My six year old had an asthma attack on Thanksgiving eve.
It was his first severe exacerbation in months and, while it wasn’t without warning signs (he was suffering from an itty bitty respiratory infection), I was shocked to be hovering over him while he slept, listening intently for the tell tale whistle that means danger for asthma sufferers everywhere.
My oldest son, a former asthma sufferer, is 13 now and has been asthma free for four years. I had hoped that the quiet lungs of my 6 year old meant healthier lungs for him too. Lungs that would not be tortured by a season change, or a mild virus, but alas, we’ve not reached that point in our asthma adventure (fingers crossed we do eventually).
We have plenty of experience with the middle of the night asthma battle, but each time we go down this road it is scary, each time is stressful, and each time I learn a tiny bit more about living with a child who struggles to breathe.
5 Things My Son’s Last Asthma Attack Taught Me About Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Oxygen
1. I will never get used to seeing my child struggle. Never. Ever. Amen. I always thought that this stuff would be easier as they age. That my worry would diminish and my ability to manage an illness would eventually reach mom boss level so that I could whip through an asthma attack without batting an eye. I can not. 10+ asthma incidents under my belt and yet I still spend hours Googling “when to call the doctor”.
2 Rescue inhalers are working even if you have to use them repeatedly.* You freak because you have to do it (the word rescue is scary) and then two hours later you’re doing it again. And then, again. Seems excessive and a little over dose-ish, but after multiple discussions with my pediatrician it is also okay. If the medications are providing relief then they are also doing their job. Does that mean you can just go ahead and “rescue” your child repeatedly without medical consultation ot intervention? No. But if you call your doctor on Thanksgiving Day and have a long discussion with him about your long night, your child’s cough, and the effectiveness of the rescue inhaler to that point, he may give you his cell number and say to keep at it so that your baby doesn’t have to spend Thanksgiving Day away from his family. Also, side-note, find a doctor you love.
3. Kids can learn to be their own medical advocates. This has been the case with his food allergies (he never accepts food outside of home without asking and since he was 2 he’s been the master of saying, “Thank you for offering, but I have a peanut allergy so I have to pass”) and it is becoming the case with his asthma symptoms. He is able to detect and describe them much better than he was when he was younger. As you can note from the following conversation however, we just need to work on his alert system a teeny bit…
Dude 3: I hear the hum on the inside Mommy.
Me (clutching him intently): WHAT? YOU DO? ARE YOU SURE? WHEN DID YOU START HEARING IT? DOES ANYTHING HURT?
Dude 3: Yesterday at recess. I kinda like listening to it. But it feels bad now so you can make it go away.
4. Asthma medications expire. Like I knew that, but I think I forgot I knew that. Note from the wise-thanks-to-multiple-
5. I need a new asthma action plan. It’s something that needs to be discussed with your doctor frequently, in our case, as the seasons begin to change, so that everyone is on the same page in terms of response. I always feel out of sorts when these things happen and, while I know that’s quite normal, not having a definitive response process in place makes me anxious and
anxiety makes me poop, no one has time to poop during an asthma attack I don’t like to feel anxious.