According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 million children in the U.S.—or about 9.4%—currently have asthma. Preemies have a higher risk of developing respiratory problems because their lungs don't get to fully develop before they are born. As many twins do, my girls fall into that category.
When they were infants, my twins were fairly healthy. An au pair watched them during the day, so they were home most of the time and not exposed to many germs. They both had a couple of colds before age 2 1/2, which meant a low-grade fever accompanied by a runny nose. That was it. We were lucky.
Fast-forward to 2 1/2 years old and a week after they started preschool. My twins started coughing and wheezing constantly. My husband, Noel, and I knew they would be more likely to get sick once they started school because they would be exposed to all kinds of new germs, but we did not expect them to get as sick as they did.
At one point, one of my babies was so weak from not eating for so many days that she couldn't walk! She would stumble. It was so sad for me to see that.
Of course, the fun didn't end with just the girls being sick. The whole family was sick for months on end.
After a few trips to the pediatrician in a couple of months, my daughters were diagnosed with asthma.
Asthma has different ways of affecting kids. The most typical—and scariest—is when their airways get swollen, making it hard for air to take its normal route to the lungs. The inflammation can come unexpectedly, or it can be caused by a cold or infection.
My girls have a mild asthma that comes when they get a cold. They have trouble breathing and tend to wheeze. Sometimes the wheezing is not audible, but I can tell when one of them is struggling because her belly and/or collarbone will move more quickly as she takes in air.
If the girls get really sick, an oral steroid can be prescribed to reduce the inflammation. The oral steroid causes irritability and behavior changes, which (as you can imagine) is not fun at all. Plus, there is some concern that this medicine may slow children's growth. So, we've tried a few things to avoid getting to the point of having to take the oral steroid.
For a while, Noel and I gave the twins nebulizing treatments as soon as they started coughing. A nebulizer is a device that converts liquid medicine into a mist so it can be inhaled directly into the lungs via a mouthpiece or mask.
Then, in early 2012, both my girls got pneumonia. They didn't have to be admitted to the hospital, but we did have to take them to the ER in the middle of the night. After the ER visit, our pediatrician recommended we see a pulmonologist.
The pulmonologist prescribed a preventive steroid medicine to be used as an inhaler once a day. He also prescribed another inhaler medicine to use as soon as one of the girls starts coughing; this took the place of the nebulizing treatments. The twins were fine for the rest of the winter and the spring, even with allergies and all.
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