Looking for Personal Experience with Reactive Airway Disease...

Updated on February 20, 2013
M.P. asks from De Pere, WI
12 answers

My son (2.5) has had the diagnosis of "reactive airway disease" thrown around the past year. It seems every time he gets a cold, his breathing becomes more labored (more than a normal person with a cold), wheezing, coughing, etc. The doctor says he is too young for an asthma diagnosis, but that this RAD is very similar and is used until he can actually perform the asthma diagnosing tests. He has never had an asthma "attack". It really has just been showing up when he gets a cold - which seems to be quite often lately!

Talking to my chiropractor, she threw out the idea that it might be a food allergy/sensitivity. She recommended cutting out dairy for a few weeks and seeing if that makes a difference in the number of colds he gets, the breathing symptoms, etc. I haven't taken him specifically to her to be evaluated "in a different light" but that is an option.

I have looked at a few different articles online about RAD and the connection between a dairy sensitivity and RAD. It might be something we explore.

I am just wondering if anyone else out there has personal experience with RAD. Like I said, I have done my own internet searches for information, I am looking for your own personal experiences. Thank you!

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answers from New York on

My daughter was diagnosed with RAD/asthma when she was three. She was hospitalized. That was 30 years ago. Treatments are much different now.
She did not have any allergies. Change of seasons is always a trigger, as are colds. Sept to Oct is the pits. She eventually outgrew it. I assume he gets nebulizer treatments. Spring will be here soon. Hang in Mama.

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answers from Chicago on

My 24-year-old was diagnosed with RAD at about age 2. We struggled with it for years, and it was especially bad in the winter, when the house was all closed up. She did have allergy testing at about age 10 (not sure why we waited so long) and one of the things she was most allergic to was evergreen.... and we always had a real Christmas tree. No wonder she was always sick around Christmas! She also is allergic to dust and something in dying houseplants -- so we got rid of them all. And all her stuffed animals.... gone. That was a tough one.

She has never had an asthma attack and was never diagnosed with it.

Anyhow, I would urge you to do allergy testing when your doctor thinks it's practical. It would have helped us to know her allergies earlier. She still gets wheezy when she gets a cold, and she will get an inhaler for it from her doctor. It seems like we lived on inhalers (steroidal and non) when she was younger. People were quick to criticize us for the steroid inhalers, but the alternative was not breathing, so we figured they could stick it. Be very careful with alternative medicine. Sometimes kids do need steroids to breathe.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My son has RAD (diagnosed slightly before he turned 2.5; official asthma diagnosis given when he turned five last year) and he also has a pretty severe dairy allergy. I don't know that they are related or if it's a coincidence, but he does have both.

The dairy allergy came to light when he was 9 months old and ate yogurt for the first time.

The RAD came along with a common cold (cough, stuffy nose) when he was two. He had horrible wheezing one night that required an ER visit and then we were given a nebulizer to use at home. During the winter months, we used the nebulizer 1-2 times per day with a preventative medicine (pulmicort) and with a rescue medicine (albuterol) as needed (usually did need it if he got sick). Now that he's 5.5, we use an inhaler for both the preventative (Q-var) and the rescue (still albuterol).

He has never intentionally had a single drop of dairy since he was 9 months old (a few accidental exposures) and still got the RAD diagnosis about 1.5 years after the dairy allergy diagnosis. So I don't really think cutting out dairy is going to cure your son of RAD, since my son has no dairy in his diet and still has RAD.

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answers from Las Vegas on

Yes, my son was diagnosed with RAD when he was under 2. He is 8 now and carries a diagnosis of asthma, which is now well-controlled. He had the same breathing problems as your son up until age 6.5 or so.

We are loaded with food and environmental allergies in my family, myself included, so I knew this was a possibility for him. As it turned out, the allergist did food testing earlier than usual with him because he was having so many problems. At the time, he was allergic to all dairy, soy, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and other more rare food allergies as well as cats and dogs.

