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Child's Cough Could Be Early Warning Of Asthma

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Some families may not realize that their child has asthma. The child may not yet have had an asthma attack, but there may be early warning signs that families are missing.

Jordan McNeil, 6, has asthma. Her parents did not know it until last fall while camping in the mountains.

"I started hearing her breathing or what I thought was an animal outside of the tent," said Michelle McNeil, Jordan's mother.

McNeil found out it was Jordan wheezing and gasping for breath.

"She started turning blue in front of us, so it was very scary," Michelle said.

Jordan's parents quickly drove her to a hospital 10 minutes away, where they restored her breathing. Then, the family began a free, one-year program at WakeMed to learn how to manage Jordan's asthma. One of the things they learned about was the early warning signs they had missed.

"She was getting tired real quick, tugging for breath a whole lot. (She) couldn't ride her bike up the road", said David McNeil, Jordan's father.

"All of those are early warning signs of an asthma attack," said Keri Erickson, a respiratory therapist at WakeMed.

She said that in an asthma attack, the airways in the lungs constrict. There is also swelling and mucus, but the wheezing and dry cough they produce might be mistaken for a cold and cause a parent to make a big mistake by giving the child cold medicine.

"The cold medicines can make things worse because if you're an asthmatic, you have sensitivity to aspirin and aspirin can cause an inflammatory response in your lungs," said Erickson.

Erickson said allergies are another warning sign that your child might have asthma. Eighty percent of all asthmatics have allergies.

Children who have shown a sensitivity to environmental triggers like smoke, pollens or strong smells like kitchen or bathroom cleaners should be checked for asthma.

The WakeMed pediatric asthma program provides participating families more than $100 worth of supplies at no charge. For more information about the program, you can call


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