When Air Hurts

I’m laying in bed typing next to my listless 4-year old. He’s thrown up on my pillow tonight. My towels. My hair. He’s managed to cough his way into various vomits he’s not even waking up to notice.

The test results are in and while I wish I could say my son’s allergen-induced asthma was caused by the pollen outside or the cat inside, no such luck. After all, that would be the easy way to do things, and that’s just not how we work around here.

No, our little Count Waffles the Terrible tested negative for all the usual suspects. What we were not expecting was his cough-till-you-puke flem-fest pusher to be named pollution. No really, he’s allergic to the air. The chemicals. The irritants. The exhaust. The smoke. The smog.

I had my suspicions. The doctor even talked about it long ago when he was first diagnosed with his minor, and now outgrown tree allergy. I think I just refused to really face facts.  I would mention my baby boy’s allergies were irritated by pollution, but we never really found out for sure…until now.

I like to think I’m eco-conscience. We’re not crazy green around here but Daddy does drive a Prius and I throw the newspaper and water bottles in a totally different trash can than the other stuff. We’ve always used the “free” detergents and soaps. Mostly because we’re not a perfumey-flowery smelling family.

Honestly though, with today’s discovery at the Allergy and Asthma Institute, my head is spinning. I’m angry, I’m sad. I’m confused. I’m upset in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever been upset before. You’ll notice I’m not ranting.

I gave birth to a child in a major metropolitan city notorious for its air quality. I now have a child suffering, actually cuddled in bed next to me right now, suffering because of where he lives and what the people around him do. I’m not talking suffering like he has to take an inhaler or gets a runny nose and watery eyes. I mean…he’s up all night coughing until he gags over and over and over and over again. We’re on night #4.

Tonight, during one cough-till-you-puke session, he began to cry. On all fours on my bed, hovering over a towel filled with his vomit, he cried and asked “but how am I going to play tomorrow?

It broke my heart. It hit me in that mother spot so deep inside you have no choice but to feel physical pain.

I’ve always been the activist type, happy to take up the cause and fight like hell.

For the first time ever I am worked up over an issue in a way I can honestly say I’ve never been worked up before. Again, you will notice…I’m not ranting.

I don’t have any answers yet. Odd for me because, as you know, I have all the answers. I don’t even have all the questions yet.

I know my child is suffering. I know I must do something. The rest must be around here somewhere.


  1. Oh Erin…poor Jack, poor you…I wish I had answers for you too. This is heartbreaking.

  2. This is terrible. Did the doctor have any advice or recommendations? I don’t even know what to tell you… I hope that you are able to find some answers.

  3. I am so sorry! Your poor son! My son had really bad asthma and we built an entire new house for him since our old house had carpet and we had had a dog that left its allergens in the carpet and duct work even after we got rid of the dog for our son’s health. I spent millions of nights in the hospital with my son hooked up to oxygen, they gave him so many albuterol treatments in a row that they then worried about his heart, so believe me when I say I know what you are going through. I have no answers either, but for us the solution was easier. He was allergic to everything in our house, so we built a new house specifically to let him be healthy. I would do anything for my kids, and I know you feel the same way about yours. If there is anything I can do to help, please let me know! Or even if you just want to complain to someone who knows where you are coming from, feel free to email me or call me or whatever!

  4. Ohhhhhhh, we have had those nights. There’s nothing – absolutely nothing you can do to help them out in that moment (I would find myself cuddling him outside on the porch swing in freezing cold weather, hoping the cold air would shock his lungs into NOT spasming til he barfed again). Yup. I got a little crazy in those moments. 🙂

    Things have improved with age, but it was slow going. We live in a rural area of Oklahoma now – much better. Keep looking for answers.

    My dad is “allergic” to irritants. He actually wears a tiny air purifier around his neck all day long now. We joke that it’s his battery pack … or walkie-talkie to the White House, etc. Yet, for the first time in his adult life, he can get onto an elevator with a woman bathed in old Avon perfume, and not sink into a coughing fit.

  5. I’m so sad to hear that the Count is suffering. I wish I could do something. Anything! Just to take that away. I want to google it and learn more — I haven’t heard about this before.

    I’ll keep him in my thoughts. I hope there’s something that can be done to lessen the severity of his pain. This sucks.

  6. Oh man. That is terrible.
    I’m so sorry.

    I really hope he gets better soon.

    Frickin’ pollution. How many people with gas guzzlers in your neighborhood? All the fumes and crap.

    I’m so sorry you have to go through this.

