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Asthma related coughing fits through the night

Sammycon profile image
18 Replies

Hi all, my son who's 2.5 years old was diagnosed with asthma in January of this year. This is after many chest infections and having severe coughing fits whenever he gets any sort of cold or runny nose etc We are still getting our head around it all and very much on a learning curve. He saw a specialist who diagnosed him but since then we haven't been given an asthma action plan or have any follow up appointments which I know I really need to speak to his GP about. My biggest worry is that whenever he gets a viral infection or just a runny nose, he can be up most of the night coughing non stop, sometimes these bouts of coughing uncontrollably can last 2 - 3 hours. It is always so much worse at night when he's on his back. It's very distressing and his reliever inhaler doesn't seem to help much. Has anyone else experienced this? Is it still quite normal to have these awful coughing fits even after using reliever inhaler? Just looking for any sort of advice or reassurance really.

18 Replies
mylungshateme profile image

Hi ya lovely I feel you it's so frightening and stressful when they're like that you feel so helpless. I mean I'm no paediatric consultant or anything but I would say it's the reliever not fully working as it's not controlled/managed yet. By this I mean he's not on any form of preventative treatment that helps with airway inflammation but does take a good few weeks to build up and start working. So it's like treatment the symptom but not the cause atm. So vicious circle.

There will be lots of advice but please bear in mind everyone is different, asthma has many different types and triggers and different treatments help different people. So don't be scared if you hear horror stories if you like, as that's unique to them and their medical history.

My daughters respiratory nurse used to say have a bowl of water in room so air not dry. Some say try a steamy bathroom others will disagree. Its trial an error with some things.

Have you noticed triggers such as animals? Foods? Pollen? As well as viruses? Do certain paracetamol affect him as if he has CMPA some can affect, also vitamins. Does he have horrendous hiccups? Rolling around uncomfy at night? Mucus poos? Maybe do a 2 week diary if your referred to allergy paediatrician this is what they'll likely suggest I did this with lil boy also. Nights can be worse in asthma 😔. You can p.m me if you like but good luck. Also ring his consultant the number on hospital letter explain your worries? Ask for a follow up and an action plan also if they'll be adding anymore treatment in.

Anselm198 profile image

What a worrying time for you as a parent and you must feel very helpless. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was little and had numerous chest infections. My mother would help me to find the best position for sleeping. I don't know what the current advice is but just wondering if lying on his back is the best position. I have found that unless I have 3 pillows and my V shaped it makes me worse. I have always laid on my side with pillows. I would also be persistent with the medics about additional treatment.Do let us know how he gets on, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Clairebear35 profile image

I find it’s better to be propped up at night when my asthmas bad otherwise I can’t stop coughing which I understand is hard for such a young age but maybe use an extra pillow or a v shaped pillow?? I also find I need extra puffs of my blue inhaler as the cough has led to attacks and a warm drink helps. Try and note down when he’s worse as something may be triggering it at the moment, for example hay fever and weather conditions have not helped me lately. I’d speak to his GP again as he may need different meds. Hope this helps a bit as it must be such a worry for you

fdwilliams256 profile image
fdwilliams256 in reply to Clairebear35

As has been said, everyone is different. But I have to tell you that the curcumstances you describe may be related to GERD problems (gastro-esophageal reflux) problems. A reflux med like omeprazole or omeprazole magnesium (my favorite). In the US these are available in pharmacies with no prescription). I take these and the situation as you describe is relieved.

angievere profile image

I feel for you as my now adult son had asthma from babyhood. Usually triggered by colds which would go on his chest. I gave him extra vitamins and used tea tree and lavender oils in his bath and around his room. He was prescribed Ventolin and a preventer inhaler, also antihistamine as he was super allergic to animals, dander and dust.I would suggest you ask for a referral to a paediatrician.

Thinking of you, I do hope things improve for your son.

