4 year old awake every night coughing - Asthma UK communi...

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4 year old awake every night coughing

Samgeorgegreen94 profile image

Hi all, looking for some help and advice. My 4 year old daughter has a cough that she just cannot get rid of. It's been ongoing now for about 2 years but during winter definitelt worsens. She coughs throughout the day and every night without fail wakes up coughing sometimes at 11pm, sometimes around 2 and if we are lucky about 5 and then just coughs for the entirety of the night.

Shes seen the GP numerous times, been to A&E on a couple occassions and despite being declared asthmatic and given a blue and brown pump nothing helps with the cough. The GP this week said there is nothing that can be done except honey and lemon which we tried and made her sick.

The cough seems to be just a tickly cough, the GP reckons her lungs are clear and it's all in her throat so nothing can be given for it.

We have tried saline nose spray which seems to get her off to sleep a little easier and sleeps for a little longer but sure enough she will still wake up and keep coughing until she is sick.

We've tried numerous cough medicines, anti allergy medicines but nothing makes it any better. Once she's awake coughing that's it for the night.

It's tough on her and it's having a detrimental affect on us as a family as I work shifts so either up at 2am or going to bed at 2am. There's a constant anxiety of when will the cough wake her up again.

So does anybody have any advice?

We raise her pillows, try Vapour rub, dehumidifier, anything we can we try but this cough just won't go and she will have it for months now

19 Replies

Not all coughing is asthma and if she's been seen and doctors are saying things sound fine and the meds aren't helping then it may well be something else.

Post nasal drip and reflux both cause an irritating (to the sufferer!) cough, particularly at night because of lying down. So it might be worth asking your GP about these.

Post nasal drip is difficult to treat even in adults - steroid nasal sprays can help in adults but not sure at what age they are prescribed.

Reflux, trying regular gaviscon (eg 4 times a day for a couple of weeks) would be a first port of call for adults. I know there is infant Gaviscon but it may need a prescription, I don't know. But I would see if that's worth a try as it could well be that.

Saying there's nothing that can be done is so unhelpful - if they don't think it's lungs and so asthma then they need to think of other causes. Reflux is a well known cough-causer too so the response is quite odd!

Edit: having googled, Gaviscon would need a prescription for children but it can be given once prescribed so definitely worth asking about.

Hi thanks for the quick reply, the problem is the GP is just closing us down on it. They've said it's just a viral bug but she's had it for weeks and if anything like last year she will have it for the entirety of the winter.

Spoke to a pharmacist for some options they just said oh dear sorry about that.

Nobody seems to want to help us

Can you see or speak to a different GP? Maybe ask specifically about reflux if you haven't tried that angle?Or try and speak to a nurse instead and explain that you're not being listened to by the GP, do they think reflux could be a possibility and can they (the nurse) ask the GP. Bit of an odd approach maybe but a non-listening GP isn't very helpful!

Home approaches are very much trial and error with stuff like reflux because what might help one person might trigger it for another, eg some people say milk helps but others find it causes it for them, and messing with children's diets randomly might not be ideal!

Google says this (just one link I clicked but maybe some home ideas there):

"For children:

Watch your child's food intake. Limit fried and fatty foods, peppermint, chocolate, drinks with caffeine such as sodas and tea, citrus fruit and juices, and tomato products.

Offer your child smaller portions at mealtimes. Add small snacks between meals if your child is hungry. Don’t let your child overeat. Let your child tell you when he or she is hungry or full.

If your child is overweight, contact your child’s provider to set weight-loss goals.

Serve the evening meal early, at least 3 hours before bedtime.

Other things to try:

Ask your child's provider to review your child’s medicines. Some may irritate the lining of the stomach or esophagus.

Don’t let your child lie down or go to bed right after a meal."

Of course it may not be reflux at all but worth ruling out - if you can anyway. It may also be asthma (so definitely don't stop those meds without advice or anything!) but the diagnosis of asthma is largely 'breathing symptoms (especially coughing at night in children as many present like that with asthma) = give inhalers and see if they work'. Often the see if they work step seems to be forgotten - if they don't work then either further asthma investigation is needed or a different path needs looking at.

