In May of 2015, Jack got a cough.
It just never went away.
Despite him acting totally normal, he would cough throughout the day, and it was especially bad at night.
Sometimes the coughing fits were so bad, it really scared me.
I felt like we were constantly going to the doctor – they would say come back if it doesn’t go away in 10 days (it never did). At that point, they’d go, “Well, maybe it’s allergies. We don’t like to call anything asthma at this age. Let’s give him azithromycin and see if that helps.” And it would…for a week or so, and the cough could come back.
And it would…for a week or so, and the cough could come back.
Finally, after several months of this and extensive allergy testing (that didn’t show any allergies), Jack was prescribed an inhaler.
No more coughing.
Oliver was recently diagnosed with asthma by his pulmonologist. He had been seeing a pulmonologist initially for his sleep apnea and GERD, but it was during one of his frequent visits that the doctor suggested that some of his symptoms pointed toward asthma.
We aren’t totally sure why they both have asthma – it could be genetics, the fact that they both had RSV as small infants increases their chances, and there are certainly environmental factors that play a part in it.
Regardless, it’s not the most fun diagnosis – especially because it often takes forever to get. Oliver’s pulmonologist said that the scenario I explained above is very common when a child goes into their pediatrician with a chronic cough.
Additional Reading: 5 Things to Consider When Your Child is Diagnosed with Asthma
So, does your child’s cough never go away?
It could be asthma. As Oliver’s pulmonologist says, there is no reason a healthy baby, child, or person should be coughing. If there’s a chronic cough, it should be looked into – especially if it happens during sleep.
A lot of pediatricians are hesitant to diagnose a child with asthma, and they will often call it “reactive airways disease.” Oliver’s doctor says this drives him crazy, because if it’s asthma, it should be called asthma. One of Jack’s old pediatricians would say that you couldn’t have asthma until you were five or older, which is not true.
As I mentioned above, it took awhile to get Jack’s diagnosis. We went through a lot of wasted time and sleepless nights waiting for his “cough” to blow over. So, my best advice to you parents out there who feel like your child’s cough will never end?
It may not be asthma. There may be some other reason your child’s cough is not going away. However, you need to push for answers and for your physician to listen to you. No child should have to go through their childhood with a chronic cough!
One thing to know about asthma is that no one case is the same – there’s a very broad range of asthma severity and symptoms. Oliver’s pulmonologist often says that while wheezing is often associated with asthma, the lack of wheezing does not mean you don’t have asthma. Here are a few of the common symptoms of asthma, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Frequent, intermittent coughing
- A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
- Shortness of breath
- Chest congestion or tightness
- Chest pain, particularly in younger children
- Trouble sleeping caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- Bouts of coughing or wheezing that get worse with a respiratory infection, such as a cold or the flu
- Delayed recovery or bronchitis after a respiratory infection
- Trouble breathing that may limit play or exercise
- Fatigue, which can be caused by poor sleep
Find a Supportive Physician
I think having a supportive physician is crucial for just about any issues you or your child may have. We’ve discovered this a lot, especially with little Oliver. Once we found his pulmonologist, it made a world of difference. He encouraged us to ask questions from the start, and he spends as long as we need to with him (which makes up for the fact that we usually wait at least 30 minutes past our appointment time – we know he’s doing the same with others).
While most pediatricians are wonderful, they aren’t always specifically trained in treating asthma. If you suspect your child has asthma, I recommend seeing a specialist – typically a pediatric pulmonologist is your best bet. Asthma can be a very tricky thing to treat, and you definitely want the best on your side.
Identify and Eliminate Triggers
Asthma can be triggered by a lot of different things. For our boys, it seems like cold weather and illness is what triggers it the most (as well as smoke). What might be a simple cold in one child result in a very difficult few days of breathing for Jack and Oliver.
Even if your child hasn’t gotten an affiliate asthma diagnosis, I would pay attention to triggers to their cough. It can help control the symptoms as well as you can without formal treatment.
