Medical Specialty >> Pulmonology

Doctors Lounge - Pulmonology Answers

Back to Pulmonology Answers List

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Doctors Lounge ( does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her physician. Please read our 'Terms and Conditions of Use' carefully before using this site.

Date of last update: 10/19/2017.

Forum Name: Asthma

Question: No idea what to think about this

 SSillyAsh - Tue Feb 01, 2005 1:59 pm

I am a 20y/o female and i am having some type or respitory problem i think, and i am not sure what to think of it, i do not currently have insurance so going to doctor is unfortunatly a lot of money that i don't have, so i really want some input as to if it is something i should just wait out a little longer or just suck up the bill and go.

okay.. im gonna so a brief history to current to help discribe the probelem that i feel has probably been building for years..
I would say it all started when i was 17 after i had started smoking (about half a pack a day) for a few months, and i started getting broncitis freqently, 4 times in a 8 month span, during that time i also quit smoking, somewhat settled after i quit smoking, but not completely for the next 2 years i still got bronchitis 5 more times.
so that bring me to about sept 04, where i started smoking again (probably the stupidest thing i could have ever done), anyway i didn't have any problems until the end of november when i came down with what i thought was just a common cold, however from there is just progressively worsened for the next month or so, i kept having coughing fits that ended in me gasping for breath, unable to catch it for minutes, and then had to sit and recover for a good 10 minutes, these "episodes" started happening quite frequently 3-4 times a day, so the first thing i did was quit smoking (still not smoking too), however that did nothing to stop the fits..
the 22nd of december i finally just broke down and went to a walk in, and was diagnosed with bronchitis (big surpise)... the doctor then prescribed me the normal antibiotics (not sure which one), a cough suppresant, and an albuterol inhaler, he said i was having symptoms with asthma but said that is probably would subside.
Okay so all being said i went on my way, however 6 days later i was no better, even possibly worse, so not taking any chances went back to a walk in. the doctor there said that my tonsils and phanynx were swollen and ran some tests (mono, strep ect.) but all came back normal, he, like the other doctor said it was most likely bronchitis and he gave me a different antibiotic and told me to continue with the cough syrup and inhaler, as he said i was still weezing.
I was also missing a lot of work due to all this...
Luckily that antibiotic cleared up the infection and i was feeling better after a few days..
However not all the symptoms have cleared...
i still end up having little episodes, not a severe but i really have to concentrate on breathing or i just end up gasping, and at night in bed i can sometimes hear myself weezing, i am still taking the inhaler (its my last refil and almost gone) but it doens't seem to do much, except right after i take it.
sometimes when i have the little fits i also get chest pain with it, which i am not sure is related at all, as i do have an anxiety disorder and could be related to that, but don't want to rule out another possibility.
My friend says its probably all just still the asthma thing, but to be it doesn't seem right, not the way i have felt it all building for years, but then again i'm no doctor...
any insight or suggestions are greatly appreciated
thankyou in advance
 Kathy C, RN - Tue Feb 01, 2005 10:13 pm

Hi Ashlee
Asthma is a disease in which the airways become blocked or narrowed. These effects are usually temporary, but they cause shortness of breath, breathing trouble, and other symptoms. If an asthma episode is severe, a person may need emergency treatment to restore normal breathing.

Allergic (extrinsic) asthma (asthma symptoms triggered by an allergic reaction): Characterized by airway obstruction and inflammation that is at least partially reversible with medication and is always associated with allergy. Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma. Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, and chest tightness). However, allergic asthma is triggered by inhaling allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, etc. Through a complex reaction, these allergens cause the passages in the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen. This results in coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.

Non-Allergic (intrinsic) asthma (asthma symptoms triggered by factors not related to allergies): Like allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma is characterized by airway obstruction and inflammation that is at least partially reversible with medication, however symptoms in this type of asthma are NOT associated with an allergic reaction. Many of the symptoms of allergic and non-allergic asthma are the same (coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath or rapid breathing, and chest tightness), but non-allergic asthma is triggered by other factors such as anxiety, stress, exercise, cold air, dry air, hyperventilation, smoke viruses or other irritants. In non-allergic asthma, the immune system is not involved in the reaction, as with allergic reaction.

With allergic and non-allergic asthma, it is primarily a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. This means that people with asthma have inflamed airways which causes two secondary symptoms: (1) The bronchi, the airway branches leading to the lungs, become overly reactive and more sensitive to all kinds of asthma triggers such as allergens, cold and dry air, smoke and viruses. Also, (2) the lungs have difficulty moving air in and out, which is called airflow obstruction. Together, these symptoms cause the tertiary symptoms the coughing, wheezing, tight chest and worse.

