Most parents get stumped when their sick child’s cough gets worse as the night approaches. In fact, it is very common for kids to get sicker by nightfall. Their fever spikes, their cough becomes louder, and allergies if any, seem to get aggravated as well. So is it just a random phenomenon, or is there scientific evidence to explain why this happens?
Here is a list of well-researched reasons that are the “usual suspects”:
- Changing hormone levels
Certain stress hormones, especially cortisol and adrenaline, have high levels during the day, but tend to decrease by night. These hormones have anti-asthma effects – widen air passages and make breathing easy. Decreased levels lead to aggravation of allergy and asthma symptoms and can cause body temperatures to rise as well. The child’s tolerance threshold for perceiving pain also tends to decrease during night.
- The effects of lying down
The horizontal posture in bed at night can result in certain changes in the body. Fluid collects in the ears and exerts pressure on inflamed tissues, which can aggravate any pain due to ear-infections. Lying down slows down breathing and also constricts and swells the nasal passages. The resulting resistance to air flow and ineffective clearing of debris and fluids from the air passages leads to aggravation of breathing problems.
- Bedroom allergens
The bedroom may host several allergy-causing agents like dust mites (on bedding, curtains, carpets), pet dander, fur & wool (in soft toys). These may worsen the allergy and asthma symptoms during the night, aggravating breathlessness, sneezing and wheezing. These allergens may also manifest as constant itching and sometimes, developing rashes as well.
- Altered emotions at night
Children tend to get more anxious during the night. With nothing else on their minds, they tend to become psychologically more aware and sensitive to pain and discomfort, which they may have otherwise ignored during the day-time.
Midnight Survival Kit
With a sick child in the house, it is always good to be prepared for worsening symptoms in the night. Here is a list of things that are helpful to have around.
- Basic medicines: Anti-allergy medicines, pain killers, paracetamol, cough syrup (doctor-prescribed), ear-drops, and prescribed inhalers
- Other aids: Thermometer, saline drops/spray, wipes – tissues, medicine cups/droppers, petroleum jelly and lacto-calamine lotion
However, if the situation isn’t getting any better, it is best to get in touch with the family doctor and seek advice at the earliest.