Many people who have asthma also deal with allergies – allergies to mold, dust, pollen, etc. There are a lot of them! On this Asthma Action Plan, it has a list of a lot of asthma triggers that you can go over. When we lived in our old house, we had neighbors that would always smoke at night. We had no air conditioning, and I was pregnant, so we left the windows open. However, we started noticing Jack’s coughing got worse. We couldn’t make our neighbors stop, and we couldn’t move, so we had to make adjustments.
What to Do When Your Child is Diagnosed with Asthma
Have an Asthma Action Plan
Once your child is officially diagnosed with Asthma, you will more than likely be given an asthma action plan. When we’ve been given one, it usually shows a green, yellow, and red zone (here is a pretty common template that is used).
It’s basically a plan that tells you when your child needs medication, when you should be worried, when you should increase dosage, etc. The goal is to always be in the green zone – which basically just requires a maintenance inhaler. This is a really important document to have on hand, as well as to share with anyone who may be watching your child.
The other day, Jack had one of his first real asthma attacks where we had to pull out his albuterol. We had used it when he was sick in the past, but this happened at the oddest time. He started wheezing like crazy. I was grateful that we knew what to do when that happened and were able to prevent anything worse from happening.
Be Consistent with Treatment
I’ll admit, I’m not the best at this. Jack usually gets his inhaler daily – he’s gotten to an age where he doesn’t fight it, and it is just a part of his routine.
Oliver is another story. There are few things I think he hates more than his inhaler, and it takes both Forrest and I to make sure he gets it. He screams like nothing else, and it is so, so sad. A few times we’ve tried to get him to do it after watching Jack – who he loves to copy – and it works for the first few puffs.
However, even if your child hates it like Oliver does, it’s so important to make sure you still give it to them. Prevention is the number one key to preventing asthma attacks and prolonged respiratory illness. As winter approaches, we are finding it even more important to keep up on their treatments.
Easier said than done – I know. I felt like with both of our boys, we do our very best to avoid sick people…but they just attract illnesses like no other children I’ve ever seen. It’s why I encourage people to keep their kids home f rom school, church, etc. whent hey are sick. You never know when you may have a child around who doesn’t respond well to illness.
Do the best you can and encourage healthy habits – teach your children to wash their hands regularly, use hand sanitizer when available, and honestly, don’t be afraid to tell sick people not to come over. Let me tell you, I’m all about sharing things…but germs is not one of them!
Find the Best Prices
Inhalers are expensive. If you are lucky, you will have an insurance plan that will significantly reduce the cost. However, if you don’t have great insurance (which, sadly, most people probably don’t), they are VERY expensive. It’s actually the reason why we can’t currently transfer our sons over to our health share plan – because the savings of that plan will be slashed by the cost of the inhalers.
There has been a lot of talk on the news sites about the increase in the cost of an EPI Pen…which I think is crazy (well, crazy that it was hiked up so much – not that it’s being talked about). However, it made me wonder why there isn’t more people pushing for lower priced inhalers. They can be life saving for people, yet the cost is so much.
Many doctors offices get samples, so ask your doctor if they have any available. They also often have coupons – you can check on websites like GoodRx.com to see if there are any printable coupons available, as well. Some inhalers are more cost-effective than others, so if you are finding you can’t afford the one your child uses, see if there is another more affordable one available.
Find Clean Air
We lived in Utah up until Jack was almost three-years-old. During the winter, the air is HORRIBLE. They often recommend that children and pregnant women don’t even go outside – and trust me, most people don’t want to. I believe that Jack’s issues were exacerbated because of the poor quality of air.
Despite family being in Colorado, one of the reasons we moved out of Utah is because we wanted to have cleaner air. Do I think it solved all our problems? Of course not. But I also think there’s a reason our boys get sick almost every time we drive into Utah Valley. If your child seriously struggles with asthma, look at where you live and avoid going out when the air is bad.
Another feature of the Winix that I love, is that the app tells you about the inside conditions AND the outside conditions. The light on the front indicates when the air quality in your home is supbar, and it also tracks the outdoor air quality. It tells you on the app how well the air purifier is working, as well as lets you know when you may need to replace the filters.
I love that it shows you how the air is in your house – if it starts to get iffy, you can rest assured it will be resolved soon, and until then, you can move to a different area. Being able to see the air conditions outside can help you decide whether or not it’s a good idea to let your child play outside much that day.
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.