Why is there so much gunk in my lungs?! - Asthma UK communi...

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Why is there so much gunk in my lungs?!


When my asthma is really bad (normally in the winter time) I have so much productive mucous, it’s really gross tbh.

I seem to end up with back to back chest infections as it’s really difficult to shift. I wake up every morning rattling and try to avoid coughing because every time I start coughing it goes on for what feels like ages.

Does anyone else experience this?! Or have any bright ideas to help?!

My aunt who is a respiratory physio is sorting me out some hypertonic saline nebulisers to try and shift it but it’s just infuriating!!

23 Replies

This is usually a reaction to molds and microbial contamination. These may be found in showers/bathrooms, window tracks which seed the house when opened, from water ingress that’s happened in the home, carpets, porous wall coverings holding humidity and microbes etc.

Declutter and be in an exceptionally clean environment. Keep humidity low. Use accelerated drying techniques. Put plugs into sinks to stop microbial offgassing from pipes. Remediate entirely any water affected materials by complete removal.

Brilliant Thankyou so much for your help!

Hidden in reply to asthmaticclimber

It may well be mold (Stachybotrys) but a much more likely allergen is house dust mites, this is the most common uk indoor allergen and will be more common in the winter.

Saassii in reply to Hidden

Not likely only Stachy.... When you see dust mold, bacteria and virus are already present. When an allergist does a RAST test it shows an IGE mediated allergy to an antigen. But at this level there is no separation of dust, molds, bacteria's, virus.... So yes it shows most people allergic to "dust" but that's not necessarily what the immune system is reacting to.

To establish the moldiness index of a building a dust sample is collected. Mold, bacteria, virus are all much smaller particle size than dust.

Hidden in reply to Saassii

You have just made all that up in your head.

Saassii in reply to Hidden

I wish I did....


Professor Theo Theoharides

Professor Janice Joneja

Dr Lawrence Afrin

Dr Jill Carnahan

Dr Richie Shoemaker

Dr Sandeep Gupta

Dr Anne Maitland

ISEAI - International Society of Environmentally Acquired Illness

Dr Mary Ackerley

Dr Georgina Hale

There are many others, these are my favored sources.

Mr Vince Neil (IEP - Indoor Environmental Professional)

You'll also find if you research via PubMed you'll find a reasonable amount.

Feel free to research or ask questions and I'll do my best to point you to relevant searches.

You're most welcome. Brand new pillow and mattress cover, low allergenic duvet etc.

You may benefit from Intal, an older mast cell stabilizing inhaler. If it's helpful you can orally ingest to lower symptoms overall. If these were helps then a low histamine diet should follow to lessen the overall body burden from overactive mast cells in the lungs and connective tissue. The oral is Sodium cromoglycate, known as Cromolyn. Intal the inhaled version. Very old and reputedly innocuous pharmaceutical.

Certainly that as a longer term option owns exposure to steroids which carries its own problem in and of itself.

I asked my allergist for Intal based off research and gut. I remain steroid free and I'm extremely happy with the results. I take Cromolyn and Intal with Ventolin for those rescue times... Which generally only occur for me in indoor poor air quality conditions or outside near a mulch heap etc

Sounds great, will definetly look into that!!

EmmaF91Community Ambassador

This is a normal reaction to poorly controlled asthma (and is also known as asthmatic bronchitis). Asthma is basically narrowed airways and increased mucus production ( blf.org.uk/support-for-you/... ). If you don’t shift the gunk then it sits in your lungs making you more prone to chest infections (this is one of the reasons asthmatics cough... to stop this happening by coughing the mucus up).

The active cycle of breathing is good to help shift it (hopefully your aunt can teach you this but here’s a print out; acprc.org.uk/Data/Publicati... and the AUK info; asthma.org.uk/advice/inhale...), saline nebs can help and so can steaming (if steam isn’t a trigger for you). Other than that getting on top of your asthma with the right MEF regime is the thing you need to do. Speak to you GP and if they say your ‘maxed out’ on the meds they can offer them ask for referral to your local consultant (if you’re not already under them).

