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British Lung Foundation
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Catching a cold before a holiday

Hi everybody.

I was diagnosed with moderate COPD at the beginning of the year (Fev1 56%), although I believe I have suffered from it for years. I have smoked all my life (I am 63) so I guess deserved it! I don't feel that my condition has 'progressed' a great deal over the last ten years - and I am fortunate in that I am generally able to carry out day-to-day activities without undue breathlessness. If I get breathless, it is generally in the evenings (I put this down to grooming the cat!) - and this is by no means every evening. But, when I get a cold, I know about it. The last cold I had was a couple months ago and I was given antibiotics, which did no real good and it took about six weeks to recover naturally. I did not suffer with breathlessness for any longer than about 4 days though. Currently, I am taking no medications for the COPD. I have a rescue inhaler, which I have used only once and didn't find any benefit from it. Anyway, that is my background - here is my question!

We are booked up (since last September) to take a trip to Greece - flying out on Sunday. I have never had problems with flying (my O2 levels average 96/97), but I sometimes struggle with hills and get out of breath if I rush (like having to dash around an airport). Anyway, I have been looking forward to this trip and am all packed up and ready to go. Now my husband has a cold. And I don't know what to do. My poor husband is feeling so guilty and I am getting very upset, because I don't want to spoil my family's trip because of my condition. I am washing my hands constantly, wiping down door handles and using a saline nasal spray - and, so far, I've avoided coming down with the cold. But this is all very stressful - the not knowing! So, what should I do? Should I see my doctor and ask him for advice? (He is very dismissive of me, however, and would probably simply give me a prescription for amoxycillin and wave me out the door) If I do get the cold, should I still take the trip? Antibiotics floor me completely - so I would rather avoid those. I apologise for this long and winding post - but any help, suggestions or words of comfort would be gratefully appreciated. Thank you.

33 Replies

Frankie if I was you I,d ring the nurses up tomorrow, blf number is, 03000 030 555, 10 am, thay will answer any questions you ask them,all the best,and don't worry,up to now it seems your doing ok so keep doing what your doing,please call the blf in the morning,xxx

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Thank you, twiceshy3 - I hadn't realised that there was an advice number. I will call in the morning, as you suggest.


Frankie go to the top theres a balloon. click and the number and e, mail is there, plus the forum is on 24/ 7, other members will be along with advice for you,xxx have a nice holiday, and if your not happy with your gp then change, other members have had problems with theres and changed and for the better it seems,


D'uh! Thank you, twiceshy3 - I've been reading these extremely helpful forums for months, but I never thought to click on the balloon!


Buy some Vicks 'first defense' that will help you to avoid catching your husbands cold. It's no use once you have got a cold but really works to guard against one

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Thank you, Sohara! There was one chemist in the city, open until 6:30, so I sent the husband down. He came back with a box that had obviously already been opened, so I sent him back to change it for one that hadn't! I will give it a go - thank you!


Hi Frankie 42. I sympathise. We are due off to Lanzarote in 10 days. My husband has a virulent head/chest cold (now called viral inf) caught from our daughter. I have mild bronchiectasis, broken sternum, broken head and I think bruising everywhere (cocysx(exc spelling) still on morphine after 8 weeks. My husband is in a deep depression so holidays are the only thing that keeps him going. He hates what Bronch has done to our lives. He is on the settee at the moment with "man flu" and has had in the last few days called me mardy. (I apologise for male members here I know you suffer but I do think our families suffer too.). Anyway, I am going down with the symptoms after fending off for the last few weeks. ABs no good for cold unless you have a secondary bacterial inf. The powerful ones I keep do not suit me. I have IBS the ABS make that worse but the morphine makes you constipated my bowels do not whether they are coming or going! Keep doing your good hygiene (I wish other people did on planes it is so buggy!) Take your EU Health Card and if you get your husband's cold, you will still feel better in the sunshine,, no chores and your family enjoying themselves. You might even find the cold does not last as long. Hope you have good holiday KJJ.

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Oh my, KatieJJ - and I thought I had problems! I do hope that you get away to Lanzarote to enjoy that sunshine - I think it's something we all need! And I hear you about the IBS and ABS! Five years ago, I flew to Hawaii with bronchitis and a streaming cold (I didn't know I had COPD then - sometimes I think ignorance is bliss!) and as soon as we landed, I completely forgot about the cold and bronchitis and had a wonderful time! I'm sure you will too. I am trying the Vicks, with fingers crossed!