Just a thought. Has your child been consuming citrus fruits or lemon water daily? Sounds like a stretch but lemon water does this to me. Also, do you have a humidifier installed in your furnace room? I had a constant cough at home (lived here 3 years and took me this long to figure it out) and realized it was because the humidifier was on. Once I turned it off, the constant cough went away. I still have asthma but at least the cough is gone.

Dizzart profile image
Dizzart in reply to twinkly29

Sounds like me as a little girl but of course I’m the 50s we were only nursed by our mums but I still only use things like nice thick honey or a cheap mostly glycerin cough mixture when I’m like your little girl but I never sleep on my back out of fear of coughing and I’m 70 now . I know the above is bad for bedtime teeth but I still keep a simple glycerin by the bed and a flask of cold water. All the new meds for a small child sound a bit much to me but as a bronchitis sufferer all my life I will say a child’s dose of Montelukas may be a great help as nasal drip can be the main problem and Montelukas has been great for me only I take mine in the morning. Good luck 🧡

Dizzart profile image
Dizzart in reply to Dizzart

Should read .In the 50s . Whoops 🙄

It's worth checking out not going to dismiss anything as I say it's getting us all down especially her having broken sleep every single night. Thank you

Hi have you tried getting your daugjter to wear a cosy beanie hat to bed ? I suggest you try this it could make a big difference

My son did this. It was awful, he was asthmatic so inhalers did help some of the time but there was always something else going on.

I used to stick a pillow under the head end of his mattress, to make sure he was always tilted up which seemed to help.

Like you no one seemed to be too interested, they just gave us inhalers.

Once he was a bit older, he finally told me that the problem was stuff dripping from his nose, down the back of his throat. Then hot baths helped and later nose sprays.

Of course, there are other causes, but my experience is that the medical profession don’t always see them.

I don’t have the answer, I’m sorry. At least you know your not alone!!

Have you tried a humidifier? They work really well to calm coughs and keep the nose clear

Hi there,Its always difficult diagnosing Asthma in children, I have asthma and my daughter has asthma, when she was very small she started waking at night with asthma symptoms. Although at the time I did not really realise it. Her personality changed completely because she was not getting enough sleep. My gp was quick to diagnose asthma because I have it, and so do many of my family. We went straight to a steroid inhaler. The change was miraculous.

I used to cough endlessly at night as a small child, I can remember it.

As your daughter has been diagnosed with Asthma and prescribed a steroid inhaler, I would say the number 1 thing would be to make sure she is using it with a spacer, and using it correctly.

Also if she is coughing and the doctor says he can't hear wheeze etc, it can be a triggering effect. Is there something in her room that is irritating her. Her lungs may just be very "Twitchy". I have twitchy lungs and all sorts of things can set me off.

I would say wash all soft toys that can be washed, and or put them in plastic bags in the freezer for 8 hours. Make sure all the bedding is anti allergy, the same goes for curtains etc. Allergens and mould live on soft furnishings and carpets. Also stop using any scented in her room, and open the windows for at least an hour a day.

Any little thing can trigger a cough, and once started its hard to stop.

Try and rule out any possible triggers.

Also possibly try an OTC antihistamine. Ask your pharmacist what would be suitable for her.

All of this sounds a right royal pain, and it is, but when you find out what is causing it and get rid of it that's marvellous.

My final 3 pieces of advice would be, if you don't resolve the problem

1. When you next go to the doctor ask if she can be referred for allergy testing, some allergens really appear winter, moulds and spoors particularly.

2. Look on Youtube for the " Buteyko stop Cough method". I have been taught this by Respiratory physio to shut down twitchy coughing. Try that with her before the coughing gets set in.

