When to worry about a cold: Hiya. I... - Asthma UK communi...

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When to worry about a cold

Aylabrida profile image

Hiya. I think I might have a cold. I have cough variant asthma and rhinitis so it's not always easy to tell. It's been a while since I had one...

My asthma had been good to the point of not needing a preventer until about 6 weeks ago. Then I started needing bricanyl more and more often, so I went back onto symbicort SMART. I also take montelukast and avamys for my rhinitis and fexofenadine for urticaria (I've had allergy tests and all came back negative, but in any case the fexofenadine should cover that).

Today I woke up feeling like someone was sitting on my chest and my lungs feel really really scratchy. I've been sneezing a bit and have a dry cough. If the cough is more productive it temporarily relieves the chest scratchyness. I'm also feeling really sensitive to pretty much anything that smells - the oven being on, deodorant, washing up liquid all make me cough when they don't normally. I've had about 5 puffs of symbicort as a reliever today, which hasn't done a lot to relieve the symptoms. I don't really feel like talking a lot or doing anything vaguely energetic that'll get me out of breath, but other than that I don't feel too bad.

My peak flows are always good, as I have small airway disease only (my large airways are fine). So even when I'm feeling utterly rubbish I still blow around 400. I've had bags of fun trying to explain that to GPs in the past when they start insisting I don't have asthma (I was diagnosed by a consultant).

Thoughts? Should I book in to see the GP if I'm still like this tomorrow? Thanks!

14 Replies

Hi a doctor can't do anything about a cold but if you feel you are having an exacerbation then you should go as you might need steroids to clear it. If you cough up coloured gunk then you probably have a chest infection and might need ab's as well.

You don't always cough up coloured gunk with a chest infection as it can be clear, but if you are feeling ill as well (like the flu) then it still could be one.

The main thing if you are not sure its better to go and there be nothing wrong than not and there is. Don't take any chances with your lungs please.

Aylabrida profile image
Aylabrida in reply to

Thanks. I'm not worried about the cold itself, but whether this might be an exacerbation (started by a cold, or not, as the case may be). And I'm not sure I can tell them apart. I'm not coughing up anything yet, as so far my cough is dry. But I do feel quite tight chested and just generally more sensitive. For instance, if my asthma is well controlled cigarette smoke doesn't irritate me, but right now just looking at a cigarette would probably give me a coughing fit...

in reply to Aylabrida

From what you say this just sounds like a normal cold to me. As you know its common to cough more and feel tight chested with one. I would give it a few more days to see if it will clear itself. My nurse told its ok to use my blue reliever inhaler more and even to have an extra puff of my preventer.

However if you start to feel ill with it or your breathing is compromised then I would visit the doctor.

I saw something online about how to tell an exacerbation so will google and put it on here for you.

Hi can't find it but here is the number for asthma.uk. You can call and speak to an asthma nurse office hours 0300 222 5800

Do you suffer with hay fever or allergic to tree and grass pollen? It is hard to tell whether it is a cold, sinus infection, chest infection and hay fever. I am like this at the moment and think I have a sinus infection blowing down green gunk but it could be a cold! I think sometimes it is safer to go to the doctors to get a course of antibiotics and maybe steroids before it gets any worse.

The only way I can tell for certain if I have a cold or rhinitis is from the first symptoms: if it starts with itchy eyes it's invariably rhinitis; if it starts with a sore throat or cough plus feeling shivery after a bout of coughing, it's a cold.

Hope you feel better soon.

Thanks everyone for your replies. I'm pretty sure it is a cold now. Fingers crossed it'll be on its way soon!

My chest infections, usually for me is a stabbing between the shoulder blades, low peak flow.

I recently took egg, dairy, wheat out of my diet it has worked well.

My GP also put me on Uniphyllin it has worked wonders for me.

Also get a steroid spray for the rhinitis

Thanks mrsgailowens. I'm on avamys for the rhinitis, a steroid spray - a strong one, next step is steroid drops.

Does anyone know if there's anything I can get OTC for my chest? I can't even put Vicks on my son because it really sets off my asthma, so not that! (It's the menthol that does it, I think)

MaggieHP profile image
MaggieHP in reply to Aylabrida

OTC medication, no, not if you can't use Vicks (which is what I would normally use) but what I find soothing if I have a sore throat or cough (the latter not being asthma related) is a hot ginger drink. One tsp grated fresh root ginger in a mug along with one tsp honey, topped with hot water.

Aylabrida profile image
Aylabrida in reply to MaggieHP

Thanks MaggieHP. I ended up using some eucalyptus essential oil diluted in oil on my chest and that made a world of difference. Might try some ginger tea later!

Tonitru profile image
Tonitru in reply to MaggieHP

And lemon - helps to cut mucus.

I also have trouble telling whether an attack is a cold starting, allergy attack or non-allergic rhinitis. Just got hit out of the blue with a bad sneezing attack an hour ago and don't know WHAT caused it. Fortunately, first-aid symptom relief is much the same anyway. Tip from my pharmacist: if you have allergies and regularly take a non-drowsy (second-generation) antihistamine such as cetirizine or Claritin, DON'T double the dose if you get a bad attack. Instead, add an old-fashioned (first-generation) antihistamine (+ decongestant if not already taking). They can also help with a cold. I find most helpful if available is Dimetapp Liquid - fast acting, minimal drowsiness; second choice Chlorpheniramine (Chlortripolon etc.) plus Sudafed.

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