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Adding to our asthma vocabulary

Submitted by on Thursday, 18 November 2010 One Comment

It’s been a while – nearly three years, in fact – since Big Guy has had a major asthma episode. He’s done well, thrived even, despite a change in primary doctor and specialist that had me nervous as we transitioned.

That all ended last week, when the big ugly bug that’s rampaged through the guys’ school landed on Big Guy. Many of the cases have merely been stomach flu – I had a bout with it, too, and I wasn’t saying “merely” when I was in the middle of it. Big Guy, though, also got hit with congestion and the sniffles.

And with an asthmatic, a cold can go downhill quickly. That’s what happened with Big Guy, and it didn’t help that an ER doctor cavalierly dismissed him Monday with a diagnosis of “cough.” But that’s a rant for another day.

After finally getting the prescription he needed Tuesday, his air flow readings were high enough that I thought he could return to school.  That theory came crashing to the ground during recess Wednesday, when he felt winded after kicking a soccer ball twice. This is the same Big Guy who just a week earlier had been was scampering the length of the field at break-neck speed.

He told the playground monitor that he needed to see the nurse. By the time he got there, he was coughing so hard that his stomach was knotted and nauseated. That’s when he made an innocent mistake.

“I feel pukey,” he said. So they set him in the nurse’s office next to a trash can, along side several other kids who felt pukey.

When the school called, though, I knew what was going on. I grabbed an air-flow meter and his albuterol – I’m only a 10-minute drive away in “heavy” traffic. When I got there, his air flow was in the red zone. Three puffs later, he was approaching normal.

I played Wednesday Afternoon Quarterback once we got home.

“So, you felt pukey? But didn’t that come after you had trouble breathing?”

“Well, yes, it did.”

“But you didn’t say that you were having trouble breathing?”

“No, because I wanted to throw up.” He was getting testy, so I assured him that I wasn’t trying to blame. I just wanted to fix it for the next time.

“I know, babes. Sometimes lately you’ve coughed until you’ve thrown up. But your stomach’s not the problem, right? It’s the cough.”

He conceded that I was right.

“So next time when the problem starts with a cough, you should tell them, ‘I have asthma, and I need my inhaler.’ ”


I wasn’t sure the system was going to work. Was he old enough to recognize early symptoms of an attack? In the past we’ve relied on me noticing something was off and confirming with the air-flow meter.

He reassured me later that afternoon. “Mommy, I’m having trouble breathing. I need my inhaler.”

As sad as I was to go to the albuterol again, I was happy that he was able to know when he needed help and that he’d remembered how to ask for it.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Yes, let’s have food allergy policies everywhere | 9to5to9 (author) said:

    [...] attack for what it was. His inhaler wasn't locked up, but no one realized he needed it. He's now trained in what to say if it happens again. The incident is clear evidence of the importance of having policies, as well [...]