Dear COPD Doctor,
Should anyone be tested for allergies if they have COPD and cough up mucus that has color to it all the time?
—Allergies and COPD
Chronic cough and sputum (phlegm) production are common components of COPD. They usually happen when someone has chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is a condition defined by a mucus-producing cough most days of the month, three months of a year for two successive years without other underlying disease to explain the cough. This inflammation leads to scarring of the lining of the bronchial tubes. Once the bronchial tubes have been irritated over a long period of time, excessive mucus is produced constantly. The lining of the bronchial tubes becomes thickened, an irritating cough develops and air flow may be hampered. The lungs become scarred. The bronchial tubes then make an ideal breeding place for infections. There is no cure for chronic bronchitis.
“Flare-ups” happen when there is increase in cough, sputum production, and darker sputum—this usually suggests a superimposed infection and often requires antibiotics.
The role of allergy testing in COPD is less clear. If there is a history of seasonal allergies, nasal /sinus congestion, runny eyes, sneezing, elevated eosinophil counts on lab testing then allergy evaluation certainly could be considered. An absolute eosinophil count is a blood test that measures the number of white blood cells called eosinophils. Eosinophils become active when you have certain allergic diseases, infections, and other medical conditions.
Thanks for writing,
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