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Shortness of breath while masked


Cin

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Background -- I have been lucky and have mostly been working from home since covid hit. All of my co-worker returned to work in Sept, 3/days on campus and 2 remote per week. I have a medical accommodation to go in 1x/week and 4 remote. The three faculty I work for are 100% ok with this. I recently thought maybe it would be good for me to push myself and try to go in 2x. I felt like our HR guy was kind of pushing (but not openly) me to increase my time; but he has no control over my accommodation, we have a disability accommodation process so I'm pretty lucky.  So in order to increase my schedule, I had to see my primary care physician to write up the new accommodation.

When I walk more than a few minutes while masked I get very sob and my heart pounds like I've just run a race. Then I panic and have to take the mask off and wait for my breath and heart to get back to normal. I am fine walking unmasked and run errands while masked with no problem. I run into problems doing my 2+ hour (round trip) commute while masked and then walking fast to keep up with the other Bostonians, and BAM, I'm panting and my heart is beating. 

So yesterday I walked over to my primary care physician's office while masked, to discuss changing my work accommodation. While waiting I was sob and my heart was pounding. The assistant couldnt take my BP because the cuff was too tight. My doc came in, I told her I had to take off my mask (KN95) and she got a reading of 190/something. Next reading was a little better but still way too high. Blood tests were ok, no blood clots in lung, I am increasing my BP medicine, yada yada yada. To be honest, this scares me. If my blood pressure has been getting this high every time I ran out of breath trying to commute to work, I've been pushing my luck!

SO ... I am going to fight to keep the 1x/week schedule and next step is a stress test.  I kept telling my doctor that the masking is causing all my problems. I don't have sob unmasked but I won't commute unmasked. I see too many guys (why always guys, I don't know why) with their mask below their nose on the train and I wonder if they would put a condom on their testicles and call it birth control?  I hope nobody is offended by that, it's my sick sense of humor.

Omg this is sooo long! I just want to know if anyone else experienced this?  (Lobectomy upper right 9.5 months ago).

Thanks, I love this site, even though I haven't posted in a while.

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Cin,

So good to hear from you again, but sorry to hear the difficulty you are having.   You know that none of us can diagnose issues here, but I do have a couple of questions for you.  

1.  When home are you doing any kind of exercise to keep your lung function high?  I ask this because pulmonary condition can go down quickly when we aren't active enough.  Covid, winter and isolation can really play havoc on our cardio-pulmonary fitness.
2.  Did your doctor recommend seeing a pulmonologist?  This question is based on wanting to know what conditions (other than LC) can be contributing to your shortness of breath.  
3.  Are you willing to do some daily walking?  It could even be around your home/apartment and can start at 5 minutes (maskless of course) and slowly increase your time and or speed as you condition your lungs.  Try it out you may be surprised at the function you can regain.

Please get this checked out via pulmonologist and then follow their recommendations.  You deserve to have a better quality of life.

Lou

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I was going to recommend seeing a pulmonologist but Lou beat me to it. I have to breathe hard using a KN95, and one day at a recent regular doctor's appointment, my heart rate was elevated, obviously due to the effort to breathe with that particular mask. 

You might want to switch to a KF94 mask (made in South Korea), as I've done. It's easier to breathe but still effective. They're readily available and not subject to counterfeiting like KN95s. Some come in cute colors too, and they apparently are all the rage among young folks. 

Finally, when you see your pulmonologist, if you get a prescription for an inhaler, use it. I get occasional SoB as a side effect of my targeted therapy and it works very well. 

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Thank you Lou and Judy. I definitely need to use my breathing Voldyne, and haven't done much walking all winter. I will start doing my breathing exercises and look forward to the warm weather so I can start walking again.  But this event scared me in the same way lung cancer did ... It brings thoughts of possible death. I'm not being morbid, it's just that death became a possibility so it's no longer some kind of abstract thought.

Thanks for you KN95 story, I was afraid it was not common!  They are giving out KF94s at work, I have a few but haven't tried them. I will definitely make the switch!! Thank you SO much, you might have solved my problem. 

And finally, I need to lose 25-30 pounds so that's not helping.

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Cin, shortness of breath is scary. When mine takes too long to go away, I usually take a lorazepam for the anxiety. It's like a vicious circle: SoB causes anxiety and anxiety exacerbates the SoB. 

I'm in Southern California and can walk for an hour every morning. (My dogs demand their neighborhood walk, and they are the boss of us.) I believe that exercising my lungs is very beneficial and even though I do get a bit winded going up hills, I can push through. 

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Judy I moved to San Diego after graduation in 1978. I mostly lived in Ocean Beach.  It didn't help that when I moved back to Massachusetts, my friends called me "tampon girl" because of the OB sticker on my car

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Oh how funny. Of course here everyone knows what OB means. I live in Rancho Bernardo and my stepson lives in North Park. We moved here to be close to him and to get away from NY weather. Glad we did it 7 years ago, today it would be unaffordable. 

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On my! I lived in North Park beginning Jan 1978 a and moved to OB later. I was there for the horrible PSA plane crash (luckily we were all at work at the time)

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I've been using the KF94s also, especially at work where I wear a mask for the whole shift. I have a bit of difficulty breathing with a KN95. I got some of the free government masks- N95s-- and it was really hard to breathe in those. I've heard that the "duckbill style" N95s made by 3M are a little less difficult to breathe in because there's more space inside. I haven''t tried them yet. Has anybody?  If I could find a comfortable N95, I'd wear it at work. I work in a homeless shelter and we've had a couple of client families with Covid, as well as a couple of staff. 

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Bridget, my husband has used the duckbill type N95s and likes them because the straps go around his head rather than behind his ears and they don't fog up his glasses. But he's not the one with breathing problems. I haven't tried them yet. 

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Bridget, I’ve used the 3M and it’s more boxy around the nose for a little more breathing space. And as Judy says, it pulls less toward the ears. I think the kn95 scores well for protection but not breathability. Haven’t worn a KF94 but that’s probably similar. 

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