Need Input – thoughts – advice

Medical History –No history of Asthma.  No history of asthma in my family (I was born and raised in Ireland, I moved to The States when I was 26 years old).In my late teens and early twenties, I smoked but I quit.I am fit and I am normally a very healthy person. (just not right now) I spend lots of time outdoors walking my dog and attending my kids sports games

Hello,I am 49 year old woman.  I am married with 2 children. 4 years ago, we adopted a Plott Hound-lab mix dog. Our dog is our only pet (no cats or other animals). I work full time in the I.T. field.Let me provide a little background to my story;The last year has been extremely stressful.  My father passed away.  We relocated from NJ to Massachusetts & I changed my job to join a new company. For the past 10 years, we lived in NJ and we travelled back to Massachusetts every summer.  We spent 3 months in Duxbury, MA (I never had any asthma or allergy symptoms). This year, on May 1st, we relocated back to Massachusetts.  On May 2nd, I thought that I caught a cold.  I was up all night blowing my nose and all day I was sneezing.  This continued for most of the month of May and I simply put it down to exhaustion, the move, all the work involved with unpacking and working full time.By July, I acquired an on and off again cough.By August, I sounded like I had pneumonia so I went to the doctor.The doctor did an X-ray and my lungs were100% clear.  However, I have post-nasal drip. The doctor said to take an allergy OTC medication and to make an appointment with an allergist.  I tried Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec. (they don't seem to do anything).I saw an allergist 3-weeks ago.  He did a pin prick test on my arm and nothing showed up.  He prescribed Singulair and ventolin and flonase.  Singulair gave me the worst leg cramps. (so I stopped it).It is the coughing fits that concern me most.I am not getting a full nights sleep as I am up coughing a lot.I can't predict when a coughing fit will happen but when they do, they are forceful and last for about 20 minutes.  I am getting concerned.  I now go everywhere with my inhaler and water.Today, I flew to San Francisco (I am here for work).  I will be here for 4 days.  I left Boston at 11:00am – for the entire flight, I did not cough once (Hurray!). Nothing – not even a little cough.  I was thrilled.I got to the airport and used the ladies room and washed my hands with a liquid soap that I didn't like the smell of too much.  Generally, I don't care too much what I wash my hands with but this one turned my nose up.BAM!  I got out of the ladies room and within 5 minutes, I was in a spasmodic coughing fit that lasted the entire cab ride into San Francisco (I am writing this long story from the hotel) now.I don't know what is causing all this. I want my health back and I am tired and frustrated.  I am also a bit scared.  These coughing fits are really strong.  I've only had 3 coughing fits – the spasmodic ones – the other daily coughing is just me clearing my chest.

I am reaching out to see if anyone on the forum can help or offer some thoughts on this.  As you can tell, I am frustrated.  I just want to be healthy and find out what is causing this.  If I know what is causing this, I can handle it.

Thanks everyone.


Comments 22

  • Niamh

    I forgot to add a strange symptom, when the spasmodic coughing happens, my skin gets super itchy at my jawline and under my chin.

  • Marie E Natzke


    welcome to the group. When my asthma flares my chin will itch…

    so new house?? Have you check for mold? Do you have basement or crawlspace? Sometimes a different environment and stress can trigger reactions in our bodies. My Drs warn me about keeping my stress down to help my asthma and also my inflammatory arthritis. Stress can trigger inflammation in our systems that will aggravate a health problem. Flying can trigger asthma symptoms. It also, sorry to say could be your pet. Nowadays there are a lot of pets in the planes. The fragrance of the soap as well can trigger asthma symptoms. Just because you had a negative reaction on your allergy tests doesn't mean you don't have an allergy to something.

  • Melissa G

    Hi and welcome to AAFA! 

    Wow, you have had a lot going on.

    Reaction trumps results, just because testing was not positive, does not mean you are not allergic to something. I only test pos to dust and mold but I am definitely allergic to a lot more. 

    Here is a free on-line videocourse for  It has a lot of great information. 

