A Saskatoon mother is sharing the importance of in-person doctor’s appointments after it took two years to figure out why her daughter was experiencing reoccurring respiratory issues.

Valerie Caron said her two-year-old daughter, Eden Gramson, began experiencing allergy-like symptoms, a chronic runny nose, difficulty breathing and coughing at night when she was about four months old.

“We were struggling to find the right path to figure out what was going on,” Caron told CTV News.

“It was also right when the pandemic started and so, things were mostly shut down so it was really hard to access care and to find the right resources.”

Caron said it started getting worse last fall and that Eden would be sick for about three to four weeks at a time, then get better, then get sick again.

She said she was told Eden likely had COVID or another viral infection, but that wasn’t the case.

“It was a little bit scary to not know where things were going to go or who we could talk to,” Caron said. 

Since Eden was experiencing symptoms linked to COVID-19, Caron said seeing her doctor in-person wasn’t an option.

“Our family doctor was amazing and really did her best trying to mange over the phone, not even being able to see Eden or hear anything or listen to anything,” she said.

“It was really challenging and I think a lot of families have faced that fear of the unknown and the waits to see a specialist that might be able to direct you to the right care.”

About nine months after being referred to respirology specialists, it was determined that Eden has asthma that was triggered whenever she got a cold.

From there, Eden was put on an inhaler and allergy medication.

“Things immediately started to improve and she was really thriving a lot more. We weren’t hearing her cough and struggling at night and so, it was really a 360,” she said.

“Having care and being able to access it more regularly really made a difference in us being able to support her.”

Saskatoon pediatric respirologist Dr. Darryl Adamko treated Eden and said things could’ve ended up worse for her if she wasn’t diagnosed and given the proper treatment.

“I worry that if I hadn’t seen Eden this spring in-person then Mom wouldn’t have started her preventive medicine and she would’ve gotten a lot sicker and would’ve ended up in hospital,” he said.

It’s something Adamko said is becoming a widespread problem, with more children ending up in hospital with respiratory illnesses other than COVID-19 as things open up.

He said some are linked to underlying and undiagnosed conditions like asthma, which is the most common chronic disease of children.

Viral infections are the cause of 80 per cent of asthma attacks that lead to hospital visits, according to Adamko.

“If you’ve got a chronic breathing disorder like asthma and then you get a bad cold on top of it, that’s what lands you in the PICU.”

Adamko said the reason for the spike could be that viruses are stronger, but that the more likely reason is that children haven’t been able to see their doctors in-person.

“All doctors just need to get back to seeing their patients more in person, and I think this will really help us in terms of all these hospitalizations that we’re seeing in terms of probably what’s asthma and other chronic airway problems that we just need to see in-person,” Adamko said.

Adamko said this is particularly important for kids as it is harder to diagnose asthma in young kids and often takes more than one season.

While Adamko recognizes that more doctors are starting to return to in-person visits, he said it is still behind.

“It’s good that we’re going back to more in-person visits and it should catch up and I hope that the fall will go better than the spring has,” he said. 

As for Caron, she encourages other parents to remain hopeful and to know that it’s okay to ask for more help and support if they know something is wrong with their child’s health.

“Most parents know their kids really well. They know the symptoms that they’re experiencing might be abnormal and that the wait is worth it, that when you finally get that support that you need, you will be able to improve your child’s care and support them.” 

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