A Story of Childhood Asthma – When Diagnosis is a Mystery

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics more than 23 million Americans suffer from asthma with more than a quarter of those being children younger than 18 years old. My son is among those numbers and this month I’m sharing his story for the first time.  The first few years were rough but we’ve learned to cope with his diagnosis. This is not meant to serve as medical advice — it is simply what worked for us. As always, if you have medical questions, please visit your doctor. To read the full story, start here.


A Story of Childhood Asthma

A Dramatic Birth

Richard entered this world in one of the most dramatic ways possible — after a full placental abruption where both of us nearly lost our lives. While it took me months and months to recover physically and get over the emotionally trauma of the situation, he seemed to bounce back quickly.

He had some trouble breathing at first, which we all blamed on the fact that he had inhaled so much blood during his birth, and had a short stay in the NICU,  but he ultimately went home with us and we assumed everything was fine.

Early Warning Signs of Asthma

My oldest son had been healthy so we expected the same thing with our second but Richard caught every cold that came within 5 miles of him and had a few run ins with RSV so we spent his first few years in and out of the pediatrician’s office. Still, we assumed he was just a normal kid prone to get sick a lot.

In his second year, we realized something wasn’t right. He wasn’t hitting developmental milestones and an early intervention specialist diagnosed him as likely to be autistic. We later learned that it was more likely Aspergers syndrome but I had no idea what a huge role this would play in his medical life.

Since he had often been sick, we didn’t think much of it when he woke up one night and threw up. Just another bug we thought. The next day he was fine so we assumed it was something quick.

Then he threw up again the next night.

In the morning, same thing, he woke up and was fine. As a parent, you learn that sometimes kids just do strange things. You deal with it and moved on. When I realized that he’d thrown up every night for a week I took him back into the pediatrician’s office. After a thorough checkup he told me it was likely a bug and sent us home.

A month later, Richard was still throwing up every night and I realized that this was not just a simple bug that we could wait out. He had begun loosing weight and with his sensory issues related to Aspergers began to get a phobia of throwing up so he didn’t want to eat during the day. I had no choice but to go back to the pediatrician’s office and hope he could give me a solution.

A Baffled Pediatrician

The pediatrician was at a loss but still insisted it was probably a bug. He thought there was a chance we could be dealing with acid reflux so he prescribed a prescription antacid for us to try and sent us on our way. I was relieved. We had an answer of sorts. At this point none of us had been sleeping well . . . our nightly routine of cleaning up a vomit covered bed and bathing a screaming toddler wasn’t conducive to sleep. I was work out, physically and emotionally. I needed this to be an answer.

For a few days it seemed like the acid reflux meds may work. We had a few wonderful nights where all of us could catch up on some sleep. Then he began throwing up again, like clockwork, every night after midnight.

With no other options, I went back to the pediatrician. He was still convinced it was acid reflux and upped the dose of the medication.

Again, we had a few days of relief and then were were back to nightly episodes of vomiting. At this point things had been dragging on for months. My formerly active little boy was now lethargic and losing weight. The doctor had no answers and I started assuming the worst.

I went into the pediatrician’s office determined not to leave without making some progress.

The weight loss finally convinced the pediatrician that it was time to act so he sent us to a pediatric gastroenterologist. His reasoning was that since he was throwing up every single night that it was probably a digestive issue. He suspected that, if nothing else, the months of vomiting had likely burned away part of his esophagus and may need to be repaired.

I left the office frustrated that I still hadn’t found any relief for my son but with a referral in hand and hopeful that we were on the right path.

A Story of Childhood Asthma – Read the Entire Series

A Story of Childhood Asthma – When Diagnosis is a Mystery (Part 1)

A Story of Childhood Asthma – A Diagnostic Swing and a Miss (Part 2)

A Story of Childhood Asthma – Finally Some Answers (Part 3)




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    talliana says

    My son was diagnosed just after his first pediatric visit so we have been dealing with asthma for about ten years now. He was also sick most of the time when he was younger now he seems to have problems during high allergy seasons-spring and fall. Last year he was vomiting every morning until he was dry heaving. This would only happen in the morning, After he vomited he was good for the rest of the day. Medication did not work. I ended up researching online and put him on a gluten free diet. His vomiting stopped after about a week. I also changed pediatricians since I had lost confidence in his pediatrician-we were with her for five years. Even after I explained that the gluten free diet worked for him, his old doctor dismissed my concerns. The new doctor had him do an allergy test. My son is highly allergic to just about all of the common allergens.–no kidding, I already knew that. This year we are on allergy meds, singulair, and albuterol, the doctor dropped the inhaler until we see if the changes we made last year will work this year. Another allergy season and I hope he does better this year. I’ve found that if we control the allergies then his asthma does not get as bad. Our humidifier runs every night, air purifier runs 24/7 and we watch what the kids eat as best as we can but we can just teach him to do his best when we are not around to watch him.

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      I’ve seen a huge difference in my son when we control his allergies too. We do Singulair daily during the winter months and it makes an enormous difference.

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