    Since the dr gave you ventolin, did they happen to give you an 

  • Niamh

    We've owned the house in Mass. for 14 years.  We lived in the house for 4 years before we moved to NJ and then we moved back into the house permanently this summer.  We've had our dog for 4 years and this reaction or change in my system only happened the day after we moved to Massachusetts.  Now, I seem to be stuck with it.  I get to sleep for 2 to 3 hours and then the coughing wakes me up.I sneeze on and off throughout the day – sometimes 4 to 5 sneezes in a row.The allergy Doctor said to take Ventolin every 4 hours and to continue with the daily zyrtec.  He said to come back to see him on Monday, October 22nd for more tests.  At this point, I am so sleep deprived and miserable, I'd move planets if I thought that it would help.


  • Melissa G

    You can also check out our …it ranks the worst cities to live in with fall allergies. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Welcome! That sounds super frustrating, and I get what you mean about those awful coughing episodes. 

    It sounds like you have had your dog with you for the past four years. Did I understand correctly? You didn't have these coughing spells when you were in the house during the summers when you vacationed in Massachusetts? 

    Marie's idea about asking what is different about the house is a good one — has there been flooding? Is there a leak? Are there plants blooming near you that weren't planted or blooming during your summer vacations?

    For me, I'd had terrible "coughing spells" on and off all my life, and any sort of cold immediately "went to my lungs." I had no idea what to call it, so I didn't call it anything until I wound up in a doctor's office struggling to breathe because a coughing episode wouldn't end. 

    That's when I got diagnosed with asthma. My doctor said my "coughing spell" was an asthma attack, one that needed to be treated right away with a rescue inhaler.

    I, too, wound up with an asthma diagnosis after a minor cold became worse instead of better. It was like a tipping point. My lungs after that were far twitchier and more reactive to irritants like fragrances and cigarette smoke and to allergens like hay and grass.

    After a really bad flare or upper respiratory illness, I find my lungs are super twitchy, and it takes a while to get back to baseline. 

    We're here for you … glad to hear that you are taking your inhaler with you everywhere!

  • Niamh

    Thank you everyone for the responses.  Knowing that there are people out there who have been through this and have advice really help.

    @K8sMom2002 - what made your asthma get manageable?  Are you leading a normal life with this?  Do you get a full nights sleep?  I am living in dreaded fear that this won't go away.

  • K8sMom2002

    It DOES help to know that we're not alone in this!

    What made my asthma manageable? A lot of little things — but mainly really learning about asthma!

    One big thing was to really talk to my doctor and get on the same page, and to really, really understand my  .

    For the longest time, I really hesitated before I used my rescue inhaler. Finally my doc explained that the medication could only work when it came into contact with the tissue in my lungs, and that if I used it later, I was moving less air and getting less medication in my lungs where it needed to be.

    Getting a every year and a was a BIG help to me. I also made sure I avoided people who were sick!

    Another big thing was to . Figuring out what made my asthma worse — and avoiding it — really gave my lungs a chance to settle down and quit being so twitchy.

    Getting a good night's sleep is hard when you're coughing so much. And for me, one of my triggers is a restless night. 

    When I'm having a flare, I make sure that I follow my doc's suggestions. They include:

    • Taking a decongestant as late as possible without disturbing my sleep (I can't take it at night because decongestants mess up my sleep) – this helps drain out my sinuses, as I'm prone to sinus infections and they're a trigger.
    • Drinking plenty of water to thin out mucus and help ease that awful post nasal drip.
    • Sleep on a stack of pillows in a semi-upright position. 
    • Take my asthma meds and other meds as directed.
    • Use honey as a way to ease my cough (I have some issues with regular cough suppressants, and my doc has seen good results with honey, so that's what she suggested.)
    • Sleep when I can — sometimes the coughing won't allow me to sleep at night, so I try to catch naps during the day when I'm having a flare.

    Your doc may have very different suggestions for you, so talk to your doc about your difficulty sleeping.

  • Shea

    Hi NIAMH,

    I am sorry you had this coughing/ asthma episodes. A lot of people on here get triggered by scents and chemicals– many of them are listed as lung irritants on their MSDS sheets and when your lungs/airways are inflamed they can become more sensitive to everything, and things that mat not have bothered you before might bother you now. I had a horrible history of my allergies becoming worse and worse and then asthma and I had a lot of stress at the time as well.

