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ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

What could be causing my toddler's health issues?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (10154 points ) June 25th, 2014

For almost 2 months my 2 year old has suffered with a cough. It started out as a cold. It lasted more than 2 weeks so his doctor gave him antibiotics because they thought it might be a sinus infection. After a couple more weeks of still being sick he ended up in the hospital hooked up to an IV for dehydration. They also gave him more antibiotics in his IV and did some blood work that showed an infection. The hospital didn’t know where the infection was but said it didn’t matter because the medicine would clear it up anyway. 2 months later he’s still suffering with this cough at night. We took him back to another doctor who claimed it was allergies and prescribed a nasal spray. He’s been taking that for 2 weeks and still no improvement. He hasn’t had a full night of sleep in months and it’s really effecting us all. He wakes up at least 3 times a night in a coughing fit. We give him water. We have him propped up while he sleeps. We have a cool mist humidifier running. We have done everything the doctors have suggested. What could this cough be? Every doctor has said something different and none of the medicines have cleared it up. I’m not sure what I can do at this point but he’s not healthy and I feel completely helpless. Could this be allergies? Asthma? A cold still lingering?

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36 Answers

Seaofclouds's avatar

Any vomiting? Has any doctor considered reflux? My toddler has reflux and coughs during flare ups, especially at night. Other than thAt, both allergies and asthma could fit as well. I’m sorry your baby is sick. I hope they get an answer soon.

funkdaddy's avatar

It could be all of the above (allergies, cold, asthma)... colds last a lot longer in small children than they do in adults, so a long term cough there isn’t really unusual from what I understand. Especially if he’s around other little folks, he’s going to pick up whatever comes along and it will aggravate anything he already has. After a while, a cough can be the result of a roughed up throat, from all the coughing. It takes a while to heal.

What’s worked for us (and maybe you too) is if we think it might be allergies give a quarter of a children’s benedryl, if that dries her up, then she sleeps and we can get a better idea of other symptoms. Is she happy and active when her nose isn’t running constantly? For us, when she’s tired she’s just hard to figure anything else out because she can’t tell us what’s wrong yet.

If it turns out he has a cold, there’s not a ton you can do but make sure he’s getting lots of liquids and sleep. Since he’s been on antibiotics, you might want to make sure you follow up with the same doctor if you can, because (again from my understanding) that can make other things a more likely cause.

But if it’s allergies there are other small things you can do. We got a little air filter that seems to help a bit (the air conditioner, if you have one, is also a filter if you keep the filter swapped out)... I also give our daughter a half dose of children’s claritin liquid (I forget the actual drug’s name right now, but you can get it at Target) and that really seems to help.

All that said, I try not to give her anything for too long, I just don’t know about effects on tiny folks, but she’s definitely happier when she gets some sleep. Our doctor said essentially the same thing, you have to balance her being miserable with not wanting to give her too much of anything.

Good luck with it.

pleiades's avatar

My sons vocal therapist had a cold recently for like 5 months with coughing. She’s fine now. Sometimes you just have to let the body take care of things.

And yes it’s possible it’s allergies do you vaccumm often?

GloPro's avatar

Pertussis, or whooping cough, has been making a comeback.

Pandora's avatar

I thought the same thing as @Seaofclouds. I had a cough for two years that would come and go months at a time only at night. A RN practitioner looked at my chart and asked me if I was still taking the meds for my acid reflux. I said no. She explained that when I lay down the acid or even fumes from the acid go up to my nasal cavities that cause my sinuses to run. Its worse at night because I am laying down. So I went back on the pills and the coughing disappeared. Most of the pills have side effects that are not healthy for your bones though. So now I just make sure to take a tums after eating something I think may cause a flare up. I also watch what I eat. If the tums doesn’t work I sleep sitting up or I can count on not getting any sleep. I also make sure I eat at least 3 hours before bed and no later.

