Does This Sound like Allergies/asthma?

Updated on May 13, 2010
K.H. asks from Mankato, MN
15 answers

About a month and a half ago, my almost-three-year-old son had a day where he wheezed and coughed all day. At first I thought it was just a cold, but it got worse so I ended up taking him in to Urgent Care. They said whether it was a virus or allergies/asthma, they would treat it the same, so they gave us a nebulizer and albuterol and said to make a follow-up appt with his regular doctor. I LOVE his regular doctor and appreciate that he's a "minimal medication, wait-and-see" kind of guy, but that also drives me nuts sometimes because I feel like there are times that we've waited-to-see long enough! Anyway, we did the follow up appt, but of course, by then my son was back to normal, breathing well, no coughing etc. His dr. said he suspects it's asthma, and switched him to pulmicort once a day by nebulizer. Within two days of switching to the pulmicort, my son started coughing and wheezing again, so we used the albuterol once a day for a few days. Since then (about a month) we've been using the pulmicort once a day at bedtime and things have been good. (I should add that even before the initial visit that brought us to Urgent Care, my son coughed pretty much all the time. Nothing bad, but just coughed a lot, especially at night. Didn't seem to bother him, and we were just used to it. Now that he's been on pulmicort, he doesn't cough like that except for these few day long "attacks".)

On Saturday, he got a little runny nose and was sneezing a little, and by Sunday he was coughing and sneezing a little more. By Monday afternoon he was coughing like crazy, wheezing, and was up most of the night. (We did do the albuterol before bed on Monday night.) Tuesday morning: coughing horribly (so much so that he broke a ton a blood vessels in his face--they look like freckles!), wheezing, and was miserable and whiney. Tuesday afternoon, the coughing suddenly subsided and he's almost back to normal now. He has a little bit of wheezing and coughing if he runs or laughs, but really it's like someone flipped a switch. The thing with all of this is that it seems like a little cold, so I hesitate to take him to the dr., and by the time I think we probably should get him to the dr, things are subsiding.

So, I guess I'm looking for similar experiences. Does this sound like allergies/asthma or a cold? If you have a little one in the same situation, how do you treat it? I plan to call his dr. this morning, but thoughts from other moms is always helpful! Thanks!

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So What Happened?

Thank you so much! I really appreciate everyone's thoughts and taking the time to share experiences. I talked with his dr. on the phone today. He agreed with what you all said: clearly my son has asthma, and that is probably being aggravated by some allergies too. He also said that he very well could be getting minor colds, but they trigger his asthma so a minor cold to him isn't so minor. He also said that we should do the pulmicort twice a day for a while. We got a referral to an allergist, so we'll find out what is happening and go from there!

I didn't mention in my first post that he and his twin sister were a bit premature (35 weeks), and he has always been the one that gets sick more easily, more ear infections, etc. He had eczema pretty bad as an infant too(head to toe). They told us then that he may be more prone to allergies and asthma, since most kids with eczema develop those as well.

More Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

It does sound like asthma. A few thoughts:
*read up on asthma; there are lots of books and websites for parents of children with asthma
*get an allergy/asthma doctor to treat your son, rather than his regular doctor
*find out if he has allergies, which could be triggering his attacks, and get him on allergy meds daily

Hang in there! It's a big mind switch when you find out your kid has asthma because all of a sudden coughs are a really big deal. There is also a fair amount of pressure on the mom, because YOU have to react to his symptoms quickly, and in the right way with the right meds. It took me a while to get used to that.

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answers from Columbus on

Sounds like he has athsma and the cold has made him flare. Our daughter had that problem, any little cold became a big deal and she whould weeze and cough and she needed to have her athsma treament upped to meet this need, even though most of her asthma was cause by allegies, a cold made her athsma much worse. Go to the doctor every time you question until you have a handle on how these things will affect him. You don't want to get to the point where you are dealing with a secondary infection too, that is very difficult for kids with asthma.


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answers from Los Angeles on

It sounds like he probably has what my doctor called "reactive airway disease." It is basically a precursor to asthma and it means that, if your son gets sick or has irritants in his throat, it will cause him to react by wheezing and displaying asthma-like symptoms.

