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08-19-2012, 12:37 AM   #1
Mehita
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Choking/Gasping for Air

For the last three weeks my son has been occasionally waking up about 1/2 hour after going to bed gasping for air. It sounds like there is mucous blocking his airway or his throat has closed up or something and he desperately gasps for air for 10-30 seconds. His heart races, he breaks out in a sweat and it's obvious his body is simply taking over in a fight or flight response. Eventually it works itself out and he goes back to sleep as if it never happened. Sometimes in the morning he doesn't even remember it happening (I sure do!! Scary!). It has also happened during the day a couple of times (one time while eating, one time while laying down reading a book), but mostly it's at night.

I don't think it's asthma because he recovers so quickly and on his own.

I've read about sleep apnea, but it doesn't quite seem to fit.

I've read about GERD, but he says he doesn't have any bad tastes or burning.

I thought it was maybe whooping cough, but that came back negative. Lungs sounded clear and ear/nose/throat looked fine upon exam.

I tried finding info on Crohn's in the throat but haven't found much. I plan on taking him into his pediatrician again this week, but am wondering if a call to his gastro might be in order first.

Anyone else ever experience this with their children?
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08-19-2012, 03:11 AM   #2
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That must be scary to watch! I haven't experienced anything like that, but from reading it I would think there is maybe a weakness in the muscles of his throat since it's mainly when he lies down (I had thought maybe a flap or something blocking the throat - but you said his ears, nose and throat were checked)
Definately worth getting this checked asap, I would think a GI would be as good a place to start. Or you could try both and see who phones back first . Was thinking maybe a sleep clinic? They could hook him up to all the monitors and then monitor him once he is sleeping.
Hope you get help soon!
08-19-2012, 03:12 AM   #3
Jennifer
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I'd contact both doctors just to be on the safe side. His pediatrician should be able to do a breath test to check for asthma and an x-ray should show if there's anything going on in his lungs. Not remembering in the morning could be related to some sort of sleep disorder but there are many different kinds plus it happens while he's awake as well. Either way he's gotta go to the doctor. Lack of oxygen and increased heart rate is bad news.

Hope he gets it figured out soon! Keep us posted.
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08-19-2012, 05:46 AM   #4
DustyKat
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Oh my, that surely would be scary!

GERD can present in many ways and one of those is what you are describing Mehita, not everyone will experience the more classic symptom of burning. I wouldn't rule it out as a cause just yet and I think it would be worth discussing your GI.

Good luck hun, I hope you find answers soon!

Dusty. xxx
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08-19-2012, 07:12 AM   #5
dannysmom
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That does sound scarey. I agree it does not sounds like asthma or whooping cough (had both of those). Perhaps it is Gerd ...good luck and keep us posted.
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08-19-2012, 11:01 AM   #6
Jenn
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Sounds so scary! Definitely worth checking him out with his doctors and see what they advise. My Crohn's son has had both asthma and sleep apnea/snoring before having his tonsils/adenoids out, but has never done this. It sounds to me more like his nose is draining when he first lies down. I sometimes wake up coughing during a nap for that reason. Maybe try a humidifier in his room to loosen it, or a decongestant an hour or so before bed?
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08-19-2012, 11:15 AM   #7
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Definitely let the doctor know. I have severe GERD. Actually it's larynopharyngeal reflux. For the first several years, I never did experience classic symptoms of GERD (heartburn, bad taste in mouth). My only symptoms were waking up at night choking and coughing,similar to what you describe with your son. Eventually, the acid damaged my vocal cords and I started losing my voice. That is what led me to an ENT doctor, who did a scope and diagnosed me with the reflux. It could be a lot of things though, so definitely get it checked out.
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08-19-2012, 03:45 PM   #8
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Mehta
I have asthma and that happens to me exactly as you described it. I take my albuterol inhaler and then it feels better. I think it is allergies causing it. It usually happens at night while sleeping and occasionally during the day.
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08-21-2012, 11:21 AM   #9
Mehita
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Just a quick update... we saw our family doctor yesterday and he thinks the most likely causes are acid reflux or sleep apnea (ruled out asthma). DS started taking Prilosec yesterday since it's the quickest and easiest thing to start with. Unfortunately, he ended up with THREE episodes last night. After the first one I had him sleep with me and realized that aside from the big ones that I can hear from my bedroom, he's having multiple smaller episodes. The doctor has ordered an oxygen monitor for later this week to check his levels which can give an idea if it's not reflux, but sleep apnea instead.

I still have yet to hear back from the gastro doctor to see if he thinks this is Crohn's related. I would think if there is inflammation in his throat, he'd have trouble continuously, not just primarily at night. Who knows?

Thanks for all of your suggestions as to what this might be. I wrote them all down, took the list with me to the appt, started at the top and worked our way down.

Time for a nap!!!

