Over the years, I had allergies, cold, flu, and Bronchitis. But, none of them was more discomforting and long lasting than the Bronchitis. I had allergies, cold, and/or flu almost every year. However, my Bronchitis occurred for an average every 6 to 7 years. My symptoms of the Bronchitis were pretty much the same each time – fever with aching joints, running nose with thick mucus, sore throat, and cough with greenish sputum. Most distinctly, my Bronchitis last for 30 days. All the symptoms subsided within a week with the exception of the persistent, annoying, and painful coughing. As a result, each occurrence of my Bronchitis imprinted a long lasting and fearful memory.
The cough started just like ordinary urge to discharge foreign object in the throat. It was mild, in short burst, and controllable. But, after 2 to 3 days, it turned to the worst – uncontrollable and 24/7. A normal flu episode suddenly transformed to a life changing event. I tried Tylenol, Robitussin, and Chloraseptic spray and none of them could numb the urges to cough. I went to see my doctor to seek relief and all that I got were antibiotics. I was given a bottle of codeine, a prescription sleep-aided liquid. Unfortunately, the coughing urges were more powerful than the sleep deprivation. Besides, codeine had a bad stool-stiffening side effect. So, all that was left to do was to toughen it out during those trying times. I ended up with 2 to 4 hours of sleep usually in the early morning when the body finally ran out of urges to cough.
This went on for about 15 to 20 days as I started to feel the aching in my rib cages and muscle cramps in my stomach due to movements caused by the uncontrollable coughing. My appetite and nutrition absorption ability were also compromised. My body weight was reduced by more than 10 lbs. Just when I was about to lose hope for a quick recovery, I sensed an ever slight improvement in my ability to sleep longer in the morning and the coughing urges were not as intense. After patiently continuing with the routines, my life was finally returned to normal after another 9 to 11 days. However, it won’t be another 20 days before all the residual coughing, aching rib cages, and stomach muscle cramps were completely gone. This whole 30 days coughing experience had been repeated pretty faithfully for a total of 5 times in my life from 1973 to 2003.
The 6th Time
It occurred recently (2011) and I could not figure out through which human contact that I acquired the infection. I had the seasonal flu vaccination last year in October and unfortunately, I was intending to do the same in a few days. All the symptoms were there and I was preparing for another 30 days of excruciating discomfort. I was using breathing technique (inhale 1 second through the nose, exhale 1 second through the mouth, and repeat continuously) that I found in the past to be effective to control the coughing urges. It required a conscious effort 24/7. But, in order to get some sleep, I had to satisfy the urges till they were exhausted. Another way was to block the urge. Since Tylenol was ineffective, I decided to try something new this time – Aleve which is a more potent pain relief taken by the athletes to during sport related injuries.
To my pleasant surprise, a single 220mg Aleve pill worked like magic. After 30 minutes of intake, the urges stopped and I was able to have a good normal sleep. The next morning, the urges returned and I was refreshed to control them with the breathing technique. In this fashion, I needed to take only one Aleve pill before I went to sleep. To me, Aleve was a game changer as I was no longer at the mercy of my Bronchitis. Overall, the 30-day ordeal had been reduced by half as the stress on my body caused by the uncontrollable coughing was drastically diminished.
Based on the information that I gathered from the Internet, the same virus that causes flu can also cause Bronchitis. Since the infection is deeper into the windpipe and produces sputum, the coughing will be more intense and takes longer time to heal. It is important to cough out the sputum but only to an extent as not to overstress the Bronchi linings and surrounding tissues. Just like indiscriminate scratching on an itchy mosquito sting, the resulting infection could make a harmless bite to become a medical issue. The thing that still eludes me is that why my Bronchitis occurred only every 6 to 7 years.