My son (who turns three this month) had a similar incident last September. We were given a nebulizer and told to do Pulmicort daily all through flu season. They also said that, at the first sign of a cold, to increase the Pulmicort to twice daily and at the first sign of wheezing, to add in an albuterol treatment.

We followed the plan and had a pretty healthy flu season without other major problems (the first time he ended up in the ER with pneumonia).

I think the key was the double dose of Pulmicort at the first sign of any illness/cough/reaction. Feel free to send me a private message if you have any other questions (I probably won't remember to check the thread again).




answers from Minneapolis on

Yes, it sounds like reactive airways, asthma and/or allergies. I have one son with asthma and allergies and one son with a history of reactive airways, although he's gotten better. As much as you love your regular doctor, and he's started you on the right track, I highly recommend that you see a pediatric pulmonologist. It made a huge difference for us. Also, try not to panic because there can be a lot of scary and misleading information on line, but try to educate yourself about changes you can make at home re: pets, laundering bedding, humidity levels, cleaning methods, etc. Sometimes little changes can make a big difference. One resource I used (and I don't know if it exists anymore) is an organization called "Mothers of Asthmatics." (Or maybe they've changed the name to be a little more p.c.). (-: FYI, when your child is having a flare-up, you can give the neb treatments every four hours. I've even done them while my child is sleeping/resting using a pediatric mask or a dixie cup with a little hole punched in the bottom. I've done the nebs as often as every two hours, although that is recommended only with medical permission and for a very limited duration (1/2 day to one day). Good luck.



answers from Houston on

Would love to talk to you on what I have done for my family.



answers from San Antonio on

I think you should take him to an allergist and get a full blood work allergy test done on him.



answers from Green Bay on

It sounds very much like asthma to me. My almost 4 year old suffered from similar symptoms. She got a really runny and would cough at night. If she would chug on a drink she would start coughing too. She also had problems with waking up about an hour after she would fall asleep. If you want a sure answer stop meds and have your doctor run tests while he has symptoms. However, pulmicort is one of the better treatments for asthma at his age. When he is 4, if he is still having problems on the pulmicort, see if your doctor will try advair. It works wonders with my daughter. I found webmd to be a good resource when we were trying to get my daughter diagnosed. Good luck to you and your son.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I agree with Berta: get him tested for allergies. My 4 year old went through a similar situation and we found out that she was highly allergic to dogs, cats, and dust mites. She was treated for allergies and asthma (Allegra and Flovent) for almost 2 years. Our dog was ill and we had to put him down, and about 6 weeks later, under the advice of her allergist, we took her off both meds and she has been fine. Apparently her allergies would trigger an asthma attack which would take us right to the ER. She still occaisionally needs a puff of Albuterol, but is otherwise free from coughs and wheezing. I was extremely pleased to have her off of these medications~ the side effects concerned me greatly. Best of luck to you and your son, L.



answers from Tulsa on

If you choose to give him Benadryl give the absolute minimal dose. I use children's Benadryl and even a childrens dose can dry me up so bad I am on the nebulizer for a week just trying to get rid of the dried up mucus.

We chose to give the kids Xophenex instead of Albuterol because the side effects of Albterol are so bothersome to me. They don't have shakes or agitation with Xophenex and I have used it myself and found it works pretty much the same, it feels differently in my lungs but I can just really feel where it is in my lungs where the Albuterol is like breathing nothing. But I shake for at least a half hour after using the Albuterol. I can't sleep after using it for at least a couple of hours either.

Just a point of information:
XopheneX expires within 2 weeks of breaking the seal on the foil package and it must be kept in the foil pack so it is out of sunlight. It is much more expensive than Albuterol. I get my vials of albuterol for the nebulizer for me $4.00 at Wal-Mart, the Xophenex for the kids is over $100. We have a portable Nebulizer that is made by Pari. I love it, I can charge the battery with a cigarette lighter cord and I can also plug it in to a regular socket with a different cord. The battery is Ion Lythium and lasts for a long time. It is light weight, weighs much less than my purse...LOL.

