Fighting Respiratory Illness


It’s that time of year again. Germs are everywhere and sickness spreads quickly. What may be a simple cold for a normal person impacts our ASXL children differently. Their neuromuscular and respiratory challenges make it difficult to breathe and then they end up in the hospital where they can be exposed to even worse infections – some can become life threatening.

As a young child, my son was hospitalized every few months for different types of respiratory illnesses. Over the years, we’ve found a number of techniques to help prevent hospitalizations and keep him healthy.

Here are a few recommendations to help fight these illnesses and advocate for your child. Consult your pulmonologist / PCP to discuss what will work best and appropriate prescriptions.

1) Nebulizer

Doctors can prescribe saline, which is a solution of salt in water, in capsules for the nebulizer. The nebulizer converts this solution into a gaseous form that helps to clear the airways and help the child to breath better. It’s best when refrigerated and given every couple hours. This can also be helpful to relieve congestion.

For more serious respiratory illnesses, inhaled steroids can be an effective treatment. They can reduce symptoms, exacerbations, and prevent hospitalizations. Sometimes oral steroids are given but these have more systematic side effects to the body so they are not as preferable.


2) Manual Chest Physical Therapy and Cough/Suction device


Manual Chest PT can indirectly remove mucus and help clear breathing passages. Cupped hands or special suction cups (see picture below) can facilitate this method in a variety of positions.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, it can help to “drain the lungs, and may include percussion (clapping), vibration, deep breathing, and huffing or coughing.”

To learn more about this method, visit their website.

suction tip device.jpg

If coughing is a challenge, then one could try a Yankauer suction tip device after performing chest PT. Once the mucus has been loosened, the suction device can help to remove these secretions and prevent aspiration. Please consult a trained specialist before ordering and using this device.


3) Home devices

A Humidifier will put moisture in the air that can help clear nasal passages.

Ceiling fans will circulate the air in the room and remove airborne irritants. They will relax the body and brain for sleep.

Aromatherapy with Eucalyptus essential oil can provide a natural antiseptic for respiratory illness and is anti-inflammatory.


4) Fluids & Rest

Providing additional water or Pedialyte via the g-tube can help clear the system and provide the elements needed to recover.

As always, sleep is the best medicine of all. Make sure to allow plenty of time to rest and recover.

Depending on the severity of the illness, it may require antibiotics or other more involved care.

It is also important to consider underlying issues. For example, many children have central and obstructive sleep apnea. Request an overnight sleep study to determine if surgery, CPAP, or other measures are required and consult your pulmonologist and ENT for further examination.


Best wishes for a healthy and happy 2019!

- by Laura Badmaev

Laura BadmaevComment