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British Lung Foundation
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Nothing seems to help

I'm new here and don't normally do this but we just don't know what to do. My husband has had a persistent cough and breathlessness for about five years now. He has seen many consultants and had many tests, we have drawers full of tablets which he's tried and haven't helped. The inhalers don't seem to help much, if at all. The only thing which helps is a course of the tablet steroid (prednisolone?) but even that doesn't get rid of the cough anymore and whereas the effects used to last for a couple of months after he'd finished the course, now it's not even a couple of weeks. He was diagnosed with asthma and that remains the diagnosis, as originally he developed eczema at the same time. We rang Asthma Uk who were very helpful and we followed their advice (to check that he was using the inhalers properly, which he now is) and to take vitamin D. He gets very depressed as we used to walk miles with the dogs on holiday - he can't do that any more as he struggles to breathe if we are not walking on the flat. He hates taking steroids but they do make him feel better, even if they don't help the cough any more. He can't sleep because of the cough but i am trying to get something to raise his upper body so that should help. I don't know what else we can do. All these consultants, tablets and tests must have cost a fortune but nothing has really helped. He has been referred to the difficult asthma clinic so now he is going through all the tests again. I would be so grateful if someone could suggest something that might help him - it's awful seeing him like this. Thank you. Jenny

18 Replies

Welcome to you Jenny. I just want to say how difficult it must be for you to see your husband like this especially as he seems to get no real relief. He does need further investigation to see just what is going on.

Sending hugs to you and your dear husband. Xxxxxx


So sorry for you both. It does sound very difficult. I am glad he is going to the mega specialist asthma experts. They should be able to help.

All the best to you both and let us know how things develop.

K x


Hi Jenny, I have asthma /COPD and I too find my condition very difficult to control

I have tried many different inhalers. and I now have to take a maintenance dose of prednisolone.

After many ,many repeat courses of ABs and steroids , I have been seen by a new GP at the practice, and a blood test has shown that I have an infection . I have to go back next week for the results of a chest X-ray ....the. forms I took to the hospital said ' ex smoker and weight loss' .

Has your husband had his sputum tested . Or allergy tests.

I have rung Asthma UK in the past as I was using so much Ventolin and it wasn't helping at all. The BLF also have a helpline you can contact by phone or email....details on their website.

I have tried Buteyko Breathing exercises , but they are not suitable for everyone. When my chest is tight I try the pursed lip breathing technique , sometimes that helps. Low and slow breathing helps me too. ....not big breathing but belly breathing with a relaxed diaphragm , nose breathing not mouth ...to warm and filter the air and to help prevent hyperventilation.

I hope the new round of tests can help your husband.


Hello Jenny, I'm sorry that things are so difficult for you both at the moment. It must be very hard not being able to help your husband. I can't suggest anything that might help except to hang on, try to keep calm and hopeful that the new tests will come up with answers. Do let us know how things go. Sue x

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Hello Jenny, you don't say which consultants your husband has seen so what Im saying may be redundant. But I was wondering about silent reflux - so-called because it doesn't tend to cause the same symptoms, e.g. heartburn, as standard acid reflux. Stomach acid gets past the upper oesophagus sphincter at the top of the oesophagus and can get into the windpipe and reach the top of the lungs causing irritation.

With this condition you are advised to sleep with the head of the bed raised, as you say you will be doing - and sleeping on his left hand side would help if there is silent reflux.

Ive read that around 10% of asthma cases are in fact caused by silent reflux and are not asthma at all, just similar symptoms. But since your husband has an asthma diagnosis and the eczema which happened at the same time, then the asthma can't be in doubt but its not impossible that he could have the SR simultaneously. It might be worth suggesting this if it hasn't already been ruled out. What he is going through sounds awful and you have my sincere sympathy.


Also if non of the tests come back with anything get bloods tested for aspergillus, low magnesium,b12 and d3


I agree with 02 concerning reflux.

My son developed a cough, that gradually got worse over 18 months.

He was already on a stronge medication for acid but, the deep, rasping cough became constant. He coughed so hard, he said he saw stars and thought he would pass out.

After a scan and Xray and making him blow in a peak flow metre for a week, they diagnosed Asthma and put him on inhalers. The cough got even worse.

The poor lad was back and forth to the Docter like a YoYo.

I was worried sick and said I thought it could be acid getting in his lung. He went back and insisted they did a tests for it.

They did a test where they tipped him upside down and then put a camera in his throat for a day. Result, it was the acid reflux. Not Asthma.

One thing we noticed was that stress played a big part in it too. We had just lost his Dad to Lung Cancer and that's when the cough definitely spiralled.

He's fine now, the cough has gone and he now knows that Bread, is the worst aggravator, so he's cut it out. So, I would be asking them to consider reflux.