Last edited by Mehita; 07-20-2013 at 11:36 PM.
08-21-2012, 12:43 PM   #10
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Sorry to hear he is having more episodes than you thought. Glad the doctor is starting to get something done. I hope they find out what it is quickly so you can relax and get some sleep yourself.
08-31-2012, 09:17 AM   #11
Mehita
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I just want to cry. The nighttime gasping episodes continue. We've seen two pediatricians, the gastroentrologist, and ENT, and now are being referred to a plumonologist. It's so frustrating because all anyone has done is look in his throat, listen to him breathe and then say it all sounds normal, go see someone else.

He now has a head cold and is all stuffy. Last night was the worst episode yet. He was gasping for air for a good 30 seconds and then finally his body really kicked into a panic mode and he forcefully vomited to try and clear whatever was blocking his throat... all to no avail. Another 10 seconds of gasping before things cleared out. Then he's totally exhausted and crashes for the rest of the night.

Does this really sound like GERD? He's been on Prilosec for almost two weeks and we have his bed elevated, yet this is still happening. I'm at wit's end and no one is sleeping at night because these episodes wake us all up.

Today I'm going to demand a sleep study and an endoscopy. Any other thoughts or suggestions?

I'm soooooo tired...
08-31-2012, 09:32 AM   #12
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Just an idea. Can you video tape him. You would have to set up a video camera in the room and leave it running. Or get a motion sensor Carma that would turn on when he starts to move. They will only stay on for a couple minutes if their no more movement?
I did with Grace's knee pains.
I was about to thrust the camera in Doctors face
if they said one more time it was growing pains.
It's hard for them to deny you if they can see it happening!
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08-31-2012, 09:43 AM   #13
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It almost sounds like GERD and Apnea. I have that too. It is scary to wake up choking. The acid from the GERD can go all the way into the sinus cavity, thus causing a head cold and/or sinus infection. My esophagus and throat really hurt during these episodes, has your son mentioned if his throat or chest is hurting? I think you are doing the right thing by demanding a sleep study and an endoscopy. Hope you can figure out what is going on soon.
08-31-2012, 09:45 AM   #14
Mehita
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Thanks for the suggestion, Farmwife. I sleep with my iPhone set on video, ready to grab it on a moment's notice. Unfortunately, I have yet to video it because I'm either too late or I'm panicked trying to help him calm down and I forget to tape it. Maybe tonight I'll set up our regular video camera and just go change the tape every two hours. I'm not sleeping anyway, right?

I'll look up motion activated cameras too. That's a good idea.
08-31-2012, 09:53 AM   #15
Mehita
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@prplkow - He says his throat and chest do not hurt during the episodes or at any other time. If it's GERD, shouldn't the Prilosec be doing something for him?

When you wake up choking, what do you do? Does it clear on it's own? Do you do anything to help it clear faster? Are you fully awake? My son pops out of bed and paces while he's gasping. I can tell from his eyes that he's not fully awake and I have to repeat myself several times to get him to respond to me. He's always trying to leave the room, which I assume is part of the fight or flight response.

Any suggestions on what more I can do for him? Open a window for fresh air? Hug him? Just let him be?
08-31-2012, 10:05 AM   #16
prplkow
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It took about 10 days or so before the acid meds really kicked in and stopped the reflux from happening at all. It also helped not to eat or drink a good 2-3 hours before bed which was hard because I loved to have dessert right before bed. I had to stop chocolate, dairy, caffeine, and spicy stuff (and alcohol) and pretty much have bland food. (funny, I think my body was getting me prepared for CD...lol)

As for the gasping, I just sit up cough/choke until it is gone. I don't pace or sleepwalk and I think I always remember, but I am a very light sleeper. My son on the other hand does not wake up during the night, so when he has been sick he has walked and talked and acted like he is awake, but he is not....but like you said you can tell from their eyes they are not awake. It is kind of scary that they do this and then don't remember anything in the morning. The sleep center should also diagnose if he has sleep walking with the apnea.
08-31-2012, 10:11 AM   #17
prplkow
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Oh I also drank water during the day. It seemed to help keep things hydrated and to me it seemed like it helped keep the acid down. I would drink water when I woke up coughing to wash the acid down, but also because my esophagus would get really dry which made me cough. That might not be so easy if your son is still sleeping though.
08-31-2012, 02:34 PM   #18
Mehita
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Laryngospasms!! I just watched several You Tube videos on it and that's it exactly. Now to find the source...
08-31-2012, 03:06 PM   #19
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I posted this quote some time ago:

A worried mother does better research than the FBI

Well done special agent Mehita!
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08-31-2012, 04:41 PM   #20
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You poor mom!! It must be so distressing watching the choking. I can't believe they haven't admitted him so that some medical professional could actually be there and see what happens. Good luck with getting them to do something - just keep pushing.
08-31-2012, 05:53 PM   #21
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Mehita,

I really feel for you. It's awful to watch your child have scary episodes like this once, let alone night after night.