Another thing that may be causing it is if there is a fan or a vent aimed directly to his bed. Also if it is allergies and you have a pet, that may be the problem. Especially if the pet goes on his bed a lot. My husband was fine with our dog but he would go outside and sleep on our bed. It took us a while to figure out that the nights my husband slept well in the bed with the dog was the times he had a bath before bed time. We knew he wasn’t allergic to our dog, but it seems he was allergic to the pollens that would get on the dog when he went for his walks, because he would start to sneeze only after the dog returned from a walk. Allergies do develop as well as children get older. My daughter was 3 when she had a severe asthma attack to a cat we had with us for about 2 months. I thought it wasn’t the cat at first because he had been with us for two months. The doctor told us that allergies will build with time. and over exposure to the allergen.
We got rid of the cat and thoroughly cleaned the house from top to bottom and she did not relapse.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@Seaofclouds No, there’s never been any vomiting.

@Pandora Actually we have recently put a fan in the room to keep him cool. I don’t aim it directly at him but it’s close.

@funkdaddy We do have central air so when this whole thing started we made sure to change the filter.

@pleiades I try to dust and vacuum his room often but never when he’s in it.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

If its allergies, shouldn’t the nasal spray be working to help his symptoms? The doctor said the spray would take care of the cough but no luck with that yet.

JLeslie's avatar

Since the cough is at night my guess is either:

Post nasal drip. Allergy drugs should help with that though.

Reflux. Don’t feed him very late at night. The coughing fit doesn’t sound like reflux to me though.

Allergies. Are you living in a new place?

A fan blowing in the room could be making things worse if it is post nasal drip or allergies. I think since this began with a cold that is a significant piece of information. It sounds like you are doing everything possible to help him. Keeping him propped up while he sleeps is one of the most important.

It is very common for a cough to take 3 weeks to clear after an illness that invloved a cough. This is longer, but not too much longer, so maybe it still will just take some time, although I understand your concern and patience wearing thin at this time.

Have you tried cough medicine and a decongestant? I’m sure you don’t want to keep dumping drugs into him, but if those drugs work it might help indicate what might be going on.

Pandora's avatar

Since it only happens at night, I wouldn’t think illness. Just so you know, I never threw up with acid reflux unless I was extremely bad. And that actually only happened twice. The first time it happened no one diagnosed me. Had a mysterious cough for 2 weeks that was worse at night and I would vomit acid from my stomach because the coughing was so bad.
The next time it happened I just felt like I had a burning brick in my stomach. That is when I was diagnosed. But the same problem then. Coughing mostly at night. During the day I was sitting up.
It is hard to tell with a toddler. They can’t exactly tell you if their stomach is burning. Babies with acid reflux vomit a lot because they are laying down a lot and everything is much closer together.
As for the fan, you can put the fan facing an open door to take warm air out of the room. That will cool the room without stirring up the dust in the room.

No matter how clean we are there will always be dust. Dust is light and easily stays in the air for hours (if I remember correctly), so be sure to use a damp rag for dusting, also you may want to get a mattress cover that is used to keep bed bugs down or at least spay the whole mattress with lysol and then vacuum it. Get a allergy cover for his pillows and make sure you aren’t using anything scented to clean his sheets or scented fabric softner. Also be sure you aren’t bathing him with scented soaps at night.

If you have any of those plug in scented air freshners in his room, remove them. Those things kill my sinuses.. Even if it is in the hallway or bathroom next to his room the a/c will circulate it through the house. Scented candles too. Even when not burning some are so strong you can smell them from a couple of feet.

I hope this all works out for him soon.

RocketGuy's avatar

My daughter had something similar. Here is what seemed to work:
– Flonase to reduce post nasal drip
– warm mist humidifier to reduce dry air irritation
– occasional ½ tablet of Benadryl

We have a MERV 12 air filter on our force air system and a floor HEPA filter/fan to get allergens out of our air. Neither seems to make a difference.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

I got him into the doctor today and was told he’s had a sinus infection this whole time. The first round of antibiotics apparently didn’t clear it up. So he’s on antibiotics again and they’re doubling the dose. He does have allergies too but in addition to that, he’s had a sinus infection. Thanks for all the advice. I’m hoping this time around the antibiotics clear up the problem.

