Abnormal Breathing – following asthma

Our son Matthew, aged 12, has had several episodes of quite severe asthma this year which have needed nebulisation and steroids. During one of these episodes earlier this year we noticed that following nebulisation his breathing was still very noisy but only on exhalation. His tummy muscles were very tense just as though he was really “working hard” during an asthma attack but he could achieve near normal peak flow and his inhalation was completely clear. Listening with a stethoscope confirmed that there was little or no wheeze.

At first it was very difficult for us to tell the difference between this abnormal breathing and full blown asthma, particularly as it usually followed close on the heels of an asthma attack. On one occasion we called an ambulance after giving him many doses of Ventolin and by the time the Paramedic arrived Matthew was still breathing extremely noisily and shaking like a leaf from the effects of the Ventolin, but with no wheeze. The Paramedic was rather confused but decided Matthew definitely needed hospital attention. On arrival the doctors seemed rather dismissive of the problem.

Over the last few weeks Matthew's asthma has again been bad, requiring 2 – 3 nebulisations a day.

Over the last week his asthma has slowly improved but this abnormal breathing seems to have taken over, often being triggered by environmental conditions, just like asthma, but not responding to inhalers/nebulisers, indeed these often make it worse. It is rather distressing to watch him having this abnormal breathing, sometimes for several hours at a time as we feel helpless to do anything.

Over the last few days he has been complaining of constant tummy pain which we are sure is muscular due to the great effort his tummy muscles put into the exhalation.

The Community Asthma Nurse came to see Matthew this week, right in the middle of an episode of this breathing, and was rather alarmed by it, saying she had never seen anything like it. She was particularly confused when his peak flow and lung function tests were all within normal range.

Has anyone else come across this before and got any tips for us?


Joe and Marion

3 Replies

  • There is quite a following of asthma and some with a wheeze and alot that have no wheeze and feel their asthma is not taken seriously.

    IF you look on the general forum above this one its on there so scroll down a bit and im sure you will be glad to read it.

    IT's really interesting and will give you a lot of info from lots of asthma sufferers but you need to get it sorted by your GP etc as we can only share our stories and in no way give advice .

    Good luck xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • Hi, and sorry you all are having to go through this.

    my advice would be to go back to your GP, clearly your son's asthma isn't being controlled as well as it could or should be. Even though his peak flow is fine, he's still having symptoms, and this seems to keep getting missed. You don't have to have both a reduced peak flow and symptoms.

    Here is a link tinyurl.com/yfy8qje to the guidelines on the management and control of asthma, hope it's of some help.


    PS. you've not enabled your profile. may be nice so that we can see what medications if you enter them, and also contact off site.

  • Hello Marion, welcome to AUK. I really think you need to speak with your GP and or your consultant and see if a referral for other breathing problems is needed. We can't see Matthew and his breathing patterns so it is hard for us to comment and impossible for us to diagnose what is going on.

    With my mod hat box open it would wrong for us to try and work out what is happening. Lots of people have seen the problem now so you should not have a problem with getting people to believe it is happening, you are well within your rights to ask for a referral to pediatrician who specialises in asthma. I am also a little concerned about you saying ""many doses of ventolin"" it is quite unusual to have a child at home with a protocol that allows many doses of salbutamol I would clarify with your team just how many nebs you can give before call 999.

    Please lets us know how you get on and if you get any trouble getting a referral then there is plenty of experience here in getting referrals to the right places I have a feeling in Bedfordshire the Royal Brompton in London I think would be your nearest specialist centre and there are many parents here who will tell you just how good they are.

    Good Luck and don't be afraid to come back for more support and advice but just remember we can diagnose or give ""emergency advice"".


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