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Does this sound like COPD?

I posted this on another forum  as well. Sorry it’s a bit long...

I'm 34 years' old and new to this forum (although I have been on here before, a few years back).

At the tail end of last year, I caught a pretty bad cold that gave me a dry tickly cough that eventually began to subside. However, a few weeks ago I got the beginnings of a cold again, but this time with a wheezy, chesty cough that has yet to disappear. All in all, I've probably had two different types of cough for about a month now (maybe a bit longer).

The weird thing about my cough at the moment is that when I wake up I don't have any need to cough, but when I test it, there is no wheezing or phlegm. However, if I try testing out my cough a few times and get up and about, it seems to slowly translate into a wheezy (and slightly phlegmy - dark yellow colour) cough. I then go through periods during the day where I'm sitting at rest and feel my chest tightening and have difficulty breathing and I lose the wheeze and ability to produce phlegm and vice versa. It's like the cough changes throughout the day. No fever, but my cold is at the stage where my nose is constantly blocked and I can feel mucus when I sniff. I cycle a lot (around 15 miles per day) and have a pretty healthy diet, smoke very occasionally (maybe a few times a year, if that - although I try to stop that from happening by cutting down on the all-night parties these days!). I never seem to feel the tight chest and difficulty breathing when I'm on the bike; only when I'm at home and at rest.

I have been reasonably prone to colds going to my chest in the past (not always and I can't remember if any of the colds I had last year translated into a cough as well - my intuition is that they didn't).

I went to the doctor the other day and he's given me antibiotics (I've just finished one 24-hour dose), but the cough is the same and I'm a bit worried with this ongoing chest tightness/difficulty breathing and the fact that everywhere I've looked online appears to suggest that acute bronchitis should only last a couple of weeks. This has been going on for much longer....

Does it sound like it might be chronic bronchitis or something? I honestly don't know how I could eat any healthier or do any more exercise. Before I started university in September I used to run 3 or 4 times a week, as well as the 15 mile + bike rides every day, and I even did a bike tour of Holland last year with my girlfriend, so imagined I was in pretty good shape. 

Can copd still strike in spite of my exercise/diet regimen? I’m getting really anxious about the whole thing...

30 Replies

  • matthew55622

    Hi matthew, I would go back to your doctor and ask for chest xrays, and / or a referral for a spirometry test for your pulmonary function and capacity.  I don't think you can make the diagnoses based on your symptoms.  It's probably a bronchial infection, perhaps pneumonia ... if you're worried there's no reason to not get it checked out.  

  • matthew55622

    Hi I to be honest I think this is just a chest infection.  I say just but they can be very nasty and linger for ages.  Give the ab's a chance to work and you should start feeling a bit better in a couple of days.  If not go back to your doctor as you might need different ab's or even steroids to clear it. 

    You are very young to have copd but if you are worried ask your doctor/nurse for a spirometry test as this will show whether you have it or not.  I am betting you don't.

    Really hoping you feel better very soon.  x

  • matthew55622

    Consider getting a mucus thinner. With or without one, drink tons of water, 8 oz. with the mucolytic & at least another 5 full glasses throughout the day. All this is to loosen that mucus to make it easier to get it up & out.

  • Thanks everyone for the replies.

    So I went to the walk-in centre near me this morning (I live in the uk) and explained everything. 

    The GP said I have swollen glands and a temperature but couldn’t hear any wheezing/congestion. He just said that I would need to take paracetamol and rest. I did ask about a spirometry or x-ray but he said because my vitals were fine (98% oxygen) there would be no point as it wouldn’t show anything. 

    Of course, the annoying thing about this is that I didn’t have any wheezing during the examination but a quarter of an hour later I tried coughing in the car and the wheeze came back again. I’m not really any phlegm when I cough, but it’s annoying because I keep thinking the cough is gone and then it comes back. sad

    Just feels like it’s neverending at the moment and I’m so desperate to be done with this cough. 

  • matthew55622

    Although none of us here are doctors or can diagnose from experience and because you mention the colour of your sputum and the tightness in the chest, I would say you have a lung infection, which does need treatment with antibiotics and you should notice things improving by the 3rd day I'd say.  If things get worse and there is no improvement on or after the 3rd day of being on the ABs, definitely go back to your doctor and should you find you deteriorate rapidly with breathing through the night don't hesitate to call emergency service for the paramedics.

