The Recovery phases of a severe asthma exacerbation

Suffice it to say, I wasn’t exactly a happy camper when I wrote that last post about my little prison stint. I apologize for that. At the time, I was roided out of my mind and was still very sick. Dr W helped me get through this awful time by reassuring me that what anguish I was experiencing was a normal response after suffering such a severe flare up, and that my complaints were not really unique.

But what a difference a few extra days can make. I think it was Thursday that I finally turned the proverbial corner. As happens so many times when I think I’ll never recover from a severe attack, I just woke up one morning and all of sudden…Wham! I was breathing better and feeling better. It’s as if whatever was causing my lungs to act up in the first place, just burned itself out and left my body.

It’s astonishing how fast the transformation can happen too. One minute you’re feeling crappy, the next you’re feeling fine. This probably sounds strange, but for a while there it actually felt kinda weird to be breathing easy. All day yesterday I caught myself conscientiously trying to analyze my own breathing to see if indeed I was breathing normal…or I was imagining it. No wheeze, no difficulty exhaling, no discomfort…just normal breathing! So weird, but so appreciated. Id give anything to be able to breath like this all the time. Healthy people take their breathing for granted.

So with this most recent revelation, and after having survived literally dozens of these types of exacerbations, I put all my observations together and made a list. So far, Ive been able to identify 6 distinct phases that I go through during the recovery phase of a severe asthma exacerbation that required a hospital admission.

Just for fun I call it ” The Recovery phases of a severe asthma exacerbation” . The word hospitalization is important here, because the recovery phase from a severe exacerbation that did not require hospitalization, doesn’t seem to follow the same pattern.

Here’s the list in the order of occurrence. Can anyone else relate or add to this?

1)The Honeymoon phase: This is usually the period immediately following discharge from the hospital and usually lasts 24-36 hours. During this period you’re basically in a daze trying to adjust to familiar surroundings again. You’re breathing remarkably well and it seems like you’re getting better.
2)The Rebound phase: This phase usually starts on the 2nd or 3rd day out of the hospital and is characterized by a general worsening of all asthma symptoms. (So much for feeling better..huh). Now all of a sudden you actually feel like you are re-flaring and might need to go back into the hospital ( many do end up going back in). I think this phase is brought on primarily by the body trying to adjust to the lower levels of circulating systemic steroids (steroid withdrawals), and by other drugs and treatments that your body was used to getting while in the hospital.( ie cont or frequent nebs, bipap, oxygen etc.) There’s also the possibility that you were discharged from the hospital too soon.
3)The Zombie phase: Most of us know this phase well. Sleep deprived,unable to breath and body physically and mentally mangled, the steroids make you temporarily insane. Feelings of despair, guilt, blame and depression rear their ugly heads.
You’re riding an emotional roller coaster. You can’t turn your brain off. You’re body is rebelling too; You feel bloated, your muscles are cramping and you want to eat everything in sight. The intensity of these symptoms are usually steroid dose dependent and can last from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
4)The Turning the corner phase: This phase mercifully begins usually around the 7-10th day out of the hospital, and can occur subtly without your awareness, or if you’re lucky, can happen with an abrupt onset, literally overnight. In either case, this is a welcome phase that signals you are finally getting better.
5)The Fatigue phase: Pretty self explanatory. You’re body is exhausted from working so hard, and now that you’re breathing easier and have less steroids in your system, you feel weak and sleepy. You’re coming down hard from a not so pleasant high.
6)The Amnesia phase: I’m not sure this happens to everyone, but certainly if you’ve been hospitalized multiple times, you’ve experienced this phenomena. This phase usually begins 1-2 weeks after the “Turning the corner”phase, or about 5-6 weeks after the initial exacerbation began. All of a sudden, it’s as if you were never sick, never hospitalized and never went through the living hell of a severe asthma exacerbation or recovery. I think it’s the brains way of blanking out the bad stuff, so that you can cope better with future attacks.

So that’s my asthma recovery theory/ check list. I think every physician and/or RT or Nurse who takes care of severe asthmatic patients should familiarize themselves with this list to get a better insight as to what we actually go through AFTER we get out of the hospital.

