The Asthmatics

No, this isn't the name of a new emo band. Jafta and I are, unfortunately, the asthmatics.

Asthma is a weird thing. For us, it's something I totally forget about all spring and summer. Every year I think, wow, Jafta's asthma is totally gone! And then fall hits, and we are back to negotiating with the nebulizer.

(Jafta watching Baby Einstein with his nebulizer at 7 months old)

Having grown up with asthma, I know how gnarly some of those inhaled steroids are. I do my best to deal with his asthma (and mine) in ways that avoid medication as much as possible But some days, like when there are fires raging all around southern California and smoke is filling the air and his already compromised lungs, there's not much else we can do. So we've had quite a few treatments today, and a lot of coughing and difficult breathing. And also, many a mysterious tantrum that are likely the effect of stimulating inhaled steroids and a lack of oxygen to the brain. It makes life so fun!!

Jafta doesn't just have asthma, he has what my doctor affectionately calls the "allergy triad": asthma, allergies, and eczema. Which means that all winter, Jafta has a runny nose, a noisy cough, and insanely ashy skin. When we received his preschool handbook and read the rules on keeping the school healthy, I had to have a little chat with the director. I explained to her that if I kept Jafta home every time he had a runny nose, he would not be able to attend preschool Nov-Feb. She has been very understanding, but many parents are not. You would not believe the glares I get from moms in the mall or at the park when they hear his "asthma cough" or see his snotty nose. Yesterday we were in an elevator and he coughed, and another mom pulled her daughter towards her and shielded her with her jacket while casting me a look that said, "how DARE you have him out like that." Well, sorry lady. I can't keep him home all winter. Life goes on, even with asthma.

Of course, being the mature person I am, I never worry that I am being judged as a bad mom. MWAAAAHAHAHAHA. And don't get me started on the eczema thing and how mortifying that is for me. Because if there are two cardinal sins in transracial adoption, they are: 1) letting your kid's hair look frizzy and unkempt, and 2) not properly moisturizing the skin. And yet despite how much Aveeno, Eucerin, and Aquafor I slather on his skin, five minutes later he has ashy knees that scream "my mom is White and doesn't get it."

But all of this allergy triad fun is not without it's perks. Jafta is sort of our own personal little weather detector.

  • Dry, non-productive cough? We're gonna have a streak of hot weather in 24 hours.

  • Unexplained runny nose? The winds must be picking up.

  • An ezcema flare-up that's making him itch all night? It's about to get really, really cold.

But it goes both ways, and sometimes the weather can predict pretty awful things for Jafta's asthma. Like today, when I realized that if the smoke got any closer, we were probably in for an ER trip. Fortunately, the wind starting blowing in the opposite direction, and we are all breathing a little easier tonight. Literally and figuratively.


  1. Have you ever tried Bag Balm? (for the eczema) It's some stuff my dad swears by, it's made to go on cow udders (yes really), like a very thick vaseline. I think the idea is to slather it on at night and have it work its magic under the pj's. Look at or do a search for bag balm and eczema. You can find it at pet stores/feed stores or I think sometimes wal-mart too.


  2. As an AA woman with bio. adults kids and a four-year son (from Haiti), may I make a small suggestion? Yeah, the dry skin thing can be--weeell, it can be...
    Anyway, I have always used a little petroleum jelly (1/2 pj and 1/2 lotion), rub some in my palm and apply. It really does lock moisture in the skin. It's not especially greasy or shiny. Buena suerte.

  3. I could have written this. There is nothing greater than having your neighbors stand in their driveway and stare at your house because the EMT's have come to check your son' oxygen levels because you are afraid to give him another nebulizer treatment because he's way more than "prescribed." It's something I am learning to live with every day. I get the stares in the store because my child sounds like he could cough up his breakfast any second. He's got all 3 too. Fun times. Nothing like a 3 year old on steroids. My husband says he reminds him of the baby in "The Incredibles" when he's on the meds.

  4. i hear you about the knees .... deacon always has ashy knees. i do all i can do morning, night and throughout the day!

  5. RENEW lotion from Melaleuca works WONDERS for eczema - I;ve tried EVERYTHING and this one actually works!!
    good luck! :-)

  6. Kerry Graham Carney5:23 PM

    We are also a family with asthma, eczema and allergies. Luckily, we have outgrown the eczema, but we found a really great lotion and soap that helped tremendously! Of course, I can't remember the name right now, but will be happy to find it in my linen closet if you want the name. I think it is Lipikar or something like that. My sister who works for Cosmair in NY sent it to me. Her daughter has always had terrible eczema and nothing else worked. Just let me know.

  7. Seconding RENEW lotion ... been using it for six years. Next time you are in Haiti I will give you some to try - if you like it you have to sign up to be my customer for the rest of your life. Deal?

  8. My son and I have horrible eczema and so far nothing has worked so successfully. We've tried everything from over-the-counter lotions to searingly potent prescription-only steroid creams. Really potent. Like "careful this cream could burn your skin off and leave you with horrible disfiguring scars so don't use it too often" kind of potent. None of it has impressed me. Let me know if you find something good. I have yet to discover the magical eczema solution. :)

  9. Man, poor little Jafta! I read this and felt so sorry for him and you to be honest. Thanks for the info on the ashiness...That could have easily slipped my mind as a pasty Jew girl! Hopefully Anthony will tell me all of this stuff but you know, write about it whenever you can so I keep learning! HA :)


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