Tips + Know the difference

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If you wish to check further about the different lung conditions to gain a greater understandanding do check out Patient UK pages, just type the condition in the search box top right.

Below are three patient UK page links, Asthma, Bronchiectasis and COPD.  Sometimes people group all lung condition or breathing difficulties under the COPD banner, this is not the case and because each lung condition is different and the patient may present one or more lung or breathing issue, symptoms and medication may vary and often some medicines are tailored to suit the individual..  

For each lung condition you may also find a different discussion forum, you can check this through patient UK search box also.

Three links:




If you scroll down on the COPD page its says:


What's the difference between chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma?

COPD and asthma cause similar symptoms. However, they are different diseases. Briefly:

In COPD there is permanent damage to the airways. The narrowed airways are fixed, and so symptoms are persistent (chronic). Treatment to open up the airways is therefore limited.

In asthma there is inflammation in the airways which makes the muscles in the airways constrict. This causes the airways to narrow. The symptoms tend to come and go, and vary in severity from time to time. Treatment to reduce inflammation and to open up the airways usually works well.

COPD is more likely than asthma to cause an ongoing cough with phlegm (sputum).

Waking at night with breathlessness or wheeze is common in asthma and uncommon in COPD.

COPD is rare before the age of 35 whilst asthma is common in under-35s.

There is more likely to be a history of asthma, allergies, eczema and hay fever (so-called atopy) in people with asthma.

Both asthma and COPD are common, and some people have both conditions. (See separate leaflet called Asthma for more information.)

End quote

Reference it being uncommon for people with COPD to wake during the night with breathlessness.  This can happen with COPD if the person has a lung infection, pneumonia or very badly damaged lungs, I'm talking a very low lung function.  I've known and know people with severe COPD whose lung function between 17 and 24% who experience distress during the night.

I would think ask your doctor (make telephone appointment with the doc about any concerns you may have) explaining what is happening during the night and what you can do to help the situation.

Things that can help easier breathing when sleeping:

1) Raised pillows or bed wedge for on top of the mattress or beneathe the mattress.  

You can access the OT Services through your GP for assessment if you are having difficulty at home, breathing when sleeping, walking, having a shower, bath etc.

2) An finger oximeter.  This measures blood oxygen levels, pulse and heart rate.  Your doctor or respiratory nurse would have one of these.  If you are concerned about your blood oxygen levels you may wish to purchase one of these (amazon have them) and check it against the one your doctor or respiratory nurse uses for accuracy.  The cheaper oximeters can work just as well as the more expensive ones, but they may not last as long or may break more easily if you drop them.  

If you are ever worried about your blood oxygen levels do ask your doctor or respiratory nurse to check them.  Search web for symptoms of low blood oxygen levels (put UK or country you reside after what you are searching for).  Web MD have a listing titled Hypoxia and Hypoxemia which may give you some understanding.

I am not a medical professional but I have had emphysema for over 10 years and have been associating with people with different lung conditions during that time.  10 years + is a lot of learning about lung conditions, especially as I was once involved with the lung foundation and with a local breathe easy group.  Often referring people to the information available or reporting tips and information in the BE newsletter.

I do not visit Patient UK forum regularly but I do pop by from time to time. The post is long but  I hope some of the information is of help to those who may take the time to read it.

Best wishes V


Pulmonary Rehabilitation for people with diagnosed lung conditions is an excellent education programme which includes techniques and knowledge to help yourself manage your symptoms, identify a lung infection, the importance of diet and exercise and so much more.  The more you read or get to know other peoples experiences the more you will realise whilst we share many of the same symptoms and difficulties, we don't all share the same ones, it really does depend on the diagnosis, some just having one lung disease or airway disorder and others have 2 or 3 different lung or airway problems going on.  This of course means some will be on the same medicines and others will not.  Some react to medicines which can make symptoms worse in that case go back to see the doctor, its always the best thing to do and always act quickly should breathing deteriorate or symptoms are exacerbated.

Also if you are ever in serious difficulty breathing, don't hesitate to call the emergency service, the paramedics will come out quite quickly and they can decide if you need to go to hospital or if you can be treated at home.  

Attending a Breathe Easy group will put you in touch with key people and those that can help whenever things become more difficulty.  Age UK, BLF (British Lung Foundation) usually have lists of contacts for help you can access on just about anything.  Both Age UK and BLF have a help line during normal working hours.

