By J.D. (“Joffre”) Meyer
Those of us with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder) live with the strong risk of an exacerbation that is severe enough to go to the Emergency Room by way of ambulance. I developed asthma 18 years before COPD too. We face a mix of lung spasms, excess chest phlegm, and a low FEV (Forced Exhale Volume). Asthma-COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS) is known for increased breathlessness and sputum–but a better response to inhaled corticosteroids.
It’s typical for me to have some coughing and wheezing when I awake, and sometimes after a walk. Choice #1 is using an asthma rescue inhaler, such as Combivent or Pro-Air. It’s like a “Bud Light” version of the nebulizer, as both use albuterol. Combivent is stronger, and it also has ipratropium. But the likelihood of its effectiveness goes downhill if our attack is more than simply mild. Rule #2 is not to take the long-term inhalers during an acute attack, such as Advair or Symbicort, and Singulair.
So we go for our dear friend, the nebulizer, and pour a vial of albuterol or albuterol-ipratropium in the receptacle. We get “Albut-Iprat” when our condition becomes worse. I just started getting Combivent, the stronger “Albut-Iprat” inhaler. Our next choice is mask or “pipe.” Most say the pipe-like hose is better because we get more of the medicine. So here’s my first original suggestion. If you wear the mask, put your oxygen canula up your nose (assuming you own one). Really tired COPD sufferers may have difficulties with the pipe. Lately, I’ve switched back to the pipe-like breathing tube. Furthermore, I’ve started holding a lozenge in my mouth while I inhale my albuterol from the nebulizer. The lozenge is menthol and maybe eucalyptus too. That way, the cooling anti-inflammatory elements of the lozenge shoot directly to your lungs, as opposed to staying in your mouth and keeping you from coughing phlegm. My guess has been approved by real doctors!
Speaking of phlegm, keep a plastic can with a lid handy, such as my old Folger’s coffee can, the regular 10.3 oz. size. Don’t even consider swallowing that phlegm. I’m not trying to be funny because it’s not. Don’t expect to be able to run to spit in the nearest toilet or sink either. Make sure you drink enough water too–a likely weak area for most people. 1.5 liters daily should be enough since other fluids are okay; vegetables and fruits are full of water too. I use an attractive purple jug for my water, so I’ll notice it better! I can keep the squirt cap on when I take my many morning pills. Then I remove the cap for water guzzling! Now I’m exploring fruit-flavored water to increase my likelihood of really hydrating. Furthermore, local water systems have been breaking down lately!
Now let’s look at the OTC (over-the-counter) medicines. For your chest congestion, take some guaifenesin; that is, Mucinex or a generic version. COPD is a mix of emphysema and bronchitis. Bronchitis is like having a perpetual chest cold while emphysema is a destruction of the lung sacs and a lack of elasticity in the lungs.
What if you have nasal congestion? A saline nasal spray will open a constricted nose. Later I submitted this article to COPD Breathing Buddies of Facebook, and I was warned about Sudafed. This drug may reduce nasal congestion, but Sudafed can raise your blood pressure, which may happen anyway during a COPD attack. In the past, I added Mullein leaves (gordolobo), eucalyptus leaves to my morning coffee drip bin before I got health insurance but lived next door to a Mexican botanica. My goal is to reduce inflammation. Garlic pieces and ginger slices work too.
If you have severe or moderate COPD, take your Daliresp pill. I have allergies to Bermuda & Johnson Grass, so I have allergy pills to take–an OTC generic equivalent of Claritin called Loratadine, a non-drowsy tablet and now Montelukast, my newest prescription. Montelukast is actually the pill version of Singulair, and one of the cheaper lung-related prescriptions. I keep a daily pill reminder box by my bed, as I have a total of six per day–not all bad lungs related. By the way, since you’re taking all these pills have a water bottle next to your bed. The more water you drink, the more the mucus will be thinned.
Here’s my second original tip. If you have a C-PAP machine for sleep apnea, you can use it when you’re wide awake to force air into your inelastic, sagging emphysema-ridden lungs! Don’t overuse your nebulizer; try a wide range of strategies to stop the COPD attack.
Lately, I started taking Vitamin D and magnesium. I read a wonderful booklet about the benefits of magnesium for the lungs after my move of February 2018.
Please check out my methods for battling severe COPD exacerbations! Maybe I have a higher tolerance for pain than many, or a fear of walking home from the E.R. before sunrise? I wrote this article after coping with a severe attack lasted for 1 hour & 40 minutes; editing followed the intial blog!!
And when you quit choking, take those long-lasting spray/powders: Advair or Symbicort and Singulair or whatever.
Consider calling your G.P. M.D. later for an office visit. After this epic COPD attack, I got a shot of Salumedrol, a steroid, at her office. Then I got prescriptions for prednisone pills and a Z-Pac antibiotic.