Trouble breathing in Massachusetts; anyone else?

Hello folks.  I'm here hoping to identify what is making it hard for me to breathe.  After nearly four years of this, I believe it's an airborne culprit, here in Massachusetts. I live about ten miles from the coast, just a mile below the New Hampshire state line.  About four years ago I started having periodic bouts of asthma or something resembling it: tightness in chest, unable to get a full breath, yawning like crazy in an attempt to catch my breath.  Doctors gave me a battery of tests, including skin prick for allergies, heart test, colonoscopy, ear & nose exam, but nothing showed up.  A respiratory doc said my nasal passages were super dry and irritated and prescribed saline spray.

I do a nasal rinse with a Neti pot, then spray each nostril until some of it comes down the back of my throat, but it does very little and I reckon I'd have to spray my nose every 15 minutes, for the rest of my life, for this approach to be effective.  Inhalers have little to no effect, as do Zyrtec, Claritin, etc.  It might not help that I'm a carpenter and expose myself to dust every day.  I try to wear a respirator when cutting especially nasty stuff, like MDF and Boral, and I cut outside whenever possible, but there seems to be little connection between my carpentry dust and the asthma.

The asthma doesn't prevent me from sleeping, nor do I wake up from it.  I can still exercise and perform my job, as I have an excellent VO2 max to begin with.  That said, great lung capacity or not, it's still very unpleasant to feel like you're being gently smothered all day long, month after month, year after year.  My doctor says I should just live with it and that it's not life-threatening; I beg to differ.  I don't think it's life-threatening, either, but I am not willing to live with it.

I think it's something airborne because when I was visiting family in Chicago, the problem went away after a few days, then returned when I came back to MA.  Last summer we drove to Chicago, and on the return drive I was marveling at how good I was breathing.  As we entered the Mass Turnpike, it was like someone threw a switch–the tightness in my chest returned almost immediately and there I was, gulping and yawning like a fish out of water, trying to get a full breath and feeling like an idiot.

Has anyone else had a similar experience to mine?  I realize this might sound crazy to the casual reader, like hypochondria or something, but in general I'm pretty good with pain and not someone who runs to the doctor every time I think something's wrong. 


Comments 4

  • Melissa G

    Hi Birchoak, welcome to the AAFA forums! 

    I am sorry to hear that you have been struggling. 

    Here is the : it lists the 100 most challenging states to live in with seasonal allergies. Springfield, Mass, is #3 on the list. 

    Sounds like you have done many things to control your symptoms. I do have issues when I am in different areas. Have you tried taking a decongestant along with an antihistamine? 

  • birchoak

    Melissa, I,too, noticed that Springfield and Boston were high on the list for asthma reports.  That's one support for my environmental-based theory.  I cannot recall if I've tried a decongestant in tandem with an antihistamine but I will try it.  I probably need to see an allergist again and get more extensive testing to determine the cause–the longer I put that off the longer I'll suffer!  Thank you for reading my post and weighing in; this is one of the greatest things about the internet–the means for like-minded people to share information.



  • birchoak

    I had that skin-prick test about two years ago.  I've never seen an allergist.  Is that typically covered by insurance?