Thursday, 29 March 2012

When your child can't breathe

"Try not to worry" said the initial assessment nurse at A & E "but your baby's really quite poorly". Then she took him down to resus, hooked him up to a monitor and put an oxygen mask over his face.

My normally happy little baby
My baby seems to have caught every virus going since last December and every time, the illness has left him wheezing and with a horrid night cough, which sometimes makes him throw up.

Each time, I've taken him to the GP in case the virus has morphed into a chest infection and each time, I was assured it was just a cough, there was nothing on his chest and it would get better in time. Except whenever he'd start to get better, he'd catch another virus and the cycle would start all over again.

Baby was last ill for about 4 days some time towards the end of February and the subsequent cough had been hanging around since then; so about 5 weeks. But in the very early hours of Wednesday morning, he suddenly deteriorated. His breathing became very noisy (lots of panting and grunting); the cough became vicious and wouldn't stop; and he was clearly in pain and started inconsolably crying.

I was freaked out and took him straight to A & E where I promptly freaked out again at hearing that my beautiful, precious baby boy was very poorly and needed help to breathe. In the space of a few seconds, my mind ran through a whole host of worst-case scenario images before my crisis-management head took over and I started to absorb what I was being told.

The consultant diagnosed baby with bronchiolitis and a viral wheeze but he was also concerned by some crackling he could hear on his lungs and that, combined with the information I gave him about the cough, prompted him to put forward a tentative diagnosis of asthma. It's not definite, as baby is too young for a firm diagnosis, it's more of a "there's some red flags here we need to keep an eye on" diagnosis.

I never knew this before (and really, I should because I have asthma that's brought on by hayfever and thunderstorms) but the 3 main symptoms of asthma are a cough, wheeziness and breathlessness. The nurse also explained, after witnessing an episode of coughing  that resulted in vomiting, that if a baby has a full tummy and is struggling to breathe, the fullness of their tummy presses against their lungs/rib cage making it harder for them to breathe so they throw up, which helps to relieve the pressure. I also found out that one of the triggers for asthma can be illness.

With the help of a course of steroids and 4 hourly doses of a reliever inhaler, baby was able to breathe normally and easily. His cough is significantly better and didn't bother him at all last night (the first time that's happened in 5 weeks) and, touch wood, has yet to make an appearance tonight.

We were discharged at lunchtime today with what feels like a handbag's worth of asthma-related medication and apparatus and baby is pink, perky and babbling away. Hurray!

Part of me is frustrated that asthma wasn't picked up as a possibility all those weeks ago, as if it had been, maybe we wouldn't have ended up in A & E. But I know the GP provided the best help and advice that he could whenever he saw us so it wouldn't be right or fair to say he did anything wrong.

I know we haven't been given a firm diagnosis but to me, it feels like things are making a bit more sense and we can now focus on getting baby back to full health. At the end of the day, that's what important and matters to me the most.

Oh, and I came back from hospital with a virus! Joy!

6 comments:

Laura - Chez Mummy said...

You should read From Fun to Mum's blog post about asthma and viral wheezes. Very informative (her little girl has asthma). So glad to hear baby is feeling better x

Katriina said...

What a relief that your little one is doing better. That must have been such a scary experience. Hope you are feeling better soon, too :)

Anoop Singh-Best said...

Knowing a diagnosis, albeit tentative, will make management easier. Sorry he's been ill but glad your stay in hospital was short lived x

Clara said...

Just to say, I've been really thinking about your dear little chap over the last week, and so hope he's feeling more and more OK each day. What a heart-stopping experience that was.
('Try not to worry' - honestly, as if that were even possible! I've lost count of the times that phrase has been used to me...)
XX

Actually Mummy said...

Oh I'm so sorry you're going through this. We had it with every cold - admission to hospital for nebulisers and oxygen - from 8 months until 2.5 years, when she was finally diagnosed with viral asthma and given a good steroid inhaler. She is 7 and she occasionally needs a reliever when she has a cold, but less and less as she gets older. It is so stressful at the time, but once you get some control over it it is totally manageable, and not as scary as allergic asthma. Do tweet me if you have any questions - I was so scared at the time.

mother.wife.me said...

Hello. Really sorry to read what you and your bub have been dealing with. I admire your generosity towards your GP. To my mind, this is exactly the sort of thing they should be able to spot! But I am feeling less than enamoured by GPs since becoming a mum! I hope it turns out not to be Asthma, but whatever it is, at least now your son should get the help and support he needs.

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