ongoing lung/bronchial irritation from forest fire smoke
I've been struggling with an ongoing lung/bronchial irritation for 8 weeks. I'm a healthy 44 yr old woman. I've exercised regularly for the past 16 yrs. I don't smoke and have no prior lung or health issues.
On July 5th forest fire smoke rolled into my area. 40 mins into my workout that day I felt as if I couldn't get a full breath and had to stop. The same thing has happened ever since. I've stopped doing cardio of even low level. Weight training is sometimes ok, not always. The chest tightness continues throughout the day and I sometimes have a dry cough. Exposure to 2nd hand cigarette smoke worsens the tightness and the cough. Rest and clean air make me feel better, but an elevated heart rate or bad air kicks it right back up again and each re-aggravation makes me feel worse and takes longer to recover from.
Spirometer showed some limitation, asthma test was negative. I'm getting plenty of oxygen, negative for allergies, ekg normal, chest xray had some expansion, but otherwise clear. All blood work normal (thyroid, anemia, blood clot in my lung). I have no symptoms of any sort of infection, not coughing up anything, and I've had no fever or body aches. I have no trouble sleeping and feel best first thing in the a.m.
My intuition tell me it's Reactive Airway Disease. Do you agree?
After the last re-aggravation, for the past week I've stayed home in purified air and rested totally. I feel better but the tightness continues. Is moderate exercise ok, is pushing my limits a good thing or is it only setting me back? are there any supplements I can take to speed healing?
There is not much difference between a diagnosis of reactive airways disease and asthma when it comes to the test. This is done by a breathing test before and after an inhaled bronchodilator. Sometimes, when this is normal a challenge test is done to see if the airways are reactive. The symptoms you are describing are typical of this, but not conclusive. I would suggest seeing a pulmonologist to further evaluate the problem in an effort to make the diagnosis.
I have experienced similar symptoms from exposure to, at various times, construction dust, cement dust, and asphalt/dirt particles from road work in the neighborhood. I found it very difficult to recover from these types of irritants, because the exposure caused me to be hypersensitive to other things. What helped me, finally, was a course of prednisone. I resisted this for months, but now wish I had taken it sooner. To obtain this, it's best to see an asthma/allergy specialist. It has to be prescribed carefully. Also important is to be able to avoid the irritant. Is the smoke gone?
Thanks for your comments, Rosie. Yes, the smoke cleared about 6 weeks ago. Although I had a similar reaction to a tour of a construction site a couple of weeks ago so, like you, it seems I'm hyper sensitive to many kinds of particulate pollution.
I understand that prednisone can have dramatic effects, and I appreciate your suggesting it to me, but I'm not willing to go that route. I've always been very sensitive to any kind of drug, and steroids, for me, are simply out of the question. I am recovering with rest, purified air and anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant supplements (an excellent multi-vitamin that contains suggested dose of magnesium for asthmatics, MSM, quercetin, NAC, vitamin C, borage oil, cod liver oil). I've also found that doing Pilates not only makes me feel better, but results in better peak flow readings.
I'm confident that taking the natural route may take longer than steroids, but will ultimately leave me healthier. That's the plan anyway! ;D
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