Newbie - cold/virus versus asthma

Hi, I am quite a newbie to asthma having been diagnosed mild six weeks ago at the age of 43. I just have a blue inhaler for use as and when I need it. I have got a cold at the moment and wondered if a coughing fit the other day was actually an attack. I couldnt stop, reached for the inhaler and I coughed out my first puff, luckily held down the second and that calmed it down. Wondering about going to docs as they said come back if not well managed and will think about a preventer. I hardly use my inhaler, but this past week or so its been needed a few times. So difficult to know whats a cold and whats asthma. I also find it worse going it in the cold and definitely when there's high pollution and evening air filled with woodsmoke (eventhough I live in southeast London, fashionable woodburners!).

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  • Hi having a cold with asthma can make you cough and wheeze more than others, but as long as your inhaler worked then I don't think you have anything to worry about. Wait and see what happens as a cold shouldn't last longer than a week at the most.

    You only need to worry if you start coughing up green or yellow gunk in which case it could be a chest infection and antibiotics may be needed. You will have to visit your doctor then.

    There are lots of triggers for asthma sufferers though not all will suffer the same ones. These include pollution (especially traffic), dust mites, pets, cleaning products, paint fumes etc. You will find out what your triggers are. If it is cold a good idea is to wear a loose scarf over your nose and mouth to avoid cold air going into your lungs. This can trigger an exacerbation. x

  • If you find your need to use your blue inhaler (ventolin) is increasing, then you need to see the Asthma Nurse/GP. As you are new to it, I think it would be wise to see the docs on Monday. Coughing like that, so much that you can't stop, can be a warning that you Asthma control needs to be checked.

    When you get a cough like that again, put both arms in the air, above your head. It works, honest. Cant say it will all the time though. Then concentrate on breathing slowly in through your nose, out through your mouth, until you recover. Coughs are good, as they are the bodies way of loosening mucus and getting it off your chest. Drink some water.

    Do you have a peak flow meter?

  • Thanks. Yes I have a peak flow meter. My peak flow personal best is as high as 650 (after inhaler), I average 550, and while I've had this cold its 400 to 450 which is low for me. Its hard to know if its just a cold that will pass or if i need help because of asthma. I did produce some 'green' once last week, yuk. Docs appointments online are three weeks away, so will probably have to sit at the walk in. Everyone turns up an hour early because they only see the first 12 !

  • You have a good peak flow mine is 320 at its best .i am very chesty too and have been coughing so much I have been sick this has been going on for weeks ,I will end up having to see dr or nurse .I think if it does not stop go see your doc .All the best .x

  • Thanks. Do you feel well when you have a 320 pf? I feel good at 600, but tired/rough at 500 and below. I try not to compare actual numbers with others, only with my own personal best and usual score. As I understand it our age, sex, height and general fitness all affect what are 'good' numbers for us individually. I played a brass instrument for years in school, perhaps that put my norms higher. I think it is the percentage change that counts and how we feel at those numbers?

  • No I can't say I ever feel well ,mine is I get exhausted and very weak .I manage but when I get flu and this cough it really scuppers me and your right it's other factors as you say ,I also have fibro and several other illnesses to o and I have ME .Wishing you well xx

  • Is there an asthma nurse at the surgery you could contact? Does your surgery offer phone appointments? Do you have an Asthma Action Plan? If so you need to follow that. If your peak flow stays at that level, or continues to fall, then you need to seek medical advice on Monday. Can't you ring up?

  • I should see how it goes if I were you. Give the cough/cold time to pass and see how your lungs feel then. It's fine to use the blue inhaler when you need it, but you don't want to start on a programme of medication if it isn't really necessary.

  • Hi Wheezy, unfortunately colds make asthma worse. If you feel you have breathing difficulties you should consult a doctor, or go to the nearest A&E, walk-in centre..Take Care xx

  • Thanks all. I will see Monday if I'm a bit better, by then I'll have had it well over a week so should have improved if just a virus.

  • I went to the docs 40mins before the walk-in clinic starts and got seen 1hr and 10mins later...

    Given 5 days of Pred (6x 5mg tablet a day) and a Clenil inhaler. This is all new to me, so I will see how it goes.

    Have a nurse appt booked in fortnight so will review then and make a plan.

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