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74 Comments

  1. Debra Douglas says:

    Hi, my name is Debra. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was 24. Would get severe fast hitting attacks and spend a week or two in hospital. I am not 44 yrs and have had only minor issues with asthma. A bad cold or pregnancy I would need puffers.

    This past Dec 9th I had a quick but nasty cold/flu for a few days. No asthma attack but breathing got more difficult. I was on 50mg Prednisone, Symbicort and Ventolin. I developed a dry constant cough. Walking or talking triggered it. I kept trudging along but tired trying to breath. Kept going back to doctor and we tried a round of antibiotics. Nothing worked. Kept pushing and got through Christmas and New Years with difficulty. By now for weeks I had only done what I had to. I was taxed out. I have a 7 and 9 year old who have busy schedules.

    For 3 days I developed a productive cough but clear mucous. I never felt sick through all this except the beginning. Never a full blown attack. Jan 9 I ended up in ER in respiratory distress. The RT and nurses were hopping around me. The doctor was a complete idiot and said I’m doing everything at home so I could go. Forgot I had switched to neb sat home 2 days before this. The nurse begged me to come back at midnight when this idiot dr left. I was too tired. I was shutting down. I left and thought I wouldn’t make it the night. My sister was crying on the phone listening to me and her and my Dad begged me to go to another hospital. My husband had never seen me suffer with asthma. He thought I could tough it out and it would pass.

    Dec 10 back to hospital again with the respiratory distress. Again RT and nurses hopping but 2 drs came quickly. I was admitted. Now on IV prednisone and nebs. Added PPI for reflux although I’d had surgery ( Nissen Fundoplication in Feb due to severe reflux). Had to be on oxygen. I was not responding to treatment for days, even a week later. Tests they ran were EKG, Echocardiogram, CT scan, VQ scan ( they thought I had a clot in my lungs), chest x rays ( all normal). Bloodwork skewed. Blood gases showed hyperventilation. I’d been breathing fast for a month now. One blood test showed indications of a clot. I developed some calf pain. Had ultrasound and found a clot but in a superficial vein in my leg. Had a Broncoscopy 4 days ago. Will get results Tues. They did a Brinchial Lavage and Brush and took a biopsies. A reddened area in my right lung showed then. I had Atelectasis of both lungs. Otherwise it looked ok. Dr ran 2 blood tests for autoimmune and Eosinophils along with another disease that attacks lungs and kidneys. Again find out results Tues.

    I was stable and off oxygen but low o2sats. Sat at 92-93% room air. Dr ok if I was 88% or above. Not sure why. Went onto puffers. My bed was needed so because I could make it to the bathroom and no one knew what was wrong I got discharged in day 10, 2 days ago. I have o2 at home which I use once or twice a day for about 20 mins. Clears my head and decreases the dizziness. On all meds except one for lung as I developed an allergic reaction. Got a sinus infection so been on antibiotics but today was extended 5 more days as pain worse.

    I’m a prisoner in my home. Can’t go up to bed so I sleep on the couch so I can incline. Everyone else caring for my kids. I’m very active and this is killing me. I’m terrified. I didn’t sleep for over 2 weeks until I dosed for cat naps only. Drs were desperately trying to get me some sleep. I am doing better but struggling. Legs are like lead to walk. Hoping for answers Tues but scared too. What if it’s something really bad? What if I never recover? I will go to a larger more advanced hospital if no answers and no better Tues. I’ve never gone through this. They say I don’t have COPD, which I have no risk factors for, but terrified. I watched my Mom die from this. She smoked.

    Sorry this is so long. Tried to just put highlights in. Anyone go through such an ordeal or for so long? They say I pushed and compensated so long that I could have died. I kept thinking tomorrow has to be better. It can’t go on like this. I was wrong. Thanks for reading if you made it this far.

    Debra

    • Hi Debra, What an ordeal. Sorry you had to go through all of that. For sure you should go to a bigger hospital, and if you havent already, get hooked up with a good pulmonologist. You mentioned having your eosin count checked, if it was high , you might find this video interesting. My lung doc, Sally Wenzel is doing research in this area. Hope you feel better and can get some answers soon.

