baby, colds, common cold, coughing, daycare, doctor, pediatrician, sick, sleep, toddler, virus, winter
He’s been doing it for months and months. Ever since he got croup, really. It’s practically part of his personality, now. We hardly notice it. His nose runs, and it gives him post nasal drip, and then he coughs, mostly at night when he’s lying down and we’re trying to sleep.
(Incidentally, this is hilarious, especially when you’re really tired.)
At first I took him back to the doctor for it. Each time the doctor told me it was “probably viral” and that colds are common in the first winter in daycare.
“He’ll basically have colds non-stop all winter,” said the pediatrician jovially (my pediatrician looks exactly like a human sized Oompa Loompa. Not the weird orange men from the Gene Wilder film but Oompa Loompas as described by Roald Dahl).
Plus Owl tended to pick up worse colds from his visits to the doctor’s office. So I gave up.
But Daycare Lady didn’t.
“I’m sure he needs antibiotics or something,” she said. “He’s always coughing, and it sometimes sounds like there’s boiling water in his chest.”
Every now and then the coughing gets worse.
It happened again this weekend. His coughing was so bad that PH was up with him again and again in the night, and gave up entirely at 3 am when he handed me Owl in bed (usually it’s between 4:30 and 5:30 am when Owl joins me in bed).
Even in the car he’d cough and cough. When he breathes his chest sounds like it’s percolating coffee.
After the third night of this PH said, “take him to the pediatrician.”
Daycare Lady wholeheartedly agreed.
“You have to PUSH them. My brother is a pediatrician and when my little girl was small he told me that from what I was saying over the phone, he was sure she had pneumonia. I took her to the ER and the ER doctor said she was fine! Viral! Go home! So I said “you PROVE to me it’s viral!” and I insisted on an xray and the xray showed pneumonia!”
So I went in determined this time.
When Jolly Doc came in I explained that he has been coughing for months. Sometimes it’s worse than others but always THERE.
“Does it get better and then worse again?” he asked.
“It’s a cold.”
“An eight month long cold?”
“No, he just keeps getting colds one on top of the other. Happens all the time in daycare in winter.”
“But it’s June!”
“The cold season seems to be lasting longer than usual. We’ve had a cool spring.”
“But there’s only four other kids at his dayhome and none of them are sick!”
“You can’t tell me that the other kids never get colds.”
“No, they get colds occasionally, but they get sick, with stuffy noses and coughs and fevers and then a week later they’re over it. Owl’s symptoms are non-stop, and his nose rarely gets really clogged. It’s just constantly draining clear or yellow snot.”
“Because he keeps catching new colds before the old ones are done! I see this all the time. There’s no point in doing tests and no medicine will help you. His lungs don’t sound asthmatic, and I don’t think it’s allergies – you say it happened all through the winter, so it’s not likely seasonal.”
“Some units in our complex have had problems with mold, but we vacuumed and washed his bedding…”
“Yeah, and he hasn’t had a history of lung problems or breathing problems. This doesn’t look like allergies. It looks like a cold.”
“But he always looks like this!”
“Yes, well,” he laughed, “we call them “snot-nosed kids” for a reason!”
He DID say he would refer me to an eye doctor about Owl’s clogged tear duct. He said they usually resolve on their own but after a year he gets them dealt with “you’ve been surprisingly patient.”
Yes, well, considering my child is constantly coughing, a teary eye hasn’t really been high in my priorities.
I left feeling so frustrated.
How does he know that Owl hasn’t had the same persistant infection ever since October? Maybe he fights it off for a while and it keeps coming back. Why is he the only kid in his daycare who is constantly coughing up phlegm?
But I’m really frigging tired and I don’t see why he is constantly suffering from colds that no one else seems to be giving to him, or catching from him.
Have you tried controlling his rhinitis (allergies) with Zyrtec or Allegra? That might help dry up the snot and keep it from moving into his lungs. Even if he’s not “sick” having a constantly runny nose is a sign that his immune system is running on high which is hard on any body.
We’ve tried Claritin and Aerius. It seemed to dry him up a bit, but the wet cough turned into a dry cough which seemed worse!
OK. First, I’m sorry about the pediatrician, although he’s right – to a point. Some kids are just “snot-nosed”. My niece had a runny nose & persistent cough for over a year while she caught every. damn. bug. going, and sometimes the other kids in the dayhome caught them and sometimes they didn’t. She’s 2.5 years old now and no longer snot-nosed. But for a while there, it was impossible to get a picture of her that didn’t have mucus in it.
However, your pediatrician could also be wrong. DS4 had horrible colds from the time he was six months old; he’d catch a cold, it would trigger coughing that would leave him gasping for breath. He’d have the horrible night coughing you describe. It would go on for MONTHS. Never a fever, but he sounded like a bubbling pot when he breathed, and coming from a family of asthmatics I knew there was something wrong.
My family doctor at the time was nearly impossible to get an appointment with, so I always ended up taking him to walk-in clinics or locums. And over and over again, I’d get a diagnosis of bronchitis & an antibiotic prescription. I asked several of them about asthma and was roundly poo-pooed.