This has happened to me three or four times. The first time i thought I was going to die but it subsided quickly. I too did some research and determined that my episodes were most likely laryngospasm, GERD related; (BTW, I'm a physician). Knowing what it was made it much less scary for me when it happened again. I don't take any meds for GERD because I really don't have other symptoms and this has only happened 3 or 4 times over 3 years. Clearly, your son's problem is a lot worse than what I had and needs a solution.

If your son's doctor is not sure what is going on, a sleep study with video monitoring seems like a good idea. Did the doctor mention a pH probe study?

This has some useful info http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/...and-treatments


Does your son sit up when it happens? Are his eyes open? Does he ever make a croupy or high pitched sound when he is having an episode?
That's what happens to me.

Wishing you and your son helpful answers, soon!
09-03-2012, 03:56 PM   #22
Mehita
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Thanks xmdmom. We have yet to see the "sleep doctor", but I will definitely mention the pH probe study.

To answer your questions... he pops out of bed and paces. His eyes are open, but usually glassy which tells me he's not really awake and the sound is kind of high pitched... gasping. He's just struggling to get air in. I'm sure it's the same as what you're describing.

We have an endoscopy scheduled for late this week.

We've had three nights of sweet nothingness. Maybe the Prilosec is finally kicking in??
09-03-2012, 04:36 PM   #23
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That's great that you've had 3 nights of nothing. Hope it continues!!
09-03-2012, 06:17 PM   #24
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also check with neuro
epilepsy and night terrors can also happen.
Has he ever had a EEG?
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09-08-2012, 11:18 PM   #25
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How are things going with the meds Mehita?

Any news from the scope?

Thinking of you,
Dusty. xxx
09-08-2012, 11:33 PM   #26
Mehita
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Thanks for asking, Dusty.

The omeprazole seems to be working now and we have him sleeping with his head elevated. We've had ten nights of sweet nothingness.

I wimped out and cancelled the endoscopy and pulmonologist. Lukas was pretty upset with me when he found out he'd be missing school already and with my husband out of town, I just couldn't handle the stress by myself. Plus, we'd had seven good nights in a row.

After chatting with our gastro, we're going on the assumption of GERD. We've read a lot online on how to manage the laryngospasms when they happen. He's only had a couple during the day because of the darn head cold that he has. It starts with a cough, he gasps for just a second or two, and then it's done. He's taught himself to relax, breathe through his nose (when he's not stuffy!) and not panic and it significantly shortens the duration of the spasms.

After being on omeprazole for awhile and letting the larnyx heal, these should go away. Fingers crossed!
09-09-2012, 02:19 AM   #27
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Thanks for the update Mehita.

I am so happy that things have settled for Lukas and what a relief for you too! Phew!

I understand where are coming from hun......and you aren't wimping out. You were on your own, he is improving and it can be damned hard playing devils advocate with our kids all the time. It's not hard to want things to be normal for them and not missing school is a part of that.

Mum, you are doing a fab job!

Dusty. xxx
09-09-2012, 10:41 AM   #28
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That's good news! Hope he continues to get better so you don't have to deal with any more tests, etc.
09-09-2012, 03:35 PM   #29
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I read up on laryngospasms. This same thing has been happening to me for the past few years. I thought it was asthma but I also have GERD. When I get them two puffs of albuterol do seem to help. I just read to take a supplement with magnesium, calcium and vitamin D. I am going to look for one tomorrow. They also said for some people sticking your head in the freezer will help ease the spasm something to try if it happens again. It is a very scary feeling. I did read about some people who passed out from them but the good news is it seems if you pass out it relaxes the spasm and allows you to breathe.
09-21-2015, 09:58 PM   #30
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Just a quick update... we saw our family doctor yesterday and he thinks the most likely causes are acid reflux or sleep apnea (ruled out asthma). DS started taking Prilosec yesterday since it's the quickest and easiest thing to start with. Unfortunately, he ended up with THREE episodes last night. After the first one I had him sleep with me and realized that aside from the big ones that I can hear from my bedroom, he's having multiple smaller episodes. The doctor has ordered an oxygen monitor for later this week to check his levels which can give an idea if it's not reflux, but sleep apnea instead.

I still have yet to hear back from the gastro doctor to see if he thinks this is Crohn's related. I would think if there is inflammation in his throat, he'd have trouble continuously, not just primarily at night. Who knows?

Thanks for all of your suggestions as to what this might be. I wrote them all down, took the list with me to the appt, started at the top and worked our way down.

Time for a nap!!!
Mehita, my daughter is 17 and she has just started doing this for about two weeks now. Yes it's very scary! She has a history of terrible allergies and her doctor seems to think it's reactive airways from her sinus's. She just got put on an inhaler which has helped some but it hadn't stopped yet. As I read your post this is actually what she is doing. We are about to be on our 4th doctor visit. We are very concerned also. I'm hoping your child finds some relief and what the problem is. If you do get a diagnosis could you please email me at [email protected] Thank you so kindly.
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