    You mention you are prone to colds going to your chest, if this is frequent throughout the year, you may want to ask your doctor for a referral to a respiratory specialist.

    Hope you find this course of antibiotics clear the infection and hope also further test results do not show a lung problem. 

    Best wishes V

    PS If there are ongoing lung and breathing issues perhaps ask your doctor for the Alpha1 antitrypsin deficiency blood test (this is hereditary so if any member of your family already have a lung issue, it would be worth you getting tested).

    If you are in the UK don't hesitate to contact the British Lung foundation helpline..

  • I should have mentioned that I finished the co-amoxiclav a couple of days ago. 

    I know you are all going to tell me to go for an x ray and spirometry, but I’m terrified it will show copd. Just don’t know how I would deal with that kind of diagnosis to be honest...

    • matthew55622

      Of course its entirely up to you whether you wish to find out the cause of your symptoms.  It may not be COPD, it may be something else, but you will never know if you don't get to the bottom of your symptoms and the only way to do that is going for further tests. But you may want to wait until the next time if it happens again to reconsider.

      Personally I felt happier with a diagnosis rather than not knowing what was wrong, and without a diagnosis little chance of getting the right treatment.

      Really unsure why you posted your query if you really don't want to know if you do have COPD. 

      No one here can diagnose and foolish to guess what condition you may have.

      Best wishes for you good health in 2018

    • Vee2

      Yes of course, you’re right. I’m just scared, that’s all. Particularly what such a diagnosis might mean in terms of me being able to run and cycle as I have done on an almost daily basis for many years now. 

      I know that seems like jumping the gun, but I’m an anxious sort and the idea that I’ve gone 4/5 weeks now without my cough disappearing is kind of freaking me out. 

    • matthew55622

      A diagnosis of COPD doesn't mean from henceforth you will not be able to cycle or run, if you can do that now the ability to do so won't stop over night, however, it will become very difficult with a lung infection. Neglected lung infections as mentioned can lead to further lung damage and with repeated lung infections the risk is higher.  More frequent lung infections can occur when an illness is undiagnosed which basically means the proper treatment and care will not be available as it would otherwise be.


      I've not really anything more to say other than what I have said here already.

  • And I still don’t understand why I go through these periods at the beginning and end of the day (also while asleep) where I basically have no cough or wheeze. 

    Has anyone heard of/experienced this before?

    • matthew55622

      It's entirely your choice but understand what you risk: untreated lung infections can lead to scarring. Scarring in the lungs isn't a good thing.

      Likewise, coughing itself can break ribs, pull muscles and harm the vocal cords. Your choice, tho.

      Why do you think that a COPD diagnosis means someone's going to put you in restraints to keep you from exercising? That makes no sense whatsoever.

    • aitarg35939

      Yes, I know it's better to have it checked out. Unfortunately, the earliest I can get the spirometry done is the 24th January. In the meantime, should I book an emergency appointment to get an X-Ray done?

      As for the exercise, I just mean that I'm anxious about what impact a COPD diagnosis may have on my ability to cycle and run, and generally be as active as I have been in previous years. I'd be devastated if this prevented me from doing long running and cycling sessions, or doing cycle racing as I had planned to this summer.

    • matthew55622

      I have emphysema I go 2 gym and do a lot of walking it's a part of urtreatment for copd it doesnt stop me from exercise unless i have an infection .ur docs test for copd is not as reliable as the hospital 1 so best with hospital test.

    • matthew55622

      On the xray, I don't know where you are, big difference between UK & US, and in the US there are approximately 5,000,000 different kinds of health insurance and each has its own quirks about emergency visits. You have to decide this. COPD isn't usually diagnosed on an xray as far as i know; pneumonia is. Many US pulmos order a lung xray on every visit while others don't.

      A. COPD diagnosis isn't going to change your exercise capabilities from one day to the next.

      Anxiety makes everything breath-related worse in addition to messing with our minds. Perhaps consider some online programs to help with your anxiety. If deep breathing & meditation don't help, ask the doc. Meanwhile stop looking up your symptoms online as that makes everything at least 30% worse.

    • matthew55622

      I Don't remark on that because I find absolutely nothing about it remarkable, and perhaps that's why no one else touches it. I'm typing while strapped into my nebulizer for 2 meds, knowing that I'll skip my lung pounder vest because it's after midnight & I'm tired.

      It almost sounds as if you WANT to be awake all night coughing and wheezing. It is safe to say that no one here who does that thinks it' s fun.


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