    • Madel says:

      Hi Ms. Debra,

      I’m so sorry about what happened to you, I hope you will no longer have a severe asthma flare-up. I know how it feels to have a severe asthma attack. I was diagnosed as early as 3 years old with an asthma and I am now 23. I just had my severe attack just last month. I am on seretide maintenance & just shifted to symbicort a month ago.

      My 1st attack this 2015 was fine I am able to control it with my inhaler rescuer, I was given mepresone-steroids for 5 days and I am totally fine. I thought I was then okay, I do my normal activities like walking but I observe some breathless. I feel discomfort.

      After several days I had my endoscopy test. I was diagnosed with GERD/Heartburn. After 3 days I had my severe asthma flare-up that I never experienced it before. I had 4 doses of nebulization every 30 mins & every 2 hours round the clock for 3 days and every 4 hrs for 3 days. I also had medrol 16 mg. twice a day for 5 days. I was not rushed to the E.R. because my family members thought it was just an acute asthma attack. I was really grasping for an air and hyperventilating my mom was just asking me to relax while giving me salbutamol through a neb. On my 7th day i was fine, but I have chest pain lasted for 1 week again and I’m still feeling breathless, but i was okay again. I went back to the doctor and I was told that i am fine and I can do the walking.

      Days after I had heart burn for 3 hrs. at night time. It really hurts. After 5 days I had an acute asthma attack again, this was just last Saturday and until now I can still feel the tightness of my chest and still having a little difficulty in breathing. I just went back to the doctor yesterday and had my pft test & it turned to be normal and i was told again that I will be okay and that i am undergoing with an asthma anxiety.

      Does asthma really lasted for a week or two? Does Asthma Anxiety affects a fast recovery? Does asthmatic patients has always a possibility to have a severe asthma flare-up even under maintenance/steroid inhalers?
      I will be glad if anyone could help me answer this questions.
      Thanks in advance.

      Madel

      • Hello Madel,
        Sorry to hear that youve been sick. GERD is a very common trigger for asthma flare ups and can make the exacerbation more severe.

        *It can take several weeks, sometimes months to fully recover from a bad asthma exacerbation. During the recovery period
        *Yes, anxiety can certainly intensify symptoms, but inflammation in your airways can also make you feel short of breath, even if your PFTs are normal.
        *Yes, you can be on maintenance medications and still experience symptoms. Again, it can take a long time to completely recover from an exacerbation.

        Good luck to you and thank you for writing!

    • Hello Debra,

      Sorry for the delay in responding and Im sorry that you had such a rough time with your exacerbation.
      What you describe is not out of the of the ordinary for someone hospitalized with asthma and/or unexplained shortness of breath and hypoxia. Im glad you’re tests were negative. It can take weeks, sometimes months to recover from a bad exacerbation. Hopefully you’re feeling better now:]

  2. Christy says:

    This blog is amazing ! I just had my first asthma attack that I couldn’t rebound from without hospitalization . I have been going through the stages and it is so helpful to see that I am not alone and that this is normal. I am an emotional roller coaster the last 24 -36 hours and it sounds like we all do it.,,, thank you thank you thank you

    • Hi and thanks for the kind words.

      Sorry to hear about your hospitalization. Yeah, unfortunately recovering from a bad flare is often very difficult, but thankfully things do eventually get back to normal. It’s hard to understand just how tough it can be unless you’ve been through it.

      Here’s to a speedy recovery!

  3. JC says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m recovering from my first hospital stay due to asthma exacerbation. I’m on day 7 home and still can’t walk far without getting winded or lightheaded. I’m so glad I found your blog, and especially appreciate the recovery phases.

    I was diagnosed with asthma 9 years ago, though I know I had symptoms prior. The condition worsened when I moved to the CA Central Valley – not a good place for healthy breathing. I’ve been amazed at how little is known about asthma. Doctors know how to treat it, but there are so many possible triggers. I know my symptoms increase when I’m sick. I was recovering from bronchitis and a sinus infection when exacerbation took over. When I asked the doctors why it happened, they said that sometimes it just does. Not a very scientific answer, or a comforting one.