Go to a breathing specialist. They can decide if the expense of allergy testing is needed. Kids bodies are still developing until they are in elementary school and their allergies will come and go as their systems develop. You don't really need to know specifics at this point unless you have numerous pets that are causing the reaction. Any allergy medication will treat any allergy the same. Allergy testing would be something I would put off until the kids are older. Does he have allergies? Yes! What are you going to do? Give him Benadryl...for any allergy. You can get a couple boxed of the Benadryl poppers that are a sinlge dose. I carry them at all time in my purse.



answers from Denver on

Try some children's benadryl on him the next time he has one of these attacks start. See if it mostly clears up in an hour. If so, he's suffering from allergies. Treating those might reduce the need to treat the eventual asthma attacks resulting from them.



answers from Omaha on

I have 5 kids, two of them have asthma diagnosis. This definitely sounds like allergy related asthma. My daughter doesn't have clear normal symptoms of asthma. She will get a cough, it's a certain cough that I've learned to distinguish. Her inhaler usually takes care of it. She's also on a low dose steriod daily inhaler. Her allergy doctor said she should outgrow this by the time she's 11. I certainly hope so.

Honestly, the way you describe your son, he sounds that it can get pretty severe. I highly recommend that you get him to an allergy doctor so you can learn his asthma triggers. Also, a pediatric allergy doctor will know the best form of treatment. Possibly your son needs to be on Allegra or Zyrtec daily. Singular worked well for my 11 yr old, but I'm not sure if it's been approved for 3 yr olds.

Good luck! It's not easy!


answers from Rochester on

We have a nebulizer because last year both of our boys (at the time they were just over 2 years old and 6 months old) had RSV. The cases that season were bad and landing babies in the hospital, so our pediatrician was pretty aggressive, especially with the little guy. Our younger boy ended up with ongoing wheezing, horrible coughing fits, coughing up tons of sticky mucus, and I basically had to stay home and nurse constantly. We were referred to Pediatric Pulmonology, where they diagnosed childhood asthma. I think there is always a difference in diagnoses and communication because even now my pediatrician (whom I also adore) will simply say that our child has a tendency to wheeze, especially if gets sick, but we continue to follow-up quarterly with the pulmonary. We do maintenance treatments with an inhaler/spacer (he is now 21 months old) or the nebulizer, depending on which he will cooperate with better, and just add in albuterol in addition to pulmecort if he is actively wheezing. Some of it could be seasonal or environmental. Last year (in the diagnosing stage) they had a chest x-ray done for our little guy so they could make sure it was not pneumonia or anything, and looking at that helped the pulmonologist. My 3 1/2 year old seems to now have a tendency to get croup, but we treat him with the nebulizer, steamy showers (just hanging out in the bathroom "drawing" on the mirror, not in shower), etc. Whatever the actual condition (asthma, allergies, etc.) your treatments will probably be the same, but you might ask for a referral if this is an ongoing problem.

For now, try some environment adjustment--check his room for moisture/mold, if you have a lot of pollen, keep windows closed in his bedroom, etc. A lot of children grow out of this sort of thing and it just gets worse when they're sick. I also find my kids sometimes sleep better with the head of their beds raised, even if they don't have a cold. You can use a slight wedge under his mattress or get short risers for the front of the bed frame at night.



answers from Minneapolis on

I have a number of friends whose children have had horrible asthma/allergies and have found that simply taking the toxins out of their home cleaning and personal care products has gotten their kids off of their medications and inhalers. (It's amazing what's in the products we have around our house!) I have a home business referring people to a better, safer product line from an Inc 500 manufacturing company that has been life-changing for many people. I don't know if it would work for you or not, but I'd love to share the information. It's definitely worth a try! Feel free to contact me at or check out my website and click on the top tab "Eco-friendly shopping"


answers from Dallas on

It does sound like it could be asthma, which can be brought on by a cold or inhalants or even exercise. Allergies are about low immunity and you can fend off or lesser the attacks by boosting the immune system. I am a Shaklee Independent Distributor and have natural antihistamines and vitamins to act as immune boosters. Contact me if that interests you.

Children can outgrow asthma. Night coughing can mean allergies/asthma or just a sinus drip. That the wheezing came after a cold could point to asthma, but not necessarily. Notice whether your son coughs when you are cleaning the house, during spring pollen time, or when running, etc.... You may be able to pinpoint and avoid to some degree. I also have non-toxic cleaners. If you haven't switched I'd say this is a good time.

Let me know if I can help.

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