A petri dish, microscope and test tubes

Sputum Sample Do Over

Living with asthma always feels like an adventure. I have to admit that I have felt out of practice with the bumps in the road. I love having had a stable run and being able to recognize early that something may be brewing. It turns out that something may be brewing. I recently had an infection that I did not even know I had. It was diagnosed on a routine sputum induction and determined by cell counts. It was treated, and I thought I was all better. Although I had been feeling generally better, I was not at the same level of awesomeness that I had been experiencing.

My initial thoughts

My concern was that the sputum did not seem to have its usual consistency, it was feeling and looking a bit thicker and whiter. I also had the creeping back of increased sputum production and the return of dumb cough. There were a couple of approaches that we were going to take. I could investigate getting my sputum cultured through my family doctor to detect or identify any organisms that may be causing a lingering infection. Since some time had passed and I thought I was turning a corner, I did not bother getting my sputum cultured. I also, in my heart of hearts, felt like this was potentially more of an eosinophilic issue rather than an infection.

Change of plans

Of course, a few weeks later, I was symptomatic, and I wished I had done the sputum culture after all. It was going to be a few weeks before I was going to be able to get in for sputum induction. After speaking with my family doc we discussed that it might not hurt to get a sputum culture. I had seen a tinge of yellow discoloration in some sputum over the previous few days. It is important to note that the color that your eye sees in sputum does not necessarily mean infection, etc. It needs to be identified in a lab.

Providing a sputum sample

I was given the requisition, and I had a specimen jar at home. It turns out it was the last one that I had in stock, and I proceeded to produce a sample. Even though I knew that an early morning sample would be the best, I was bringing up bits, and I wanted just to produce a sample and get it out of the way. I thought I had been careful by blowing my nose and rinsing so there would be no contaminants, but it turns out my sample had too much saliva, and the lab rejected it.

Sample do over

When I saw the result, my heart sank, I had already learned this lesson the hard way many years ago, and I used to pride myself on getting a good sample, but it turns out I am out of practice. This means that I was going to have to go to the lab on another day, get another specimen jar, then produce a sample the next morning and then bring it back to the lab. It feels like quite a production that I am hoping will be fruitful on a second attempt.

How do I feel about all of this?

I am not sure how I feel about the whole situation, I still feel like it might be eosinophilic vs. neutrophilic infection, but it is better to have ruled this all investigated. I am not sure I want to do another round of antibiotics. However, it might be better than a round of prednisone. Having finally discontinued daily oral corticosteroid use, I am not a fan of any mention of “steroid burst.”

Asthma and sputum samples

Have you had to produce a sputum sample for cultures and sensitivity? I would love to hear about your experience. Share in the comments below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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