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Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Asthma

Question: Asthma or allergies?

 misty222 - Thu May 15, 2008 10:50 am

I am a 21 year old female. Over the last few years I have developed hayfever and quite severe allergies to fur etc. I noticed about a year ago that when I stayed at a friends who had a cat I was wheezing and coughing and had to go home. I went to see my GP who took a peak flow reading etc and advised me to take an antihistamine every day to prevent this but he believed it to be my allergies. Since Saturday however (5 days ago) I did not come into contact with any animals but suddenly started coughing which led to wheezing. I have been taking antihistamines every day but it has not been helping. Could it be that I just have a cough and it is going to my chest or do I have asthma? I am now wheezing constantly and have been solidly for 2 or 3 days, especially at night. If I go to the GP what tests can I expect before a diagnosis is made? Will I have to go to hospital?

Thanks for your help.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Tue Jul 15, 2008 9:11 pm

User avatar Hello misty222 -

You seem to have already proven you have both seasonal (airborn) and also environmental allergies, so the fact that you'd begun to experience asthma along with allergic rhinitis (hay fever) makes it unsurprising that you'd eventually begin to have spontaneous episodes of asthma as well. While asthma can be caused by other than allergic responses too (such as gastric reflux and post-nasal drip -- which can, in turn of course be cause by hay fever), it seems likely your attack was due to some airborne allergen. A firm diagnosis shouldn't require a hospital visit. The diagnosis is usually made by observation, listening to the lungs, and discussion of the circumstances with the patient. It's usually not too hard to diagnose asthma. The peak flow meter may not reveal much in a young, otherwise healthy person unless it is used during an episode. There is another, similar but more sophisticated in-office test called a pulmonary funtion test (PFT) which isn't much more difficult (though it is more complicated) than using a peak flow meter, but this isn't always needed.

You may benefit from certain types of antihisitimine therapy now (although some are too drying to be of much help, such as benadryl and certain others), and some sort of antihisimine will probably play a role in helping to prevent recurrences, a long-term inhaled steroid-based medication will probably be necessary as well, for maintainance, and you should be prescribed an albuterol inhaler ("puffer") as well, as a "rescue" measure for when things get out of hand (as they already seem to have on at least the one occasion). The albuterol inhaler woguaifenesinuld give you immediate relief and the other things would work on reducing the long-term likelihood of another attack.

While it is entirely possible you have somehow contracted bronchitis during all this, the same treatment would apply and I suspect very strongly you have asthma secondary to an airborne allergy and it may have been made worse by the drying effect of whatever antihistimine you've been using (there are now some types designed specifically for people with asthma). It might also help to try using, on occasion, an over-the-counter medication called guaifenesin, which also comes in a long-acting form under the brand-name Mucinex. There are also now generic forms of this long acting guaifenesin available at most drugstore chains.

Good luck to you with this and I hope by now the problem is well under control, but please do follow up with us.

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