It’s impossible, I think, to overstate the impact that asthma cough fests can have on your (read: my) emotional state. Friends and family that never see the worst of a child’s respiratory problems, that can’t join in at 2:00 in the morning for breathing treatments during the rough times, that never hear the hacking that can last all night long, will possibly never understand an asthma parent’s fairly regular bouts of insomnia. Life gets even more fun when an irritated throat combines with the flaring to result in near-constant coughing.
During my daughter’s recent fun with H1N1, I felt transported back to her earlier, uncontrolled years of interrupted sleep and midnight movies with the nebulizer. Not only did that cough plague her all day and night throughout the illness itself, but it also lingered for awhile afterwards, as both flu and asthma tend to do. Only this time, I was waking up a 10 year-old at two a.m. instead of a toddler. This time, I could ask her, “Okay, what’s your peak flow?”
Her age and my experience still don’t negate that wide-eyed, sleepless worry when she flares or gets sick, though. And sometimes, I just have to sleep. As AG has gotten older and as long as the situation meets these markers, I do what I can to minimize her cough at night:
1. She blows an acceptable level on her peak flow meter.
2. She is not struggling to breathe or breathing markedly/noticeably faster.
3. She feels no tightening in her chest.
4. She’s on regular albuterol treatments to control the flaring.
5. Her cough is not indicative of a worsening flare and she appears in no danger of respiratory distress.
6. Basically, it’s her throat that appears to generate the cough and not her lungs.
7. I’m contemplating drastic measures. (read: running away from my home)
If her breathing doesn’t meet all these criteria – and this is key – then I don’t suppress her cough because that’s her main asthma symptom. Instead, she will use her albuterol if she hasn’t, or I may end up on the 24-hour nurse hotline.
Assuming AG can breathe okay and I’m feeling desperate and she tells me it’s a throat cough rather than a lung one, or if it’s the asthma-free Steadfast Sidekick coughing instead, here’s what I do:
Cough drops or hard candy* (although I’ve had to review usage of cough drops vs. inhaler with AG lately)
Teaspoon of honey
Sports bottle of water
What do you use?
*AG uses mentholated cough drops with no problems, but menthol CAN aggravate asthma symptoms in some people.