I’ve done what I could to hide the next images from the basic feed, because it’s a gross but necessary topic when dealing with COPD and its related challenges. At least in my case.
One unfortunately scientific level of inquiry as to one’s health involves their stools, their urine, and their mucus. When you visit the doc, just like when goung to the vet, they want examples (or, actual samples) to help them dagnose what’s going on.
Because of the ick factor, we often know what’s going on with our bodies, because we’ve been trained to analyze our output from a young age (or, I was taught that, due to my version of asthma / COPD steming from a birth defect), but we can’t be graphic due to timing of the incident, or society’s training against the ick factor for sharing the grossness with others.
As I wrote in an earlier blog about what I get from the better breathers club conversations, and a very educational conversation on mucus, sometimes we have to park our sensibilities at the door and move forward with graphic discussions or images.
Someone new to COPD, or any breathing difficulty, may not understand the messages their body is giving, and so everything is either ignored until it becomes an emergency, or everything is treated as an emergency to avoid having an actual health exacerbation. Frank, descriptive conversations help a lot, but until one has had years tracking and evaluating their own body’s output signals, it can be quite confusing to try and read the messages being sent.
So, today’s ick factor is about mucus, phlegm, congestion, or post nasal drip – whatever you want to call it.
On a relatively good day, I cough up a ton of clear (but solid) congestion, which clogs my throat as I sleep, and which takes forever to expel each morning.
Most mornings and throughout the day, the mucus is relative clear, meaning that it’s part of my disease and ongoing congestion, but not something to be worried about as it’s not pus green or bile yellow, so my lungs are just doing what they need to do – like trees – for cleaning the crap out of my lungs and getting it out of my body through coughing.
Like the nacre of an oyster, though, my lungs collect the blood and crud that is an offshoot of the strain on my body, and forms it into hard little pearls of congestion that sit at the back of my throat, bugging me, until I can cough it out.
(I have come back and made this picture much smaller, as I’m trying to educate without grossing you out and ending the conversation).
This bloody, cruddy, harder bit of congestion being expelled is my signal each day that I’ve gotten up the worst of it up and out for now, and am free to finally start my day. Or end my day. Or, can leave the restroom and rejoin polite society.
No pus or bile to add to the mucus to show an infection.
No larger bits of fresh blood in addition to the mucus to say something’s serious. Just some basic blood and hardened crud, clogging my lungs like gum, sticky and useless.
Congestion is just another tool to remind myself about my general, underlying health, and that I’m doing better for breathing, having gotten this bit of detritus out of my body.
Depending on my congestion level, sore throat status, or sinus complications from seasonal allergies, these plugs can be up to 2-3 inches in size and diameter. (Truly the definition of having a “frog in your throat” for trying to get through the day and not cough constantly, trying to force it out).
Monitoring their color and size helps me figure out what preventive measures to take each day to try and get it smaller, or to keep it from turning into an infection as seasonal pollens, changes in the weather, and volume of wind speed impact my breathing and congestion each day.
After doing something I shouldn’t (i.e., having a life) I often find I need to push the liquids to clear out the congestion, or, my latest go-to solution, (which works much better than eucalyptus in the shower, or salt water gargles) the salt inhalation treatment. Sitting for about 30-45 minutes in a room of salt-filled air, breathing in and out, re-invigorating my lungs and clearing out the buildup of crud. If you haven’t tried halo therapy, think about it. Dry, inhaled, himalayan sea salt therapy is the best thing I’ve found yet to cut the congestion.
Really don’t have much more to say on this topic, but if you’ve made it this far, I’m sorry for grossing you out and hope it was more educational than ickky.