    I agree with what K8Smom said about talking to your doctor– preferably a specialist– about how to tell where the inflammation is and how to get it under control. Many will prescribe an inhaled steroid along with a rescue inhaler– the rescue inhaler opens you up, but then your vulnerable inflamed lungs are exposed to more, so the inhaled steroid works like a fire extinguisher to coat that inflammation. Then if it is allergies you might have higher eosinophils in your CBC lab test or other markers an allergist and/or pulmonologist should identify. The inhaled steroid I use is called Flovent and it works the best for me, but I had to trial a few to find it. I practice a lot of allergen avoidance and take benadryl nightly– it helps me sleep too.

    I had a bad experience with singulair too. I dont recommend that med. 

    I buy the Seventh Generation hand soaps and laundry soap– scent-free… Also scent-free garbage bags and I dont wear perfumes because they trigger me now. No febreeze ir plug ins or scented candles.

    As far as dogs– I am allergic and always had been a little and now I am VERY allergic… So allergies can change– and pets are SO tough because of attachments. A few ways to know are if you go on a long trip to a pet-free place and your symptoms improve. Usually a skin prick test will pick up a dog allergy. Sometimes it is dust and pollen on the dog that us the culprit and more frequent washing can help. 

    Each person is so different but trying to keep the air in your bedroom as clean, dust a d pollen and dander and chemical-free is a good start too for any lung/breathing problem whether allergies are involved or not. So I recommend a HEPA air purifier for your room size (do not get one with ozone– they typucally do not even sell ozone ones anymore), wash all bedding in hot water weekly– (this does WONDERS for me and if I wait longer than a week everything is worse).. Also get those zippered pillow encasements and mattress encasement (the mattress encasements are a pain to wash fir me so I got a thin mattress pad to go over it that I wash weekly but the actual zippered mattress encasement I wash bimonthly). 

    Those are my beginners tips that have helped me. And I check in on here a lot bevause it keeps me on my game and I also like to feel not alone in this. Let us know hiw it goes and I hope you start seeing some progress soon!

  • K8sMom2002

    Shea, I love your reminder about keeping our bedrooms' air quality the best it can be!

    That reminded me about AAFA's great blog post called .

  • Debbie Alves

    Hi, Niamh,

    This can be really scary, and I'm sorry you feel so alone.  But there are a lot of us out here, and we understand what you are going through.

    I echo everyone else's comments and recommendations, but would add two things:  call your doctor for an earlier/emergency appointment, and write down all your symptoms daily (with time, location, what you did/do before, what helps/doesn't).  Take that detailed journal with you to review with your doctor. Remember that mold and dust could be more prevalent at this time of year than the summers you used to visit.  You may need to hire an environmental engineer to assess the air in the house overall, or pinpoint problem areas and remediate.  I'd also check about your mattress/box springs, bedding, pillows — they may need to be replaced.

    Be certain to let your doctor know NOW that you aren't taking the Singulair (or any other drug you've stopped).  They base their recommendations on the ways the drugs work together, frequently, and may have other things to try.

    Last tip: If your allergist/pulmonologist (board-certified, some GPs claim to be pulmonologists but don't have the extra training required) doesn't answer your questions, work with you to find a medication mix that works, or helps you get to the bottom of it all — FIND A NEW DOCTOR!

    Please let us know what happens.


  • Brenda Silvia-Torma
    Shea posted:

    the rescue inhaler opens you up, but then your vulnerable inflamed lungs are exposed to more, so the inhaled steroid works like a fire extinguisher to coat that inflammation. 

    This is a great analogy!! Thanks Shea!

  • June Stewart

    I've had asthma for 5 years or so. It appears that I can obtain greatrelief through a monthly injection to eliminate a large numbers ofeonesphil cells. Has anyone read the studies? I'm 75 and might greatlybenefit from this approach, but I don't know how to find the data. Anyone?On Sat, Oct 20, 2018, 8:38 PM Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America <> wrote:

  • June Stewart

    I need the data from studies conducted on this treatment.  This might work well for me, but I need to know the due diligence that was done.  Thanks