Singinglouder profile image
Singinglouder in reply to angievere

Please be careful with oils, and only introduce them one at a time, in very small quantities. I’m allergic to tea tree, and my aunt to lavender - just because something’s natural doesn’t mean it’s safe, and essential oils are very concentrated. Might be worth speaking to the Asthma and Lung nurses for more qualified advice - 0300 222 5800, weekdays 9-5. Hope things go well with your little one.

angievere profile image
angievere in reply to Singinglouder

Essential oils are good for building the immune system. I use tea tree and lavender separately and a few drops at a time to try to ward off colds etc. I have severe asthma myself and have used them for years. For my young son, a drop of tea tree in his baths, and a drop of lavender on a tissue in his room.

Lysistrata profile image
LysistrataAdministrator in reply to angievere

I agree with Singinglouder on this one. Not everyone has the same triggers and you can't assume that if one person with asthma (even severe asthma) is ok with them, then everyone else with asthma will be. I have friends with severe asthma who are fine with lavender, rose, eucalyptus and others but they are major triggers for me, also with severe asthma. I am personally ok with citrus but I wouldn't assume others will be, or that me being fine with cats means they're not an asthma trigger for others.

Is there research published that essential oils build the immune system? I'm sure they're fine used in small quantities *providing they're not a trigger* but again I wanted to stress that that isn't the case for everyone with asthma.

Also Sammycon, above re steamy bathroom - definitely also an individual thing. Makes me worse but really helps others! I'd agree about speaking to the AUK nurses, they have much more time than your GP and know their stuff.

mylungshateme profile image
mylungshateme in reply to Lysistrata

100% agree I can't use "natural oils" air or skin as I'm an allergic person.

kerry8086 profile image

Hi, I just wanted to reply to let you know that you're not on your own. My now 3 year old was diagnosed with asthma when he was 18 months and was in exactly the same situation. His night time coughing improved with the use of his preventative Inhaler. So when he has a cold/virus or has any other trigger his night time coughing would last a couple of night as opposed to weeks at a time. We noticed the reliever inhaler becoming more effective when he'd been using his preventative inhaler for quite some time as his asthma was more under control. I feel your pain, I've had many months of sleepless nights worrying and staying awake during the coughing fits my son has as its distressing for them when they can't get the relief. Happy to chat if you wanted to talk x

CallysMum profile image

This is exactly how my asthma behaves. The relivers relax the smiith muscle that cause the bronchoconstriction so do use them.however I have found them useless when I get a coughing attack. It sounds like he may need inhaled steroids, but keep on at your GP they have a duty of care. He may well grow out of this many children do. My good wishes for his health.

Poobah profile image

It's such a stressful and overwhelming situation having such a young one with persistent symptoms without being able to help them. But it's good that your son has seen a specialist and been diagnosed. NICE guidelines for treating asthma in the under 5s is based on the Stepwise Management approach, to increase treatment step by step so that the minimum treatment necessary to control symptoms can be achieved. You can read the step by step guidance here (look for the relevant age paragraph):

Primarily the GP will follow these prescribing guidelines and if your son has seen a specialist I assume that they have written to the GP with additional information on treatment that your son should receive but may well refer to the Stepwise prescribing approach.

Ideally, your son has a spacer to help him take his inhaler(s) - technique is so important. Propping him up on pillows to sleep will help, some folk also prop up the head end of the bed. As a child, my mum would paddle my back with her hands when my nighttime symptoms were bad - it really helped me breath. I saw a paediatric physiotherapist and that was a help - learning how to use coping techniques during the worst symptoms were good. I also had Prednisolone (oral steroids) when symptoms got very bad. Mum would always have bowls of water by heat sources during the colder months in order to keep the air from getting too dry (low and high humidity can be triggers).

