One night in June of 2014, my 4 year-old daughter Mackenzie started to repeatedly cough in her sleep about every 1-2 minutes. She was breathing heavily, lethargic and had rosy cheeks. My intuition told me to keep a close watch on her, even though I really didn’t know what was going on. I gave her 2 puffs of an inhaler she was previously prescribed from a slight case of bronchitis.
A short time later, Mackenzie’s condition had not improved, so we decided to take her to the ER. The doctors explained that Mackenzie’s lungs were extremely constricted. After multiple breathing treatments, chest X-rays, and steroids administered through IV, her condition didn’t improve, so she was admitted to the hospital. At that point, so many thoughts rushed through my head:
- What is happening to Mackenzie and why?
- I am not leaving her side.
- When would she be better?
She improved enough after about 36 hours to be discharged. But we were still in the dark as to why this happened. After another trip to the ER in August and subsequent allergy testing, we discovered that Mackenzie’s asthma is a by-product of certain environmental triggers like horses, cats, dogs, hamsters and mold and being exposed to a cold/virus.
Asthma is a complicated disease that has many variations. Mackenzie’s asthma isn’t the type where she needs an inhaler when exercising. She needs treatment when a cold/virus affects her respiratory system and causes restricted airways. We wanted to make sure that her treatment plan would put us ahead of the asthma and allow us to avoid Mackenzie experiencing severe symptoms. The treatment plan we follow includes a combination of inhalers, allergy pills, peak flow meters and a nebulizer.
This all sounds very complicated (and it is!) but who knew that one of the hardest parts would be giving her medication. It was difficult to make her comfortable with accepting the medication, especially when it came time to use the nebulizer.
Parents know that making anything more “fun” for children usually results in better compliance, but how do you accomplish that with a nebulizer? Simple… “Bedazzle” it! A co-worker suggested having Mackenzie put stickers on the mask and machine, essentially turning it into a fun costume and toy! Within 5 minutes, she received the treatment with no fuss and was breathing better.
Wherever we go, she must have a rescue inhaler and medication on hand. We are careful if she goes to someone’s house that has pets. We may not be able to go to fairs or zoos that have animals like horses. We keep our own cat out of her room at all times and she cannot pet him (unfortunately). The doctor actually said it may harm her more in the long term if we found a new home for our family cat since having her exposed to those allergens builds up immunity.
It’s been a little less than a year since Mackenzie was diagnosed and we are still learning about asthma. It is so much to understand and learn in order to advocate for your child during such a scary time, but as a mom who has been through this, I encourage you to take an active role in managing your child’s disease. For successful, thorough, and ongoing treatment, build strong partnerships with the pediatrician and other health care providers, make your child aware and involved in the treatment, and take all precautions necessary to keep your kid healthy and happy!
This article is intended to contain general information and should not be considered a substitute for, and does not provide, medical advice. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical health or the health of your children, please seek assistance from a qualified healthcare provider. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and may not reflect those of Johnson & Johnson.
Pam resides in Hopatcong, NJ with her husband, Iain, and 2 daughters, Mackenzie (4 ½-years old) and Reece (2-years old). She is a Senior Analyst at Johnson & Johnson Health Care Systems Inc. working in the Government Channel and began her career with J&J 11 years ago. Pam holds a Bachelor of Science degree from William Paterson University. She enjoys spending time with her family & friends and also likes to play softball in her spare time.