    With this episode, I’ve committed to make better choices to eat cleaner and strengthen my body. I’ll also continue to read your blog. Again, thank you.

    • Hi and thanks for writing.

      I’m so sorry to hear that you’re sick. What you’re experiencing is totally normal for someone who is recovering from a severe flare. Bronchitis and sinus problems are huge triggers and are super common in asthmatics.

      I know what you mean about the lack of knowledge about this disease, I’m trying to do my part to change that. Educate yourself as much as you can about this disease and be proactive. If you don’t already, you really should see a pulmonologist who specializes in the treatment of asthma.

      I hope your recovery is speedy!

      All the best to you,
      Steve G

  4. Brian Pettrie says:

    Thank you for this site. Like others have said, it is comforting to find others that can relate to what I go through.

    I’ve had asthma since birth. The last few years, its really flared back up. I’ve been to the ER 6 times in the last 2-3 years and I should have gone probably another 5-10 times. I haven’t had health insurance in a few years. In Indiana, its hard to get on health insurance. So I also haven’t had a rescue inhaler for who knows how long. Its nothing for me to make it through a 24 hour asthma attack or even longer. I feel like I will die every time but I’ve done it so much, I know I’ll always make it.

    I also experience the fatigue after the attack where I can’t even make it to the bathroom without having to sit down and gasp for air. I’m at that stage today. I’m trying to get my credit better and I just can’t afford to keep racking up ER bills between $600-$800 so this latest attack, I didn’t go and it was hell.

    Without an inhaler, I usually drink either black coffee, green tea, I have a salt inhaler which helps sometimes, other times it does nothing. I mainly use the Primatene Tablets which do work most of the time if I can take them before the symptoms really hit. They don’t really work when I wake up in a full blown asthma attack. I am experimenting with Ginger as I heard it works wonders. For now all I can afford is Ginger Ale which I’ve been told, the main brands, don’t even have real Ginger in them so I’m not sure how effective it will be. Right now its not really helping.

    I ordered some Magnesium Oil from Amazon which I just learned today, works wonder. I never realized Magnesium was so important and why don’t doctors mention this? Do they just not know about it?

    Ironically, I work for Indiana Medicaid, have been there about 13 months but I’m still a temp because the company is cheap so I still have no health insurance.

    I also live with family members who smoke, light incense, use bleach and whatever else so I realize, I’ll never fully be able to control my asthma until I move.

    For now, I’m going to buy an air purifier to help filter out the cig smoke, dust, etc.

    When my magnesium oil comes, I’ll rub that on my chest for a few days and come back and report. I read thats the best way to get the magnesium in you, versus taking it orally. If anyone else has tried it, let me know how it works out for you. The forum I found that on, everyone basically said its helped them a great deal. They just use it everyday and put it right on their chest.

    Again, thank you for this great blog and all that you do.

  5. Elke says:

    What a breath of fresh air (can’t resist a cheesy pun!) to discover and read your blog! Fantastic stuff! I had a few giggles in the sheer sense of relief that i was somewhat normal in this abnormal state! Forgive the following novella, but tired wired and can’t shut up!

    Just got released yesterday on bail after 15 days in prison (the wheezy lung ward, just barely escaped IC after a backslide after 5 days!) and feeling a little loopy and disorientated, as well as still SOB and wheezing like a pinwheel. While i have had asthma since childhood, this was my first “big one” that required 2xIV instead of oral steroids, wasn’t responding to standard treatment and went quickly downhill instead of upwards like it should (asthma not playing fair!) Having had a parent who died from asthma when i was young, i never saw myself as that bad – even though i have been to an ER numerous times and have had past attacks that were somewhat stubborn. However, most of my adult life my asthma has been so well controlled, i forgot it ever needs anything more than an extra symbicort or albuterol. How easily we fall into denial!