JLeslie's avatar

Did the sinus infection get better while he was on the lower dose? If so, the same antibiotic might not work. Even if the dose is too low, he still should get better while on them, the problem is when he stops the bacterias are not all killed off and the illness comes right back again.

I’m glad you took him back to the doctor. This sounds the most logical since this all started with an infection. If the doctor is correct and the meds are right he should be getting better very soon. If he is still just as sick after a week get a different antibiotic. Did the doctor prescribe Zithromax? Augmentin?

RocketGuy's avatar

I had that many years ago! I forgot all about it. Kept coughing all day. CAT scan found all but 2 of my nasal passages clogged and infected. I needed Prednisone (steroid) + antibiotics. I was good after 2 weeks.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

JLeslie, he got slightly better while on the first antibiotics. The doctor said he wasn’t on it long enough so this time it’s a 20 day antibiotic instead of 10.

JLeslie's avatar

Is he doing better now? I think I had a typo above. If it was working before then it has a good chance of working this time with the extended time.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie He’s still coughing and congested. I really don’t see a big improvement yet. He has another round of the 10 day dose left so maybe it will improve soon?

JLeslie's avatar

When you say congestions, do you mean runny or stuffy nose? Or, chest congestion? What drug is it? Amoxicilin?

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

Just a quick update. He’s been on the antibiotics almost 2 rounds now (10 days each round) and there’s been absolutely no improvement. If anything he’s worse. He hasn’t slept through the night yet. He still wakes up frequently with a coughing spell. Last night was particularly bad. I decided to record what his breathing sounds like for the allergist tomorrow because it was worrisome. He was breathing rapid, very shallow, short breaths and he was asleep. He started breathing that way right after a coughing attack. The afternoon naps are the same way. His nose is also always dripping down the back of his throat and causing him issues. I’m at the end of my rope. I am having him tested tomorrow for allergies but he already takes a nasal spray and Claritin for allergies. They aren’t helping. I’m not sure what to do but I need answers! I feel so bad for him not being able to sleep anymore because of this awful cough that’s been happening for so long. This is a nightmare.

JLeslie's avatar

Good idea to get the allergy testing done in case it is an allergy. However, I think trying a different antibiotic is in order. When the antibiotic works the congestion and runny nose will stop by day 4. By day 3 you would know he is greatly improving. The cough can take longer to clear, because it takes days to cough everything up. This is why I asked if he was getting better while on the antibiotics. When antibiotics are given in too low a dose or not long enough for this sort of thing, the patient still improves greatly in about 72 hours just like when the dose is enough. By day 7 you know the antibiotic is garbage for that infection if he is still sick. Doctors often prescribe the same antibiotic that didn’t work and it drives me crazy. It might not be an infection, but if it is now all you know for sure is that antibiotic doesn’t work. What antibiotic was it? If the allergy tests are negative, I would try a different antibiotic. It still counts that this started suddenly. If he sleeps in another location is he better? Grandma’s house? Your bed instead of his? Etc.

Seaofclouds's avatar

It it is just post nasal drip, he may not have an infection at all, making antibiotics useless. It’s great to see the allergist, but you may also want to talk to his pediatrician again. As I mentioned above, reflux can cause this as well, even if he has no other signs of reflux. Have you tried elevating the head of his bed? There are other things that could be causing this as well. Have you told his pediatrician that he seems worse?

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie Before this antibiotic he was on 2 other ones. Those didn’t work either. So I think it’s safe to say with 3 different tries, it’s nothing that is going to be fixed by antibiotics. He seems the same in all beds he’s slept in.

@Seaofclouds We have an appointment at the allergist tomorrow and his pediatrician said to follow up with them after the appointment. And yes we actually elevated the head of his bed back in May when this first started. It’s been elevated ever since.

JLeslie's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217 Oh, I didn’t realize he has tried three. Yes, I think you are right. I hope you get to the bottom of it. Very frustrating. Allergist and then if no answers try Ear, Nose and Throat maybe.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie I hadn’t thought of the ears nose and throat doctor. I will definitely go there if we don’t find answers at the allergists.

