My strategy to weather the storm of constant lung infections

Lung infections are frequent and can be dangerous for IPF patients

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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Recurrent lung infections are exhausting, both physically and mentally. As a patient living with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a progressive and life-threatening lung disease, respiratory infections have become part of my life. But that doesn’t mean they’re easy to deal with.

When I read a fellow columnist’s recent post about his medical team’s quick response to a bacterial infection, I felt validated. Sam Kirton discusses his experience with an infection after having a bilateral lung transplant, and I could feel his angst. Lung infections can quickly spiral out of control and often require aggressive treatment, which is why they are so exhausting.

Cold and flu season is particularly scary for patients with respiratory conditions. Since COVID-19, information about lung diseases and how difficult they are to live with has been elevated, but the importance of protecting your lung health is still not common knowledge. I have been admitted to the hospital more times than I can count due to respiratory infections, and for those of us with a progressive lung disease like IPF, infections can cause irreversible damage.

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In December, I contracted a fungal infection called aspergillosis that can pose a serious threat to the overall health of IPF patients. Most people can fight this infection with antibiotics, but I required more invasive treatment, including a surgical procedure and intravenous antifungal medications for six weeks. This treatment took place in the hospital where I was exposed to even more bacteria and viruses.

While the antifungal medication was successful in treating the aspergillosis after a period of time, I ended up contracting a bacterial infection as well. This felt defeating because I assumed the medication I was on for the aspergillosis would inevitably keep my system free from anything else I might pick up in the hospital. Due to this additional infection, I had to start a course of antibiotics before I even finished the six-week treatment for aspergillosis.

If you have been on strong antibiotics, you know they come with myriad side effects. Due to the intensity of the medication and the length of time I was on them, I had to take probiotics. Not only were the side effects of all of this unpleasant, but it also felt as though my day was consumed with oral medication management, infusion appointments, and regular checkups with my doctors. This was all in addition to the regular management of IPF, which already feels like a full-time job.

These lung infections and the responsibility of ensuring they are treated effectively were tiring and I am ready for a break. Following are some of the ways I combat that fatigue and cope with recurrent lung infections:

Let yourself rest

I have never been someone to sit still, and before my IPF diagnosis, my sleep would often be compromised due to prioritizing social activities. I have learned over the years how important it is to get enough sleep every night, and that resting during the day is OK.

I had to revisit this while fighting the latest infections. My body was doing a lot of work internally, even if it felt like I was being lazy. When I contracted the second infection, I decided I would let myself rest whenever I needed to. It felt like a burden was lifted off my shoulders, because I didn’t have to push through feeling unwell.

Eat well

This can be challenging, especially when the side effects of medications make you feel unwell. When I initially started the antifungal medications, I had no appetite, and eating was the last thing I wanted to do. That said, fueling your body with proper nutrition is an essential component to fighting off anything foreign, such as an infection. As difficult as it was to eat, it was imperative for me to do.

Engage in stress-relieving activities

These activities look different for everyone, but some of the ways I relieved stress was by reading to distract my mind from the worry of having two big infections, and practicing meditation. Both of these could be done from the comfort of my bed, so they promoted rest as well.

Share your experience

I am lucky to have a good relationship with co-workers at my workplace, as I wouldn’t have been able to get through the treatment of these infections without letting them know what I was going through. For me, it was important to share my story, because the anxiety and worry I felt was palpable. If you feel comfortable doing so, sharing your experience can help alleviate some of the burden.

What are other ways you have coped with recurrent infections as an IPF patient? Please share in the comments below. 

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


conni borwick avatar

conni borwick

did these happen after lung transplant? is it more common to have acute infections after lung transplant. seems like mr. kirkton
is undergoing some procedure every day after his transplant.
i appreciate your struggle to accept resting hard to do but certainly necessary.

Steve Dragoo avatar

Steve Dragoo

In the Philippines - I was on my own medically but my (and wife) spiritual walk is revealing. Now stateside the medical system is very slow and not thorough enough - unless something serious happens like worse PAH or both ventricles getting in worse trouble or a 3rd acute exacerbation then I will pretty much continue at the pace (we) are at and live until I can't. Mom went through a lot of fungus, had a drip /IV antibiotics for several weeks similar to you Charlene. I was blessed as the oldest son to be the last one to talk with her.

So with a slew of supplements and lots of tests, the IPF has not worsened much indeed at times it feels better than 6 years ago. There are no easy answers. That is why I stress the only thing of permanence is my spiritual walk. I am convinced that without God in our lives, there is no purpose. For those stuck with that I have great empathy because it does not have to end in just the ultimate demise... Stay well friend - Steve

Joseph avatar


Hello Charlene,

I hope you are doing well about your IPF and all the other things in your life. Can I ask a question independent of the subject of this post? You said that your disease could be detected in 13 months. Was there any abnormality in your lung x-ray and tomography during this 13-month period or was it completely normal? If there is an abnormality, from what month did it start to appear on the tomography? And finally, did you experience clubbing? If so, what was the process like, in which month did it start, and was there pain in your fingertips? If you have an article where you explain these, you can reference it too. I did a little research but couldn't find it. Thank you very much in advance for your time :)

I wish you happy days..


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