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Parent Puzzler: Persistent Cough (updated with answer)

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Dr. Meg Meeker

Marie brought 8 year old Sidney in stating that she had been having a cough for 6 months. Marie brought her to an Urgent Care one month earlier and the doctor gave her antibiotics. The antibiotics helped a little, Marie thought, but the cough came back. Sidney’s cough was worse at night and when she played outside.  Frequently her cough was so bad that she gagged or vomited. Her mother was obviously very concerned.

What’s wrong with Sidney?  I can’t wait to hear from my smart readers on this one. I have a feeling many of you will know right away…

ANSWER:

Sidney has asthma. One of the most common reasons for a chronic cough in children is asthma. It can fool parents and pediatricians, sometimes disguising itself as bronchitis. The doctor at the Urgent Care believed that she had bronchitis and gave her antibiotics but nothing for her underlying wheezing which stemmed from asthma. Very often, children with asthma will have a cough and wheezing which can’t be heard without a stethoscope. The hallmark signs are night time cough and “post-tussis” (after coughing) vomiting.

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