For COPD, Asthma or Respiratory sufferers


March 2017

The side effects of medication: what the doctors DON’T tell you


When you have a chronic condition, you learn lots about what works and what doesn’t work for your body.

I’ll always be the first to say and constantly remind those that it is a journey where you’ll discover something new every day. But being okay with it, knowing it will indeed be an endless journey, makes it easier to cope with.

Initially I was very disappointed for example, when I first discovered that use of inhalers and corticosteroids were actually one of the main causes of dehydration but also very bad for causing tooth decay!

When they say you learn the tough way, I really did. After not being to the dentist for two years (because I was too busy being hospitalized every month!), I decided that I would pay a long over-due visit when I moved back to Scotland (my home) from London.

It turns out I needed, not one or two fillings or just some standard flossing and polishing. But I needed FOURTEEN fillings. Yes, you read that right. 14.

Suffice to say, I was HORRIFIED. It didn’t make sense. I hardly ate sweets, never drank carbonated drinks and had excellent oral health. But my dentist told me, it’s mostly likely from use of inhalers and nebulizing. It caused an overly dry mouth, which is the optimum breeding ground for bacteria.

It wasn’t the end of the world, but I was devastated that my teeth and gum health was being destroyed in the process of looking after my breathing. As if I need any more worries to think about. I was frustrated that the doctors hadn’t warned me. But then I realised, they are unlikely to be aware of the side effects unless it is more widely reported and/ or every patient is different. This is not to chastise doctors (because actually they do a tremendous job), but rather just to raise awareness.

Regardless, I had the work done, which took several weeks (and quite a bit of money!), and just soldiered on.

I was advised by my dentist to continually drink sips of water all day, especially immediately after I took my medications, inhalers or nebulizers. So that was a big lesson! There was no way I could give up or reduce the level of medication for my COPD as my breathing would suffer and nobody would want that.

Added to that, is the constant tremors and shakiness after taking a nebulizing dose. Funnily enough, whilst I was living in London, I was on it about 6-7 times per day and I think my body got accustomed to it. But after living in Scotland for a year and working from home, I’ve only ever need the nebulizer as and when required (tends to be when I’m ill and feeling very wheezy), so perhaps once or twice a month (which is an amazing improvement!). So when I take them now, I tend to feel like I’ve had about 10 cups of coffee! I don’t think there’s much to be done to resolve this except be aware of it and at least expect it. I’d rather be shaky than not breathe.

Omron nebulizer

I’ve also been lucky enough to be a patient who never suffers nausea, dizziness or have allergies to any medications (but I am resistant to steroids). However, my point is that everyone is indeed different. So as a COPD or chronic illness suffer, I think one of the most important things is to maintain curiosity and ask lots of questions! The other thing is intuition. If a pill or type of medication seems ‘off’ or is making you feel something you shouldn’t, your instincts are probably right and you should consult with your doctor immediately. Intuition is a very powerful thing and it is your emotional guiding system- do not dismiss this!

Sometime, generic solutions just don’t cut it and I believe every individual should have a much more tailored plan and listen to their body.

TLC and self-care are the most important things in the world!

What it’s like to be the partner of a COPD sufferer (Lloyd Ffrench- Guest Post)

LLOYD FFRENCH (Guest post) 

Well firstly, I want to start this by saying by no means am I an expert of COPD or any respiratory condition for that matter, but I wanted to put together a post about what it’s like to be indirectly linked with the condition especially when it concerns a loved one.

When I had first met Kim, she was an incredibly active individual who shared a passion for exercise and routinely went to the gym, yoga, dance classes. This was something we both shared a passion for and in fact I used to use my Virgin guest passes so we could enjoy these activities together. A year or so later, this all dramatically changed when Kim started to really suffer with her breathing and at times I felt helpless as it can be incredibly difficult to see another human being suffer without any ability to help that person, never mind when this person is a loved one.

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Asthma and COPD triggers at home


Allergens may take on many guises and for the most part are invisible to the human eye. Sometimes the only indication of their presence is a cough or slight wheezing. Believe it or not it is difficult to concretely distinguish between bronchial asthma and chronic respiratory inflammation caused by living with poor IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). The two are inextricably linked. Asthma is a combination of genetic predisposition and exposure to environmental factors.

There have been many studies linking the development of adult asthma to such environmental factors. These causes are in fact a long term exposure to the very same triggers that exasperate symptoms in someone who has already been diagnosed.

Regardless of severity of symptoms it is important to minimise exposure to the triggers on a long term basis. The problem is that the triggers are present in every home in one way or another. They range from pet hair, to dust collecting behind furniture, to mite excrement and mold spores. And that’s just indoors! Pollen, sand dust and pollution can make their way into your home from the outside.

When you are susceptible to these triggers it is important to identify them as soon as possible and to deal with them on a long term basis.


Using an air purifier at home can increase the air quality at home tenfold. A high grade HEPA filter normally filters out around 99.97% of particulate matter. This includes pollen, dust mite excrement and mold spores. The important thing to remember is to choose a powerful purifier that can perform several complete air changes in one hour. This means all of the allergens present in the air will collect within the filter. The HEPA filter layer can then be replaced with a fresh one. Running such a filtration system as often as possible has been medically proven to reduce respiratory inflammation.

A quality air purifier will have several other filtration layers within. For example, to deal with complex chemical pollutants and odors, a charcoal layer is used. This clever filter uses Van der Waals molecular forces to permanently eliminate complex allergens. Again, a powerful air flow will capture most pollutants inside the filter.

An intelligent air purifier will use a microcomputer sensor to run the machine in accordance with air quality. Essentially it purifies the air in real time. It adjusts air flow and filtration stages to suit the air quality.

Air purifiers are by no means a cure for asthma, but they do go some way to ensuring a healthy environment at home. They are definitely a good choice people with respiratory conditions.

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When the going gets tough…

Well it goes without saying, if you’re struggling for air or feel like you’re choking, A&E is your first call or 999. That’s common sense. But when it comes to symptoms that are unusual and is not any of the above, yet can still be warranted as serious, I call my specialist consultant asap.

I’m trying to get used to sharing as events occur or more on a ‘live’ basis. As we speak I write this as I’m in hospital at the present moment.

Three nights ago, I came back from a week long business trip in London and I was at the tail-end of an infection. Nothing that couldn’t be sorted with antibiotics and actually I felt like I was getting better. I arrived back to my home in Edinburgh on the Friday and I was fine for two days. But then on Sunday, out of nowhere, I started coughing up an unusual amount of blood. And it wasn’t the frothy, mucus kind (as gross as that sounds), it was what seemed like pure bright red blood. Lots of it. I didn’t even feel that poorly, but of course, it FREAKED me out.

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How to survive travelling with COPD

Almost 2.5 years on since I’ve been diagnosed and I’m still learning every day on how I can better accommodate to my condition. I don’t think there’s an end to that journey, like everyone with everything else, whether it’s your career, relationships, health- the beauty of being a human being is being able to constantly learn and adapt.

There has been days I wish I knew the answers instantly and didn’t have to deal with anymore uncertainty and then I realise, life would be pretty boring!

Having moved away from London because of my condition, you would think I’d avoid going there, but the fact is, there are many people living in urban cities and polluted environments with this condition and need to be able to cope. I was lucky enough to have the option to move away to somewhere less polluted and I did- Scotland- fresher air! If I wanted to go to the extreme, I’d have moved to Iceland (one of the least polluted cities in the world), but let’s just say, I still wanted a ‘life’! But not everyone has this option.

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