Colds and Asthma in Children

Updated on November 01, 2011
F.W. asks from Cumberland, MD
9 answers

For the mamas out there with children with asthma: My 3.5 year old daughter got a nebulizer a few months back during allergy season and given her family history an asthma diagnosis is not far away. She just got a cold (one that for me and a daycare child in the home was nasal congestion and a runny nose for 2 days then gone) and for my daughter it went straight to her chest with her coughing and gagging so badly I thought she would throw up. I gave her the nebulizer this morning and she sounds much better. What do you moms of children with asthma do differently when your child has a cold? She has a low grade fever 99.7 too--warrants tylenol or ibuprofen or let it go ? Thanks!

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So What Happened?

Thank you very much for your insights. My husband has asthma too so we're not flying completely blind. I will definitely keep up the treatments every 4 hours though. We waited and did not give her one before her nap because she sounded pretty good and she woke up 3 hours later and sounded horrible. The treatments and tylenol seem to be keeping her sounding pretty good. We will call the doctor about whether he wants to see her for this illness and about an official diagnosis. Thank you again!

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answers from Dover on

The new theory is that we should let a low grade fever go to do it's job which is fight infection. If it gets over that, like to 100 then give tylenol.

When my son got sick (and whenever he did get any kind of resperatory infection his asthma kicked up) we instantly started the breathing treatments to prevent difficulty breathing.

Is she just taking ventolin (or something like that for the asthma) or does she also have a steroid to put in her nebulizer?

If she doesn't have a steroid you might call the Dr. and request one, because it will hlp a lot with the inflamation in her lungs.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Grand Rapids on

I would get a consult with a pediatric pulmonologist. At 3.5 yrs she is probably old enough to get the asthma dx. My daughter got the dx @ 4yrs old. I did not really understand the severity of an asthma dx, especially considering her main trigger was a cold/virus. When she gets any kind of virus she goes from her "green" zone to her "yellow" zone and needs to up her preventative meds and if she gets into the "red" zone she goes to ER. Her symptoms are mainly under control, but she does need to take her preventative meds daily and still gets more serious chest infections with every cold, although it's been several years since she has had pneumonia, which used to be a several times a year event! The regular visits to the pulmonologist to minitor her breathing and lung condition and manage her medications has made a big difference. She is 19 now and in college doing very well. I still literally get a little panicky when someone around her gets a cold, because I know if she gets it, it will be a lot worse! My pediatrician and the pylmonologist agreed that the nebulizer was not as effective as the regular use of preventative meds as well as the use of a rescue inhaler during times of "crisis". They have a special tool called a spacer with a mask that you put over their nose and mouth and squirt the inhaler into making it easier for them to inhale the medication and it is much quicker and more effective and less stressful than the nebulizer. Also, it's much more portable and can be used anywhere. I guess the short answer is to have a management plan that is more proactive and preventative before she gets her cold, than reactive after she is already in crisis. Had I to do it over again, getting her pulmonologist on board much earlier, (her pediatrician did an ok job of manageing it before that but the pulmonologist did more definitive testing and management based on lung function), and I would have been more diligent re: her preventative meds and just would have taken her asthma more seriously. Would have saved a lot of visits to the ER and reduced the number of times she had to be on antibiotics and steroids. Good luck! It is a daunting thing, but if you understand what your dealing with, what her triggers are and have a management plan, it isn't as bad as it sounds! Also, remember if she gets an inhaler, she has a legal right to have it with her at all times and when she gets into school, does not have to leave it in the office or with the teacher. During an asthma attack, seconds count and needing someone to run and find her inhaler, wherever it is, can make the difference between life and death.

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answers from Honolulu on

I have had asthma since I was a child.

I have always had, Asthma inhalers and medication for maintenance. Taking it when needed.
Nebulizer or Pulmicort, for dire times or when sick.

You need to watch her closely.
Asthma... constricts the airways, because it gets inflamed. Then the person cannot breath and is basically, suffocating.
Asthma can lead to death.

You need to see a Pulmonologist.
Asthma doctor.

I had a cold once, and it developed into Pneumonia, as well as having Astham attacks.
This is dangerous.

When having a cold as well as Asthma, you have to treat it, per the illness. you need to take her to the Doctor.
Asthma attacks, can come on suddenly.

Any cold or illness, can really make Asthma worse.

Asthma itself, does not cause fever.
Her fever, is due to being sick. AND... it can also reflect, a secondary infection.
THUS even more so... you NEED to take her to the Doctor.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lafayette on

I always started using his rescue inhaler at the first signs of a cold. check with your dr of course, but it seemed to help keep things from getting to the go-to-the-hospital stage. GL!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

My son has mild-severe asthma with little to warning except spring & fall. My son could go to bed just fine and wake up with deep dark bags under his eyes, if not treated at this point the wheezing and shortness of breath. Not noticeable if you don't know condition. I would have to put my ear to his back and listen at the same time my hand on his chest to feel the shakes. This is the last symptom before full blown deep coughing continusly, exhaustion to the point of can barely keep eys open. Worst situation took tx 3x/day aand 2 1/2 weeks to normalize. Sent him to school the first day & stayed with him. After an hour of him coughing non-stop scooped him up, told the school he'd be back when better. I was more concerned about his health than calling in every day. Boy did they take it out on me after that! letters of excessive absences, threats to involve s.a.r.b (school accountability review board) with cps right behind. When he began 4th grade i walked with him right to office. Waited until bell rang & office much calmer. With principle present. I laid down in front of me last threat notice sent and simply said...You go right ahead and send me to sarb board, cause you will facing charges of endangering my childs health, safety and well being!! If he's sick i will call u 1x and will not provide dr.auth if I feel it's best to keep him home. After that things went much smoother. My son was diagnosed at 4 months old. Son began chocking on his own mucus sitting upright in car seat. ER immediately had me put him in chest tube and took xrays.