I know from experience, how distressing it must be for you both and I hope they get to the bottom of it soon. xx


Hi sometimes it's simpler solutions. He could be allergic to dust mites. Or like my sister who had a bad cough relating to dairy products. After cutting them all out and reintroducing them one at a time found she was intolerant to cows milk and icecream. When she stopped them her cough went completely.

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One think that might possibly help is a Flutter device. They are available on the NHS.


Thank you all so much for the support and suggestions. I didn't expect that. We will certainly try the suggestions made.

Thanks to Knitter, you do have very similar symptoms to my husband. He has had his sputum tested and allergy tests, nothing showed. He does do the pursed lips breathing but we will look at the other techniques you suggested. I do hope your x-Ray results are ok.

O2 Trees - thanks for your message re the silent reflux. We've not heard of this before and will put your suggestions into practice and mention it to the consultant.

Wartonk - I have never heard of aspergillus and will ask that he is tested for this, low magnesium, b12 and d3.

Thanks to casper99. That must have been horrendous to go through but so pleased that he is ok now.

Coughalot2 glad your sister has got to the bottom of her problems.

Almost finally - Azure_Sky - I will research the flutter device as I've never heard of it. Thanks for that.

Finally! - to all who have sent messages of support, thank you for this, we really appreciate it. I'm sorry others are going through similar things and I know how difficult it is.

Very best wishes to you all. Jenny


Hello Jennyb333 . What a difficult situation you are in at the moment. I cannot imagine how frustrating it is to see a legion of doctors and not know what's wrong. Really only doctor can make a diagnosis. But I wonder if there is an irritant in your living space. I know someone who didn't realize that their inner walls had mould in it that was making them sick. I think the difficult asthma clinic will be very helpful. I hope something can be done soon. Take good care.

Cas xx 🌸

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Thanks for that. I think there are so many irritants, spores, minute particles etc that you can breathe in plus additives in our food in the modern world which can cause problems for a lot of people.

My husband has had allergy tests and he wasn't allergic to anything but that was a while ago. I suppose things could have changed.

Best wishes




Hello Jenny and welcome.

I can't add anything, except to say I wish you and your dear husband the very best from all sources to get to the bottom of the cause of this distressing issue. Wonderful advice from members here. You really have come to the right place for help:-)


Thanks for that. Yes, i certainly did come to the right place. It's been very helpful.

Best wishes


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Thankyou Jenny and to you too:-)


Hi jennyb333 my name is mick and over the years i have had problems with my lungs after working in my self employment as a plumber heating engineer and in 1985 i was diagnosed with a benign tumour on my lung and i had to have 2 lobes removed all went well for years then it came back again and in 1994 and had to have the top section removed which only left me 2 lobes

I managed to carry on without any problems and carried on working but soon after i was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had part of my bowel removed and re connected that s all going ok from 2009 but with all the problems with strain on my part lung left it caused my heart muscle to deteriorate called a cardio miopathy and that has now l left me in the last 9 months with breathing problems and shortage of breath if i do anything that requires effort or walking up a slope of any kind After going to see a respiratory consultant he did ct scans ans mri scans and did sputum tests and found out that my body is producing pseudonymous bug which is clogging up my lung and also diagnosed a type of as asthma and started treating me with steroids and salbutomal type inhaler and a steroidal type called fostair i also use a nebuliser but most of these things make very little difference i have been admitted to hospital 3 times by paramedics and given I V s which seemed to get things a bit better but after a few weeks its all back with chest infections at least 2 a month on the last visit to see the consultant i questioned him about my heart problems which can cause the very symptoms i have and getting worse i even get out of breath drying myself after a shower

So i insisted i wanted to see a cardio consultant which i did and after many tests he ordered an M R I scan with stress function on the heart and the result was my heart is only 30% functioning and is not pumping enough blood though my lung which is causing me all the shortage of breath and is not totally to do with my lung functions

I am now awaiting to have a defibrillator type pace maker fitted to help bring my heart into sync and not pumping against itself i have the date of 24th oct for my operation and i cannot wait so i have proved its not always the fault of the lung causing a constant cough and shortage of breath i have been self administering I Vs myself at home after having a line put in at the hospital that was for a 10 day course so you do not have to stay in hospital to have them, they will show you how to do it yourself and that saves a bed and you are better at home anyway well thats my story i hope is is some good to people that suffer from the same symptoms try to get other things investigated



Hi mickmm

Thanks for your post. Am glad that finally they seem to have got to the root of your problems and i hope all goes well for you on 24th.

Yes, i see what you mean about it not always being what it seems but you'd think that the doctors would pick up on this, wouldn't you?

We are going to mention all these points when we see the consultant again and see what he says.

All the best.



Hi Jenny

My heart goes out to you & your poor husband. Life is a terrible trial for you both at the moment. I cannot add anything helpful, unlike many of the others but I do send you hugs & so hope that the new round of tests will get to the bottom of it. Hang on in there & if you need to scream there are plenty of people on here happy to listen. Penny xx


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