Do I have un-treated asthma? - Asthma UK communi...

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Do I have un-treated asthma?

Carriegoodegg profile image

Hi there, I'm 40 and I've had a diagnosis of asthma for years but it's never been properly diagnosed, treated or reviewed. I've sporadically had blue and brown inhalers but never felt they did much good. I've never really believed the asthma diagnosis because I don't have the classic symptoms such as wheezing or asthma attacks.

However, as long as I can remember, I've had terrible, debilitating dry coughs that are particularly bad at night and go on for weeks. They normally start with a cold. They lead to sleep deprivation and problems at school then uni then work as well as my social life and stress levels. It's particularly difficult because this happens several times a year so I have several weeks a year of barely any sleep and taking time off work.

I also have hay fever and a lot of allergies eg to dust and cats and I've also noticed that there's a slight whistling sound when I breathe.

I guess my question is does it sound like I have asthma and what treatment do you think would be helpful? Thank you.

15 Replies

Based on your symptoms you do have a bronchial problem whether it is Asthma, Bronchitis or just allergies perhaps you need to push for answers .Personally I think they are all linked as my Grandad had bronchitis born in 1908 ,I have Asthma, my son has bronchitis and my grandaughter has Asthma we all have allergy problems ,dry coughs etc. perhaps in your family history you can get answers.

Carriegoodegg profile image
Carriegoodegg in reply to Babela

Thank you. I guess it doesn't matter what they're called as long as you can get the right treatment. Take care

Asthma tests are difficult because asthma is variable so someone with asthma can do the tests and they'll be normal.

You can pretty much do it yourself though by monitoring your peak flow twice a day every day (best of 3 goes each time). Do this for several weeks, eg about 8 weeks, At the same time restart your brown inhaler and use that religiously twice a day as prescribed. Do your peak flow measurements before using the inhaler. Keep a record of symptoms and the peak flow measurements over that time. The results will show if the meds are helping symptoms and improving your baseline peak flow, in which case it's likely to be asthma.

Alongside that, when you are symptomatic (eg coughing at night), do your peak flow, take 2 puffs of your blue inhaler (one press and breathe in and then the 2nd). Wait 15-20 minutes and redo peak flow. That test is seeing whether the blue relief inhaler is helping which also indicates whether it's asthma or not.

To be honest though, it's quite likely that meds haven't seemed to work because you haven't taken them regularly (or that's how it comes across) and as they need time to build up to be effective it's possible they're not being allowed to do that.

Edited to add that if it then indicates it might not be asthma it's all useful info to take back to a GP to say "well what else could it be?"

Thank you. That's helpful. You're right, I haven't taken the meds regularly because I wasnt really sure what changes to expect or how quickly so I have up quite soon. Def gonna take them as prescribed and maybe get a peak flow meter too. Thank you.

Definitely get a meter - then can be bought online or from a pharmacy or on prescription although depending if you pay for your prescriptions they may be cheaper just paid for. So helpful when stuff is explained to patients isn't it?!

This might be worth a read:

I wrote it and added links to other posts and websites as lots of people seem not to be given early education of you like with asthma. Obviously ignore any bits you already know!

Hope you get a noticeable difference with them because at least that's an easy solution to your problems!

After having a cough for a year. I to was told I had asthma and 6 years later i was told the cough is over my stomach problems

It can be very difficult to distinguish between asthma and other conditions that can mimic the symptoms: reflux - particularly silent reflux - which I do get flares of - is known to be one of them. I’ve had asthma for well over fifty years (so I know my particular version of it very, very well) and I’ve been caught out more than once by thinking my asthma is playing up when in fact it has been reflux. The giveaway with me is when the symptoms flare (typically after eating or drinking if it’s reflux - food allergies were ruled out some years ago) and what they respond to. If using Gaviscon Advance clears the symptoms (and it does it really quite quickly) then I know the coughing and breathing issues are being caused by reflux.

Thanks a lot not sure if the acid reflux is affecting my breathing

Some excellent advice given here. You may also wish to discuss this with an Asthma UK nurse as it's such a broad condition with many variants and, even though they're not in a position to diagnose asthma definitively, they can offer a discussion about your symptoms and options.

To receive proper treatment for asthma, it has to be properly diagnosed first -- spirometry at least, methacoline test, peak flow on your own, and skin tests/blood work. Have the GP right a referral to a respiratory consultant (they do not do it unless asked/begged, or unless you are dying in front of them). If they refuse the first time, keep requesting until you get it. If you are not happy with your GP, go to another one. If you are not happy with the local practice, find a private respiratory consultant (I go to Spire at Leicester). For £500 they will do all the tests in a week, and will spend plenty of time with you -- not 15 min like a GP (if that) who probably read about asthma for the last time in medical school (10-20 years ago). A colleague of mine teaches asthma to students and he did not know about biological treatment options which have been around for 15 years. When feeling really sick, do not suffer at home and go to AE -- they can give you steroids, and there will be a documentation that an AE having been involved which, in turn, will escalate the urgency to the GP.

Like Twinkly said, inhalers should be used regularly, properly, the dosage should be right, and there are different compounds out there. Finally, there is allergen control at home and outside (depending on what allergens they identify).

Get a referral and tested properly, only way to get to a proper diagnosis - blue inhaler doing nothing and treats nothing

EmmaF91 profile image
EmmaF91Community Ambassador

That whistling sound may actually be a wheeze that your brain isn’t hearing properly. But equal cough variant asthma is a form of asthma, and asthma attacks aren’t always like the media portrays.

I suggest talking to your GP and trying the inhaler they give you. It takes up to 8 weeks for a preventer to completely kick in, so it won’t be an instant thing. Equally you may find that discussing a daily antihistamine might be beneficial. The blue inhaler may help during an acute phase (like your coughing fits) but that’s a reliever not a preventer so you’ll only notice 15 mins after use in an acute phase to see if it’s helping.

I would suggest talking to your GP or giving AUK a call to discuss it with them. The nurses are great and can be reached on 0300 2225800 M-F 9-5. Alternatively their WhatsApp service is 07378 606728.

Hope this helps and you feel better soon

I’m an asthmatic who is not a classic wheezer, my symptoms are more of dry barking cough and a tight chest. What you have said about impact of colds/infections in the past and how affected you/affect you, sounds very similar to my experience in my teens/20s and 30s Worthwhile going to doctors to discuss. The attack that I had that led to me being diagnosed when I was 9 - began with a barking cough, it took me years to realise that the cough was a sign that something not right and asthma exacerbation beginning. I now take reliever as soon as cough comes or if I get tight chest.

On reading your post it was like reading a description of my asthma when I was younger. When I finally went to gp she said "oh sounds very much like asthma , use this inhaler (becotide then), if it works then it's asthma "! It did work but a few years later asthma took a downturn to the incessant dry cough, colds would become chronic lung infections every time, I had 5 x pneumonia in under two years so now lung damage & small airways disease added to the asthma (was under consultant who also said all my problems were due to uncontrolled asthma) . If only I had my time over to educate myself better.

Don't hang about, get a proper diagnosis ASAP (winter is here). Good luck, Peege

This is how my 15year old sons asthma developed a year ago, he does get wheezy and chest pain. When bad has an awful persistent cough. Sometimes has the cough without wheezing. The doctors started him off with the blue and brown inhalers and has montelukast tablets which stopped the night time cough. He now has a purple combined inhaler. The asthma nurse told us that if woken with a cough it's a sign of asthma.

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