Symptoms that go away without inhaler? - Asthma UK communi...

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Symptoms that go away without inhaler?


Does anyone get episodes of increased shortness of breath, or cough, or wheeze, or tight chest that subside without any treatment? Or do those symptoms get worse until you have to use the blue inhaler?

Before I was started on Fostair (oh my goodness! SO much better!) last week I often found that I would get symptoms, but because I didn't like the wobbliness that the blue inhaler gave me, I would try not to take it. Often the symptoms went away after anything from a few minutes to a few hours, leaving me wondering whether I really needed the blue inhaler at all.

My resp nurse and the GPs are still not on the same page about whether I'm asthmatic or post-viral. Reading other people's posts makes me think that true asthma doesn't improve by itself. Or is it more about those unknown triggers and how removing them improves things?

18 Replies

Not much help to you but I guess I get both... sometimes need the blue an that only takes edge off. Other times I try not to take it and symptoms eventually can settle but thats with complete rest and not always.

Hi Airls. I sometimes experience this. My guess is that sometimes mucus in the lungs can get stuck and as a result blocks the pipes which ends up as a wheeze.

As a teenager I could often as not “cough out a wheeze” and not need my blue. I’m not really able to do this as much since my asthma got worse and rely a lot more on my blue now. Sometimes blowing hard into a PF meter can relieve a light wheeze in my case.

I’ve had that too. Sometimes coughing it up helps, and other times coughing just irritates it and makes it worse.

Me too. A lot of coughing can make the situation so much worse!

(Ha. I just received my invitation for a flu jab for the first time. I guess that was generated by the Fostair script rather than a diagnosis though?)

LysistrataCommunity Ambassador

This also used to confuse me, but yes, asthma can subside by itself sometimes. Of course, it's not always easy to guess; sometimes I wait for it to go and it does, but sometimes it doesn't and then I need more blue to deal with it than I would have done otherwise. But it's certainly possible for milder symptoms to self-resolve, especially if you remove a trigger (not always of course, and it's definitely not something to rely on).

The way I see it is that the blue inhaler hasn't been around that long, relatively speaking (first available as salbutamol inhaler in the 1960s I think) and before that there weren't really easy options for symptom relief. However, while it must have been rubbish to live with, people didn't inevitably get worse and worse even when they had no options for easy symptom relief, so there must be an element of natural remission for some asthma symptoms.

There were some options if symptoms did persist and get worse (my uncle used to get adrenaline for bad attacks, and the notorious 'asthma cigarettes' were actually an earlier, very unsafe version of modern Atrovent inhalers) - but it was still possible for asthmatics to have symptoms come and go even when they didn't have much they could do about it. I imagine they had to do more in the way of trigger avoidance, but if you needed treatment every time or you would get worse and worse, I imagine the mortality rate from asthma would have been higher than it seems to have been (though also of course it's hard to diagnose asthma even now, so it's hard to get a handle on asthma rates and mortality from eg 100 years ago).

You’re right. Noel Streatfeild wrote very clearly about her asthmatic sister in her Victorian autobiography A Vicarage Family. They only had crystals to burn (she doesn’t say what they were - menthol maybe?) and her attacks subsided. Their grandfather had a permanent wheeze but her sister had it in attacks. I found that fascinating.

LysistrataCommunity Ambassador in reply to AirIsUnderrated

That was who I had in mind when I was thinking about asthmatics in the old days! I love Noel Streatfeild and have read that book many times. These days she would have been able to do so much more but back then it sounds like she was a semi-invalid - though I did find out she went on to be an artist and lived into her 90s.

My mum had that same ability to know when her brother was having an attack in the night just from his breathing - she'd hear it, wake her parents up and then go back to bed. At boarding school they'd wake her up and ask her how to handle his attacks because they didn't know - he was one of only two asthmatics there and she had more experience than the staff in what to do and whether he needed help asap.

Things have come on so much in the last 40 years. When I was a child I had severe eczema, hay fever and what is now known as allergic asthma. In those days it wasn’t asthma if you couldn’t breathe in, only if you couldn’t breathe out. My triggers were exercise, cold air, dust, cut grass, pollen, mould and cats, all relieved by the blue inhaler.

