'People Heaves' and related stuff

It’s a bit embarrassing to feel so at home on the Health Issue Forum (can relate to almost all conditions/concerns, eeee!). Last year I was all about hip pain, but after finding a great chiro who adjusts me gently yet with just the right amount of disinterest in my whining, and has also given me great stretches to do at home, I’m onto a new obsession.

All my riding/choring life, I’ve been aware of heaves i.e. don’t sweep while the horses are inside, keep arena dust down, etc. When I worked at a TB racetrack, I was amazed when at the sound of a horse coughing, the whole shedrow ‘froze’ until the equine responsible was identified and examined.

Never in a million hours of exposure to shaving/hay/dirt ETC. barn dust, did it ever occur to me that my pale pink lungs (well, they used to be) might suffer eventually from working in a haze of barn pollution. Alas, a few years ago my doc told me I had a slight ‘wheeze’ low on one lung; I began to wear a paper face mask-ugh-after I actually had a bout or two of bronchitis.

That seemed to do the trick on my own small farm for the next few years, but last winter I took over a friend’s larger and less airy barn for about 10 months, and after the first week or two of sweeping a loooong dirt aisle, mucking out many more stalls etc. even my mask failed me. I developed a pretty constant tightness in the chest, coughing and all that fun stuff.

I got through the year or so by using first a prescribed inhaler a few times a week (made me feel like a hopped up junkie, but hey…), and later taking a daily dose of costocosteroid powder (much more calming!). Then I had a full battery of respiratory tests AFTER a month or so out of the barn; all the med staff were thrilled to inform me I didn’t have asthma. Huh??

Yeah, I’m relieved my resp. function seems to be decent, but I still have ‘chest issues’…even though I stopped all medication the day I was told I wasn’t asthmatic (coincided with chance to stay out of any barn for a while). But I still feel crappy chest wise fairly often; never short of breath, just an icky sensation, some coughing and so forth.

Sooo, I’m just a bit confused at this point: do I have chronic bronchitis? COPD (never smoked!) or something more sinister…xrays have been clear. Just dunno what to think, and figure there have to be other folks who have experienced something along the lines of the above!!! I can’t be the only wimpy lunged horse person in the world, surely?

If any one has any similar experiences, or ideas re: what helped them, I would really love to hear from you. (I did check to see if this topic has been discussed lately, and couldn’t find anything.)

Welcome to the club.
I have been complaining for the past 4-5 years, test were run, nothing shows up, but something is really off and getting worse.

Had the flu two weeks ago and second night ended up in the ER having trouble breathing and with very low oxigen levels, that responded to treatment.
Dr there said go check with your regular dr for COPD, but I know that won’t go anywhere, again …

Kind of frustrating, let us know if they find something and what you can do for that, other than staying out of the dust.

Is it allergies? I’ve always had itchy eyes and a sore throat when exposed to allergens, but lately I’ve developed a dry cough and sometimes tightness in my chest. COPD should have been determined with your lung function tests, so I wouldn’t worry about that.

Cats are one of the big triggers for me, so I try to keep them out of my bed, which helps. I do take Reactine several times each week now. For most of my life I only needed medication during peak times of year for pollen. I don’t usually require meds for regular mucking and throwing down hay, but if I do a lot of sweeping or dusting cobwebs I’ll try to take a Reactine before I get started.

Have you had a cardiac work up? I would speak with your Dr about that. Wouldn’t hurt to have that check out, also.

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I have asthma but allergies aren’t much of problem any more. It’s cold weather and when temperatures fluctuate a lot that get me going. I use an albuterol rescue inhaler and Singulair tablets. My primary care doctor back in the late 80s pushed me hard to start getting a flu shot. Since I started doing it annually I no longer have problems with colds and bronchitis which I managed to get every winter.

I had to stop using inhaled steroids because they made my eye pressures increase. It was discovered during a routine eye exam and I had to do a glaucoma test. Back then it hadn’t been established as a side effect. However when I stopped using the inhaler the pressures went back to normal. Now I occasionally have to do a short course of oral prednisone when I find I am using the rescue inhaler too much. If you aren’t getting a regular eye exam I’d suggest asking your physician about it.

