Asthma Rears Its Ugly Lungs

Forgive me if I'm a bit bleary-eyed and incoherent as I write this post. My daughter Rae has kept me up all night with her coughing for almost a week straight. It started out as a simple cold, but when she started coughing at night I took her to the doctor because she does have a history of asthma.

I don't know how many of my readers have kids with asthma, but I've found that it is a very perplexing condition. It seems that once your child is Officially Diagnosed With Asthma, she is considered to have asthma for the rest of her life. She even gets special treatment sometimes: she's first in line for flu shots every year, and whenever she coughs I just have to tell the nurse that she has asthma and they get her an appointment right away.

It's strange because I always pictured kids with asthma as thin, pale faced boys who sit on the sidelines of the playground and suck on inhalers all day. I never imagined my healthy, vivacious princess with such a condition. But two years ago when she was 4 years old, she caught a cold and started coughing at night. The coughing continued for months until, at a well-child checkup, the doctor noticed and decided to test her for asthma. She got chest X-rays, and sure enough it indicated asthma. They put her on Flovent for four months, the wheezing stopped, and we haven't had any problems since. I just assumed she had outgrown the problem.

But last week, she caught a little cold -- a really little cold that I barely even noticed. But she did start coughing at night, which is one of the first warning signs of asthma. I took her to the doctor to get it checked out (of course, the nurse told me I should be seen right away since she has a History of Asthma). The doc listened to her chest, but all she heard was a chest cold. No wheezing, no asthma. I even asked her if I should get a refill on my Albuterol prescription, just in case. She said it's been so long since she had a problem, she didn't see a need for it. She implied that she thought Rae had outgrown her asthma.

No such luck. Her nighttime coughing got progressively worse over the next week. I tried three different cough medicines, but nothing worked. One night, her coughing fits were so violent I almost took her to the emergency room. She couldn't even breathe or talk. We managed to muscle through the night, and I took her back to the doc first thing in the morning.

The doc -- actually a nurse practitioner, which I will discuss in another post -- heard some wheezing in her chest and gave her a breathing treatment in the office. It was Rae's first experience with Albuterol, and it was weird. I put the mask over her mouth, and Rae's eyes kind of rolled back in her head. I thought she was going to pass out. But at the end of the five-minute treatment, Rae's wheezing had been reduced, and the nurse prescribed Albuterol every 4-6 hours for the next week. She also, surprisingly, put her on antibiotics. I questioned this decision because more than likely we are just dealing with a virus, and often antibiotics can make things worse. But the nurse felt strongly that the cold had lasted long enough and Rae's mucus still looked thick enough that she needed a little extra help.

So we have finally succumbed to medical intervention for a simple chest cold. I have lost enough sleep that I am desperate for our lives to get back to normal as quickly as possible. Mind you, I did all-natural childbirth with BOTH of my kids -- no drugs whatsoever! I feel like whenever you go down that Road of Medicine, it's a slippery slope. You start with one or two medicines and they have side effects, so you take more medicine to stop the side effects but those medicines have side effects, too. Before you know it, you're taking a handful of pills for a condition that will probably clear up on its own.

I am a strong believer in letting your body figure out how to heal itself. The body sometimes takes longer than a pill, but at least it's natural. It's the way your body is supposed to work. But as my kids' ailments get scarier and scarier -- and when you're talking about life-or-death issues such as breathing -- I think it's best to leave the care to the experts. My daughter probably has asthma, and sometimes kids' little lungs need a little help. So as the Albuterol helps my daughter breathe better, I will be holding my own breath, hoping and praying that she will get better and not have to be that pale faced kid with the inhaler on the playground for the rest of her life.

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