"ewwww! go cough it up!"
"mama, he's doing it in my ear again!"
"i can't stand that noise!"
"that sounds disgusting, go blow your nose or something!"
you could hear at least one of these exclamations in our house no less than 5-10 times on any given evening over the last year. all directed at our middle child, now 7. he didn't have any food allergies that we knew of, and so got minimal amounts of all the allergens outside our home and in some lunches. somehow, without our noticing exactly when, he developed this sound in the back of his throat that can only be described as ...*bubbly*. it made my hair stand on end when he'd sit at the dinner table and give a little cough and we'd hear that junk rattling away in there. out in public, other parents would nudge their children away from him, faces frozen politely as he horked up his tuberculosis-sounding esophageal load.
at first we thought it was leftover post-nasal drip from a cold or bug at the end of last summer. everyone got over it and still jonah rattled. fall passed with it unabated and winter came and was the healthiest ever for our family - and still, jonah crackled and bubbled. we made up our minds he was just a juicy kind of kid, maybe he had constant post-nasal drip or something. it didn't seem to affect his breathing. he didn't snore, he could run and play tirelessly and we soon taught him to go cough it up, which made him sound better for an hour or two sometimes.
his teacher finally asked me about it and told me he sounded truly awful. one night when we told him to go cough it up, he vomited. another day the school called to send him home at lunch because he said he vomited after eating. when he got home, he acted completely normal, energetic and healthy. i wondered vaguely if the post-nasal drip was making him nauseous. already only on dairy minimally, i cut it 90% out of his diet, knowing that less dairy should = less mucous.
we took him to an ENT, who suggested that taking out his adenoids could help. we weren't interested in something so drastic without seeing 100% causation and a promise of a 100% cure.
always prone to nosebleeds, they became much more frequent recently so we took him back to the ENT to reevaluate the possibility of cauterizing the errant bundle of capillaries in his nose that caused the bloody gushers. jonah sat there in the exam chair, rattling and bubbling away in the back of his throat, making me cringe. the ENT brought up the adenoidectomy again. i set a date for the surgery, thinking i was ready to try anything to clear that awful sound away.
after i left his office, i started thinking about how long it had been going on and how it was starting to seem like it involves his stomach and i began to slowly form the thought that this might be reflux and not something from the throat or sinuses at all. i mentioned my concerns to our pediatrician at our next visit and he examined jonah and proclaimed confidently, "it's not sinuses or adenoids, it's reflux. he's not a mouth breather, he doesn't snore and the symptoms are worse around meals. he needs to get off dairy 100%, eat smaller, frequent meals and get on an anti-reflux med."
as usual, i balked at medicating a child without first looking to diet or natural remedies. i asked our pediatrician if there was any truth to the folk remedy i've heard about from dozens of pregnant women for heartburn: neutralizing stomach acid with raw apple cider vinegar. he lit up like christmas and said he was so glad i'd brought it up, because he knew for a fact it could work wonders.
i cancelled the surgery and started giving jonah a mixture of 1 part Bragg's raw apple cider vinegar to 1 part water daily. i put 2 tablespoons in a medical shot glass w/ a little dollop of honey waiting like a reward in the bottom. at 1st he took his "shot" of it before every meal, at any sign of bubbliness and any time his stomach hurt. his teacher was awesome about agreeing to dose him in school whenever she heard him sounding phlegmy or he complained of a stomachache and i packed a tiny bottle of it into his lunch, for him to swig before he ate.
the 1st week, he was probably taking 8-10 doses per day. he didn't love it, but we were all amazed that it cleared the horrible wet cough-y sound up instantly. it also cured stomach aches around meals w/in 15 minutes. even his teacher was impressed. by week 2, he was only getting doses at each meal and bedtime - 4 doses a day. this is the 3rd week and he is down to 2 doses: 1 in the morning before breakfast and the one he gives himself at lunch.
of course i finally got around to wondering *what* was causing my 7 year old to suddenly be producing excess amounts of stomach acid and refluxing it into his esophagus - and knowing my family history - i thought, "allergies". sure enough, when we did the skin scratch test, he came back severely allergic to seasonal allergens (like his father) and moderately allergic to two foods ( like two of his siblings):
peanuts and soy. our home is completely free of any trace of peanuts and lucky for us, his school is also peanut restricted. triple lucky for us, because 3 of our children are now allergic to peanuts (one to a life-threatening degree) and next fall, all three of them will be attending the same elementary school. i know all too well that peanut allergy can be unpredictable and even a person with mild or moderate allergy can suffer an anaphylactic reaction out of the blue, so i'm very relieved, proud and grateful that they can attend a peanut-restricted school while they learn how to navigate their food allergies out in the world, away from the safe cocoon of home.
jonah has now begun taking allergy injections for his allergies and gets special hernia-type adjustments from the chiropractor to further help with his formerly severe reflux, but today you would never suspect he has it -and he never had to go onto the scary and dubiously effective anti-reflux meds. i will take a shot of it myself now when i eat things that normally cause heartburn - and it still amazes me when it actually works and prevents the familiar belchy fire!
i know ENTs have to earn a living in this economy, too - and i love our guy beyond all reason, but the feeling of NOT having to do surgery or put my son on a medication with truly scary side effects for an indefinite period of time is wonderful. the cost, the inconvenience and the worry simply can't compare with buying a $10 gallon of this stuff. it's empowering and reaffirming to be able to make some dietary adjustments, add a natural remedy like ACV, and watch your wilting child unfold into the full bloom of health again. somehow it puts the power back where it belongs and doesn't make the parent rely on dr.s and pharmacies and hope someone else did something right to make your child better... and didn't screw up and do something that might make them worse! any time i can avoid them being dependent on a medication, i consider it a victory.