A Preschool Asthma Attack in Photos and Videos

We’re still processing Eva’s recent asthma attack, her hospitalization, and all of the new information we’ve received about her health. It’s incredibly overwhelming, which is strange because her food allergies were also incredibly overwhelming and by now I would have thought we’d be pros at taking things in stride. Apparently, not so much.

I need to sit and write out all of the internal stuff and what all of this means for our family, but I don’t even know where to begin with that. That will take more time.

Instead, I’m going to share a video from the attack and linear photos from her hospital visit, mostly because I was looking for this information when I was sitting around Googling “three year old asthma ER???” when I should have been driving her to the ER. I don’t know if this will help anyone, but if anything it might be illuminating to see what it looks like when a preschooler is having a severe asthma attack. It’s not what I thought it would look like, which is why I didn’t recognize it even though she’s done this before.

1. Video showing her breathing before I took her in and the changes during the hospital visit.

2. Eva at home watching movies with her brother before the attack. She was likely symptomatic at this point, but I just thought she was under the weather with her cold.


3. Immediately after we check in to the ER, they give her a heavy dose of albuterol using the nebulizer.


4. After her treatment, we wait for ten minutes to see if her asthma improves.


5. Her oxygen drops. At this point, Eva becomes agitated and starts to cry, which makes breathing more difficult.IMG_0419

6. She gets juice to soothe her and they start her on oxygen.IMG_0421

7. She’s not speaking or reacting much. Her pulse ox is still low, even with the extra oxygen.IMG_0424

8. They give her an oral steroid and she falls asleep. More relaxed, she starts to pink up a bit more.


9. She wakes up looking better, but still doesn’t want to speak.


10. After some discussion about moving to the ICU, they put her in the medical unit and officially admit her to the hospital. She’s been flagged as having an upper respiratory infection, so masks are necessary. Eva gets jealous and demands her own.


11. They put the nebulizer mask on and she does a ten hour breathing treatment. She stays up until almost 2 AM watching Disney movies and then falls asleep in twenty minute increments, waking up every time she tugs on her nebulizer, IV, or pulse ox monitor. At 4 AM she becomes so upset the nurse comes in to help me restrain her so she doesn’t yank the IV out. They offer to put her out, but instead I sing to her until the sun comes up and she finally stays asleep.

IMG_0446 IMG_0450

12. She’s calm when she wakes up, but she’s hungry. They haven’t let her have anything but juice in the last 16 hours, but she can’t even have water with her treatment. I distract her with more Disney movies.


13. Eventually she won’t be distracted and cries because she wants breakfast. The crying makes the breathing harder, so they won’t take the mask off and let her eat until she stops crying. This cycle lasts for about an hour.


14. Kyle and I switch off and not long after he takes over, they take off the mask and let her eat. She receives short albuterol treatments throughout the day and each treatment makes her hyper. After unhooking the IV she’s allowed to move around the room in the hopes that it will make her coughs more productive.


15. She’s exhausted, but too hopped up on meds to sleep. She finally falls asleep a little at 4 PM, mid-sentence while asking me something about Queen Elsa.


16. I bring Calvin to the hospital a little after 9 PM with some McDonald’s and we let them hang out in the bed together. Eva has been on room air with the albuterol treatments moving farther apart. Her oxygen is steady and everyone is optimistic that she can be released soon.

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17. They release Eva from the hospital around 1 AM and the four of us go home. She has to go to the pediatric clinic in the morning to check in and she’ll be on steroids for a few days. She also starts a new asthma medication that she’ll take daily from now on. We make more appointments with her allergist and with our pediatrician to discuss an emergency plan, lung scarring, and possibly seeing a pulmonary specialist. We’re warned that she needs to take it very easy and avoid triggers for the next week or she’ll bounce back.

IMG_053518. (Not pictured.) We leave the hospital and I take the kids to the grocery store because our fridge is empty. As we leave the store, I realize that a man is standing outside the store smoking a cigarette not far from our van. I throw the kids and the groceries into the car as quickly as I can, abandoning the cart in the middle of the lot, but both kids start coughing before I pull out. This two minute drive is actually the only time I cry during this whole thing and I pull it together before we get home.


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  • Reply Hope at Disneyland

    I’m sorry about #18. I’m surprised it took you that long to break down. I had my heart in my throat just reading this even after knowing she’s okay and out of the hospital at this point. I hope you have happier days ahead. I honestly had no idea what this looked like so thanks for posting the details. I’m not happy that this happened to Eva though. 🙁

    June 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Yeah, it is what it is. But today we’re all good, right? 🙂

      June 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm
  • Reply Jessica L

    Oh no! Sending happy and healing thoughts your way. I grew up with bad asthma and wheezing with almost any physical activity but outgrew it by high school. Now that I’m past my teens, I do take albuterol (still makes me jittery!) once in a blue moon if I’m sick or due to allergies. I don’t usually comment, but your daughter reminds me of myself when I was younger, since I also had frequent hives and allergy testing, but my immune system has gotten much stronger over time and I only take anything on a seasonal basis. All this to say, hang in there! You are a tough mama and I’m sure this will be a great platform or reference for other parents. Best!

    June 6, 2014 at 10:26 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      It’s so good to hear that you got better! It’s hard to keep hope up sometimes with all of her little ailments, but I’m hoping she has easier breathing out on the horizon. Thank you so much for commenting!!

      June 7, 2014 at 4:59 pm
  • Reply Selena Bluntzer

    I am so sorry you had such an experience. I had a very similar one when my daughter was under 2 years old and I wanted to share with you the thought that you might want to consider that this asthma attack might have been brought on by an allergen exposure. We went through the same thing in the ER: steroids, oxygen, “respiratory infection”/”ear infection” diagnosis, but many months later, I realized that she had actually been exposed to flax seed and all that followed (which was hours after the exposure) could be tied back to that. I often share a couple of my posts relating to that incident, because anaphylaxis sometimes poses as an acute asthma attack. I am glad your sweet little one is doing better, and hope it stays that way. (I also wondered how the hospital handled the food issue with multiple food allergies.)

    June 7, 2014 at 9:42 am
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      Thank you!! I am wondering if this was anaphylaxis from a sunflower seed encounter at the park, so it’s good to hear that I’m not completely crazy. The doctors were open to ideas, but in the end I have to admit that they were pretty dismissive of the idea that it could be anything but her bug because she was running a slight fever. It was very slight though (99-100) and from what I’ve read it looks like distressed kids sometimes get a little fever just from the stress. *sigh* As for the food – the children’s hospital is great about her allergies. I put in the order and then the dietician goes over it and calls me back with anything that doesn’t fly. The bad news is that this means that all food orders take about an hour to reach the room, but it’s still nice that they provide the service.

      June 7, 2014 at 4:58 pm
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