    Naturally, there were those signs that are easily talked away “the pollen must be bad today”‘, “bit of smog in the air”, or whatever other excuse i could think of. I swim middle distance and needing to stop and leap out of the pool for an inhaler… Apart from an aside mention to my doctor when i saw him for something else, i didn’t see those signs infront of me until i was breathlessly telling my rather concerned partner that i “didn’t need to go to hospital yet, just another puff should settle it down…”

    I am also rather calm in an attack, because i always thought panicking is a really quick way for things to deteriorate to the point you can’t get the help you need. And i never like to worry those around me AGAIN, especially if it’s nothing… And hey, those o2 sats are fine, nothing to worry about!

    It was rather disconcerting then, when all of a sudden it went down south, not just the initial warm up attack, but the unexpected later big one. I don’t remember much, but confusion and lots of activity around me and not understanding what was happening. But all the same, i still had enough of me present when they told me “we’re not going to let you die” to think “i should hope not – this is a hospital, isn’t it?” 🙂

    I am still quite sick, but well enough to be able to piece together what happened on those confusing days. In and out of some major ‘roid mood swings and emotional times, but reading your blog has really helped me understand it all and see it all from a better place. Knowing what is going on helps me process it all, and that helps me feel much better about feeling still uncontrolled. Battle scarred, bruised and moon faced; with timetable nebs, inhalers and pills, catching up on the latest asthma stuff while still not sleeping. But on the positive side – it’s nice to not have to discuss my bathroom habits with the rest of the world!

    Deciding when it’s time to go to hospital is always hard, especially if you have had asthma over the years. Sometimes your judgement goes out, or you second guess yourself. Having had years between attacks and being fairly well controlled can make it even more a challenge. But i was lucky to have been where i was when it did, so i hope next time i will not hesitate on my gut and try to tough it out (until morning, or whatever). Complacency is more dangerous to me than panic, it would seem.

    So, i’m somewhere in the rebound/zombie phase right now. Food is just coming back though still tastes like cardboard, the inflated ballooning of my body, laughing and crying at the same time, making inappropriate jokes and picking arguments with family… and chest and back muscles feel like they’ve been run over by a truck! It’s good to know that these are all normal and will end… Soon!

    Thank you once again!

    • Hello, Wow…what an ordeal. Sorry you’re having to deal with all the fun steroid side effects. ( I just weaned off a round myself.) Im glad you made the decision to go to the ER. Hopefully the worst is behind you now, though I can totally appreciate how you probably still “feel” sick.
      Most people, unless the’re impacted by the disease ( physicians included) have no idea how severe and devastating asthma can be. I’m on a mission to change that.

      If you need someone to communicate with while you’re dealing with these steroids crazies, feel free to write. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to respond right away, but I do my best to read all of my mail as it comes in.

      Stay positive and focus on getting back to your normal routine. And remember, you’re not alone! There are thousands of us who live through this same scenario every single day.

      Best,
      Steve

      PS.. Are you in the US?

  6. Matt says:

    “All of a sudden, it’s as if you were never sick, never hospitalized and never went through the living hell of a severe asthma exacerbation or recovery.”

    I get this all the time, but I think I get an earlier form? Once I’ve been through resus and had everything and been stabilised and I’m on the ward…my mind starts messing with me, telling me “it can’t have been that bad” or “last time you were with CCU but this time you’re just on a ward so it can’t have been that bad this time” or “did the resus doc really think you had asthma?” and stuff like that which is horrible. Hospital nights are depressing enough for me — I’m 18 but somehow I just can’t get past that — but then this hits and it sucks. I think I also get a feeling of attachment or whatever to the docs in resus because they saved my life…but it’s like they save it and they’re gone.

    I’ve got that particularly harshly this time (came out on Thursday after 10 days in hospital, with one mostly panic attack in the middle of my stay which I thought was asthma but wasn’t..it’s like I can’t trust what I’m feeling, although it was slightly different, and what they heard with the stethoscopes was air movement, something they never hear in resus so…) and I’m just trying to get through that post-hospital depression along with AS resits and A2 exams and it’s just..ugh.

    Sorry for the rant, I guess I just needed to get that out to someone.

