Remedies for asthma and bronchitis
September 22, 2006 7:44 AM   Subscribe

How can I help myself until I can get to the Doctor?

I've been suffering lately from a mixture of asthma and a serious cold which has probably become bronchitis. Is there any over-the-counter medications you can recommend to help me through this until I can get to the doctor?
posted by drezdn to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Try inhaling steam. I do this by pouring boiling water into a large mixing bowl, putting my head over the bowl, and covering head and bowl with a towel. Quite frequently I will add lemon or mint tea to the water.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:06 AM on September 22, 2006

First, is it possible this is allergic? An antihistamine might be a quick test.

Regardless, dry yourself out with, say, pseudephedrine, and a combo like 'chest congestion relief' (Guaifenesin & Dextromethorphan), which are readily available. The warm wet conditions make a breeding ground for secondary infections, which can be very difficult to beat.
posted by dragonsi55 at 8:10 AM on September 22, 2006

The main things you need are to open the air passages and kill the bugs -- real medication for either of those things requires a prescription, AFAIK (then again, I'm not even in the same country as you).

In my experience, breathing moist air helps alot. Get a vaporizer if you don't have one already. A chest ointment (like Vicks Vap-O-Rub) on your chest and/or in the medication compartment of the vaporizer will probably also help you breath easier. To kick things off: go into the bathroom, turn on the shower as hot as it can go and sit down on the toilet (or anywhere outside the shower) for awhile.
posted by winston at 8:11 AM on September 22, 2006

Ibuprofen to relieve the inflammation in your bronchus and reduce fever and pain. Naproxen or aspirin work as well.

Guiaphenesin cough syrup to keep secretions loose and easier to expectorate.

Primatene inhaler to stimulate bronchial dilation.

If it's viral in origin that may be enough to get you through till it passes. A physician may prescribe antibiotics and possibly add codiene to your cough syrup; maybe step up the inhaler to Albuterol if you're really wheezy.

LOTS of water to drink... rest as much as possible.
posted by dkippe at 8:13 AM on September 22, 2006

I should mention so far I've been taking claritin for the allergies, dayquil or nyquil, and primatine mist when I have asthma attacks, with the occassional vicks rub because I like the smell. It has worked to a point.
posted by drezdn at 8:19 AM on September 22, 2006

Advice. I also recommend gargling with salt water for the sore throat. And be prepared to be very, very sore in a few days when the coughing starts to affect the muscles in your diaphragm. If you can get your hands on a mild muscle relaxant, it will help with the soreness, but mostly, you just have to take it easy and try to control the cough as best you can.

If you actually do have bronchitis, your doctor probably won't be able to give you anything to cure it. Most bronchitis (and the colds that cause it) are viruses, which just have to clear on their own. You DO NOT need antibiotics if it's a virus, and I hope that your doctor doesn't prescribe them to you unless s/he tests to confirm that you have a bacterial infection. However, s/he'll be able to give you stronger versions of the medications for the symptoms if you need them to control your asthma.
posted by Amy Phillips at 8:20 AM on September 22, 2006

Caffeine can help open your airways a bit if you have asthma but don't have an inhaler around. I think two cups of strong coffee is the standard suggestion.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:29 AM on September 22, 2006

Try a little caffeine/coffee - it tends to help a bit with asthmatic symptoms for some people. Otherwise get some of the guaifenesin and cough up what you can. It's gross, but you want that out of your lungs.
posted by cobaltnine at 8:30 AM on September 22, 2006

When I went in to the doctor for a cold that turned into bronchitis, I was miserable. She had me take Mucinex (the highest dose) with a prescription cough supressent so I could sleep. Drink a more water than normal with the Mucinex so it works better. I noticed when I didn't drink a lot of water, it really did not seem to work as well.

The Mucinex worked pretty well. It's about $10 for five days' worth.

That said, I'm not sure how it will work if you have asthma.

Advil helped for the sore muscles from coughing. And coughing. And coughing.

Get better soon!
posted by schnee at 8:50 AM on September 22, 2006

I don't know about Milwaukee, but i have *seemed* to have had some success with Chinese medicines for respiratory problems that lag after getting over a cold. Chinese medicine is pretty good with this kind of laggin problems, that hang around well after the virus is beaten. If you have a Chinese pharmacy or something like that around you, you could go there and tell them your symptoms and see what they recommend.
posted by alkupe at 9:46 AM on September 22, 2006

I have a similar problem from time to time: a cold followed by a really horrible cough all of which aggravates my asthma. What works for me is to drink lots and lots of water. I am always amazed at how well that works to loosen things up. But if you are coughing a dry cough, then you may have a more serious asthma problem that you must not ignore. I have found Robitussin Maximum Strength Cough to work very well at night. It just kills the cough, for me. The inhalation of steam is quite nice and do try to get a COLD AIR humidifier (not a warm one). But you really need to make sure your asthma is properly treated. I feel for you. Take care!
posted by Lockjaw at 10:41 AM on September 22, 2006

Asthma and Bronchitis is an awkward mix, because the steam and vaporisers are good for bronchitis, but not so good for asthma. Don't use the vaporiser or steam while you are feeling wheezy from asthma (from personal experience). Seconding the caffeine to top up your asthma medication if needed.
posted by Joh at 10:50 AM on September 22, 2006

As someone who's had similar cold problems, I can say Nyquil Nyquil Nyquil. I have the best luck with a DXM-pseudoephedrine-acetominophen mix. It makes the cold so much more bearable in the evenings. Since pseudoephedrine is part of the latest drug panic you'll probably have to ask for this Nyquil at the pharmacy counter.

Also I have to recommend hot spice tea and hot toddies... I've always been a skeptic of homeopathic stuff but I've got to say they work sweet.

I have to agree about the asthma/bronchitis comments... I've noticed that if I use Primatene during a cold, it gives me short-term relief but aggravates the bronchitis (probably because the alveoli open up and take in some mucous, which doesn't all get coughed out). So I usually go easy on Primatene and bulk up on Nyquil.
posted by rolypolyman at 12:24 PM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

And yeah, I have to recommend water, too. Most of my chest cold problems when I was a kid was because my mom did not encourage me to drink enough fluids, so the cold typically progressed to a dry bronchitis. I finally figured it out when I was 16 and my colds were much better from there.
posted by rolypolyman at 12:26 PM on September 22, 2006

All good advice.

If your chest sounds/feels gunky, go for postural drainage, if you have someone to help you. Get the chest lower than the hips, leaning over a chair will work. Have someone hit you with a cupped hand, the shape of the hand causes shaped sound waves that knock the gunk off the inside of the chest wall, then cough a while before you stand up. That's the short explanation, consult internet. I used to hit the kids to prevent pneumonia from getting a foothold in the gunk. You can determine the correct level of force by hitting the victim until they start to complain, then back off a bit.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 3:01 PM on September 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Have someone give your back a good scratch. For some reason this always helped me when I was short of breath.
posted by macinchik at 5:26 PM on September 22, 2006

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