Chest Infections

Home  /  Head & Neck Cancers  /  Chest Infections

      Sorry, but this is a subject that has to be written about for chest infections are the bane of any larys life. The heartache, the aggravation and the general feeling of a lacklustre existence they cause is unfathomable as they try to suck the life out of you. If you have COPD as well then this chapter is very relevant to you!

     Normally the first sign of an infection is feeling ‘snuffly’ & perhaps a bit ‘sweaty’, you know what I mean, that horrible feeling when you can’t quite clear the phlegm/mucus from your ‘tubes’. Many of you may well be using a nebuliser on a daily basis (Dr’s advice to be taken of course),  with your Saline, Salbutamol & Ipratroprium  solutions-all designed to help clear idle mucus & open up the breathing channel. Often, another solution is used after any combination of these three, called Budesonide, which when mixed with Saline, and inhaled, is designed to keep the breathing channel open and ready for business: the serious business of staying alive!

     Often you will feel ‘clogged up’, a sure sign that trouble is on its way so always be prepared for war with these dirty little inhabitants that want to lay you low. Get to your Dr’s immediately and if they say “sorry but we have an appointment in 3 days time” simply respond to the effect that you may well be dead in 3 days time and stress the urgency of your call. (My own Dr’s surgery now have me ‘flagged’ on their computer system as an emergency appointment if phoning so you may find it useful to enquire about this route too.)

     Your Dr will, in all probability, put you on an anti-biotic for 7 days + a course of light duty steroids to help you fight these bugs but don’t take this as gospel for every patient is different – see your GP. It may well pay you to ask your Dr about a special 7% saline (NEBUSAL) as putting this in your neb is like  taking a ‘wonder-drug’ (not literally) because if you can control yourself and try to breathe evenly, even though you are struggling, you will feel the congealed mucus/phlegm moving up your airway…..so get the tissues ready.

Now don’t be squeamish about this next part for as you need to be in complete control of what is going on! If your sputum is just a dirty creamy/yellowy colour you probably have a mild infection-but still go see your Dr asap as you’ll need anti-biotics. But if ‘dirty, green stuff/lumps‘ come away then you have a problem and it needs sorting pronto. The ‘DGS’ = nasty infection = big trouble for you so don’t ‘dilly dally on the way’, get yourself to medical attention immediately for the sooner you help your already battered immune system to fight these evil little so & so’s the sooner you will feel better. I would recommend that you ask for a couple of SPUTUM pots (with lids of course) from your Dr as the ‘DGS’ needs testing to find out exactly what it is.

     Always remember, although I mentioned various nebuliser additives, specific antibiotics will not be given without the proper sputum specimen analysis (already mentioned),  so anything brown, green, yellow and definitely red should seek medical advice asap.

     The main causes include:

  • A virus

  • Bacteria

  • Mycoplasma (a special kind of bacteria).

    The above can be broken down thus:

There are two main protagonists in this fight for survival:

          Streptococci (often shortened to Strep & the easier of the two to control) are common bacteria that can cause tonsillitis and skin infection (cellulitis). They are usually treated with antibiotics like penicillin. Pneumococcal pneumonia is a chest infection caused by a type of strep, especially in people who have had their spleen removed.

          HaemoPhyllus Influenza which, to be blunt, is the ‘Big Mamma’, the one you really do not need to have living within you. Phyllus……. really gets hold of you and knocks you flat and you will quite often need hospitalisation for a few days whilst they battle to get the infection under control – but don’t worry about it because once they know what they are dealing with, the end of the bug (not you) is in sight.

Home care:

Now we would suggest that you go online and buy an ‘Oximeter‘ like this one displayed. They are brilliant and they tell you your heart rate & oxygen saturation (sats) rates, so by popping the device on your 2nd finger and giving it a couple of minutes you can monitor yourself quite easliy.

Product Details   Digital Thermometer

     Add a body thermometer to your armoury and you’ll just about have all (non professional) basis covered – a great help if you have to call an ambulance and can then update them on arrival! You can get both these items quite easily from Amazon.co.uk but please sign up with easyfundraising first and point your bonus donations towards our charity – every little bit helps!

     It may also be of considerable help to you if you have a ‘steamer’ sat next to your chair/bed as steam is a great loosener of phlegm & also moistens your tubes – highly desirable I assure you. We advocate you buy the “Vicks Warm Steam Vapouriser” as it lasts for hours and has an automatic shut off valve just in case you doze off. Easily buyable from Amazon.co.uk you can earn us a few pennies in commission whilst your at it! It’ll be a BIG help!

Vicks_Warm_Steam_Vaporiser

Fungal infections:

     Fungi can live in our bodies without causing any problems. But if a fungal infection occurs when your immune system is weak, it can cause problems. The most common fungal infection in people with cancer is Candida, often called thrush. If you have a sore mouth from chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment you are more at risk from thrush. Chlorhexidine mouthwashes can help to prevent thrush in the mouth. You may notice white patches with red and sore skin underneath. 

     Thrush can be treated with an anti fungal drug called nystatin. This is given in liquid form which coats the inside of the mouth and throat. Or a gel such as miconazole may be applied to the affected areas. If the infection does not respond to either of these treatments, doctors may uses a drug such as fluconozole. Women can also get vaginal thrush, which is treated with anti fungal creams or pessaries.

     Less common fungal infections are aspergillosis and pneumocystis. These infections may be a serious problem for people who have very weak immune systems, for example after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. Aspergillus can cause a serious chest infection that needs treatment with anti-fungal drugs through a drip. And the pneumocystis bug can cause a serious form of pneumonia called PCP. This stands for pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Doctors use the drug co-trimoxazole (Septrin) to help prevent or treat it.

     Basically all larys need to do is to be able to monitor themselves. You will soon know when you are ‘going downhill so you can soon seek medical help. Always remember this, don’t waste the dr’s time with niggly little problems but if you know something is not right (ie, sats, temperature, much coughing/thick phlegm) then get in touch straight away and get the proper medical help asap – it will save you (7 them) a lot of valuable time & heartache!


Sponsors