Florence Nightingale Anxiety


It was on Friday afternoon after School last week when Harper started coughing. Innocent enough, but I realised as soon as I heard it, that she was about to get a cold. And when she gets a cold, it’s not normally “just” a cold. It means that it will trigger her asthma. It means that she will be coughing non stop for the next few days. It (generally) means that there will be a cough vomit. No sleep. Etc etc.

You see, we have one of those kids with dicky lungs. Much like I had, which were given to me from my Dad. We are all asthmatics and unlucky for poor Harps, she was blessed with these genes too (along with some allergic ones from her Dad too). She’s been the kid with allergies, eczema, asthma, tonsils and adenoids taken out and ever since she was little, prone to asthma that is set off with the common cold virus. It doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything else (well not exercise at least) but perhaps the odd cat or dust set off. {I’ve written about her tonsils & adenoid ops in these 3 posts on: Our facts, The OP, Recovery.}

It was on the weekend that I realised just how stressed out I was getting from this. It only occurred to me when I was snapping at Rob, yelling at him to get a bowl (because I knew exactly how that coughing was going to play out and not wanting a laundry session on a Saturday night) and just generally NOT coping, just how much this affects me.

Sick kids completely FREAK ME OUT!

And not all kids, maybe just asthmatic kids like Harps. Maybe it goes back to when I was little, and knowing exactly just shitty it feels when you can’t breathe, I KNOW what that feels like personally so of course I don’t want that for my little lady maybe 1000 times over. It’s the pits.

We’ve done rushed visits to hospital ER’s, lots of overnight and longer stays, we’ve woken her every 4 hours for puffs of ventolin, it’s like that one little cough at that start of a cold can trigger off so much more in me.  And I don’t think the whooping cough x 3 that we were hit with at the start of this year helped things, I swear I have still got PTSD from that! I will never forget just how bloody awful that was for all three girls. I think I still have an eye twitch from it!

And I know that because I feel these things, that others must too! Because the one thing I know from blogging for 10 years is that you are NEVER the only one doing ANYTHING. Never!  So I thought I would share some ways I try and keep the anxiety levels down when my little asthmatic gets sick. Because it is properly scary and totally normal to feel all these things.

1. Try not to get too far ahead of yourself

Says me who foresaw a hospital visit, many cough vomits and nights of restless sleep for a minimum of 3-4 days from the sound of that first cough. It might not be that bad. It might. But don’t be a panic head, everyone feels that panic and I swear it sets the tone for how things will actually play. Be alert but not alarmed!

2. Get prepared

Have you got that redipred script good to go? Got lots of supplies of pana or nuro or puffers? Got towels down before bed and bowls nearby? I try and get as ready mentally as I can because it’s bloody hard going, and only YOU knows just how much goes into one of these episodes.

3. Stay Calm

This is easier said than done, especially for me, but if I can stay calm and not resentful or angry that this is happening AGAIN (even though this is the 567th cold for the year DEAD LORD MAKE THE GERMS STOP). Got plans? Cancel them if you can. Don’t start watching that TV show and open that bottle because we all know that you aren’t going to be able to watch them, so just try again in a few days time and take a deep breath. This is exactly the shit they never tell you in the baby books. Get into comfy clothes, get into bed and be ready for whatever comes your way (usually vomit and no sleep)

4. Trust your instincts

You know when you start to worry? Anyone with an asthmatic kids knows this worry. You watch them like a hawk because they can go down, and go down fast. You know exactly when to act and when not too. Listen to that voice, trust it. It’s better and more right than any Dr.

5. Have good medical advice

Whether that’s for your child and their asthma/croup action plan or whether it’s for YOU and your ability to cope or get anxiety set off by this

6. Know that this will pass

There’s nothing that bugs me more than the saying “this too shall pass” because much like when you are dealing with gastro, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t SUCK when you are in the thick of it. But it’s more annoying, because it’s true! In my head I panic and freak out, but if I calm the farm, I can actually see that what we are dealing with is really 2 really bad nights, maybe 3, but then it will back to normal. It’s not that bad is it?

So tell me I’m not the only one to get a complete anxiety attack at the sound of a cough? I know I’m not! And I am happy to report at now 7 years old, that the severity and duration of the attacks are much less than she ever used to have when she was younger. It does get better, promise.

Get anxiety from sick kids?
Got any tips for Mums with asthmatic/croupy kids?


