It made me feel scared and powerless. She just kept getting sick, and I didn’t know why. Sometimes her coughing was so bad she struggled to breathe. Three or four times it was so frightening that I had my husband call an ambulance.
I took her to the doctor, but the pediatrician just kept giving her cough medicine; the problem was never really solved. It wasn’t until she was 6 years old that an allergist diagnosed her with asthma. Tests showed that she was allergic to dust and animal dander, and we found out that cold air also triggered her asthma. She started taking Singulair once a day, which helps prevent asthma attacks by blocking the chemicals that the body releases in response to asthma triggers. She also started using an inhaler to take Flovent, a corticosteroid drug that reduces the underlying lung inflammation that causes asthma. During allergy season, we alternated antihistaminesClaritin and Zyrtecto keep seasonal allergies from triggering an attack.
At the time, some of my family members had moved to Florida. We would leave Chicago to visit for a few days, usually during spring break from school. At that time of year, Chrysa would often be having breathing troubles, possibly due to spring pollen or respiratory infections. We found that after four or five days in Florida, she’d be healthy again. Then within a week of going back up north, she’d be at the doctor again with some kind of chest problem.
My son Joshua’s case of asthma was a little different. He was born with a lot of food allergies, including to dairy products. (He would often vomit after drinking milk.) The pediatrician suggested an allergist for his food problems, but also because he was worried about a rattling sound in his chest. The doctor thought he might have cystic fibrosis, a potentially life-threatening genetic disease.
When tests at age 15 months showed he actually had asthma, I was relieved. I had the experience of dealing with Chrysa’s breathing problems, so I knew we could handle Joshua’s.
We switched him to soy milk, which helped. And the doctor prescribed a bronchodilator, which relaxes airways, to be given three times a day with a nebulizer, a machine that delivers aerosolized medication directly to the lungs. Even though it was really helpful, it was almost impossible to get a baby to sit still with a mask on his face for 20 minutes to inhale the medicine. What helped most was keeping him away from the food that triggered his allergies. They seemed to encourage the buildup of extra fluid in his lungs, which would always progress to something worse, like an infection or even bronchitis.