Being sick constantly is normal?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012
I'm having a bit of trouble swallowing some information a pediatrician my son saw yesterday gave us. According to her it is "perfectly normal" for small children to have colds, fevers, and coughs at least once a month.

Umm.... What???

My husband (at my request) had specifically mentioned that our son has had a decent fever and a cough bad enough that we take him to the doctor's office after a few days and have usually given him an inhaler treatment or four because of wheezing roughly once a month since approximately his first birthday. That was her response. That it was normal.

First of all, I really don't care if you feel it is normal. I would like a further explanation of why, or what, or ideas for better prevention. Not a quick sentence thrown out there to make us feel better, or something.

A little bit of background on this issue might help you see why I am so bothered by this....

A quick version of our birth story
I delivered our son 5 weeks early.

After waking up in a puddle (my water had broken) we went to the hospital and contractions started while we were on the way. I was told we would potentially be there for weeks because I was not in active labor, but they couldn't let me go home because of the risk of infection. An hour or so later we proved that to be wrong when it was decided I was in active labor and dilated to 4 centimeters. Twenty minutes later I was 8 centimeters. As soon as my husband got there I pushed once, maybe twice, and pop! Out came our son. I attribute that last bit to fighting the urge to push for the approximate 10 minutes it took for my husband to get there, as I had sent him home to take care of things since we were told I was not in active labor. Anyhow, from waking up in my waters to the birth of our son only 8.5 hours had passed. He wasn't due til January 6th, but arrive December 5th. A full month early.

He spent his first day  of life under an oxygen hood, and then was transferred to the other hospital here locally with a spectacular NICU. There he was placed on a CPAP machine and given surfactant, as he was having trouble breathing on his own. He was also treated for an infection in his lungs, and had a pneumothorax that resolved itself. He received chest x-rays twice daily for a week, once a day for a few days, and a time or two after that within our 12 day NICU stay.

Finally we brought him home.

The first year...I worried over every hiccup, every cough, every sneeze.... I mean first time parents generally do these things. And first time parents who have a preemie?? A preemie who was born without the naturally created chemical that aids in the expansion of your lungs that enable you to breathe without exhausting your being with each breath??? (really it keeps them the tiniest bit expanded when you let all of your air out so that new air has somewhere to go - at least that is my understanding) I was super terrified. I kept myself from calling the doctor every time. I learned to wait certain things out. But I did have a few "uneventful" visits to the office over my worry. I heard an occasional wheeze they could never pick up.... etc. Overall though, his first year was spent relatively uneventful in the sickness department. Thank God(s/dess/desses/) or whatever you choose to thank in these situations, goodness, luck, karma, fate, the grand design.... etc. Thank them all.

A really scary night...

A couple months after his first birthday I rushed him to the hospital in the middle of the night because he had a rather high fever, was lethargic, not able to nurse (very unusual for my boob fiend especially after I had been away all day) and making this very odd sound. I noticed he seemed to be working really hard to breathe. After a chest x-ray a dose of tylenol, a fight with the attending doctor regarding his policy to medicate before a diagnosis which I was not allowing, and a dose of motrin we were sent home. He had a virus, the high fever caused his labored breathing. The virus was not any of the somewhat scary things the doctor was trying to medicate him for (RSV and pneumonia) and we were instructed to treat his fever and see his regular pediatrician later that day ( as it was nearly 4am).

Since then...

We have had bouts of the same thing nearly monthly, not always with a fever.  It is never RSV, but is always a virus. Bronchiolitis (not to be confused with bronchitis) is what we were told on a  few occasions. He has nearly all the risk factors for it. We have been given an inhaler to give him if he wheezes and whenever else instructed. We have asked about asthma (Toad, Turtle-Love's father, has asthma) and we were told we could call it whatever we wanted, but that asthma was a blanket term used to describe similar problems and that usually it has a trigger such as an allergen, and that it was not diagnosed in children this young.

In July we had Pertusis(Whooping Cough)

That was fun. Turtle-Love and I were both up to date on that particular vaccine (we had recently decided to stop vaccinating) and we both got it anyways. I'm sure it wasn't as bad as it could have been, then again his coughs are always terrifying. They caused some petechiae that was concerning, and he simultaneously had Hand Foot and Mouth, along with an ear infection. That was fun, having the Health Department call you and get all this information, etc. They also demanded that everyone in our household be medicated for it and supplied it for two of our members that do not have insurance. We were the only reported case in the county, as well as the ones surrounding.

Now we are dealing with Pneumonia

My husband took our son to the doctor last week for his cough. No other symptoms really but it was a bad cough, and on a couple occasions Turtle-Love had trouble catching his breath after words, which turned him purple and caused him sheer terror. The doctor said his lungs sounded perfectly clear, but to give him his inhaler three times a day for the next two days and if it didn't get better to come back. Pretty standard.

After two days the cough was virtually gone. We returned to giving him his inhaler only if he wheezed over the weekend. His cough got pretty bad at times, usually at night or after we passed a campfire. He also had a runny nose. As we were camping, I expected some allergies (I was having the same problem, so was my sister - though we had sneezes instead of coughs, poor kid had all three) but was a bit concerned at the severity of his cough. Sunday night, at home, he developed a low grade fever. Monday afternoon it was relatively high. We couldn't get in touch with anyone at his peds office so he went in yesterday morning. The doc he saw, which inspired this post, heard a severe crackle in his left lung. He was prescribed cefdinir twice daily for ten days, and his inhaler three times a day, as well as treatment for his fever.


I'm just irritated that the doctors we have been seeing aren't willing to offer any other information about this monthly occurrence. The idea that someone finds this normal is very shocking to me. Very few of my friends children that are of similar age face monthly bouts of coughing. In fact, none of them do. And I have a lot of friends with similar aged children. Surely if this was normal at least one of them would? I know that his prematurity gives him an extra risk factor. I'm most upset that no one is willing to give us ideas to the cause of these coughs. If it is a virus, where are we picking it up? Is there something we can do to limit the risk of him contracting it again and again? If there is, and I'm certain there is something we could do, none of his doctors are offering it.

I think I'm ready for a second opinion on the issue. By which I mean from a different practice entirely.

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