It’s that time of year when Mother Nature is prone to mood swings, kids are going back to school and sharing germs, and pollen/mold make another appearance.
At our house, that means it’s Pink Dinosaur Season.
Every time he’s been around a sick person, L catches their cold. That cold, which is pretty annoying for relatively healthy kids like G, always turns into bronchiolitis for L. He wheezes, he can’t take a deep breath, and his oxygen levels go down. Since L was a preemie and has hypotonia, it makes sense to me that he has trouble breathing when he’s sick. But it’s awful seeing your child struggle just the same.
Two summers ago, the pediatrician gave us a prescription for Albuterol and a nebulizer so we could give L breathing treatments when he started wheezing. But we continued to find ourselves at the doctor or ER because these treatments weren’t started until after L’s wheezing began. He’d go to bed with a simple runny nose and wake up early in the morning crying because he couldn’t breathe.
This was the start of our Pink Dinosaur Seasons.
Why pink dinosaurs? Well, every time L has had a neb treatment, whether it’s been at the pediatrician’s or ER, he breathes through a little dinosaur face mask with pink horns. Even ambulances are equipped with these little pink dino heads. Every time L uses one, we’ve been given the option to keep it. And we do. Since he was bout 9 months old, L has been averaging 1-2 ER visits and about as many doctor visits a year for bronchiolitis. That’s quite a few dino masks!
We amassed most of our collection back in December when a cold turned into bronchiolitis. Despite giving him neb treatments at the time, he got worse. I convinced the pediatrician to let me bring him in (they insisted I go to the ER, but every time we’d done that ER told us we could have just gone to the pediatrician). They gave him a neb treatment (1 dino) before calling an ambulance to have L taken to the ER (his oxygen level wouldn’t stabilize after a treatment). The ER at the first hospital we went to gave him several treatments (another dino). The ENTs in the second ambulance giving us a ride to a second hospital gave L a treatment (dino #3). And L got more treatments when he was admitted (dino #4).
When his allergist found out about the hospital visit, he put L on a breathing treatment for the cooler months: a steroid taken once a day; twice if L developed a runny nose. And if L developed a cold during the warmer months? Well, we just needed to put him on the breathing treatment twice a day for about a week. The idea was to prevent L from developing wheezing/bronchiolitis.
I’ll admit, I didn’t like the thought of putting L on a daily steroid. I still don’t. But I saw how well the treatment worked during a summer cold a few months ago when I noticed that L’s nose was running. The rest of us were passing around a cold, so we broke out the nebulizer, dinosaur masks, and steroid. What would have turned into something more serious didn’t turn into anything much more than a runny nose. There were no ER trips or doctor visits. So, treatment works.
I brought up starting the treatment again with the allergist when L had his tree nut challenge. The allergist told me to start it mid-October and end it late April/early May. Cool.
The weekend before school started in September, L’s nose was stuffy and he began saying his ear hurt (being able to tell us what’s wrong is an awesome milestone!). He had an ENT appointment in a few days, so since he didn’t have a fever, we didn’t think much of it. The ENT figured it was allergies since ragweed levels were up and L’s ears weren’t infected. Since that’s one of the things that came up positive at L’s scratch test at the allergist we decided to give L allergy medicine.
But a week later, the allergy medicine wasn’t doing much and L began breathing hard after running around. I could hear him wheezing a little bit when he sat on my lap. Mr Boots said he couldn’t hear it, but I started the steroid and Albuterol for the wheezing I heard. I called the pediatrician to have him checked out, but they couldn’t see him for another day. The nurse seemed unsure that I could wait that long with a wheezing child, but I assured her I would run straight to the ER if he got worse. Luckily, I felt pretty confident that we were staying on top of things since we were giving L both the Albuterol and steroid. I was right, and we were able to stay out of the ER.
The doctor didn’t say L had bronchiolitis, but she told us to keep doing what we were doing: Albuterol every 4 hours and the steroid twice a day. This is the treatment plan we’ve been given in the past. We had two follow up visits on his breathing, and now L is just on the steroid once a day. The doctor suggested starting the steroid at the start of September and through May. You know, school months. This suggestion was also made in a group I’m in for parents of kids with hypotonia, so I think I’m going to follow this advice next year.
So our Pink Dinosaur Season is starting a little earlier than I anticipated. Or hoped. This will be our first full season doing the steroid treatment, and with the proof I’ve seen that this treatment helps, I am remaining hopeful we’ll avoid the ER this winter and spring. I’m also hopeful it means I can relax a little bit when L is playing with people who have runny noses.
Has your child ever been on a breathing treatment? Did you notice an improvement?