Community member Jacquie White

Community Member Spotlight: Evelyn Phillips

Editors Note: Evelyn Phillips, a Facebook community member of Asthma.net, shares how asthma has impacted her life, from symptoms to medicine side effects causing headaches. After seeing several doctors to help treat her asthma, Evelyn finally found one who listened to her concerns and helped reduce her asthma symptoms. Here is what Evelyn had to say.

Constant headaches from my asthma medicine

I have adult-onset asthma. I also have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and a dormant lower lung disease issue. In the past, I told my doctors about massive headaches from asthma medicine I was given to "improve" and "relieve" my breathing. Later, I found out some were taken off the market because they were not safe after all.

Every time I was given a new med to inhale twice daily, I came up with extreme headaches. I would try them for up to 3 days because I was told my body would adjust. With some of the meds, the pain was so bad that tears ran down my cheeks. I could hardly see, and moving at all would bring on dizziness. I sat for long periods of time just waiting them out.

My doctors did not listen

Two of my past pulmonologists said I was overreacting and possibly causing the headaches through anxiety. None of them thought the headaches would have continued, and all said I was not giving my body long enough to adjust. I would dread seeing the time arrive to use those prescriptions.

When the pain seemed unbearable, I told myself I would rather not breathe, so I quit each one. I finally just refused to use any necessary-to-control-my-cough inhaled medicines other than my emergency inhalers, which I used multiple times every day.

Easing into my medicine

My current pulmonary doctor saw me twice before she convinced me to try a half dosage of child-strength medicine to keep my cough controlled. I worked up to it within 2 days, and it worked quite well when I reached the half dose. I have been using it for more than 6 months now without any headaches. If it seems to not be working as well, I have been told to slowly increase it. If I do work up to the full child’s dosage, she said we will try the adult strength.

My uncontrolled, several-times-a-day coughing has disappeared, my use of an emergency inhaler is down to seldom, and I sleep through the night without waking in a panic of breathlessness. The headaches are a memory and not a part of my daily life, so I continue as directed.

What I have learned

From this experience, I have learned to be firmly straightforward in letting my doctors know when I think my medicine is hurting my health. I have come to realize that sometimes, some of us need less of a good thing, and sometimes, some of us need more. Finding the right doctor for me took a few years, but I feel as if my life has been well extended because I have a doctor who listens and works with what I say. It is good to be able to breathe much better so much more often.

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