Thanks a bunch for all the 'tales of the [dusty] barn, and for the good observations and suggestions. I didn’t want to make my initial post any long than it already is, so I did omit a coupla details. Such as, I did have a full allergy test session, and didn’t react to anything…so no luck on that possibility (still allergic to most rap, cities, quads, etc.).
And for an unrelated reason, even though all the testing was way OTT, I did have a full cardio work up not that long ago; actually, I appreciate the fact that the docs wanted to eliminate any possibility…thank you socialized medicine/Canada, otherwise I’d still be in debt from all that attention, whew. Horse debt necessary, all other debt not so good!

And re: the inhaled costocosteroids, fortunately I was told of the glaucoma/eye pressure connection, and had my eye guy check that out. Right now I’m not taking any meds for my chest, so not a problem. …If I stay out of barns, I’m better than when I’m exposed to clouds of dust, but still have some issues. I have noticed a few people wearing dust/surgical masks (the better masks, as in N95 grade, in Canada at least); maybe ‘masks’ with be the ‘helmets’ of 2030, or something??

I’m seeing my GP this week, so if he doesn’t dismiss my bronchitis queries due to thinking I’m a neurotic horse nut already, maybe he’ll have some enlightening feedback re: all those respiratory/allergy tests I had in the fall. I’m okay with avoiding barn dust for the winter, but I miss snuggling with my ponita every! day; it sure sucks when the best part of your life becomes something you can’t totally indulge in, ugh. I dunno how a Hazmat suit would go down at the barn? Kinda warm and bulky, I’m thinking!

Whatever the case, if anyone else has any ideas, please feel free to tell your
tale of woe/whoa/success?? And I’ll update my situation, especially after my doc app’t. Fingers crossed for all us cough/wheezers, bleah…

Even a good paper N95 mask isn’t nearly as good as an honest to God respirator, one that has a rubber gasket that fits tight around your nose and mouth and has a some SERIOUS filtration. Mr Jeano is a Health Physicist, which means he understands how to stay healthy working in dangerous environments (radioactive waste, bad stuff to inhale.).He insisted I wear a respirator for severely dusty tasks like cleaning the barn and boosting hay, since i have history of bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia.You might consider getting a respirator mask. They are hot and sweaty to wear and not cheap but your chest might thank you.

It’s a fact that you will look like you stepped out of the Hot Zone wearing one.

Wow, ‘Mrs. Jeano,’ I appreciate your addressing the topic of MEGA filtration-very good point, for more extreme cases. I must confess whilst skimming pages of various breathing protection products on Amazon and medical sites, I have lingered over the completely sealed respirators and thought ‘hmmm.’ At least something like that would be better than stealing my brother’s SCUBA gear!

I hope I don’t have to resort to the Darth Vader-ish look for simple barn stuff, but I’m thinking it might be a good idea to start a savings jar for ‘the big seal’ to use under certain conditions. (Argh, and I’m self conscious sporting a paper mask!

To tell you the truth, masks in all their rather shocking glory might just be the ticket for those of us a tad despairing of our well earned outside-in-the-fresh-air-riding wrinkles, although the heat generated by a mondo sealed respirator may not reduce those pesky hot flashes, sigh.

I’m not sure why, despite the Pulmonary Function Tests with apparently normal results, I continue to feel my lungs are delicate lil’ flowers made of tissue paper. Again, to date I’ve had no problem at all with shortness of breath (I’m active in a few sports, when any time/money can be pried away from the horses), BUT the idea of cleaning my oven with anything even mildly toxic,let alone being gassed/pepper sprayed etc. has me running for the hills.

(Note to self: avoid demonstration front lines of any kind…try baking cookies, pamphlet distribution etc.)

Thanks again for the tip, Jeano family!

You mention dirt floors, more mucking and a less airy barn. Particulate irritation is the standard go to, but please also consider inflammation from ammonia exposure as a contributor to your symptoms.

Has your MD considered "Farmer’s Lung?“aka aspergillosis? I had some symptoms similar to yours, and actually had a couple of tests that showed possible lung cancer growth --but when I went to have the “growth” biopsied, they couldn’t find it on a subsequent MRI or Xray or something. Specialist said, it could have been a fungus growth (I think) but that’s only seen in people who work around hay and animals that eat hay . . .” --oh, those 400 bales I put into a mow about 3 weeks before, do those count? The following year, my husband had a similar experience . . .again, “Farmer’s Lung.”

