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British Lung Foundation
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Bronchiectasis and flying

Hi

I was finally diagnosed with mild bronchiectasis a year ago and have had two nasty chest infections so far. Flew out to Ireland to see my 86 year old dad who had been knocked over by a car on his way to a Carol Service. Dad has cuts and bruises and is recovering well - I think I’m coming down with a chest infection!! I thought that I had been really careful washing my hands frequently and am dreading the prospect of a two week infection over Christmas. I have my rescue pack of antibiotics but I’m never really sure when to start to take them. Does anyone have any tips? Also for flying safely? I am doing the return journey tomorrow.

Merry Christmas all - I have found this forum so useful and inspirational as I knew nothing at all about bronchiectasis beforehand.

Pat x x

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Patf1 - with bronchiectasis it is good practise to send a sputum specimen into the lab before starting antibiotics. This is particularly important when having frequent chest infections. You will need a sterile pot from the surgery and the sample needs to be a good one from deep down in the lungs, preferably first thing in the morning. It also needs to be taken in asap so it is not sitting about.

Re flying - I would imagine that it is always going to be a risk to people with respiratory disease because of the air quality and number of people sharing the same space. Can't remember the name but Boots sell something that you can apply to your nostrils to help prevent breathing in bacteria. Have heard that N92 masks may help filter out bugs.

Hope you are soon well again.

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Hi Bella, with bronch you need to start your abs as soon as it kicks off. There isn’t time to wait for the lab results to come back and they are wrong more than they are right. The consultant should have told the GP the ab which is most likely to be the first line for whatever bug that paricular patient usually has and they should have 14 days at home. My consultant always says, if, after a week, there is no improvement to ring her secretary and then the consultant will tell the GP which ab to try next and of course you can always pop a sample into the docs.

It’s First Defense (spray) or Cold and Flu Block (in a little tube) from Boots.

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Yes, I use Nasalguard and First Defence and they help flying and attending concerts and the theatre.

Hope Patf1 and Dad feel better really soon.

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Littlepom - I didn’t say don’t start the antibiotics. I just said to take a specimen first. If the infection doesn’t respond they will then be able to change to the correct treatment.

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The problem with that lies in the fact that the results can take a week to come back.So yes, take sample on but start the abs to be on the safe side.x

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Well, if the rescue antibiotics don’t work at least you are a week ahead and able to switch to the correct one sooner. In these days of antibiotic resistance it is best to know what they are dealing with, particularly in patients who have had a lot of antibiotics in the past. That is why I said it is helpful to obtain a specimen prior to rescue treatment if at all possible.

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Thank you - I had a busy day with my dad yesterday and travelling home. I started my rescue pack of 2 weeks doxycycline yesterday as this antibiotic seems to do the trick for me. If I take a sample to my GP’s today what should I ask the receptionist to ask the lab to test for? I saw some posts here saying that some GP’s only test for the regular chest infection bugs and I think that is what happens at my doctors.

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My GP and consultant says its best to provide a sample for testing before taking the ABs as the ABs can affect the bacteria in the lungs (when a sample is provided once ABs already started) and the test results may not ID the bacteria or the bacteria may already show inactive. This means if the AB you started already (before providing a sputum sample) may not clear the infection because it may not be the right AB for the infection.

Hopefully the Doxy will work well for you and it clears the infection.

You just tell your doctor or respiratory nurse you have a sputum sample can they write up a slip for the sputum sample to be tested. The doctor knows what test are required. Basically to identify the bacteria in the lungs. Remind them you have bronchiectasis and any other lung issue and relevant health issue that could become problematic as a result of the lung infection (diabetes for instance, cardiac etc)

Best wishes

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Hi Patf1, i have had bronch all of my life and I have done loads of short and long haul flying. The only thing that I find is that when the pressure changes in the cabin all of the muck stuck down there insists on coming up. A couple of visits to the loo and lovely jubbly, clear for the rest of the flight and maybe even a couple of days!

It’s a Pain that some virus donater has given you an infection. We bronchs are all different. Basically start taking the antibiotics if you feel rotten, the colour and thickness has changed or in your case, as you are travelling with any of these symptoms because it is tiring and stressful, I would take them.

By the way, I always suck zinc and use either First Desfense or Cold and Flu Block ( both from Boots) whenever I am flying or in places where there are concentrates of people.

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Thank you Littlepom

I bought some First Defence but it is locking the stable door after the horse had bolted, but at least I gave it for next time.

I will take a sample in to the docs today

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Yes. First Defense is really a preventative against viruses and does tend to shorten a cold if used quick enough. Once a bronch exacerbation gets going there is nothing for it but the big guns. The antibiotics. I hope that you don’t wait until the results come back before taking your abs. 65 years of experience has taught me that we bronchs usually have the same bug in our lungs. It hides in very small numbers and an exacerbation is when it suddenly has a party and breeds rapidly. So the antibiotic we have at home is the one we need and should be started pronto. Also, many lab tests come back negative when we know that something has kicked off, because labs are not infallible. That means that we have wasted time waiting for a useless result when we should have been on the case. A good idea to take some in just in case bug has changed but highly unlikely. Bronch is not like COPD we have to ve very pro active, aware of what is going on and swift to act because we cannot afford exacerbations to become so bad that they cause more damage to our lungs. I was taught this at the age of six and it is the reason that I still lead a normal life wih this condition. I hope you feel better soon.