Hi Frankie nice to meet you. I am amazed you can manage without any inhalers, I certainly couldn't and my FEV1 is 66%. I think you should be using an inhaler to open your airways such as symbicort, a longer lasting one like spiriva and the blue ventolin. The benefit of spiriva is accumulative and you would stop you getting so breathless and your long term health would be improved. This may be one of the factors in your long recovery time. Anti-biotics should work, maybe you need a different one next time. Oh and I agree - change your doctor! You should also be getting a least an annual check with a copd nurse at your surgery to keep an eye on your lung condition. Hope this helps. x


Hi coughalot - nice to meet you too! My copd nurse said she could give me other inhalers, but I didn't need them. She said she doesn't go by the 'numbers', but on symptoms. She said she had some patients on less percentage than me and they were doing fine, whereas others on higher fev1 were on inhalers and oxygen. So I guess it all depends. If I do start to get everyday breathless, I will certainly ask for the inhalers. But, honestly, I don't feel I need them at the moment, as I hardly ever get breathless - only really when I have a virus - and not always then. I actually think my 56% fev1 result might have been a little lower than it actually is. I had a terrible time blowing out that thing, as I had a ton of phlegm in my throat at the time. Also, I take beta blockers (propranolol) - I have done for 15 years (for anxiety) and I read that they lower your fev1 by up to 20%. I told my gp this and he more or less said, 'rubbish'. I did wonder about the steroids - they've never been offered to me. I have a bottle of prednisone in the cupboard and I was tempted to take them last time - they were for my cat! :)


btw, I am still smoking, which might explain why I don't need inhalers (the cigarettes open the airways). I promised my nurse that I would try to give up after our holiday (hopeless to try to do it beforehand, because the Greeks smoke like trains!) I need to give up, not just for my health - but because my husband is retiring and we just won't have the money. However, reading about people going downhill after they gave up, is really worrying me. If that happens to me, then I think I will consider cutting down drastically (although I don't smoke nearly as much as I used to) rather than giving up completely. I don't want to go downhill AND be thoroughly miserable.


Oh I forgot maybe you need a course of steroids when you have an infection? They should help clear it up much quicker. x


Hi Frankie

I too am aged 63 and was diagnosed with moderate copd (55% ) last October. Hadn't suffered much shortness of breath but had had an awful productive cough for the previous 2/3 years. Had suffered frequent chest infections which would take 5/6 weeks to clear and probably never cleared totally. I didn't seek medical help as I didn't want the smoking lectures !! ( Had smoked for 48 years )

Bv the time I went to the doctors my cough was pretty constant and involved copious amounts of phlegm. Was only sleeping in 30 minute bursts and was getting embarrassed to go out.

Was placed on Spiriva preventer inhaler . Also bricanyl as a rescue one to use if needed (never really used that )

Never thought it would be possible but 3 weeks later I managed to stop smoking with the aid of champix . Amazingly the cough disappeared within 3 days !! and breathing improved without the phlegm .( I know that this doesn't happen with everyone and it can often take weeks for the chest to clear......after all its been years of smoke/chemicals going in there .) Quitting smoking has been difficult at times but wasn't quite as hard as I thought.

I had always been reasonably fit and the doctor says that this is now helping to compensate for poor lung function . I can walk 4/5 miles at a reasonable pace , do gardening and moderate exercise classes without much shortness of breath.

Doctor said that as I am now no longer showing symptoms of copd to try stopping spiriva inhaler for the summer and see how I go . Been nearly 4 weeks and so far so good .....no cough , no sob and only 1 minor chest infection which cleared in 5 days.

I too take a low dose of beta blocker .( for rapid heart beat ) .

Hope you have a lovely holiday and can appreciate what you say about cigarettes being part of it . I recently experienced first cigarette free holiday in almost half a century. It was ok.

Cheers Coastal .


