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. One thing that may also be worth trying is purchasing some artificial saliva (sounds so STRANGE, I know), but it may help with dry mouth issues and can easily be purchased over-the-counter at any pharmacy. My dentist also advised using it. It’s just like a spray version of chewing gum and triggers your mouth to produce more saliva.

Added to my list of odd experiences , 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!