  7. Oh my goodness, this is just heartbreaking to read. My husband is the same as Count Waffles–when he was a kid he spent cumulative months inside of an oxygen tent in the hospital. Thankfully, he’s better now. But that doesn’t end your son’s suffering today.
    We up and moved to Vermont…beautiful air! But that’s not always possible given our lives and responsibilities.
    What IS possible is that if everyone drove a Prius and put their newspapers and bottles in totally separate trash bins. Every little bit counts.
    In the meanwhile, I hope CW is feeling tip top and that your city is having a good air quality day today.

  8. Poor baby, and poor mama. Cordy is allergic to just about everything, and we keep her inside on air quality alert days. I’m guessing nearly every day is a bad air day where you live – I don’t think we’d be able to live there with Cordy’s allergies.

    The one good thing about the midwest – it’s boring as hell sometimes, but the air is cleaner. For the moment at least. Each year there seem to be more and more air quality alert days. If we don’t do something about pollution soon, even the air here will be poison.

    Hope Jack recovers from this rough patch soon.

  9. 🙁

    wish i could help somehow, but can only send good thoughts to you and the whole family. i hope some answers show up soon.

  10. I’m going to start egging hummers, in honor of our kids.

    Would that help??

    It’s 7:53 PM here, and I was just thinking about you. Have that little knot in my stomach, knowing night is approaching, and knowing you have that little knot in YOUR stomach, not knowing what kind of night it will be.

  11. Well that sucks. I’m sorry to hear it.

  12. I’m so, so sorry 🙁 (((Hugs))) for you and your dear son.

    Have they prescribed a nebulizer for him? When my 5 yr old son gets an URI, that makes his asthma flare up. And the coughing/gagging/sometimes vomiting….Albuterol by nebulizer is the only thing that gets him better faster.

    My son has anaphylactic food allergies, and environmental allergies. Singulair made a *huge* difference for him, and he’s on Atarax every night (he also has/had eczema), and sometimes during the day if he’s extra stuffy/sniffely.

    When he’s that bad, I also use natural chest rubs, do vapor showers, and those little plug-in vapor strips. Ask your doc if guaifenisin is ok for him to use (we sometimes add a natural cough syrup).

    I know how scary this is for you, especially since he’s ill (vomit *always* freaks me out). Hang in there, research what you can, get your husband to help out, and don’t be afraid to be pushy with docs for answers/help.

    (((((More hugs))))))

  13. 🙁

    So very sorry to hear about this. Please take care of yourself and your babies & try to find some comfort that there are lots of people out there who you don’t even know wishing you all the best.

  14. Queen of Spain says:

    We had a *better* night last night. We did Allegra, singular, quvar and a very steamy bath before bed. He only woke up once, maybe twice coughing. I think the quvar is kicking in.

  15. {{{{HUG}}}}

  16. I’m back because I have been thinking/worrying about you. I’m glad to read that it was a better night. Hopefully you will have an even better night tonight!

  17. canoe chick says:

    Your Majesty,
    I am so sorry to hear about the Count. It must be so terrible for him, and for the rest of you to have to watch him suffer. I know just what you mean about “that mother spot so deep inside”, I have felt things there too!
    I do so hope that you are able to find some solutions, and some comfort in knowing how many people are thinking about all of you with very best wishes.

  18. QueenWench Tammas says:

    I second Lara…I wish I had a solution for you, for Count Waffles. That is just miserable!

    Sending good thoughts your way….

  19. Are you okay???????? Need words. Need post. Need something to feed my codependency and need to fix others!

  20. 🙁 That’s so awful for your little guy to be going through that. I often wonder if people used to have allergies before the industrial age. I also used to wonder how sweet the air used to smell before we humans started pumping trash into the atmosphere.

  21. Do you read “No Impact Man”? This post went up today, reminded me of you.


  22. As I have had similar problems with the air quality, asthma, allergies
    I took it upon myself to do some major research and have found
    some answers. We are not getting necessary vitamins for our system
    to function properly due to many reasons, pollutions, aluminum toxicity, pesticides, herbicides, acid soils, etc. As I have changed
    the diet to organic, fruits, vegetables, high quality proteins, fish
    egg, etc., my symtoms are being relieved. Study the relationship of
    vitamin A to allergies, asthma. Try apple cider vinegar, organic for
    a tryout first, high in magnesium and potassium. This should be a start.
    Basically, begin studying what vitamins, foods do what and you will
    be able to lessen his problems as a whole. Hope this helps.


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