    • Matt says:

      Also, I have atypical asthma so I don’t wheeze and my sats are always good (even though my ABG could be totally deranged and I could die at any minute..thankfully that hasn’t happened yet but my point is it could) so I think there’s less for me to hold on to.

      Can’t speak? Probably could have if I’d tried.
      Tight chest? Anxiety.
      Peak flow down? That’ll be me subconsciously making it low.
      Responded to nebs and steroids? Placebo response.
      Responded to magnesium? Placebo response.
      Doc said x could have ‘contributed’ to this? Clearly he doesn’t believe it was an asthma attack.

      It’s all bull of course. If the doc thought I wasn’t having an asthma attack, he wouldn’t have given me nebs and magnesium. If he thought I was faking it or it was something else, he would have took my dad aside and told him. But I can’t hold on to something (“I was wheezing, of course it was asthma” or something like that) because that isn’t how I present.

      I know this is an odd term to use, but the only consolation (that I’m not just a great big time-wasting faker) is that my consultant (rushy and abrupt though he is), all my nurses both at the surgery and the hospital, every doctor I have ever seen, and every emergency department staff member I have met so far, has thought I have asthma, and those along with a clear chest CT, somewhat of an expected result from meds tried (they are investigating VCD as a possible reason why my meds don’t always have the expected level of result, although generally meds don’t in me, even ondansetron for nausea was no better than a sugar pill), expected peak flow patterns, and 5 ED trips (4 life-threatening attacks and 3 admissions) in 9 months can’t all be wrong!

      I don’t know anyone else with brittle asthma, or who has even been in hospital with asthma let alone through resus (except my best friend but her last admission was as a baby), so I don’t really have anyone who gets it.

      They can imagine it’s scary being in hospital, or upsetting, and that it’s a relief to get out, and a drag to do all my meds…but they can’t understand why being in hospital can be ok during the day, or irritating because you’re missing college, or the dark endless pit that is the night, or that the songs which got you through resus and the early hours of the mornings when you couldn’t sleep are the same songs which make you miss the certainty and closeness of help, or that coming out is actually scarier than going in, and the drag isn’t just doing my meds but actually wondering if they’re enough. When your peak flows are back to yellow but you still feel like cr@p and you just think “I have no reason to feel like this”. How you can wish — to an extent — that you were back in because life outside feels so insecure and…

      And it’s all the little things too, like that feeling that even if things felt really bad you would feel so stupid calling an ambulance or going back to hospital because ffs you *only just got out*. Or the “I never got to say a proper thank-you” feeling. Or going back to college and having all your classmates ask where you’ve been, and — even worse — the looks from your tutors and the “how are you now”s and “you’ve had such a bad time”s. Or all the catch-up work when you barely even feel like dragging yourself between lessons. Or being so embarrassed by your own musical tastes that you mute your laptop every time an HCA or nurse comes into your room.

      Or even missing the routine or the little things you did at visiting time; for my family, that was rolling down to the sandwich bar (little 24-hour seating and vending machines area attached to the restaurant) with ready meals and sticking them in the microwave and playing games over dinner.

      And they are a million miles away from understanding how it feels to have someone swoop in and save your life like a Superhero..but then for them to be gone and never seen again hours later. It almost feels like you’ve been abandoned and left to fend for yourself. Even if I could somehow tell them that, they would have no idea. It would sound ridiculous. They’d tell me it’s crazy to get attached to someone you saw for such a short time. They’d tell me to get over it. But it isn’t that easy.

      • Matt says:

        And lastly, the thing I think made it worse this time and something I am struggling with is when I was in resus, I had an SVT episode and the doc — this great guy who actually seemed to care and told us when he had to go off shift and explained everything and worked around my chest binder even though it was in the way (I am a transgender guy and the binder helps others to see me as who I am and helps me feel better) — had to do a carotid sinus massage. I have possible PTSD and that side of my brain took right over and started screaming “he’s going to hurt you” and “he’s strangling you”, and although the doc kept saying how well I was doing and asking me if I was ok, all I could do was nod because my brain tried to convince me that if I told the truth and told him to stop then he would seriously hurt me.

