Soot exposure and chronic bronchitis

I have done something really stupid. I had a fire in my kitchen in October 2014. The damage from the fire itself was not very large, but there was a LOT of smoke development, so afterwards, the whole apartment was covered in a thick layer of soot. I did not realize how hazardous soot can be, and decided to stay in the apartment for two weeks after the fire, until a professional cleaning company came. I don't know what I was thinking, am so mad at myself. I just thought it was a nuissance but I would pull through, no biggie. So stupid. I slept in a room that was not really affected by smoke or soot, with the window open. But I still used the rest of the apartment when I was home, and started cleaning up the hallway and kitchen myself, without a mouth mask. After the clean-up, the same company tore out the old kitchen, removed all the plaster/drywall from the kitchen walls as some of it was affected by the smoke and soot, and installed a new kitchen. A lot of cement dust and what not got spread all over the small apartment. I cleaned up most of it myself. In the following 6-8 weeks, I had non-stop mucus hypersecretion with huge amounts of very thick deep phlegms. GP later said I had had pneumonia, but that my body had goten over it by itself. My son still had pneumonia and was prescribed antibiotics. By the way, the cleaners were rough with my personal belongings, so I asked them not to clean my extensive CD collection. I was gonna do it myself but never got round to it and they stayed (full wall of CD racks) in my bedroom, and I continued to sleep there for the following year.

I had a lung function test (first one ever) 5 months after the fire. It was a routine examination I had to undergo for work. I had no symptoms (perhaps, in retrospect, that I was a bit quicker out of breath during physical efforts), so I was surprised to hear that I appeared to have mild airway obstruction (FEV1 82%). The doctor didn't make much of it though, didn't mention it during our discussion of the results of my full check-up. Only after another check-up, half a year later, another doctor asked me to go see a proper pulmonologist. I've had several lung function tests since and FEV1 always stayed more or less the same. DLCO also stable, always around 100%. FVC gradually went up over the course of 9 months, from 101 to 107%, causing my FEV1/FVC ratio to drop over the same period from 72% to 65%. Reversibility of FEV1 was a mere 6% at first. After having used a corticosteroid inhaler (Symbicort) for a month, FEV1 went up very slightly, from 82% to 85%, with zero (!) reversibility. 3 days later, 14 months after the fire, I had my first attack, after re-exposure to relatively low amounts of cement dust. Very intense inflammation inside the lungs, mucus hypersecretion like I never had had in my life, very tired, dyspnea, not able to do even the slightest physical exercise. After a peak of two days, symptoms started to gradually subside, but four weeks later, I'm still not entire over it, with persistent dyspnea, fatigue and continuous post-nasal drip that started with the attack.

I never smoked and am in my early 30s. Father of one.

My question is simple: Could this relatively short-term (?) exposure to smoke, soot, cement dust and a bit of paint fumes have caused chronic bronchitis? Or are there alternative diagnoses that could still hold up? Could it be something that still goes away or that could be more manageable (i.e. not progressive)?

Many thanks for any comments / reactions you may be able to share!

3 Replies

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  • Someone with some knowledge will come on and help, sorry but I don't really know anything :(

  • I'm afraid I can't help either, but if you call the British Lung Foundation on 03000 030 555 someone there will be able to give you some really good, sound advice. All best wishes x

  • Hi, welcome to The British Lung Foundation the number Dedulus has given you is live for UK office hours 9-5 Monday to Friday. They also respond to emails if you send them a copy of your post.

    Here on the forum we all have different lung issues ourselves & use the helpline fir expert advice.

    I'm guessing that it would take a while for your lungs to recover from all that soot and dust inhalation. And whilst you're recovering you'll be vulnerable to every bug going, however, you really need expert advice.

    I believe half my problems (and I'm not too ill btw) are due to all the dust and fumes from renovating old houses over several years - without a mask! You don't think about things like masks when you're young and healthy.

    From now on: protect yourself by improving your immune, protection from dust, pollution and irritants, eat as healthily as you can, keep a healthy weight, avoid anyone with colds - these will often end up in your lungs with infection - wash your hands after touching things in public (sounds like overkill I know), exercise to get a strong body inside and out.

    on YouTube there are lots of clips showing you how lungs work, breathing techniques, pulmonary exercise & more.

    Good luck. Peege

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