Asthma doesn't have to put major limits on your life. There are many things that you can do to take control of your asthma and minimize its impact on your activities. Because each case of asthma is different, treatment needs to be tailored for each person. One general rule that does apply, though, is removing the things in your environment that you know are factors that make your asthma worse. When these measures are not enough, it may be time to try one of the many medications that are available to control symptoms.

Asthma medications may be either inhaled or in pill form and are divided into two types—quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines are used to control the immediate symptoms of an asthma episode. In contrast, long-term control medicines do not provide relief right away, but rather help to lessen the frequency and severity of episodes over time.

Like all medications, asthma treatments often have side effects. These are usually mild and go away on their own. Be sure to ask your doctor about the side effects of the medications you are prescribed and what warning signs should prompt you to contact him or her
I hope this helps. Please see your physician as soon as possible.
 SSillyAsh - Wed Feb 02, 2005 2:34 pm

OK, by the reply you have posted i am thinking i probably do have some type of asthma, but would have to be the non-allergic or intrinsic type, as i do notice a difference in my breathing outside in the cold.
i just have a couple quick questions tho
1. does asthma ever correct itself on its own or only with meds?
2. will is progressively get worse without meds?
3. when planning on seeing a doctor, should i look for a specialist or just a general doctor?
4. is there anything at home i can do when i start having a hard time breathing, such as breathing in a paper bag or sumthing like that?
5. am i in danger of having a full blown attack (i still consider my episodes pretty minor, as it is all just temporary and as long as i sit down and concentrate and relax it usually goes away)?
6. can asthma be life threatning?
thanks again for your reply
 Kathy C, RN - Wed Feb 02, 2005 9:58 pm

Hi Ashlee,
Asthma is a chronic disease but can be managed. Only your physician can diagnosis you.
For people with asthma, having an “asthma management plan” is the best strategy to prevent symptoms. An asthma management plan is something developed by you and your doctor to help you control your asthma, instead of your asthma controlling you what you have.
Identify and minimize contact with your asthma triggers. Avoiding your triggers is the best way to reduce your need for medication and to prevent asthma episodes. But first, you have to learn what those triggers are. Any time you have an asthma episode, think about where you were and what you were doing in the past day or so. Answer questions like these in a diary or on your calendar:

Was I making a bed or vacuuming?
Was I near an animal? Cigarette smoke?
Did I have a cold or other infection?
Was I running, playing or exercising?
Was I upset, excited or tired?

Discuss your notes with your doctor to look for trends. As you identify your triggers, talk about which ones can be avoided, and how to best avoid them. For instance, if you are allergic to dust mites you should put an airtight cover around your pillow and mattress. You may also want to discuss with your physician how immunotherapy might help to prevent allergy symptoms.

2. Take your medications as prescribed. Asthma medicines are usually inhaled through a machine called a nebulizer, through a small device called a metered dose inhaler (also called an inhaler, puffer, or MDI) or through a dry powder inhaler (DPI). For inhalers to work well, you must use them correctly. But over half of all people who use inhalers don't use them properly. Ask your doctor or nurse to watch you and check your technique. If it is still difficult to use, you have two choices. Ask them to recommend a spacer or holding chamber. This device attaches to the inhaler to make it easier to use and to help more medicine reach the lungs. Or, ask about using a “breath-actuated” inhaler, which automatically releases medicine when you inhale.

Unless your asthma is very mild, chances are you have prescriptions for at least two different medicines. That can be confusing. The more you understand about what those medicines do and why they help, the more likely you are to use them correctly.

Although there are some potential adverse effects from taking asthma medications, the benefit of successfully controlling your asthma outweigh this risk. It is important to discuss each of your asthma medications with your physician to learn more about their effects.

3. Monitor your asthma and recognize early signs that it may be worsening. Asthma episodes almost never occur without warning. Some people feel early symptoms, including: coughing, chest tightness, feeling very tired. But because airways to the lungs narrow slowly, you may not feel symptoms until your airways are badly blocked. The key to controlling your asthma is taking your medicine at the earliest possible sign of worsening.
In a mild attack inhalation of steam may help along with pursed lip breathing, this is when you pucker your lips(like a fish) and concentrate on breathing in and out. You want to focus on the exhale part of the breath and try to prolong this like you are trying to slowly blow out a candle across a room.
Along with your inhaler your physician may prescribe meds to prevent or lessen future attacks.
Of course as you have found out colds exacerbate the condition. Use good handwashing and stay away from persons with a cold\flu. Symtpoms can range from mild to severe requiring hospitalization.

| Check a doctor's response to similar questions

Are you a Doctor, Pharmacist, PA or a Nurse?

Join the Doctors Lounge online medical community

  • Editorial activities: Publish, peer review, edit online articles.

  • Ask a Doctor Teams: Respond to patient questions and discuss challenging presentations with other members.

Doctors Lounge Membership Application

Tools & Services: Follow DoctorsLounge on Twitter Follow us on Twitter | RSS News | Newsletter | Contact us