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Hi, I'm 24 years old and have had asthma since childhood. I do not smoke, but have been around various irritants my whole life. I have had 5 cases of bronchitis that eventually turned into pneumonia within the past 2.5 years. Each time has lasted at least 4 weeks, typically up to 6 weeks with a productive cough that lasts even longer. The last time around with bronchitis/pneumonia, I was diagnosed with pleurisy as well (this is the second time I've had that). When I have these infections, my asthma gets worse and I have even more asthma attacks/consistent trouble breathing. Each time I've gone into the doctor's, my oxygen level has been in the low 90's, and by that point I’m usually pretty disoriented and tired from the lack of oxygen. The last time, my doctor wanted to do a CT scan and possibly take some fluid from my lungs, but I do not have insurance and had to refuse. However, the doctor did say that based on my history and symptoms, I have chronic bronchitis (which some consider to be part of COPD). Especially since I cannot afford to be hospitalized every time this happens or take weeks off of work, he suggested that along with avoiding smoke/any form of irritants, I should try to avoid people with respiratory infections at all costs. However, I work in a school with young children so that is not an option. I use an emergency inhaler as well as a daily-use one. Each time I have an infection, I get antibiotics (sometimes multiple rounds) and steroids, as well as oxygen and nebulizer treatments. I already wash my hands religiously, never touch my face, exercise regularly, take vitamins, and usually get at least 8 hours of sleep.
My questions are: could I really have chronic bronchitis/COPD at this age? Or could there be another explanation? And will I really need to consider leaving my job to try to stay healthier and avoid further damaging my lungs? What else can I do to manage these symptoms? I’ve already been sent home from work and to the doctor’s multiple times this year. It’s very embarrassing and disheartening and it’s really affecting my work and social life!
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