At age 13 our parents took us away for a weekend in a B&B. It was my brother’s turn to have the top bunk and Mum and I watched the cloud of dust that descended when he climbed up there in dismay. In the middle of the night I woke up gasping for breath, and we discovered that nobody had packed my inhaler. The B&B had locked us in and the only window that opened was the little one above the toilet in the bathroom. I spent the night standing on the toilet seat with my head hanging out of the window to get air. No phones, no mobiles, no way of getting help. None of that would have been allowed these days but then that was how it was then. I lived, but my poor mother!

Agree with Lysistrata but also other things that mimic asthma can go away on their own/blue inhaler wouldn't help them anyway - breathing pattern quirks, anxiety, etc. As well as post viral stuff. And of course we can have asthma going on along side these other things. So sometimes you probably do need the inhaler for relief but other times maybe not. But it's a continuing learning curve trying to unpick it all!

LysistrataCommunity Ambassador in reply to twinkly29

Yes I forgot to mention those - part of what makes it so confusing! Though as you go on I think you do start to learn the difference between asthma and other things, even without the 'responding to blue' test! Just takes some practice.

Isn’t it just?! I know I keep banging on about diagnosis, but knowing the cause helps psychologically. I guess not needing the blue now that I’m on Fostair 100/6 2bd after needing it with Qvar 50 3bd is a tick in the asthma box versus post-viral?

As a child we had no inhalers and wheezes/mild attacks had to subside without medication, but I did have one or 2 big exacerbations each year where I was confined to bed for a couple of weeks and had to take tablets round the clock, for this my poor mother was up at least twice each night.

Hello Everyone

I thought you may be interested to hear from an old'un (born late 1940's) who was a very sickly asthmatic child - me!

The treatment available to me were an orange-coloured liquid medicine (sorry, I don't know what it was) and 'F' tablets, as we called them:. these were ephedrine tablets.

Some really bad days ended with my father driving me around with my head out of the car window, trying to obtain more air. Good old days... not!

The 'F' tablets were, of course, strictly rationed and I remember counting down the hours and minutes until I could have another.

When unwell, a fair bit of the time, lived more or less in my bedroom, devoid of carpets and curtains (to minimise dust etc), missed much school and was thoroughly miserable! Books and the radio were my world.

Around 1960 I was shown and instructed on how to use an inhaler, a Medihaler, which was like a godsend to me. For the first time I had some control over my life. I even rode a bicycle and it was heaven!

Unfortunately, I much later developed a heart arrthymia and have recently been diagnosed with unstable angina, (am awaiting further investigation and treatment) which a Cardiologist has suggested was caused by probable over-use of the Medihaler. Oops.

I don't regret using the Medihaler as I did as it completely revolutionised my life and I was able to have a life.

We are fortunate to have many products in our asthma armoury and asthmatic children today, although having drawn a short straw, have a better shot at some normality. It's not perfect but much improved.

Memory moan over!

Thank you for your memories. That's really interesting. I think they're finding more and more that meds given for lots of things are/might be responsible for problems later in life. The mauve and white salbutamol tablets that I was given as a teen were discontinued, and I never found out why. I can't help wondering if they found they caused damage.

All the best with your investigations. I hope it stabilises.

Hi, if it’s a mild exacerbation then sometimes I can ‘treat’ it by sitting/lying down with my back propped up and it will eventually ease up by itself.

My chest is pretty much constantly tight to some degree so I try to avoid exacerbations by resting as much as possible and only trying to use the salbutamol overnight (which is when I have my bad attacks!). But I do use it during the day too if I really have to (but will do anything to avoid it lol).


In my experience asthma symptoms can come & go depending on severity & to a certain extent the body can repair itself. Although I agree with lysistrata that it shouldn't be relied upon!

So glad to hear the fostair is making a difference for you; it must be a relief to finally get somewhere!

Thank you. I’ve been taking it one week - had my review with the pharmacist this morning, all thumbs-up. Then I had my flu jab this afternoon and an hour later for the first time my chest got tight 1.5 hours before I was due for my evening dose. I’ve had the dose now and am feeling better but that horrible chest ache, internal itch & cough is back. Just when I thought it was nailed. How frustrating this all is!

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