Yup, Painted Pony, ammonia is on my lists of things to avoid. My own horse’s stalls are cleaned by the blushingly OCD moi, so always have lots of bedding to absorb pee, plus I always have my Stable Boy close by, HA!

And Foxglove, one of my barn owner friends who has a doctorate in physiology (and has written many quick layman’s guides to various afflictions, available on Amazon!), told me a while back that I have ‘farmer’s lung’; I really must follow that up with her.

Do you mind if I ask…did your symptoms just get better, or do you still have any related problems? Interesting that your husband also contracted ‘aspergillosis.’ Did your med folks give you helpful info re: avoiding the condition, or recovery from it?

p.s. very glad it turned out NOT to be lung cancer.

Both of us had “nagging cough” that didn’t seem to go away. For a completely different reason, I had an Xray done of my chest -that’s what set off the alarm --DR called me at HOME that afternoon and said to go immediately (as in that minute) to the cancer clinic for an MRI. It was read that day and I was schedule for a biopsy the next AM --what the MDs saw on the xray was a “little tree” shaped growth in my lung --I was told that was a specific kind of fast growing tumor --hence the immediacy and imperative need for the biopsy. The next AM, I was rather sedated, on the table, discussing 300 v Braveheart (who would win if they wen’t head to head with their armies) with the anesthesiologist when the MD came in in a rush to tell me something that he’d only once before been able to tell some one --the “growth” was gone! Couldn’t find it any place --that’s when the second MD came in and had the brief discussion with me about “Farmer’s Lung” – When husband was moving hay in the mow on a hot humid day, he came down with the same thing --nagging cough. It took forever to abate. Never diagnosed, but we thought probably same thing. We now wear masks when we move hay and keep the barn doors open.

Yikes, thanks for all the details; what a near miss you may have had, at least re: a biopsy. But again, just the kind of news a person likes to get, whew. …Well, at least I have a few ideas to kick around with my GP, assuming he doesn’t kick me out for driving him nuts :slight_smile: . It’s not like I’m an annoying or constant patient, it’s just that I insisted I taper off a medication a few years ago; he didn’t feel it was necessary, but I was bound and determined…let’s just say that in the end we called it a draw?!

He’s actually a good guy, even though on the basis of treating me, he’s convinced that that horse people are lunatics. Hey, can’t argue with that to some degree!! Anyhow, thanks everyone for your input; I’ll let you know what transpires re: my app’t (if it takes me an extra day or so, I’ve either got lost in snow, or I’m pouting/whinging 'cuz I haven’t found out any new info, which is a distinct possibility). Medicine seems to often involve more muddling than miracles, which my GP doc/favourite uncle assures me is not far off the mark, in many cases-sigh.

I think the WWW has been helpful to us lay people in taking control of our own health decisions --had lunch with a gal-pal yesterday who said she thinks “Doctors HATE people who give them their ideas of health causes and concerns based on the WWW.” I thought about that and I don’t think I’d go to a DR who “hated” having a discussion with me about what I was worried about —based on rumor, gossip, or WWW. As a retired teacher, I EMBRACED the (rare) student who took the time to research a fact or opinion and express it in classroom --asked students to write an essay on the Odyssey where they were asked to send one item back in time to Odysseus that would fit in a 12x12 inch box that would affect the outcome of the story . . . so many items were selected --copy of the book (in Greek, of course,) loaded handgun, anesthesia, poison, “The Art of War,” but one fellow wrote a long paper (completely researched and correctly footnoted) on why it would be impossible to send anything back in time —wonderful reading. Still remember the boy and the paper. So present you opinions and questions o the MD. You are paying him to listen!

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Sounds like he has been hanging out with orthopedic surgeons. They know for a fact we are all lunatics based on extensive experience. They must be passing the word. :wink:

Well, as anticipated, it’s taken me a while to get back here. In addition to a few busier than normal days, I seem to have picked up a cold over the weekend; coupla of days after cooling my heels in my doc’s waiting room…coincidence or no?!
(It’s winter, so I coyly tried to keep my mouth covered with my scarf, especially since the guy next to me was coughing and sneezing galore; would have moved, but no empty chairs, sigh.)