Not having dairy in his diet didn't result in anything different in terms of reducing the symptoms whenever he had a cold (labored breathing, intense and prolonged coughing, wheezing). Every fall, he was on the nebulizer from late Sept. or early Oct until summer basically. Once he hit age 7, that seemed to lessen, and for the past two winter seasons (this one and last), he has not had to be on the nebulizer continuously. I don't even think we used it this year, and he has a cold now.

He outgrew most of his food allergies except tree nuts and sesame and the environmental allergies. He still has a very strong reaction to tree nuts and ended up in the pediatric ER last year with an anaphylactic reaction. Very scary.

You're right that there are connections between RAD, asthma, and food allergies. There are also connections between these and GERD and some autoimmune disorders. However, each individual's specific connection varies; not all patients will have all of these diseases or disorders. It takes time, a great diagnostic specialist, and monitoring to find out what the particular triggers and disorders are for each patient.

I'm not against natural approaches, and it certainly won't hurt your son to eliminate dairy from his diet to see if it helps, but with things like asthma and allergies, it can be very dangerous and life-threatening if breathing and systemic symptoms are not addressed quickly by standard medically accepted approaches.

For my family, it's just not something I'd take a risk on, so I found the best allergist in our area, and despite some challenging times with the allergies and asthma, it was the best decision for us. The allergist helped us (my son and I are both patients) and improved my son's safety and our quality of life tremendously. I don't think you can go wrong by insisting on your son seeing a specialist in this case.

Best to you and your family.

J. F.

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answers from Boston on

RAD can be a pre-diagnosis to asthma. This is a disposition to breathing difficulties, which can lead to colds, bronchitis, etc. One does not need an "attack" to be experiencing labored breathing. Once a person has breathing difficulties, different things can trigger an episode. Triggers may be food oriented, smoke, change in weather or humidity, dust mites, or allergies to dust, etc. It might help to begin a journal of episodes and what he ate, places he went and times of day. My allergist found this helpful to decide my course of treatment. All my best for you and your son.

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answers from Honolulu on

You need to see, a Pulmonologist.
Not only the Pediatrician.
You need to see, a proper specialist who is a Pulmonologist.

I have Asthma. Since childhood.
What affects or triggers one Asthmatic, will not for another.
It is NOT... a one sized shoe fits all, kind of thing. NOR per diagnosis.

Do not go according to a Chiropractor.
They are not Pulmonologists.

Again, I have Asthma. I... can have and eat dairy. I am not allergic or sensitive to it. Never have been. It does not, affect my Asthma. At. All.

Again, Asthma is not a one sized shoe fits all type thing.
You NEED to see a Pulmonologist.

What if I told you, what affects and triggers *MY* Asthma????
Does that mean, that that is what triggers and affects your.... child?
Every Asthmatic or breathing difficulty episode... has different, triggers and degrees of acuteness and it can vary everyday. Per many.... factors. And, many different things at one time, can be affecting it OR, triggering it. For example: it can be very cold or hot outside, plus many cold viruses going around town, plus a high level of smog or poor air quality on any given day, plus high winds and pollen being blown around. Just in 1 single day.
So therefore, it is very.... hard, to ISOLATE, just only 1 thing, that is causing an Asthmatic lung/breathing duress.
And even for me... it is often MORE than one thing. BUT... by now, at my age and being an Adult... I know, very intimately... what exactly... affects and/or triggers... my, Asthma.

But, a good thing to have, in the house, is an air filter/purifier. Especially for his room.
And I hope your child has medications for his condition.

Per the symptoms your child gets... you said he has never had an "attack." Well, to me, if that were me experiencing that, I would be on my Asthma meds and take myself to the Doctor, because... that can be or is, a precursor, to an actual "attack."
Per my Asthma, "attacks" cannot.... be... predicted.
Once an attack occurs, the person cannot, breathe.
ie: asphyxiation. ie: emergency situation.

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answers from Miami on

My son had RAD, M.. He had to take albuterol and some steroids as well. I remember him throwing up bottles full of mucus. I remember, too, that the steroids really affected his personality.