After that my husband and i slept in shifts on the couch with son on our chest so we could hear his breathing. By school age we had a routine, but guess what must have dx sign separate form for med to be kept there. Had no insurance at the time but plenty of medicine. The school only continued making it worse..,..I GAVE UP TRYING TO FOLLOW RULES AND TX SCHEDULE AT SAME TIME. BY 3RD GRADE I PUT HIS INHALER IN HIS BACKPACK AND SAID USE IT IF YOU NEED TO. iF IT DOENT HELP CALL ME & I COME GET YOU.

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answers from Boston on

Hang in there, mama! You're doing great!

First off, I have an asthmatic "child" (she's 29 now), another child with the rare to occasional asthma issue and have asthma myself. Let me tell you, it's a great deal more difficult to watch your child during an attack than to deal with one of your own.

My advice: for a 3.5 yo, definitely the nebulizer at the first sign of ANY issue. You can use it up to every 4 hours, I believe. Stay with that, even if you don't hear wheezing. The idea is to prevent it from getting worse, not just react once it's an issue. So, it's great that she used it this morning and it helped. If it's been more than four hours, do it again.

If she's not on any preventative medicine, talk with your doctor on Monday about starting something & keeping her on it through the winter. Most of these contain a steroid and are perfectly, totally safe -- much better for her developing brain than being deprived of oxygen because she can't breathe properly.

Keep in mind that the preventatives take upwards of a week or two to really help. Once you start on it, keep taking it -- even if there are no cold symptoms. Also, it's totally OK to use the "rescue" medicine (usually albuterol; brand name Ventolin) in the nebulizer (or an inhaler, when she's older) even if she's taking the preventative. There will be times when she needs both.

Stay away from most cough & cold medicines for an asthma cough. In my house, we find Sudafed helps with the typical cold symptoms while not making the asthma cough worse. Straight Robitussin also seems to help.

Steamy showers are bad. Cold outside air is good. Many nights I'd throw a comforter over my daughter and we'd go sit outside on the back steps, watching the stars and the airplanes.

DO NOT express any concern or anxiety to your daughter. Be sympathetic and understanding, but always project to her that everything is fine and you've got it under control & that the medicine will help. Nothing makes asthma worse like anxiety, and yours will breed more in her. Sing songs to her, be easy and calm (I remember times when i had to, as they say "fake it till you make it" to help my daughter relax -- but it worked).

Hang in there! You're doing the right things. Keep up with the nebulizer. Call her doctor on Monday & ask for a preventative if she doesn't have one. Consider a sick call if you think the nebulizer isn't helping enough.

Good luck!

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answers from Norfolk on

When mine has a cold or is really suffering from allergies we give her a nebulizer 2x a day (sometimes more if things are really bad) (budesonide), a prescription nasal spray, a singulair tablet, Zirtec, and we put a Vick's vaporizer in her room at night with Vick's vaposteam meds in it. That usually keeps her cough under control. Sometimes with a cold we don't need to do quite all that. We just add meds until her symptoms are under control. We don't give her all those meds every day. Actually we don't give her any meds unless she's having an issue (per her allergist). Hot chocolate or any hot drink helps loosen up the chest, keep away from dairy which I'm sure you already do, keep something minty/gingery on hand in case her stomach gets upset from swallowing so much mucous. California Baby makes a really nice bath soap/bubble bath that's great for colds.



answers from Washington DC on

I have 2 boys with asthma that's really only triggered by colds/viruses and or allergies in spring and fall. They would cough non-stop. Two pieces of advice for you that worked for me. 1.) Talk to her doctor about whether or not she needs to be on a maintenance medication (low-dose inhaled steroids). This helps with inflammation in the lungs, which is often the cause for the coughing in asthmatics. 2.) Start her on the nebulizer treatments as soon as she gets cold symtoms. Don't bother with over the counter cough syrups, which isn't recommended for her age anyway, but they definitely won't work if the cough is due to asthma. I used to wait to see if my boys really needed the nebulizer, but then realized the longer I waited to use it, the longer they coughed and the worse it got. Fortunately, my older son (8) seems to have out-grown his asthma and I pray that the same will happen with my youngest.
Also, 99.7 isn't a fever. No need for Tylenol/Motrin unless she's in pain or has body aches. Hope this helps.



answers from Washington DC on

I wanted to add my experience as it doesn't seem to be included below and may be another treatment route. My daughter is 2.75 years old. Last winter she got the typical colds but her runny nose went on forever after the cold - much longer than the other baby in our nanny share. This May she got a cold which turned into terrible coughing within 5 days. The Dr. prescribed the nebulizer with albuterol. We treated her 4x a day but she got worse and ended up in the pediatric ICU with viral pneumonia. No official diagnosis for asthma (which there is a family history of). A few weeks later she got another cold and started down the same path. This time they gave us a corticosteriod which we gave her with the albuterol. It worked like a charm. In subsequent follow-up visits to her asthma/allergy Dr and her regular Dr. we devised a treatment plan for subsequent colds. She now gets nasonex everyday to help with the runny nose. We will revisit this after the winter. When she gets a cold we immediately start her on the corticosteriod and give her the albuterol as needed. It does take a few days for the corticosteriod to get into the system so this approach will only work if the breathing problems start a few days into the cold. We continue the steriod for a couple of weeks beyond the appearance of recover.

Good luck!

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