Friday, March 30, 2012

Kids Coughing: What to Do?

Last night Sarah woke coughing...and coughing...and coughing...and coughing.

She likely had the start of a cold brought on by a garden variety bug taking over her little body, making it challenging for her to lay down or get a restful night's sleep.

It broke my heart to hear her body shuddering with each coughing sound she made. At first, I tossed and turned with each of her coughs hoping that she would eventually fall back to sleep from exhaustion, but the coughing continued.

Knowing the sound of her cough I was not worried. And, since we are in the midst of allergy season and this symptom is not out of the ordinary for her I just knew she was uncomfortable. Also, because it was not a loud barking sound I was not concerned either. However, if you are unsure of the type of cough that your child has, especially for a child not fully vaccinated or under the age of one, call your doctor to make sure that it's not pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

Inevitably I got up to see what relief I could provide Sarah. I first checked her forehead and back to feel for a fever. Relieved that she was not hot I then propped her up on more pillows and gave her water to drink so that the post-nasal drip could settle down, if possible.

Let's be honest, sitting up to sleep is not very comfortable and it did not surprise me when Sarah slumped back down onto her bed in the hopes of resuming to her preferred sleeping position. Again, I pulled her up but this time I wedged her with my body to keep her upright as much as possible, and thought we could both fall asleep together.

The coughing continued.

Sarah drank more water. At one point she had a coughing fit that unfortunately led to phlegm getting stuck in her throat, which eventually made its way out and on to the blankets and sheets.

Yep. It was yucky. Let's just say that at that moment I was happy to remember that I put on the waterproof mattress pad, or this would have been an even worse situation.

As the coughing continued further, we made our way through the hallway towards my room where Sarah threw up again. Thankfully, hardwood floors are easy for clean up.

Eventually, we made it into a chair in my room with her on my lap upright resting on me. At that moment, the coughing ceased, at least for a little bit. Through all of this I then had a moment. I began to feel what it was like when Sarah was an infant as she laid on my body for comfort. My baby girl. Oh how much she has changed over time in her four years of life. She's grown up so much. However, needing mommy is still a want for her, and I welcome it.

Desperately wanting another hour of sleep I willed for Sarah to go back to sleep, but it did not happen. So, when at 6:00am she asked if she could color, I let her go willingly. I was still wiped out not ready to get up so I let her proceed to her room to get crafty, and she did. And, the coughing subsided.

You may be asking, why didn't I give Sarah cough medicine when the coughing fits began. The reason is that young children under the age of four are discouraged to be given cough suppressants. Because of that, all I could do was ride it out until either her symptoms alleviated, escalated or we got confirmation from the doctor to take action.

Sarah stayed home from school today and went to the doctor. As we suspected, she has a cold and all we can do is let it run its course. The doctor agreed that giving her a cough medicine was not recommended and to continue doing what we were doing. In fact, the doctor said that she urges that children under the age of 6 not be given cough suppressants. However, if Sarah's cough continues to keep her awake at night we could give her children's Benedryl.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "Each year, thousands of children under age 12 go to emergency rooms after taking over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. [Further], in response to safety concerns, the leading manufacturers of children's cough and cold medicines are changing the labels on these products to state that thy should not be used in children younger than 4 years of age."

While Sarah is just over the age of four, I was skeptical about giving her a cough suppressant unless otherwise directed by her pediatrician.

Thankfully Sarah has no fever and later bounced off the walls at home being the happiest little sick kid you will ever find. The doctor confirmed that what Sarah needed was fluids, not cough medicine, and rest if she was willing. Otherwise, we were told to just let her be active if she was to it and that in a week's time she would be better soon.

As adults we often are quick to want to take something to alleviate our symptoms. We cannot do the same with children. They are not little adults. Therefore, with cough medicines there is no iron clad solution currently on how much a child should get of this liquid especially because of weight fluctuations in these age categories.

Thus, it's imperative that as parents we not play the role of doctor and decide what over- the-counter (OTC) remedies to give our kids to help alleviate their symptoms. While it is a pain to have to take our kids to the doctor on a work day it's best to know whether an OTC treatment is the safest approach.

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