The doctor told me (and I appreciated this) that RAD is a precurser to asthma, but not every child ends up getting asthma. He was right in regards to my child. He never did end up with asthma. I will tell you that any time he got croup, we had to get him breathing treatments. The last time he got croup and had to use a nebulizer, he was 7 years old.

The best thing you can do is be vigilent in getting him the help he needs for his breathing. And then wait it out. Hopefully it will turn out for you like it did for us, her growing out of it.

There is nothing wrong with you trying what your chiropractor is mentioning, but truthfully, I doubt that will help. Just make VERY sure your son is getting as much calcium as he is supposed to get (don't just assume that he is.)

Good luck,

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answers from Minneapolis on

My son had this and was later diagnosed as having allergy/cold induced asthma. We also had him tested to see what he was allergic to so we could eliminate those things. It was a lot worse when he was younger. Every time he would get a cold it was a horrible cough and he'd stay home a lot. Now he's 8 years old and colds are usually just cold. His asthma doesn't act up much unless it's a bad cold or in the spring when the birch tree in our neighbor's yard blooms. He has an inhaler he uses when needed. I never thought he would outgrow it but he has for the most part.

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answers from Portland on

My granddaughter was diagnosed with asthma as a baby. It started with difficulty breathing with a cold. She had to suck so hard to get air that there were indentations between her ribs. So I don't understand why your child is too young for an asthma diagnosis. My granddaughter is now 12 and has asthma as well as some allergies. She was diagnosed with an allergy to milk protein as well as peanuts, eggs and pollen around the same time she was diagnosed with asthma around a year old. She also had eczema, diagnosed when just a few months old.

Perhaps RAD is a new way of looking at this condition that wasn't available 11 years ago. Is the treatment any different?



answers from Minneapolis on

I have one son who had RSV at 4 months and ended up with RAD and one son who was diagnosed with asthma at age 2. The one with RAD is now 13 and sometimes still has to use albuterol when he gets a bad cold or virus, but never ended up with asthma and has mostly outgrown the RAD. He's never had a problem with allergies or dairy. My 16-year-old has cough-variant asthma that is generally very well controlled, but this was a tough winter. I'm not sure your son is really too young for an asthma diagnosis; it's more likely that he doesn't yet meet the criteria. It could go either way. He could outgrow (don't know if that's the proper term) the RAD or he could end up with an asthma diagnosis. People with RAD and/or asthma often do have allergies, but having RAD doesn't mean he necessarily has allergies. I second the suggestion to see a pediatric pulmonologist to address your questions. See a pediatric allergy doctor if you have a family history or concerns about that. My 16-year-old sees both and it has made a world of difference in his health. Although he was diagnosed with asthma at 2 we were not referred to the pulmonologist until he was 4. It was only after we started seeing the specialist that we got his asthma under control.



answers from Washington DC on

RAD can be a pre-diagnosis to asthma, but it doesn't always end up that way. My daughter was also diagnosed with RAD at age 2. Every time she got a cold she ended up with labored breathing. In the beginning, when you are first figuring this all out, watching your baby struggle to breathe is terrifying! We tried to do a preventative nebulizer every day (I think it was with pulmocort?) but my daughter couldn't stand it and I didn't push it. We used albuterol whenever she had an "episode", as we began to call them. At first, she had about 5-6 episodes a year. Gradually, around age 8, they became less and less frequent. Now she's 11 and has pretty much out grown all of it. I can't remember the last time I had to get the nebulizer out of the closet (2 years maybe?) So you might be able to take a "wait and see" approach before consulting a specialist. Obviously do what works for you. Hopefully he'll outgrow it too!



answers from Chicago on

You could try to see if it helps but due to other allergies in the family I had my daughter allergy tested and everything came back negative. She had RSV at 9 months and RAD since then. We put her on a nebulizer steroid during flu season (October - March/April) and albuterol as needed. She is 3 now and this year has been a little easier and she didn't need the albuterol except for two or three times during one illness. I'm hoping she grows out of it!

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