Slightly Sleepless Nights

March 10, 2011

The kids have a cough.

(I’m not sure if I should say, “The kids have coughs” instead – each kid has a cough, but it could be the same cough. It sounds like the same cough. So anyway, let’s just say, the kids have a cough.)

They’ve had it for a while – three weeks or so, I think. At first, I ignored it. It was mild enough – a little coughing at night, a little snuffling in the morning and then it cleared up. After a week or so, I started the steam treatment, last thing at night. Then, if I heard them coughing at night, I’d get out of bed and go to their room and cover them up thoroughly with a big, fat blanket. That usually stopped the cough for a while. Last week, due to various social engagements, the steam treatment was more off than on. The cough had reduced a bit, but then towards the end of last week, it returned. By Saturday, I was wondering whether it was time to see a doctor, but Amit said, nah, just do the steam regularly, it’ll go away.

Then Sunday night happened. Poor Mrini coughed every 30 seconds or so right from 8.30 when she went to bed, till 10.30 when I went to bed. I gave her sips of water, a Vicks cough drop I managed to unearth from my handbag, and eventually she even agreed to suck on a clove for a couple of minutes – something she has steadfastly refused in the past – all to no avail. Each strategy provided a brief respite from the coughing, but seemed to have a significant impact on her sleep. When I left her alone, she continued to cough but managed some kind of fitful sleep as well. So at 10.30, I gave up all attempts to placate the cough, left her to her restless sleep and went to bed. Either I slept soundly, or the cough did reduce later at night, because the next thing I knew, it was 5 a.m. Soon enough, she was coughing again – still partly asleep, though.

On Monday evening, we consulted a doctor. He examined both girls and made a tentative diagnosis of nocturnal asthma. He prescribed Levolin and Allegra. A quick check of the internet says that Levolin is not recommended for children below 6. Much to my surprise, Allegra is. But… it doesn’t seem to be indicated for their symptoms; they don’t have anything like hay fever or hives. I took Allegra once and it had a very peculiar effect on me – I felt physically paralyzed, as if I couldn’t move. The doctor said I was just drowsy, but mentally I was awake and alert, just unable to move – like in that book State of Fear. It was horrible. I know that it doesn’t have that effect on everyone, and Mrini and Tara don’t even share my genes after all – but I’m still loath to give it to them.

Besides – I’ve seen plenty of asthma in my family. My mother and sister have had asthma for years. My mother was once rushed to the hospital gasping so terribly I was really frightened. I know that asthma looks different in different people, but just a few months ago I saw our friends’ daughter wheezing at the slightest exertion. Our girls don’t look anything like that. They are as active as ever, even going for tennis without coughing or wheezing. They’ve not had any incidence of asthamatic episodes thus far. Even their cough is not the same dry, rasping cough of an asthmatic. In fact, I had thought they have a cold or a bit of a viral that’s lingering on as these things do, and the most I expected was an expectorant or mucolytic cough mixture.

Amit is dead against loading the girls with medicines, especially these medicines. He wants a second opinion, with our regular pediatrician. So do I, but she wasn’t available until Thursday evening, and that meant yet another sleepless night – and possibly more, depending on what medicines she prescribes and how long they need to take effect. But he’s right of course – I don’t want to give them these particular medicines either, especially because this doesn’t even look like asthma to me.

So off we go to the doctor again. The girls love to go to the doctor because I think it makes them feel important; but more importantly, because doctors prescribe medicine and medicines are sweet. So they’re quite happy to meet two doctors in one week. It’s not so much fun for the parents, of course.

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