Is it asthma or is it a chest infection

I started getting a chest cold on the 20th April. The weekend before I had flu like symptoms that set off my asthma so my doctor started me on a dose of steroids on the 19th. From the 20th I was coughing up phlegm and my sinuses where completely congested. I also had pressure in my ears and I lost my voice. I tried to last it out but on Monday the 25th I went to the GP. Without even listening yo my chest, he said I had a chest infection and gave me a week's worth of Cefalexin which finishes tomorrow. My sinuses have improved with steaming and irrigation but still are producing thick green mucus. I still have a bad cough and a wheeze but I haven't been coughing up much until today when I started coughing up the thick grey mucus again like last weekend though not as much. Yesterday I had the sensation that I was choking so I went to the walk in clinic. The nurse seems to think it is just my asthma and gave me another course of steroids. I am not so sure and wonder if there is still infection remaining. I am still ill. I still have a crokey voice. I have started coughing to the point of vomiting. My inhalers (symbicort and ventolin) don't seem to help. Should I wait until Tuesday when the GP surgery opens again or do I tryand get an out of hours appointment? Even if I did, what more could they do? This is not fun. I have two kids who are sick of their mum being ill. 😥

19 Replies

  • I would say the major difference between the two is the presence of a temperature - particularly in the late afternoon/evening.   I've yet to have a chest infection without a temperature. 

    Have you tried using a decongestant - olbas oil or vicks vapour rub at night to give you some relief?

  • My husband thinks I feel warm. When I first got ill I had a temperature, but then it seemed to go away. I feel like it has come back. I have been using Sudafed, Vicks and menthol crystals in steamed water. At this point I will try anything! 

  • Hi EmmaSue

    Make a GP appointment tomorrow morning or see your asthma nurse. Temperature second time round could be the sign of a chest infection. I always say don't let it linger by experience. Asthmatics find it harder to get rid of coughs and goes down our chest then we get breathless. Or go to the walk-in clinic or A&E if you feel worse.

    Take care xx

  • Read your message again yes the quicker you get rid of it the better with the kids and all it's extra pressure, sometimes we need another course and type of antibiotics if it didn't clear first time round. The weather doesn't help. I'm in Lyons for the weekend so cold, wet and freezing today, I said to my daughter as we had lunch out straight back to the hotel for a hot cup of tea!!

    Give us some news xxx

  • Hi Emma,

         I think , because it's a bank holiday, if it was me I would ring 111 to get a a call out doctor,you seem very poorly and you should see a doc.

  • Thanks everyone.  I have just call the 111 service and a GP should get back to me within an hour.  I just want this sorted.  I don't want to end up in hospital again. Thanks for all your advice.

  • Hi the main difference between a normal exacerbation and an infectious one is the colour of your phlegm.  If it is yellow or green then it is an infection and you need ab's and often steroids as well to clear it.

    If your phlegm is clear then steroids alone would help.   The ab's and steroids should start working within 3 days so obviously you need more to kill the infection.  I often have to have 2 lots to clear 1 up.   x

  • I managed an out of hours GP appointment.  Unfortunately it is for 11pm.  I guess I should try to get a nap first!

  • I came home from the out-of-hours GP and burst into tears.  He basically said that I was on the mend and there was nothing for him to do.  My oxygen level was 99% and he said my lungs sounded clear.  This despite the fact that I cannot walk a few steps without a coughing fit!  Also, I could hear the crackles.  I don't know what he was listening for.  I feel that I can barely breath, but he says I can't be too bad because I can speak in full sentences (though I kept coughing through the exam).   He also said that I didn't sound bad enough to need the nebuliser.

    This has happened so often where I feel like I can barely breath and the doctors at the hospital say that I sound fine.  He asked what I wanted from him.  I said I wanted to know if I still had a chest infection and needed more antibiotics or whether it was asthma.  He said that the chest infection aggravates the asthma and since I still had two antibiotic tablets left and three days worth of steroids, other than giving me new antibiotics there was nothing he could do other than admit me and I wasn't bad enough for that.  I asked about a chest x-ray and he didn't seem to think it was necessary.  He tried again to push antibiotics on me again but I said no thanks.  I wasn't going to take them if I didn't need them.  I just said that I will wait and go to my GP. 

    I must admit that I became quite upset during the exam which is totally out of character for me.  I just don't know what to do.  I feel terrible, but it seems that you have to be on death's door for it to be a problem.  Well, here is hoping that I make it through until Tuesday. :*(

  • Emmasue, I know this is difficult (I've had similar things happen to me in the past) but try not to get stressed about it as that will only make things worse.

    You need to take things easy and allow your body time to recover from the infection.  If you've got any root ginger in the house, grate a teaspoon of it and put it into a mug along with a teaspoon of honey then pour hot water on top.  I find the resulting drink soothing when I have a difficult cough.

  • Thanks Maggie. I will have to see if we have any ginger. I am calmer today but still can't do much. 😞

  • Are you able to use a peak flow Meter? You need to be monitoring your peak flow regularly, so you can tell the GP how much it is normally andhow much it has dropped when you are unwell. Antibiotics can take 3 or 4 days to start working, and do not work against all infections, which is why the out of hours GP suggested another course of antibiotics.  The only way to find out which particular bug you are growing is to take a sputum test, but the results take a week to come back from the lab, which again is why the doc suggested antibiotics.  If your phlegm is green, you still have an infection.The infection will make your Asthma worse, as the doc mentioned. You are tired and anxious. No wonder you are feeling tearful. Maybe you need some help. Speak to your GP on Tuesday and as soon as you can.

    There are some really nasty coughs around at the moment, lasting for months. Keep drinking water,upto 2 litres a day (I am still trying).  Oh, and coffee may help as a stimulant, as it contains a really small amount of Theophyllin, which is an Asthma/COPD drug. I also find eating apples help. Remember, a cough is the body's way of getting rid of bad things so help it along.

    Sending a warm arm around yourshoulders. I will be thinking of you.

  • Thanks Anne. I have been on antibiotics for a week and I know the GP was just trying to fob me off with antibiotics and he didn't really want to give them to me. It probably is just asthma that is making me so breathless but I don't know. I have been ill for over two weeks now and it is starting to get me down. 😥

  • The tree pollen is high here in East Anglia, and is affecting my Asthma, so may be same for you. Have you had a Spirometry Test lately?

  • I see the asthma nurse at the hospital in a few weeks. I hope she can get me sorted. x

  • Well, as an update for this, I called my GP on Tuesday morning.  He said I sounded terrible and gave me an extended, higher does of prednisolone.  He also gave me Carbocisteine (Mucodyne) to loosen up the mucus on my lungs to make it easier to bring up.  As a result, I am feeling a bit better today, though I still feel out of breath.  Now though, my 7 year old daughter is ill with a high temperature and my husband still has it bad on his chest and my 10 year old son has started coughing.  When will it end!?!?

  • Hi Emmasue

    I've been dealing with Dad who broke his collar bone so I wasn't on line. You have had a hard time of it. Sounds like it is going round the family. Poor you..

    Glad the Gp gave you a good treatment.

    Take care xxx

  • Thanks. Hope your dad is better soon. x

  • Thanks Emmasue! I'm waiting for a placement in a convalescing home so he can have specialised care and I can sleep at night! 

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