Q. At present we are having work done in our house. The dust is causing my partner to have breathing troubles, but he insists he is fine and will not seek advice or support from our general practitioner. He wheezes badly, but says that Vicks and lozenges will help him. It has been going on for months and I am concerned for his health. What is your advice to him?
A. Depending upon the age of the house, renovation could stir up many allergens and toxins that have been settled for many years. These may include mold, dust mites, and asbestos, among others.
If your partner does not have a history of asthma and/or environmental allergies, reactive airway disease could be responsible for the symptoms he is experiencing. Common symptoms of asthma include breathlessness, wheezing, cough, and chest tightness.
If your partner has not experienced similar symptoms in the past, and the timing of his symptoms relates with the work being done on his home, a first step would be to minimize his exposures within the home. This can be accomplished by either not being in the home while work is being done or wearing a respirator or N95 face mask while in the building.
It is also possible that your partner has asthma and his symptoms coincidentally appeared at the time of the renovation, without a direct cause and effect relationship. His allergist may want to conduct a pulmonary function test. If your partner has asthma, his treatment will be based on the severity and frequency of his symptoms.
Treatment for severe, irregular episodes typically involves use of a short-acting inhaled beta agonist. If symptoms persist and/or worsen, his allergist will likely recommend ongoing tailoring of his medications.
Your partner should discuss his symptoms and potential strategies for diagnosing and managing his symptoms with his allergist.