Then came the fall of 2009, and the H1N1 outbreak. I had both my kids vaccinated but on day nine after the shot (takes 10 days for full protection) my husband and DD4 came down with it. And DD4 got… incredibly sick. On day 4 I took him to one of the many special clinics they had set up, where I got Tamiflu and sent for x-rays… that night he coughed until he literally turned blue and was wheezing horribly. Off to the ER we went, where we were lucky enough to be examined by a pediatric respirologist (sorry about the spelling). He listened carefully and said DD4 had asthma. He also told me that very young children almost never get bronchitis (!) and that all the diagnoses I’d had of that very thing were likely incorrect. We got two puffers for DD4 that night – steroids to heal the lung damage and a blue ‘rescue’ puffer – and he told me then that the chances were very good DD4 would grow out of it.
And he has! He still gets worse-than-average coughs with his colds, and we still keep the rescue puffer on hand and up to date just in case, but he is so much healthier than he was that first 18 months.
So! Long comment I know, but – get a second opinion. I knew all along that bronchitis didn’t sound right, that the antibiotics weren’t working, that no healthy child breathes like he’s underwater and has a runny nose for over a year. But so often parents’ concerns are dismissed. Don’t give up! It sounds to me like Owl has allergies and reactive lungs, so you’ll need to get an allergy test done if you can. Those tests are NO FUN but neither is a sick baby. Good luck.
I don’t even have kids but I agree with Hannah. Get a second opinion ASAP. Whether it be asthma, pneumonia or a dodgy immune system, or something else, something’s definitely not right. Good luck!
Ugh, what a horrible experience. It’s funny that your doctor kept prescribing antibiotics as a patch, whereas mine refuses to prescribe anything ever. I’ll see if I can get in with my family doctor. We take him usually to the walk in pediatrician because
a) it’s walk-in
b) he’s a pediatrician.
But I think it might be time to actually try and get an appointment with the family doctor.
I think the thing that is bugging me is that he doesn’t SEEM like a low immune system kid. He’s never had an ear infection, his “colds” if that is what they are, seem quite minor. He doesn’t get fevers. He doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who catches everything all the time. If these are separate “colds” they seem freaking minor. He’s happy, he’s running around, he can breathe through his nose. But that dang cough wont go away!
I would also get a second opinion. Nobody knows Owl better than you and PH, and your spidey sense is already telling you the Oompa Loompa may be off-track. When my Girly had RSV she sounded like a percolator. She was quite young, though, and her airways were tiny. It was skeery to listen to. You’ll probably all feel better if you have another set of eyes and ears check him out.
We just want someone to fix him so we can sleep!
I also suggest the second opinion. I don’t know if that’s difficult with your insurance. Owl’s health is not the only concern; it’s affecting your health, too.
For what it’s worth, I had almost constant ear infections as a child. They went away when I was in college, and then I started getting them as an adult. Sometimes I had a double infection in one ear and one in the other. Incredibly painful. Round after round of antibiotics. I also had a lot of sinus infections. One day I was in the Hampden Co-op because I’d heard about something called a neti pot, which was supposed to help with sinuses. I got into conversation with another customer (cute guy!) who mentioned that there’s a connection between dairy products and ear infections. I gave up drinking cow’s milk. No more ear infections since.
I got some bad news the other night and reacted to it by buying and eating an entire container of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. It’s two days later and I’m still feeling the effects. My voice is all crumbly sounding, my nose is draining, my lungs feel clogged, so do my sinuses, etc. I know from experience that I don’t have a cold, I’m reacting to having ingested a boatload of dairy.
I have no idea if Owl has a dairy sensitivity. I’m just saying that your oompa loompa may be too quick with his answers, or has a tendency to dismiss mothers’ concerns.
Okay, I’ll shut up now. Go to a different doctor, if you can. Yours might not be hearing you.
Interesting! I have a sensitivity to milk proteins but it always gave me digestive problems, not upper respiratory problems. He does love his cheese…
Thankfully insurance is not an issue for us. We’re Canadian, so health care is free and we can see any doctor we like.
Grace Goldragon said:
The Girl had a cough continuously all winter, and I was also told that it was just a continuous string of colds that she was catching from being in Preschool. And it turned out that it was, because it did finally let up. BUT, if you are not happy with this diagnosis, you should get a second opinion. Even if this doctor is right, what if he’s not? I would rather look like a paranoid Mom, than let something really wrong go on for any longer than it has to.
Yes, it COULD be just a string of really mild colds, but it’s certainly getting frustrating. I’ll see if he recovers this time and if he doesn’t, or the next time the cough acts up again, I’ll take him to the family doctor.
I’d be all over that second opinion. A lot of little ones I know have respiratory trouble — it’s extremely common these days and there are many causes – allergies, mold, pollution. And yeah, it could be a string of viruses – but if it’s not, why live with it? It’s just yucky for everyone involved.
Could you get a referral to a pediatric respirologist, maybe?