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Our son’s chest infections were too frequent to be normal

Lisa’s baby son, Oliver, had reflux and kept getting chest infections. When he was finally diagnosed and treated for a rare condition, trachea bronchomalacia, the change was instant.

Oliver as a baby had chest infection and reflux – British Lung Foundation
Oliver as a baby

As a baby, Oliver had terrible reflux. We tried all sorts of things such as propping his mattress up in his cot and feeding him different foods. He was breastfed until 8 months old but would still have problems after I'd fed him.

He also had one chest infection after another. He’d have a course of antibiotics then get another  infection a few weeks later.  We saw our GP so frequently, we became almost on first name terms! Several times we ended up in hospital with these infections as Oliver’s temperature was uncontrollable.

Raspy breathing

Oliver was referred to a paediatrician at our local hospital for advice and medication for the reflux. But several changes to dosage of the medication, he wasn’t any better. We were then referred to Alder Hey Children's Hospital. There we saw a consultant who said the medication he’d been taking had as much effect as a glass of water and gave Oliver a different treatment. The change had an almost immediate effect on his reflux - result! 

During the appointment, the consultant noticed a raspy crackle in Oliver's breathing and suggested we saw one of his colleagues who specialised in ear, nose and throat (ENT) problems.  Of course, we agreed.

An amazing difference

Oliver had a gastroscopy – a procedure using an endoscope to see inside the gullet (oesophagus) and stomach. This found he had a slight kink in his gullet. The ENT consultant felt the kink was a little too far down for him to be sure about it, so also referred us to a respiratory consultant. 

The procedure was repeated, and Oliver was diagnosed with a rare condition called tracheo-bronchomalacia. This is where the windpipe and airways (trachea and bronchi) are floppy. Oliver was given antibiotics to prevent infections, called prophylactic antibiotics. They had an immediate positive impact – far, far fewer chest infections.

This made an amazing difference to Oliver. His social life (as a 2½-year-old invited to endless kids’ parties) could resume! He stopped taking antibiotics when he was about 8. But we could still see the consultant if we needed. Oliver also has mild asthma for which he uses a reliever inhaler when he needs to.

Oliver started getting involved in football, rugby and swimming as he grew up and is now a strong, fit and healthy 11½-year-old boy about to start High School. We are really proud of Oliver growing up into the active young chap he's becoming, knowing what he went through at such a young age. There are so many photos of him as a baby and toddler looking so ill!

Never doubt your instincts

The uncertainty you feel as a new parent is immense but it was awful to have the added element of a baby who is persistently poorly. People told us that all babies get coughs and colds, but we knew Oliver's chest infections were too frequent to be normal.

I’ll never forget holding Oliver when he was coming round from the anaesthetic and the respiratory consultant giving us his diagnosis, immediately followed by an action plan. He told us that we should never ever doubt our instincts as parents.

I've sat with a tear in my eye writing this. I would encourage you to persist if you know that something isn't quite right. As the consultant told us, no one knows your child better than you.

If you’re worried about any of your child’s symptoms, seek medical help. Find out about seeing a doctor and when to call 999 about your child’s breathing.

Oliver as a teenager after his tracheo-bronchomalacia diagnosis  - British Lung Foundation

Breathing problems to look out for in children

Seeing a doctor about your child's breathing

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26 September 2019