Fia’s Mystery Cough. Any Ideas For Me?

girl coughing

Fia has this chronic cough. By chronic, I mean it’s lasted at least eight weeks. Could be twelve. I remember about a year ago in Brooklyn she had the same thing. But now we’re in a totally different climate so I don’t think it’s allergies. Plus, when she got that crazy rash five months ago, I had her tested at an allergist. All she had was a high histamine level.

I took her to the doctor last week to have her checked out. Thing is, she only coughs when she goes down for bed, or mid morning. The rest of the day is nothing. She’s not sick, she’s not congested, and no, it’s not Whooping Cough (and we vaccinated for that).

When the doctor came in he said, “Eight weeks???” I told him not to think I’m a terrible mom. It’s just that I took her to our Brooklyn pediatrician last year and she couldn’t find anything wrong and said something (I recall) about kids can cough a lot because their lungs are still developing and we can’t give them cough syrup until they’re 4 or 5?? And believe me, I’m in no hurry to dose her up on meds. Especially those with Red Dye 40. (Side note: my cousin swears the RD #40 gives her children night terrors. They cut out all medicine and candy, etc with RD #40 in it, and the results were incredible. No more screams in the night.)

Anyway, the doc listened to Fia’s heart and her lungs. They sounded fine. No wheezing. She had a small cough in his presence. He said it was a dry cough and her throat was a little red on one side but nothing crazy. I told him I give her a natural honey medicine (Little Remedies for Colds), and it does seem to help in the short term.

He prescribed me liquid albuterol sulfate, which I guess is a medicine for asthma. I can still do the Honey Elixir, which she now comes to expect, of course, since it tastes good.

The goal is to see if the albuterol lessens the cough. If it does, she could have a type of cough-induced asthma and we’d give her this medicine more long term. Ugh. I hate giving medicine as an “experiment.” It makes me incredibly nervous, because you never know how your kid will react. I gave two doses last week at night. I kept going in and checking on her breathing because I’m so paranoid. She coughed some, not a ton. Then I decided to stop and just stick to the natural honey stuff. But yesterday morning she coughed so hard she started to gag and burp. Poor thing. It just wears her out. So back to the meds.

This morning she was coughing a bit, so I gave her the albuterol again and she coughed a few times before I dropped her off at preschool. They told me that she’s continued to cough a little, not a lot.But as the day wears on, the cough lessens anyway until night.

I’m not sure what to think. I can’t say definitively the medicine is working. I guess I’ll have to keep giving it to her. Was wondering if anyone has any homeopathic remedies or other advice to offer? I can put the humidifier in her room, but that will only help at night. Not with the morning cough when we are out and about. It is seriously driving me mad. It’s so frustrating to not know what to do. Thoughts?


This post is sponsored by Little Remedies — makers of children’s medication without artificial colors, artificial flavors, or alcohol.

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Photo: Illustration of girl sneezing via Shutterstock
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  1. by Kami

    On December 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    We have dealt with a similar situation the last few years. My 4 year old has had a cough in fall and spring since he was little. In the beginning, the doctor would tell us it was just croup. However, the cough would last for weeks on end. Last year we did all the testing and found out he has some allergies and cough variant asthma. Even when the asthma it at its worst, he never has wheezing and his lungs sound clear. But the do see evidence of asthma when they do chest x-rays. Also, his asthma cough resembles a croup cough which leads to a ton of confusion.
    Last year it was absolutely horrible. We were up all night for at least 6 weeks with his cough. We did albuterol, pulmicort, steroids and 2-3 other meds. Anyway, the cough never got better until we did a round of strong antibiotics. So there was an underlying infection that they missed… But we had no fever and no other symptoms. This year when the cough got bad and nothing was working, we started with a 5 day run of steroids and the cough improved.
    Some of the things we have tried include Flonase (one theory was that it was post nasal drip), humidifier, steaming him in the bathroom (in case it was croup), cutting out dairy (in case it was from food allergies) etc. The one other piece of info I learned was that allergy test before 4 or 5 isn’t all that if you keep getting the cough you should retest. Also, I put these a cover over his mattress and pillows that is supposed to reduce allergens. I also wash all sheets/duvet cover in hot water every week and he showers whenever he has played outside.
    Good luck! A bad cough that lingers can drive a mother crazy!! I hope you get it figured out soon!!!!

  2. by Kami

    On December 25, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    One more thing that we learned while using albuterol. We give our son treatments with the nebulizer. If I give him the first treatment and the cough is still bad, I give him another treatment 15-20 minutes later. Our doctor says we can can do 3 in a row if absolutely necessary. Also, I have learned that during the cough season, it’s best to do the treatment consistently every 4-6 hours and it helps keep cough from getting out of control.

  3. by Jill Cordes

    On December 26, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    this is so helpful. I am going to print this out and take it with me to the doctor….I’m now scheduling an appointment with both an asthma doc and a pulmonary one. I’m so fed up of being told “it’s just a cough, kids get coughs.” I also thought maybe a round of antibiotics could help. She’s never even had to be on them before so it’s not like I want to dose her up (as I said in my blog), but perhaps to rule out an infection, it’s one way to go. I will let you know what happens! (btw–was there anything specific your child was allergic too? I know the tests are pretty faulty at this age…)

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