Sunday, July 16, 2006

How to Tell the Difference Between a Cold and an Asthma Attack in a Toddler

I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I sometimes feel like I take my kids to the pediatrician or the pulmonologist too often -- like every time they have a cold. I always ask myself, am I overreacting? Am I one of those parents doctors loathe?

My kids don't wheeze audibly, so it can be hard to tell when their asthma's acting up. B's getting older, so he can tell me - but Oz can be a little mysterious.

Then it occured to me: I've never had a non-asthmatic toddler! I've rarely (if ever) had a preschooler who *just* had a cold.

So, based on conversations with friends and my own observations, here is how you can tell your kid may be having an asthma attack (or "flare," if you're using the new, non-violent lingo). As always, CALL YOUR DOCTOR if you suspect your child's asthma is acting up:

1. Regular kids with colds usually act like normal kids; they just have runny noses and coughs. If your toddler has a cold, is crying constantly (or like mine, begging to be carried everywhere), whining like mad, and /or not eating, it may be more than a regular cold. (Of course, it could also just be a sore throat or ear infection - make sure your doctor checks for those, too.)

2. Your child has a dry, hacking cough that disappears as quickly as it appeared.

With Oz's recent flare, he was miserable for 48 hours. His cough came on suddenly, but after two days of alternating DuoNeb and Xopenex, it literally dissipated (along with his whining) over the space of a few hours.

3. Finally, your child has a cough that responds miraculously to albuterol or xopenex - particularly after nothing else has worked.

Again, this is non-scientific, and I'm NOT a doctor. I've got nothing like a medical degree. I thought these tips might be helpful to others whose kids have the elusive variety of asthma my kids seem to have -- but if you think your child might be flaring, definitely call you doctor. I can't reinforce that enough.

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