  1. I’m so glad you wrote about this! I hear that cough or spot his nose running and I feel sick to my stomach, because like you describe there’s no stopping or preventing it at that point (yes we do all the daily prevention puffs etc). He’s a wild, very entertaining & so loving 4 year old – but we’ve gotten to the point that the entire asthma thing irritates him.
    I can’t be calm until it’s passed (usually takes addition steroids etc or a thankfully infrequent hospital trip)…and I’m sick with fear the entire time!!
    People who don’t have an asthmatic child just don’t get it until they spend a few hours in your shoes.
    I’ll have to work on the staying calm, outwardly I am, but internally I’m petrified he’ll not be ok or it’ll take a fast bad turn & I can’t get him to the hospital fast enough!
    Ok now I’m anxious just writing about it…I’m not an anxious person in most other situations??Hope your little one is cough free at the moment:)

  2. I absolutely could have written this post…at the first sign of a sniff from my son (I have identical twin boys who are now 13) I can literally feel the surge of adrenalin race through me and hammering heart and sweaty palms kick in. My son has bronchomalacia – misdiagnosed as asthma for years. So with the common cold it turns into a 4-5 night cough-fest with no sleep and me sleeping in this room as comfort and quite simply to be closer in the bunk to deal with medicine, vaporisers etc. I lie there once he is asleep as still as can be for fear of waking him and starting it off again, or of waking the dog who is draped across my chest and I fear will start panting and wake him. This morning I got a congratulations email from fitbit that apparently the last 5 nights I had the best sleep ever! The irony is I lay perfectly still too scared to move and wide awake for bout 6 hours straight so the fitbit registered me as sound asleep! Yes many go through it – and many go through worse I know. But I completely relate to the onset of anxiety in this situation. Holding down a job while sleep deprived for days on end is the pits. Take heart…we are getting there.

  3. My second son is asthmatic and he has had ambulance trips on holidays as he picked up a cold on the plane, which set off croup (he was 18 months), which now that he is older, has been diagnosed as asthma. We now never go away on holidays without prednisolone. It’s all great advice, however I have found a preventer inhaler, like flixotide or seretide administered at the first sign of a cold tends to stop the cold triggering asthma. Things generally are a lot more under control now. I just thought of something else, he tends to start waking up at night before any signs of a cold or asthma are apparent to us. Night time awakenings are a sign of asthma. As soon as we start the preventer again it nips any night time shenanigans in the bud. Just thought I’d mention the correlation as it took us a while to figure it out.

  4. I can’t relate to having a child with asthma, but my sister suffered terribly from it. It must be awful. However after what you’ve described, I’m embarrassed to admit that I suffer from gastro & sore throat anxiety. I despise both of them in my house. Living with my own arthritic condition is easier because at least the whole family won’t be taken down with it.

  5. The good old cough vomit. Happens here too. Nothing makes me move faster. We have more croup than asthma and thankfully seem to be at the end of that with 7 year old. But am about to go through tonsil and android removal with 5 year old. Just read your posts – not sure if I feel better or worse. Will just focus on the champagne at the end……..

  6. Julie Harris says

    I am an anxious mother of two asthmatic children. Other parents think you are being a helicopter parent. Especially when you limit the playdates as you know that being overtired and rundown means more likely to catch a cold and virus. Asthma here often leads to pneumonia. And I lose my ever loving mind. My husband tries to talk me off the ledge and I just snap at him more.

  7. When my son was young he sounded just like poor Harps. He still has the allergies but the asthma (thankfully only brought on by lung infections/ colds) has started to reduce. He is now 14 and can now survive the common cold with limited asthma. I swear his lungs are slowly getting stronger. Hopefully with time Harps will too.

    Best advise i can give is stay as calm as possible. Kids feed in your emotions, if you don’t panic then you have a much better chance of keeping them as calm as possible.

  8. Oh god, G used to do the cough cough cough cough vomit thing before we had the asthma diagnosis. It was the worst. Luckily since then (just before she turned 3) and now we’ve only had one overnight stay and one day in casualty. The day in the local hospital’s cas sorted her out to some extent, it was nowhere near as lovely as Sydney Kids and it has been the threat, well, if you do — you may end up at the local hospital. Stopped her mucking around in her tracks!
    I’m glad I have a super diligent ex-asthmatic-as-a-child husband as he is really on top of the breathing thing. I am also glad G doesn’t get it anything like she used to. Same goes for the eczema.