Hope that explains the process a bit to you

Awesome, thanks for your help. Steam usually helps so will try that again and try speak to my GP x

Montelucast is the standard treatment for mucous in asthma and carbocysteine for thinning mucous in COPD. I use N-acetyl cysteine because I find montelucast makes me tired (a bit like antihistamines) and my mucous is thin, but I'm not sure if it really works - it's available from health stores.

Already on montelukast unfortunately and still gunky maybe I shout ask re carbocysteine. Thanks for your help.

I had almost permanent phlegm for a couple of years and in the end the specialist put me on the antibiotic Azithromycin for 4 months. That was two years ago and I haven't had a chest infection since despite a couple of colds, these would normally trigger a phlegmy chest.

The respiratory clinic have said that winter phlegm can be annual so I can repeat the Azithromycin if I need to on an annual basis if necessary.

It's a vicious cycle as inhaled meds can't pierce the phlegm clogged airways so oral meds need to be administered. Even though I was on Montelukast it wasn't working. I was so worried about the damage all that gunk can do so relieved to have been given Azithromycin.

I also ensure that my nasal & mouth health is as good as possible - apart from usual mouth cleansing I gargle to prevent thrush & sore throats and use Beconase to keep nasal passages clear and to prevent post nasal drip.

All the best, I hope you find the answer for you.

Hi, that sounds amazing I would LOVE to not have chest infections every year!! Sounds like a pretty good deal, will speak to my GP/specialists re possibility of some more antibiotics :) thanks for your help

Graham07allen in reply to Poobah

Hi there what dose Azithromycin was you on. Thanks

Poobah in reply to Graham07allen

Sorry Graham I can't recall, it was many months ago. I had to have tests before I started to ensure it's suitability and the same tests when I finished the 4 month course. It was prescribed by the consultant not my GP.

According to various articles it's suitable for both eosinophilic and non-eosinophilic asthmatics.

Graham07allen in reply to Poobah

Hi there thanks. I'm kinda going through the same thing. Hot consultant in march. Gona ask him about it. Thanks

Make an appointment with your asthma nurse/specialist, get an upto date X-ray and bloods too if needed. I suffer in much the same way and have done all my life. Only recently I have been under professional care for my asthma and discovered I have eosinophilic asthma - apparently it is very normal for suffers of this type to suffer in this way and to be extra prone to infections as well as just feeling as if you've got 'another one'. I too take montelukast and it hasn't made a significant difference when it comes to winter months (I'm better the rest of the year, worse when weather changes to warm/cold). Please go and seek further support, I'm far from where I need to be right now but my specialist has advised that are more things to try, it's just a case of trial and error until we can find what works.

In the short term steam can help... but I'm assuming you've tried that and (I shouldn't laugh..) discovered it doesn't help all that much.

Good luck, please keep going to see a professional until you find what works - and pass it on.

Thanks Amy2091 makes me feel a lot better that it’s not just me. Seems like we may have a similar story. Am hoping for a specialist referal after GP appt tomorrow to the team at my local hospital which would be awesome x thanks for your suggestion

Good luck, I'm finding the support overwhelming at times as they seem to want to move things along so quickly but it's so much better than what you'd get at your local surgery. It's useful that you have a chest physio in ur family, I wish I could use one of these at times but it's not something anyone has suggested for me, maybe with tryingother things it will never be needed.

Haha yes I’m lucky my aunt is awesome :)

UPDATE: went to the GP yesterday, turns out I have the mother of all chest infections in my right lung which is probably the reason my asthma is so rubbish at the minute. GP was very surprised I didn’t have a chest X-ray in hospital on Saturday and no one properly listened to my chest.

Took my Fostair inhaler before I saw GP to quieten my chest so she could hear properly. Lots of serious consolidation on the right bottom of my lung and apparently only moving a very little amount of air on the right hand side. O2 sats were ok, gave me a little O2 coz she was making me cough by asking for deep breaths 😂

Basically she was pretty worried, options were to go into hospital for IV antibiotics or try Clarithromycin at home and if anything gets worse then come straight in. Opted to stay home (avoid any other sick people in hospital) but looking after myself big style.

Does anyone have experience with clarithromycin? Or nasty chest infections like this? GP said I was at high risk of silent chest so being extra careful atm :)

Hi apink. How are you doing? Is the clarithromycin working? Take care.

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