Hi Coastal. Were you born in September 1950? If so, I think you must be my twin - your story is so similar to mine! My problem is mainly coughing and phlegm and, when the phlegm builds up, it's that that makes me breathless - so I am constantly coughing to clear it (driving husband and son mad!) Your message makes me feel very hopeful on the cigarette front. I really don't want to give up, only to feel a lot worse, so thank you for your positive words. I too am fairly fit. I have never had much endurance - even as a child, I would be near collapse if I had to run 200 yards! But I can

walk a mile without any difficulties - and at a speed my husband can't keep up with! When I hit a hill I have to slow down though. I also do exercises every morning and do not get overly breathless. I too have a bricanyl inhaler, which I haven't even tried yet! I was given ventolin and used that once and felt a bit itchy - so my gp gave me the alternative inhaler. I should try it before I go on holiday! Thank you for your encouraging words, congratulations on kicking the weed - and I am so happy for you that you are feeling better!


By the way, I read that it's the cocoa they put in cigarettes that open the airways - so that's a good excuse for more chocolate! :) There's an interesting article on caffeine and asthma on here ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedheal... I haven't drunk coffee for over 30 years, but I may have to start!


I have suffered from a raised pulse for over 30 years......paroxysmal tachycardia. ......would go into a spasm and beat at 140/160 bpm for about 1.-2 hours. Was investigated by hospital and said to be nicotine and caffeine induced. Managed to cut the caffeine but continued to smoke. For the next 25 years problem kept in check by occasional courses of beta blocker . However abou 4 years ago started to get the episodes more frequently and had resting pulse of 95 .Doctor put me on low dose beta blockers permanently at this point ( had not yet been diagnosed with copd )

This is a long winded way of advising against caffeine if you're pron to rapid pulse .

Back to beta blockers ....apparently they are generally not a good idea with copd as they can narrow the airways. (there was a post a few weeks ago which discussed it in some detail ) My doctor was originally going to stop mine after the copd diagnosis but after taking my pulse ( 95 at rest ) changed me to one more suitable for copd .....bisoprolol . I think the smoking quit has helped reduce pulse rate as it is now 75 /80 at rest .( may be able to come off these if this continues .) Have never been offered or asked for prednisone/steroids.

Also same as you can walk at a brisk pace on the flat but useless on hills ......there again I always was . On a recent trip abroad did manage to walk up a steep incline to a medieval fortress in 32 degrees lots determination and lots of stops.

I took the first defence spray just before boarding the flight as in the past have caught infections .

I was born Feb 1951 .I would definitely recommend quitting .......generally speaking I feel fitter and healthier than I have for years and losing the cough and phlegm has been the big bonus ( during the night often thought I was choking/drowning in the stuff )

They do say that decline can be fairly rapid if you continue to smoke...also that cutting down doesn't have much effect .I had tried cutting down many times in the past and it never helped the cough . Also consumption creeps back up again for all sort of reasons ....it did with me always.

I would take all your pills and sprays on the trip as this will surely guarantee you won't need them.

Keep in touch and let us know how you get on

Cheers Coastal.

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thank you. that was an interesting article. :)


Wow!!! you are able to walk 5 miles ? At 63 and with COPD ? Great !!!! keep it up. Im diagnosed at age 28 with fev1 in the 70s. I used to worry about the future very often. Your story really gives me a lot of courage . Thanks for sharing your story.


I have an FEV1 of .28 and I still travel, Allow lots of time at the airports, don't rush it is not worth it. Take your time on the hills, ride if you can, but enjoy the trip.

Take cold/flu medication with you incase you pick something up. You can talk to your doctor about an emergency prescription for predisone in case you catch a flu and it should help allievate any emergency symptoms.

Other than that, enjoy.


I am very encouraged by your words, gmcl. I am not going to let this disease run my life, just as you are not allowing it to! I think I've picked the worst places in the whole of Greece for this trip! Santorini and Delphi for starters - all steps and slopes! I may well speak to my doctor some time this week. I Though I am making myself so tense that it might be best to try to relax, keep on with the nasal spray and hand-washing - and try to forget about it. I took prednisone some years ago, for an allergy - and they knocked me sideways, I do have 10 left over amoxycillin 500 tablets in the cupboard - so I will take those with me. They would give me a start in an emergency. Thanks!


Given that you have COPD, you should find that there is not too much that you can not do0. It is all a matter of pacing yourself. The problem is probably going to be not letting others set your pace for you. We all have a tendency of trying to "keep up" and that can lead to distress.

The predisone that my doctor prescribes are 50mg tables, taken for 5 days just to knock down any inflamation in the lungs. Studies have shown longer periods don't add any additional benefit.