        Which of course was nuts given that he was a great guy, and my dad was next to me, we were on a resus ward for goodness’ sake, and I was hooked up to so many monitors they would all know straight away if anything untoward happened..but it really shook me and it has stuck with me, entwined with the feeling that he saved my life.

        I don’t know..I am ok with hospitals, and am personally considering either medical research, or becoming a doctor myself. I don’t hate hospitals per se..but nights are awful and coming out is mixed up with all these emotions I can’t get rid of. I know I will get over it in time, I always do. But for now it just feels endless.

        Add to that my lungs just feeling so tired…

  7. Cassie says:

    I know this is an old post, but I’ll comment anyway in case you’re still checking. I’m glad that I happened upon this. I was diagnosed with asthma yesterday, when I went to urgent care about 5 hours after my breathing problems began. I had no idea that I was experiencing an asthma attack. I had just participated in a 75 mile bike ride, and was convinced that I had just pushed myself too much, and that I would catch my breath eventually. I’m so glad that I finally decided to go. The doc there would have preferred for me to go to the ER, but I don’t have insurance, and he complied with my request to be treated there instead.

    I got a nebulizer treatment. After that I could breathe much better, but definitely not 100%. I could at least speak in full sentences without taking a breath between each word. I was prescribed a 9 day prednisone regimine, which I started to take right way, and an albuterol rescue inhaler, which I took a few hours after the nebulizer treatment. I put off the inhaler for too long, I think, because it was expensive and I thought I could get away without purchasing it. I was also prescribed an inhaled corticosteroid, but the cost for that is around $250 and so I’m trying to avoid getting that if at all possible. I think that I might have to just suck it up and admit that it’s necessary, though.

    Now, about 36 hours after receiving the news that I have asthma, I still cannot breathe 100%. I have used my rescue inhaler almost every four hours. One more day before I start to taper off of the prednisone, and I’m a little worried for what that rebound might look like, considering that I’m not even breathing properly while I’m on it. I have absolutely no experience with this, and feel that I wasn’t properly educated at urgent care. Should I have an asthma action plan?

    I’m glad that I now know the symptoms to watch out for. I’ve had the same symptoms in the past (but much much less severe) and always attributed it to allergies, colds, or the dry desert air. I’m so grateful that when I finally did have an attack bad enough to send me to the urgent care, that I was in an area and situation where immediate assistance was quick and easy to find.

    If you’re still reading these comments, thanks for your post!

    • Sorry to hear you were sick. Sometimes it can take weeks or even months to completely recover from a flare. And Yes, if youve been diagnosed with asthma, you definitively should have an asthma action plan.

      Best of luck to you!

  8. T Blackmon says:

    Im in the Honeymoon phase right now because I am feeling okay, but for some strange reason I have this crazy feeling of starting to feel like crap..HELP!!!!

  9. Ahmamama says:

    Thank you so much! Thank you thank you thank you! This blog just gave me SO much hope that this will actually end and I can and will get better. I am currently going in and out of the zombie phase and needed to see this so badly. I am actually tearing up with relief right now.

    I’m in the middle (hopefully near end) of a several month awful asthma ordeal, and my husband (amazing, but has his own struggles with clinical depression) and I needed hope it will end, and that I’ll recover my mental acuity and strength. I want so badly to take care of my kids and family again…not to mention return to work and a paycheck!
    .
    Before I forget to ask, was there anything that helped people with sleep? The severity of my “zombie” symptoms and mental clarity seem so much better when I can sleep, and I haven’t slept more than 2 straight hours in months.

    So my history a bit – I was one of those people that conceived of asthma as this thing that only happened as weird isolated attacks with short term wheezing and/or nasty chest congestion. I knew that I got sick more frequently than other people and with more severity because I always scared the docs at urgent care into giving me chest xrays, but that was it. A few times a year I’d go on a stint of prednisone and a Z-pack, bust out the Duo Nebs on my home nebulizer, and be good to go in a couple of weeks.