JLeslie's avatar

I believe there are pediatric ENT doctors. I might be wrong. I think the ENT would want to run allergy tests too, so starting with allergy is a good Idea. Hearkat would know more about ENT, you might want to message her.

Is his mucous clear?

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie Yes his mucus is clear. So when his pediatrician said it was a sinus infection I was a little confused. After all the antibiotics not working I know it can’t be a sinus infection.

JLeslie's avatar

My dad had terrible sinus drainage. Still does, but it is better now that his dust allergy was addressed. The winter is especially miserable for him.

JLeslie's avatar

I wonder if removing his adenoids might help? Did any doctors talk about that? I know very little about it. I just know the child of a girlfriend of mine could barely breath at night and removing them was magical.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie No I’ve never heard about that. I will check into it. Is the reason for your dad’s sinus issues due to his dust allergy?

JLeslie's avatar

I think the allergy probably aggravates other underlying problems. I don’t even know if the doctors really know how it all works. He is constantly draining. He developed the problem in adulthood. He did the shots for the dust allergy and it helped. But, my parents live in a very dusty, not very clean home. If they cleaned it up he would probably be much better. I’m not accusing you of not having a clean home, I am just saying I believe part of the reason he is so miserable all the time is my parents don’t correct what they can if they bothered to. If you can narrow down the problem I think it will help immensely.

I had a coworker who was miserable all the time, I don’t remember what his symptoms were) and he had allergy testing and the peanut test was super positive right away. He ate peanut foods all the time. He had no idea he was allergic.

The adenoid thing from what I understand some children have very swollen adenoids and it causes them trouble breathing and I think can even cause runny noises, coughing—for sure google it. I sent a message to hearkat hopefully she comments. She would know more about the adenoids. Thing is I think the doctors can see if the adenoids are inflammed very easily, so I would think if it was a concern the doctor would have seen the problem right away.

RocketGuy's avatar

Go find an ENT doctor. I had the same thing, and my ENT had me get a CAT scan, then prescribed Prednisone (steroid) + antibiotics. Worked like a champ!

Also, the body builds up a tolerance to Claritin after a week or two, so you should change antihistamines if you think you need it long term. I use Claritin if I need something short term, but Zyrtec if I need a big kick. But if the doctor prescribes Zyrtec + Hyroxizine, that is bad news! Hyroxizine breaks down into Zyrtec, so you would be OD’ing if you use that regimen.

hearkat's avatar

Hello; I am amazed that no one has sent you to an ENT yet. ENTs treat all of the above potential factors: sinus, adenoids, allergies and reflux! They may also want to do a sleep study. Most ENTs treat kids, but with the complexity of this case, I would seek out a pediatric specialist. Ask the Allergist if they could recommend one for you.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie My first thought was that dust was to blame so we make sure to keep his bedroom as dust free as possible. The condo we are staying in is fairly new and doesn’t have much of a dust issue to begin with. But there’s been noange since we cleaned, which was quite awhile ago. Also, I never even considered the food allergy possibility. I always assumed if he had a food allergy he would show obvious signs such as hives and a bad reaction.

@hearkat I will definitely be in search of a ENT after his allergist appointment tomorrow. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner and I can’t believe his pediatrician didn’t suggest it.

JLeslie's avatar

I have my doubts it’s dust. This has been so sudden that I think there has to be something that was not in his environment before if it is an allergy. Did it start when you moved to where you live now?

It’s a puzzle. Let us know how the appointment goes.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@JLeslie It didn’t start until May and we moved in sometimes in December. So I don’t think it had to do with that. He seems to get much worse when he’s outside playing so I’m guessing something with pollen?

JLeslie's avatar

Pollen sounds like a definite possibility. Your part of the country is definitely in bloom.

JLeslie's avatar

Now I’m thinking Pertussis, which someone mentioned way at the top. I hope the doctors considered that.

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