With all that in mind, please bear with any notable incoherence! My app’t was okay, in that doc is basically a decent sort, and genuinely interested in helping patients. On the other hand, he IS a doc, and most people of that ilk-as Foxglove observed-get a tad testy when patients articulate/postulate re: their affliction. I’ve learned to use a series of innocent questions to help lead my doc to [at least consider] what I’ve learned about what could quite possibly be at least a facet of what’s plaguing me.

I try not to sound like Wikipaedia, and in fact try to source my information without solely relying on the internet…although you gotta admit the 'net is pretty useful. The trick is to read critically, not just passively accepting whatever you come across. (And when I get a little manic/anxious, I table my questions for my husband to research, so I’m not reading compulsively followed by shrieks and dry heaving, tsk.)

Anyhow, we reviewed the past year of ‘critical storm’ levels of dust leading me to be prescribed a daily oral costocosteroid, the numerous respiratory tests (none conducted in a BARN, which would have no doubt lead to a bit of a less acceptable result, cough cough) et al. I mentioned that I had taken Robaxin one day last week after a particularly long bout of snow shovelling, and that my dicky chest which had been especially problematic all that week after behaving for a whole month, seemed to like the pills.

When I made that connection prior to my app’t I could barely get up in the morning (unrelated to onerous snow shovelling) re: chest dragging me down; how delightful to find that by taking just a portion of the max amount of Robaxin recommended, my chest calmed right down. This happened 4 days in a row, so there would seem to be a direct correlation.

(BTW, for those familiar with Robaxin, it consists of the muscle relaxant ‘methocarbamol’ bonded to an analgesic like Tylenol or Advil or even Aspirin. The Robaxin is usually green, and the analgesic half is white, so when I want to have a bit more methocarbamol without quite so much analgesic I simply cut the pill along the middle. It’s not scored for this purpose-which would likely send steam thru my doc’s ears-but I find the simple solution effective…not that I’m advocating this practice, although I’m sure other people have figured out the strategy.)

I made the mistake of not preparing my doc gently for my conclusion that the methocarbamol was somehow calming my agitated lil’ chest, and his eyebrows flew dangerously high; I backtracked quickly, and we decided I was using the methocarbamol only for shovelling soreness; one advantage of being a titch flighty is the ability to laugh off my, ahem, confusion over a given issue.

Doc was of the opinion the I should take the oral costo… if I felt I needed to, but I’m reluctant to get into that routine when I’m out of the barn enough that I really shouldn’t have to go to that length, with any luck. I did mention that I’d been on a helpful BB with other horse people with some similar sorts of issues, but I was the last patient of the day, and I could see time was running out.

Bleah! My apologies for not bringing forth some more valuable information, but I’m continuing to look into things…just not so much right now, while this cold has addled my wee brain even more than usual. Every day my chest doesn’t make me feel like I’ve just been gassed in the Battle of the Somme in WW1 or something (apologies to any vets who’ve really been gassed or sprayed) is a good day. I just wish I didn’t feel as if I would be felled like a tree if I were pepper sprayed even tangentially!

Heck, I can’t even use waterproofing spray on boots, unless I want to baby my chest for a ridiculous amount of time. It seems that my Achilles heel is my darn chest, my own personal Kryptonite. Ugh. And that’s my report for now. As I said, I’ll continue to look for answers/information, and will be happy to hear about anyone else’s take on their own experiences…

p.s. walktrot, yes I know what you mean about those orth. surgeons who deal with so many of our pesky little fractures etc.!!

Well, this is from a while back(!), but thought I’d do a quick update. I eventually started using a face mask (Techno Pro/Gold?) made for bicycling in pollution; neoprene with a filter. That worked much better than an N95 for a year or so, then not so much.

I then got a 3M respirator with those pink bug like twin filters (makes me look like a monster fly, and sound like Darth Vader!?) for under 50 bucks. Two years on it’s still keeping my lungs feeling good; if I get lazy and skip it I regret it.

Kinda weird when COVID came along. I find wearing a simple face mask quite liberating compared to my respirator beast! Everything is relative… For anyone who is still dealing with lung/breathing issues, I hope you’re able to resolve things somehow.

I really thought I would have to be done with mucking etc. until I geared up. There are still people in my barn who cough a bunch, esp when tossing hay, but NO one will even put on a paper mask!!

My 3M is hot in summer and c-c-cold in winter, but it’s worth it. My biking brother has worn a Techno Pro for a loooong time zipping around Toronto, so figure ‘suck it up, buttercup’, ponybutler!