Check out the NHS 111 service on line. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones. UK


12 likes, 27 replies


27 Replies

  • Posted

    A guide for the use of a Pulse Oximeter (information by NHS Greater Huddersfield and others)  A PDF download.

    Things that may affect pulse oximeter reading are:

    Cold hands

    Nail Polish

    Strong Light

    More information explained in the pdf document links above.

    Always check your pulse oximeter for accuracy against one used by your respiratory nurse or PR fitness instructor)


  • Posted

    Patient UK information on Pulse Oximetry


    • Posted

      Morning Vee2!

      I would like to thank you greatly for the info you have given us all, as I have been for months looking for accurate information on oxygen levels to learn when we are at a dangerous level when testing, I often check my oxygen levels as I have copd & sometimes my oxygen levels are ok but most times they are belowe 94% but have been much lower but the level rises atleast to 95 which is ok! Thank you again smile

  • Posted

    A plethora of information and I thank you for taking the time and for being caring enough to find and post the information!! xx

  • Posted

    Thanks so much for this information I have been diagnosed COPD about three years ago but nobody tells you much so this has been a great help thank you.


  • Posted

    About Spirometry :

    Got your spirometry print out, check spirometry calculator for FEV1% (scroll down this page to learn what the abbreviations mean):

    Is spirometry the same as peak flow readings?

    No. A peak flow meter is a small device that measures the fastest rate of air that you can blow out of your lungs. Like spirometry, it can detect airways narrowing. It is more convenient than spirometry and is commonly used to help diagnose asthma. Many people with asthma also use a peak flow meter to monitor their asthma. For people with COPD, a peak flow reading may be useful to give a rough idea of airways narrowing, but it can underestimate the severity of COPD. Therefore, spirometry is a more accurate test for diagnosing and monitoring people with COPD.

    About Peak Flow Meter :

    Asthma Discussions group at patient UK :

  • Posted

    Outdoor and Indoor Air Pollution

    Several things can irritate the lungs, some people may be affected and others not so much.   Below is a list of air born pollutants that may irritate the airways and lungs and result in more difficulty breathing:-

    - Dusty windy weather, pollen of any kind, fern spores, pine / ewe tree spores, fungi spores etc.

    - Car exhaust fumes, building site dust / drilling, spray painting, paint, varnish

    - Traffic pollution. smoke of any kind, (including bon fires and fireworks)

    - House dust, pet dander, household sprays, bleach, washing powder etc.

    - Poor air quality, outside, or in enclosed public spaces (air planes, lifts ) even inside the home  

    BLF have a page on air pollution and your lungs:-

    Your Home and your lungs:

    What can you do (check out the BLF links above) and:

    - Avoid areas where you can or wear protection*.

    - I carry a*buff (cycle nose mouth protection you can breathe through) for when you are walking in areas with high pollution, road traffic, dusty windy, very cold air etc.  The *vogmask with filter vent is also quite good.  Both come in fashion colours  [smile]   *

    * Some people just use a cotton or silk scarf.

    - Use inhaler before going into areas you know may irritate your lungs.

    For inside air quality (suggestions / recommendations):-

    - Vaccume regular to avoid dust and pet dander build up.

    -  Change the inside air daily, open windows 20 minutes.  If you live close by a main road you may want to avoid open windows and just opt for air purifier options Allergy UK have information on these.

    - Pillow and mattress covers help prevents dust mite allergy and air way irritation also egyptian cotton sheets / duvet cover and pillow cases.

    - You may want to consider allergy bedding when you next renew.

    -  Avoid using aerosols and highly perfumed cleaning agents, where you can opt for pump action sprays and green friendly cleaning products.

    European Lung Foundation 

    There is available Patient Information pdf downloads on Air pollutions that may affect our lungs:

  • Posted

    About Chest Infections:

    Abount the Lungs and Respiratory Tract

    The common cold and upper respiratory tract infections:

    Pneumonia Information:

    • Posted

      It is important to act quickly if you suspect a lung infection or pneumonia, see your doctor asap.

      For those with prescribed emergency pack for self medicating, you should have been issued with information indicating when you need to act at the time the emergency medication was prescribed.



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