    All of a sudden, at the beginning of June, I got hit with what I think was an influenza virus (I got swabbed too late for them to tell.) That’s when my personal hell began. Until last week, I hadn’t taken a clear breath since that day without wheezing and all sorts of horrible chest congestion. I had never been hospitalized before, and since June I’ve been in and out 3 different times, each for a week. I was not responding to the normal combination of prednisone, inhaled corticosteroids, etc.

    The first two hospital stays were awful. They got me basically to the “you’re not dying stage”, basically like a long ER visit…then booted me out without changing my treatment at all. Worst pulmonary team ever. At my allergists advice, I switched to a completely different hospital the third time, which was AMAZING. My new pulmonary team is fantastic (if you’re in the DC area go to Virginia Hospital Center.) and they gave me the Dr. House treatment. They didn’t let me go this time until my wheezing was actually gone.

    However, because of this…I thought that I would magically be better when I got out of the hospital. I had this weird feeling that ok – wheeze is gone, that means, even though I’ve been sick for four months, I can jump back in to everything. Taking care of my kids, cooking, work, etc. Nope. Can’t do anything. Unfortunately we are also getting half our roof replaced and tearing out remaining carpeting in house to make it an allergy bubble…having to coordinate childcare for when my husband is not home in the afternoon because I can’t do it…AAARGH!!! Too much stuff.

    I feel like it is so hard to convince people, even family members and doctors, how freaking sick I am. I normally have a high physical and mental energy level (which seems like a commonality on this thread) compared to many people. I work full time in a male-dominated profession and love also being the cook and primary caregiver for my amazing 2 and 4 year old boys. This means I am, like many of you on here, actually a professional faker who always tries to show no outside weakness (anxiety and OCD just add fun things to the mix). Apparently I got too good at it! Even when my O2 level is at 88, which it did, I can still speak normally. Doctors then look at my stats and listen to my lungs and are like “oh crap, maybe she is sick?” People that don’t have asthma, and that don’t have a baseline for what I usually am like, think I’m fine.

    I feel like this bizarre combination of Dory from finding Nemo and Westley from the Princess Bride. Unfortunately, I’ve also been having my Carrie Mathison from Homeland moments. I can talk and look ok (except when I’m really tired and Dory or Carrie REALLY comes out). But I’m really not. http://www.webmd.com/asthma/guide/unusual_asthma-symptoms – All of this plus Dory/Carrie stuff. Ugh. At least I’m not coughing?

    If anyone knows Miracle Max, please send him my way.

    I know this was rambly and full of so much stuff…but again…in zombie phase so I can’t even trust my mental clarity and organization right now. Hopefully this is coherent enough to understand. I love you all and hope other people get as much hope from reading this as I did. I’m bookmarking this so I remember to come back to it later with a positive update.

    • Hello, and thank you for the kind words. Im sorry to hear that you’re struggling with your asthma and going through steroid withdraws.. im currently tapering myself. I think you’re your hunch about a virus triggering a prolonged exacerbation is correct. Viruses can linger for months, making asthma symptoms even worse.

      May not seem like it now, but the side effects from the pred will eventually fade away as you taper off. As far as lack of sleep goes, it’s a very common. If it gets really bad, sometimes I’ll take a little ativan and/or ambien, but I try not to pile on more medications because it just makes the recovery period longer. Eventually, you’ll sleep from pure exhaustion.

      Finally I would recommend that you switch from an Allergist to Pulmonologist who specializes in asthma. And of course a person that you’re comfortable with and have trust in. The understanding and treatment strategies for asthma is changing rapidly, so it’s really important to connect with caregiver who’s in tune these changes.

      Good luck to you!

      • DeNice says:

        I am so frustrated right now. I was on Xolair, and it stopped me from having Asthma Attackes. Well in January my new insurance company stopped me from getting it. As I sit here and write this I can Hardly breathe. My insurance company denied me 3 times. My nurse found a way for me to get it for free, but…Ive been off of it so long that my Asthma has flared up. For the last 2 months I have had several steroids shots, antibiotic and Steroid packs. When i spoke to my nurse today , she told me to “turn myself in Monday to be hospitalized. I am Bummed out. I hate the hospital but …Nothing else is working. So off to the hospital I go.

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