  9. Oh Beth i can so relate to this post. My darling 8 year old girl has asthma. The vomit-cough, the fear & panic in the middle of the night when they can’t breathe, making sure you have redipred on hand. It is so stressful & never gets easier. One thing we do that seems to help her is run the shower on hot- just for the steam & sit in the bathroom with her. Seems to settle that constant cough if just for a little while. Sending you giant hugs. Take care of yourself the best you can xxx Amy

  10. Hi Beth, I believe I have commented on a very similar post before and I can’t help myself again ?. We agreed that having a husband/partner who was non-panicking, relaxed, sleep-through- it-all-anyway (because one can drift off easily when one is not worrying) was a godsend when it came to children and sickness. You’d also think after having 4 children I’d be pretty chilled about this, but in fact my anxiety has become even worse! I worry I’ll be up with a sick kid even before it’s happened – the thought of it happening is sometimes worse than when I’m actually going through it. I have towels spread out under the kids beds on a permanent basis with a bucket & disposable gloves in each room. Ok Beth, see how OTT I am! I hope this makes you feel better …that, or less crazy!! Do you also find that as soon as the sun goes down that’s when panic starts setting in and during the day you can cope with any illness like a boss?!? I can’t work out why sickness stresses me out. Of course, primarily I worry for my babies, but aside from that, am I worried that I’ll be up all night and will never catch up on sleep? That it will spread through the family? The worry of the aftermath mess and lingered smells that will surely follow?? I just don’t know.
    Whew, anyway we are on a 2 week road trip at the moment living in close quarters and my eldest (who has asthma) has just come right after a 5 day virus, which included coughing fits and now the rest are showing similar symptoms including a grumpy 8 month old….My options are…take a leaf out of my husband’s book or be hypnotised out of feeling like this, ever! I wonder if this is a thing…

  11. Hi Beth – being an asthmatic child myself, I can relate to this. Although I didn’t do the cough-vomit scenario I remember being in an oxygen tent overnight back in the 70’s. My family has a long history with asthma. My grandfather had chronic asthma and suffered terribly his whole life, constantly wheezing and short of breath. My Mum almost died in 1988 from a severe asthma attack, thankfully I seem to have grown out of mine, touch wood. My daughter missed out on the asthma but got stuck with a chronic autoimmune disease instead ! The worry never ends, I know that.

  12. sorry to hear that beth! … I have empathy!
    it’s not easy being the mother of a child who is prone to colds then develops
    into asthma/bronchitis etc … postural drainage is something I had to do often!
    less milk products may help harper and some horseradish and garlic tablets
    a valium for you! … just say’n! … keeping calm is good, if one can manage it!
    all the best hun! love m:)X

  13. Hope that it hasn’t been as bad as you thought it might get.

    I can completely relate — my little brother had to be rushed to hospital with croup when I was about 13 (I am 11 years older than him). I’ve never forgotten his lips turning purple and his face going blue. Luckily croup hasn’t been a major issue for my kids, but I have had sleepless nights watching over them worrying that the cough they have is going to become croup. It triggers all my anxieties.

    It does seem that each kids gets a ‘thing’ don’t they? I was throat, my sister was a cough-cough-puker and my brother generally ears. My own kids are ears and throat.

  14. It’s very scary and you have to be the adult and make the decisions. My middle child had asthma, many pukes, many hospital stays, not much sleep but she did grow out of it. Still has a little eczema, has major hay fever and will always have her frigging peanut allergy until a cure is found so after 18 years I still stress as I lose the control over what she eats. She is sensible though and after a peanut challenge in hospital last year that went many ways of wrong she knows to be very very careful. Your story sounds so familiar Beth, I hope Harper grows out of it soon.

  15. Thank you so much for writing this. My first two are as tough as mallee bulls so having a third bub with ‘reactive airways’ (the bullshit term for Athsma) has been a shock and massive stress. He’s twenty months now but has been in and out of hospital since eight weeks (two stays in picu). As he commences another bout of sickness I can feel the stress rising. Athsma seems to be accepted as a ‘normal’ condition but there’s nothing normal about wishing your baby would stop coughing and then worrying that they’ve stopped breathing when they DO stop coughing. Thanks again for writing this beth.

  16. Forget the bowls for vomit.
    Those plastic disposable vomit bags are the best. Theres been no looking back for me since discovering them.
    I grabbed a handful last time we were in Emergency, only to discover you can buy them in 4 packs at the chemist.
    Yep, this is a vomit bowl free house now. And when someone is sick you can place them strategically around the house, ready to grab in an instance.
    (I know they are not environmentally friendly but I really do a lot of other things for the environment so please, let me use these…)

  17. Splatter mats on the floor instead of towels, that’s what I put down as soon as the night time coughing commences.

  18. My 2yo son has just been diagnosed as asthmatic, and it has really scared me! My husband still suffers at age 43, regularly takes a preventer, and suffered a collapsed lung as a teen, so he was quite devastated by the diagnosis. Our son spent 4 days in hospital with bronchiolitis earlier this year, and when I took him into emergency last week was expecting a similar diagnosis, only to leave with an asthma management plan, a ventolin puffer and a spacer. We’re still very early days, and waiting to see if will be an ongoing issue, or just the result of illness, or weather affected or the more serious kind that will require a preventer, but seeing these comments is really helpful…and also good to know the anxiety I feel about it is totally normal!

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