3. Ring the Asthma UK nurses helpline, they will be enormously helpful about what you can try and do.



My advice and i am no doctor is go see a pulminologist I hope to god you can afford it I went to one and he was a clown he just gave me a box or tablets every time i called to him i met him in hostital after i had a bad attack and spent 3 days in there he said want to sort that problem come see me in my rooms and handed me a card , I am in ireland 180 euro first call and 100 after every call I got peed off went to my Gp after a conversation with a friends wife a nurse she said fight ger get another expert thats not good enough , so my GP recommended another guy excellent he is a bit sauve and loves himself but he is very good he did a battery if tests x rays mri tubes down my lungs and now on a sleep apencia after he organized a monitoring session in hospital studding my sleep patterns , if that does not work go to A&E and make a better case In ireland you could have to wait 8 10 12 hours in A&E but if you go i n meek nothing happens , if you waiting in A&E and your child gets a coughing fit run to the window and say they passing out stopped breathing thats what you have to do here and you seen straight away , I waited after my last attack for 6 hour in A&E sitting concentrating on just breath in breath out it all got too much I went to the window and said i am going to collapse , they took me in back and said sit on a chair here after 20 mins A doctor passed i said stop i need help bad I cant breath he said nurse will be with u now i am going the other way i am going to fall down I said I saw a doctor 10 mins later YOUR A VERY SICK MAN HE I told them that 6 and a half hours ago i said but we are here now crack on kept for 24 hours 4 injections 6 nebs, bag of magnesium on oxygen what a joke , but things are better now .


Our health system is fecked not sure about overi pay stupid money for health insurance

My son had similar to this and Montrlukast helped it. Also, I see someone mentioned spores/ dust etc- that is worth following up , as my brother had a lot of similar troubles in that area when he was young.

My little girl had a cough that always started at night and continued throughout the day intermittently- putting a humidifier in her room solved it instantly!

Thanks all for your advice, I have been reading everyone's replies and they are all super useful. I've got a humidifier coming today will try that tonight. I've heard about the Montelukast I presume they have to be prescribed though is that correct

Yes, Montelukast is prescription only, 4mg for children up to 5yo & 5mg from age 6. If it doesn't work after a few weeks then it isn't the answer. Watch your daughter's mental health as it can ge affected in some patients or she could get more dreams - or she may not get any side effects - just be aware of any changes in her moods.

My childhood was a stream of broken nights, coughing fits and asthma attacks. My poor parents must have been exhausted. Things really started to calm down in my teens and by the age of 16 I was off all meds - not sure if it was hormonal or just a better prevention routine (inhaled steroids). But then I developed AERD and I was back in the asthma fold.

Ah I feel for the little one and you all. Its exhausting. I agree with all the posts about making sure the room is dust free mould free and that the possibility of reflux and asthma are under control by whatever means possible. Aside from that, my lad who is now 13 had a night time coughwhen he was 4yrs. Humidifier definitely helped in his room at night to soften the dry air. But then a woman in the creche he was attending told me about an old wives trick which I put no faith in but still tried in desperation. She told me to rub the children's version of Vicks vaporub (think its called Snufflebabes) on the soles of his feet before bedtime and put socks on him as he was getting into bed. I was most taken aback when we had our first good night's sleep for weeks!!! I know it sounds quacky and probably not what the medical profession would recommend but it worked for him a treat. We did this for a short while at night time and hey presto...it stopped entirely. Whatever you decide I hope the solution comes to you soon for a better night's sleep.

I’m so sorry to hear this. I can hear how this is affecting your whole family and it must be exhausting for everyone and also impacting on your child’s development and learning. You could be writing about me at various times in my life. I have found that dry air is a real problem and triggers an uncontrollable cough that once starts goes on for days, weeks and months. I keep the air at home humid and sip water throughout the day and when I wake at night. But, the thing that changed everything for me was making an appointment to see an Airways Consultant with a special interest in Unexplained Cough and Vocal Cord Dysfunction. After the initial appointment I was put on his NHS list and I was helped enormously by seeing Speech and Language and Respiritory Physiotherapists. I had a cough all year round for two years and in winter it was very much worse. I told my GP that I couldn’t go through another winter with that cough. If you can afford to pay for an initial private appointment, it may be worth it. You can of course Google and search for a specialist consultant and ask you GP for a referral to them in the first instant. GPs and pharmacists struggle to treat coughs and the stock answer is that it is a “virus” and there is no treatment though other measures might help. Take care.

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