breathing problems. It got better when sitting up and controlling my breath for a few minutes. Another bit of info: I did rather exhausting HIIT strength training the previous days in an air conditioned room - like I did for the previous 5 weeks, with non-exercise days of course.

Back home I ended up surfing the net, not thinking of anything, and suddenly from one moment to another I could not exhale and someone big was sitting down on my chest again and my lung volume shrank. This time I was not hyperventilating. I didn't panic. But to be sure I tried breathing into a bag for a while without any change, and thus off we went to a clinic my HR rep had recommended (I'm on expat assignment atm). I guess she got a big scare when I phnoned her being completely out of breath ;). Again some tests. I also received pulmicort and ventolin inhallations, after which I felt better. But two hours later the next attack. So I stayed the night and got many tests along the way, and had several more attacks. Got disrchanged next noon, again got an attack at night while sleeping, back to ER and finally saw a lung specialist the next day.

After some tests the doc concluded it could be a mild form of asthma, maybe because I had problems as a child (mainly during sport, holding my breath to be able to do a sprint), maybe reflux related, potentially not panic attacks. Got a pile of medicines and felt miserable all day from all the tests. Ventolin kind of helped, but I could not really aim well. And hey, how do you inhale and hold you breath for a moment when you're out of breath? Then I read about breathing techniques to relax your lung, and it helped! Yiha! From then on I only had minor attacks during the evening and night and ventolin took care of those.

And now I'm feeling completely ok when I just sit around (somewhat out of breath when I move, but lung volume feels okish and exhaling works) and wonder if I really have asthma. Aren't I supposed to feel miserable for a bit longer until all the meds work? I never coughed and only had a wheeze when I was breathing really deeply - well, as deep as I could anyway. But I can control my breathing quite well anyway from snorkeling/free diving for photos. I'm more of an scientist (lets test what the humid air outside does to my breathing) rather than an emotional person, and psychological problems or panic attacks don't sound like me at all. I'm not stressed out either and the previous days I didn't think of breathing problems at all while feeling ok. But who knows... I'm very much in doubt because I feel rather good now.

4 Replies

  • Hi! First of all welcome to the forum!

    Sorry to hear your not very well ?! But hope you get better! For me the ambulance people said its panic attack took me to er and the docs shouted at them there as i was in a terrible asthma attack! Got to resus and had a long stay in hospital even been to the itu ! And guess what? Few hours like 4/5 hours before it was in er as well but they said i m fine just breathing heavily and gave me a salbutamol inhaler after finishing a full can in a day? Things like that happen unfortunitaly ! Docs dont always treat me according to the guidelines but i think your episode was asthma as well but at the end of the day not a doc just another brittle asthmatic!

    Let me tell you another rather funny story! Not long ago had an attack had to stay in hospital and they gave me a follow up after 2 weeks but when i went the cons shouted at me about how much salbutamol i use then she said my asthma is well controlled!? As if she was just not shouting at me about death a few minutes ago?! Then she got the nurse to talk to me as she got fed up of me !? Weird isnt?! But just ignore them as they always do that saying different things all the time! They cannot even agree what medicines i should take? But take each day as it comes and take care ?????

    Hope you get better ?????


  • Thanks a lot Yas,

    Today things are not too good, but I did have a lot of nightmares. I dreamed my heart had stopped beating. When waking up I talked myself into that such a dream is rubbish and it didn't come back. Instead I dreamed that I could not breathe anymore several times, which was not the case when waking up >:(. Had to get myself fully awake and try to fall asleep again to get rid of those dreams.

    Unfortunately I'm feeling a bit less good than yesterday and I don't really seem to be getting the ventolin spray to work.

    The really annoying bit is that I'm planning to go on a vacation next Friday. Argh! I can cancel the flights until last minute for a small fee, but need to cancel the local flight the moment I have the next doctor's appointment. Lets hope I can get an earlier one.

    Btw, did anyone experience rapid weight loss during/after an asthma attack? Corticosteroids I think should be causing hunger, but I'm really fighting to eat anything at all. I guess I only have a minor calorie deficit though, which would not account for the bit more than 4.4 lb I lost in 5 days. I also never lost more than maybe half a pound when I stop with sport for whatever reason (I was doing strength HIIT before the attack) and neither when I got a cold or a stomach flu.

    Edit: ah, breathing against a resistance really helped again. That, or the meds did finally work.

  • You're not alone in losing that sort of weight. I will often lose weight when my asthma is bad for a while. I spend days physically working hard and not eating much. As my breathing gets easier I can eat more, so usually put the weight back on as I recover.

  • Thanks Lou, very interesting.

    I'm back at hospital as I couldn't get the ventolin to work. Got a ventolin nebulizer there and I felt fit to workout (no, I didn't) after a few minutes. What a relieve. I'll stay over night and get a few more superdrugs and make use of their a-la-carte menue and luxurious single room a bit more. Hopefully that'll provide the breakthrough I need. And then I'll buy a spacer and a small nebulizer (the nebulizer nurse recommended an Omron Micro Air) and hope either works better for me. I can put both into an expense report anyway :D

    If I manage to not feel much worse than now I'm tempted to go on vacation. There's a dive base at the hotel and at least they know how to help people short of breath. Or so they claim. At least they have the right equipment and meds. The flight is very short as well... I'm traveling a lot for business anyway. Better try it on a short flight first.

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