The Pulse oxymeter is a great tool as it lets us know if we are pushing too hard / too fast. But you are right, not worth taking on vacation!



I have a son in USA and am a frequent flyer. Planes are not the healthiest environments. I was advised years ago to place a couple of drops of tea tree oil in each nostril. I have never had any problems with colds or anything like. If any family members or friends develop colds I apply just the 2 drops. I too have copd,but have never smoked thought I was as fit as a fiddle till last year. But go on holiday , enjoy yourself and relax. Carry on with the hand.washing,echinacha is supposed to be good as well as a standby remedy to help fight colds and coughs.


Thanks for the tips, Manne1749. My nose is .quite sore right now, with all the stuff I'm bunging up it! I've now changed the Vick's spray to the Boots brand one - it's much more pleasant to use. I'm sure I have some tea tree oil somewhere - I'll go and search for it. I remember, on the flights to Hawaii, I was very nervous about having a cold - but I used saline spray then and had no problems. I've flown about 30 times in the last ten years, mainly to and from the USA - and I never gave a thought to the oxygen levels. But now, of course, I am obsessed with them! This morning, I woke with a sore throat and tight chest, but that cleared quickly. My eyes are stinging like crazy, so I think it's probably the pollen. I did the hoovering and my exercises without being at all breathless - and yet my O2 levels were low and my pulse really high. Pulse was over 100 and O2 went down to 91 very briefly and then hovered between 93 and 94, which I wasn't happy about. I kept taking it over and over and really stressing myself. My levels are now back to normal (95/96/97) and I've put the oximeter away! And I shan't be taking it on holiday!


Hi, I too use the Boots version of 1st Defence and I swear it has helped me keep colds and bugs away.

I think it's vital to carry it in your pocket or close to hand. You can take it quite often both to prevent and also if you've actually got a cold, it has anti-viral stuff in it.

Twice recently I flew to Croatia for sailing. I used the spray at the airport, just before take off, during the flights and occasionally during the holidays - particularly if anyone coughed or sneezed near me ashore.

Amazingly I stayed clear of full blown bugs - even though my sailing companion had a dreadful cough.

I also took with me Corvonia Throat Spray which has antiseptic to kill off any sore throat bugs.

At any sign of a snuffle I take an effervescent Vitamin C and some echinacea drops to blast my immune system.

It seems to work for me, I've had 3 months without a chest infection. Paranoid I may be but any cold always goes to my lungs & lasts weeks.

BTW like many other her, amoxicillin doesn't do anything for us at all so we have other antibiotics..

Lots of people get away with being crap at their jobs, including GPs! Please change yours ASAP he/she doesn't deserve your loyalty.

All the best and have a fab holiday. Peeg


Hi Peeg.

Do you, by any chance, get a sore throat from using the Boots version? I've had a dreadful one since a good dose yesterday afternoon. It would be comforting if it was that causing the sore throat, rather than the first heralding of the blasted cold I fear so much! I have been so down since the sore throat started, that I haven't even turn my laptop on - so apologies to everybody I've not replied to. I'm grateful for everybody's replies.

I phoned the BLF helpline today and a nurse got back to me and suggested I go and see my doctor to check I was fit to travel. And to either start taking ABs now, or wait and see. I've decided to wait and see, cos the things make me feel like I'm underwater - and, apart from the sore throat (and panic!) I feel fine! So I phoned the medical centre and they 'have nothing for the rest of the week,' so I told them I had copd and was scheduled to fly on Sunday, but feared I had a cold coming on and needed to see a doctor. So she told me to ring at 8am tomorrow morning and she'd see what she could do. I am going to ask for some 250mg amoxy tablets, which I can take, if necessary, as a precaution. I doubt that will go down well.

Our regular gp for many, many years (all through the pregnancies etc) retired a couple years ago (boo-hoo) and I miss him terribly - as the replacement I've been landed with is so full of himself, and dismisses most of what I say, including the concern over the propranolol, which my copd nurse had said I should ask him about. I will try to see a different GP, but, tomorrow, I guess I'll have to have who I'm given.



With a bit of luck you'll get a nice GP for your emergency appt.

No, I don't get a sore throat from the Boots 1st Defence nasal spray. It never goes near my throat.

Get some of that Corvonia throat spray, it kills bugs. Most throat sprays are analgesic only but this one does both.

