Collapsed Lung from Asthma

I feel like you can never know everything there is to know about asthma. For instance, did you know that you can get a collapsed lung from asthma and being sick?

Yeah? Well, neither did I.

Our story

Years ago, my middle son was sick with pneumonia - again. So off we went to the asthma doctor's office. After listening to my middle son's lungs and carefully checking him out, the asthma doctor started our son on the usual stuff - antibiotics, breathing treatments with the nebulizer every 4 hours, oral steroids, and lots of rest. He was already on a controller inhaler twice a day, so that was helping to keep the swelling down in his lungs.

The asthma doctor felt like my middle son was going to be okay. His oxygen level looked good and he seemed stable. Maybe this time he could avoid being in the hospital. He had already been hospitalized 6 or 7 times for pneumonia, so we were worried about him getting worse and ending up in the hospital. But we were hoping the antibiotics and steroids would help heal his lungs.

So, we headed back home to watch movies, play video games, and rest while his lungs were trying to heal.

Experiencing a collapsed lung

Then my middle son came to me one night and said that his chest hurt. He said it wasn't the usual chest pain you get from coughing with pneumonia, but he said it felt like a sharp pain. He said, "Mom, it feels different this time." Hmmm.

So, we went back to the asthma doctor. He must have heard something suspicious in my son's lungs, so he sent us to the hospital for a chest x-ray, and BINGO - there it was, a partially collapsed lung. The official term is atelectasis.

I thought lungs were pretty simple - just a left and right lung. I found out that each lung is different. The right lung has three parts (or lobes), and your left lung has two lobes (it only has two lobes because your chest needs room for your heart).

My middle son had one of the lobes in his lung collapse.

Heading home to rest and relax

Lucky for us, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. He wasn't struggling to breathe (other than the normal effects of pneumonia), his color looked good (his skin wasn't pale or grey), and the pain wasn't too bad.

The asthma doctor felt pretty sure that we could keep my middle son out of the hospital. We watched him really closely to make sure he wasn't getting worse.

I'm one of those parents who will keep going back to the doctor if I feel like one of my kids is getting worse. There were many times where we would be at the pediatrician's office in the evening, and by midnight, we were on our way to the emergency department. If there was any doubt in my mind that my son or daughter was getting worse or "just didn't look right," I would load them up in the car and head to the hospital.

It was a scary few days, but luckily my son slowly started to get better.

Don't ignore chest pain!

I'm so glad I listened to my son when he said that something didn't seem right, that the pain felt different than it usually does. I didn't know anything about this and it wasn't even on my radar.

After that experience, when he would get sick, I would say, "Does the chest pain feel like pneumonia pain or collapsed lung pain?" He would roll his eyes and say, "Mom. Relax. It's just pneumonia again." Just pneumonia? Who knew I would ever be relieved that it was "just pneumonia" and not a collapsed lung? Sigh.

Have you or your loved one with asthma experienced a partial lung collapse?

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