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Thank you For the great advice Littlepom - I started the antibiotics yesterday but previous sputum samples g

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Sorry -pressed reply before I finished!!

Previous samples have not shown a bug even when I know for sure I have an infection so I don’t think this one will either.

Hopefully the antibiotics will do the trick.

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Hi Patf1, so sorry to hear about your Dad being run over, it must have been very worrying but glad to hear he is in the mend. Re your chest infection, I would start the antibiotics straight away and hopefully stop it going into a full blown problem, like you say who wants to be poorly at Christmas. I will be travelling to my daughters for Christmas on the train, so have bought Nasal Guard, you cant get away from the bugs when travelling on public transport, so fingers crossed I wont be poorly this year. Look after yourself. Irene x

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Thank you Irene. My dad is amazing- I found him climbing on a chair yesterday to change a light bulb!

I did start the antibiotics yesterday and fingers crossed that they kick in soon.

Enjoy your Christmas with your family.

Pat x

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Thank you all for your advice and super quick responses! I will pop to the chemist and see if they have the same options here in Ireland. I have had a rough night and have a temperature so will start the antibiotics today. I don’t cough up a lot of gunk normally and my cough has been so much better since I started on carbocisteine, which I read about on posts on this site and asked my GP for - they are lovely at my surgery but have very little knowledge about bronchiectasis. I will see if I can manage to produce a sample once I get home.

You are all very kind

Pat x

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Hi Patf1

I wouldn't start your emergency pack unless you are pretty sure you have a lung infection. You can check in with local doc's or walk in centre maybe to listen to your lungs.

The usual signs of lung infection are change in colour in mucus, increase in mucus, coughing, more difficult breathing, lungs on fire, pains chest back (referred pain of the lungs) etc etc generally a worsening of normal symptoms.

If you are pretty sure you have a lung infection the sputum test sample before stating the antibiotics is best procedure but not always possible if you are travelling.

First defence asap, if it may be a cold starting and gargle 3 x daily with listerine total, drink plenty of water, and or clear hot drinks.

Flying and any public transport this time of year is dodgy, enclosed public spaces high risk, it take just one person to cough or sneeze to share the bugs around. A mask may help if you have to travel public transport or failing that any scarf up over your nose and mouth. Wear gloves don't touch anything with your bare hands if you can avoid it, avoid touching your nose, eyes mouth until you have washed your hands. Take any precaution you can during this winter bug season.

Hope your Dad makes a good recovery and you can stave off any lung infection. Safe return journey home.

Have a happy healthy ~Christmas season and 2019

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I’m really sorry Bkin but with bronchiectasis you really can’t risk waiting for any of that. Not all bronch exacerbations have the symptoms that you describe but they need treatment straight away. You are quoting text book symptoms for chest infections in normally well people. Unfortunately we lifelong bronchs know that the signs of our exacerbations are particular to us and although this is difficult we have to learn by experience when it is all kicking off. If I waited for the symptoms that you describe I would be a blue light to hospital ( with all the horrors that brings) and emergency IV instead of 2 weeks oral abs.

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Yes I too have bronchiectasis as well as emphysema, and I do say if you are pretty sure it is a chest infection then take the emergency pack. Also the sputum sample I am advised by my GP should be submitted straight away at first signs of chest infection, before starting the emergency pack, once sample submitted then can take the ABs etc and when results come back then the ABs can be adjusted if its shown that the infection / bacteria requires a different anti biotic.

General symptoms of Chest infections for people with damaged lungs. Any worsening of symptoms basically ( including those I have mentioned).

If we just have a cold, which makes us feel lousy its not always a good idea to take emergency pack unecessarily. But taking other precautions are always a good idea. But generally people who have experienced lung infections many times before know when they have one.

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Bkin - you are correct in saying that the sputum sample needs to be taken before antibiotics are started. Rescue antibiotics are ok but not always effective if the bacteria has resistance. This is becoming an increasingly worrying problem.

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I would take your abs ASAP . First defence is good to use prior , during and after flights. Sold at most chemists. Also regular use of antibacterial alcohol Hand sanitiser is good for use on planes etc.Send a sputum sample ASAP when you get back as well. With bronchiectasis 2 weeks abs are usual so even if it clears in a few days with the rescue pack it’s worth seeing your gp.(as some areas sputum samples/ tests are not quick enough and abs have run out)Hope this makes sense . Good luck hope your dad heals well and soon.

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That’s amazing to be going to a carol service at 86.

Hope he is recovering well and no long term effects.

I am interested to know where I can get reasonable health insurance to travel to SA. I try and go once a year to see my grand children. But it seems every course of ABs for chest infections just sends the premium escalating.

Last year the quote was over £400, but I am in my 70s, and I took a leap of faith and didn’t buy any!!! Not clever I know. But I couldn’t afford that premium,. Any ideas anyone gratefullly received.

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Thank you - he is amazing! He is having dressings on his hand where he hit the ground and going for a first physio appointment next week as his shoulder is sore but otherwise he is really well.

I’m not sure about insurance- I haven’t been long haul since my diagnosis but that’s something that I will have to look into too!

I am 61 and have heart problems too so I expect it will be expensive.

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So pleased your father is recovering.

Great for you to know you have such strong genes!.

Best wishes

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