Also get the effervescent Vit c & take 3 times a day and loads of fluids. Good luck. P


Yes, with a bit of luck ... ! My throat is easing slightly. Last time I used the Boots spray, I sprayed it into the side of my nostril, rather than right up. That's what I had been doing, and I could feel it, almost immediately, drip down my throat.

I will try to get some of that throat spray tomorrow though - also the eff vit c. I've been drinking tons of water and it's good exercise (up and down the stairs to the loo!)

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My sore throat has all but gone and I only have a few sniffles, plus a bit of throaty phlegm. The doctor I saw this morning was wonderful! He has given me 250mg amoxycillin to take one daily as a precaution - of course, to be upped if I get a bad chest. He gave me a thorough examination. Chest is clear, temperature normal, BP normal, O2 98%, pulse 88. Hunky dory! I'd better get back to the lists and packing! I will make sure I see this doctor again when we get back and ask him about the beta blockers. Thanks again everybody.


Unfortunately, my worst fears have been realised. I have gone downhill since Wednesday. Breathing is terrible (only slightly relieved by Ventolin) and my O2 is hovering between 90 and 91. At one stage this morning ,it was 86. I don't think I can take the risk. I have phoned the doctor's surgery and asked for the doctor I saw Wednesday to give me a call back. Absolutely devastated - but I think we will have to cancel.


Oh dear. I do hope that nice doctor gave you a decent antibiotic and you've gone on your holiday.

It beggars belief (to me) that after the Amoxicillin didn't work before that he actually gave it to you again! Grrrr

Edit: oh what a shame, I've just read your below reply about cancelling. Such a shame. This b..... disease

I don't think you'll get much in the way of side effects from short term use of Pred. unless you're unlucky like me and it makes you feel totally ill. I just can't take it. Feel dreadful and gives me palpitations.

Good luck with it. P


Yes, it is a real bummer, peeg. My family (who've missed out on our wonderful trip!) have been really good about it, but I can tell how disappointed they are. I have (perhaps foolishly) booked a few days in a log cabin in Norfolk for next week (from Sunday) to try to make some amends. But this blasted infection is lingering and I am practically wearing my pulse oximeter!!! I don't think I'm having much in the way of side-effects from the pred - although I woke feeling as sick as a dog this morning. My breathing is still not good and I'm using Ventolin 4 times a day. I'm full of mucus in nose, face throat and chest still - it is clear or white, so not too concerning (although very uncomfortable). My oxygen levels are still poor. I find it incredible that, last Wednesday, I was exercising without breathlessness and had o2 of 98% - but by Friday, my o2 levels were 90% and I could hardly get from one side of the room to the other without getting severely breathless. Will my o2 levels return to normal? I did get a reading of 94 last evening, which is generally my lowest 'normal' level, so I was happy with that - but this morning it is back to 90%. My husband is telling me off for being so obsessive, but I just want to get better.

I may talk to the doctor again about switching abs, but I don't think any would really help. I need to be patient, but I hate being so incapacitated - can't even hoover the floor!!

I wish, fervently, that there was more about this disease in the media. We hear about lung cancer risks with smoking - and they hint at 'other health problems' caused by smoking. And, occasionally, there is a brief mention - like with the death of Richard Briars - but they never talk about the HUGE numbers of people suffering from copd and how it impinges so negatively on their lives. I want to stand on a soap box and tell people to STOP smoking - but I don't have the energy - lol!

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Are you taking that effervescent Vit C? Beroca is okay but I get Boots 1000mg and take 3 x daily when unwell. I started doing this last December and have had the best winter for years. Started this summer without the usual completely depleted immune system.

I believe you're wrong about the antiBs. The doc should do a sputum test to see which bug & which one will work for you, it can keep coming back until you get the right one.

I know it's hard though when your energy has plummeted.

Does deep diaphragm breathing help with the sob? I find this so helpful when my sats drop, I love seeing the oximeter rise and my pulse rate drop.

I also take Vits B12, D3 plus a good multivitamin & mineral.

I've just fought off bugs in the last week so my regime works, for me at least.

All the best for a speedy recovery Frankie xx

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Had to cancel our trip. Doctor asked me to come down to see him (in case I needed to go to hospital). At least I avoided that - but he says I shouldn't fly. He's given me prednisolone. Dreading what side effects I'll get from those!


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