Triggers can vary from person to person and keeping a symptom diary can help you observe what may be making matters worse. It's amazing what can trigger symptoms. Simple things, like changing to a SLS free toothpaste, avoiding any foods that are processed (preservatives and colourings), hoovering pillows and matress regularly, feather free duvet. Pet dander can be a problem and smoke, air fresheners, cleaning products, shampoo with parabens. We are surrounded by modern products that MAY be triggers but it's very time consuming trying to identify the culprits, if any. While things may not be triggers they can be mildly irritating. Then there are pollen and seasonal triggers that are difficult to avoid. If you suspect pollen, don't dry bedware outdoors. Watch out for perfumes in laundry products. You get the idea, some or none of these things may be triggers or irritants.

As for treatment, always have follow up appointments in order to discuss progress or lack of. Don't wait for the doctor to suggest follow ups either. 8 weeks normally is sufficient time for a new medication to have an affect, if it's going to work. Not all asthma meds are equal - one inhaler may suit one patient more than another. Many find the branded medication more effective too, such as Ventolin rather than generic Salbutamol.

As your son has lots of coughing, a paediatric physiotherapist may be able to help you and him learn how to use exercises to lessen the symptoms or tiredness that comes with lots of coughing. There maybe an age limit though as to when children are referred.

Asthma is exhausting for both the child and the parent, so take care of yourself too.

madamestephens profile image

My son was similar age three. Went through a whole winter like that and only got progress by eventually getting preventer inhaler prescribed. This was following several GP visits and phoning Asthma UK nurses on the info line. He later needed Montelukast adding in the mix too. I think busy doctors often (naturally) minimise parents saying a kid is coughing "a lot" at night. I had to be really specific and say things like 'from.1am to 3 am' the longest gap between his coughs was 2 minutes, etc.

Bettynano profile image

Hi Sammycon, really sympathise with you, we are in a simar position. Our 4, year old will cough all day, and wake I'm the night, coughing several hours. Thus is when he has any kind of cold too. He has preventative inhaler and montelukast but they're not doing much. We are now gonna go private as sick of the problem not being resolved

Amberquinn profile image
Amberquinn in reply to Bettynano

how have you got on since going private? We are in the same situation with a 4 year old we went private this year and all tests are clear just viral induced type of asthma he will eventually grow out of...

Sammycon profile image

Thank you everyone for your kind words and advice. And sorry to hear some of you are also in similar boat with your little ones. It has made me feel less alone. We were actually back in hospital with him over the weekend has he has croup and so that really exacerbated things. He is ok now but we're all just exhausted. I'm calling our GP this morning re asthma action plan and follow ups. Wish me luck.

mylungshateme profile image
mylungshateme in reply to Sammycon

Ah sorry to hear that our lil boy very similar 😔 had croup, then recurring croup, then caught covid then was discovered he had viral pneumonia. Extra vitamins I would say my lil one is just 4. The exhaustion is on another level rest when he does. X

Triggerina profile image

I have had cough variant aa d allergic asthma all my life. I am now 66 and active and generally healthy.I still have asthma and take a preventative(qvar) ventolin as required and montelukast which helps with allergies As a child I coughed constantly and especially at night. Different things work for different people. For me the following works:

Prevention. No carpet in bedroom. Floor is mopped. Washable curtains washed monthly. Allergy friendly bedding washed twice weekly. An anti dust mite MATTRESS COVER and pillow covers.

Soft toys put in freezer weekly(kills dust mites). I use allergy friendly cleaning products such as Method.I always damp dust.


Sleep propped upright ish when bad.

I find steam helps me a lot but am aware that this does not help everybody. I use a facial sauna(any chemist) but a bowl and towel or a warm bath also helps. Warm drinks.

Trial and error to find triggers. Mine are

Cleaning products, some perfumes, dust mites, dogs but not cats(!), horses, barley,

Tree pollenss in early spring but OK in summer!Allergic to sunset yellow(a food colouring and shellfish.

I use baby products for bathing, hair, body lotion, suncream etc.

Hope this helps. I got much better as I grew older but I still cough at the drop of a hat. However I can do most thi gs but no marathons. I find swimming helps too.

Hope this helps in some small way.


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