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Monday, August 18, 2014

Exercise and asthma

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So, what if you want your kids to be active, but exercise makes their asthma worse?

I saw an article on Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics website (AANMA) called "Exercise & Asthma: Breathe Strong"

In the article, they talk about exercising with asthma. If you (or your child) is having a hard time exercising with asthma, the first step they recommend is to talk to your doctor. For some people, exercise can trigger an asthma attack. It's called exercise-induced bronchospasm

Some people also call it exercise-induced asthma. It doesn't mean that you can't exercise, it just means that you may need to use your inhaler (or nebulizer) before you exercise. Your doctor can decide what's best for you. Everyone who has asthma is a little different. The AANMA article also says to check to make sure you are using your inhaler correctly. Most people THINK they are, but they may not be using it right. Here's a Youtube video called "How to Use an Inhaler"

Many people also find their medicine works better if they use a holding chamber (it looks like a spacer.)

Some people may be short of breath when they exercise, or think they are REALLY out of shape. Other people may cough or have a tight chest. Mayo Clinic list these symptoms of exercise induced asthma:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Fatigue during exercise
  • Poor athletic performance

They also list when you need to get help - FAST!!!

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing that is quickly getting worse
  • No improvement even after using a rescue inhaler, such as an albuterol inhaler
  • Shortness of breath that continues even after you've recovered from your workout
It's important to exercise, so if any of these symptoms sounds like you or your child, call your doctor to see if you need to change/start on an asthma medication.

Many kids may be starting sports with the start of the school year, and we want them to be healthy and happy, right?

Let's go team!!!


Friday, August 15, 2014

And it's Back to School time!! yahoo!!

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So, here we go. Summer is winding down and it's back to school time. Finally! 

We just went to Back to School Night for daughter Kitty. Oh what fun! A night of wandering around the school, visiting all 8 teachers and picking up disclosure forms.

The halls are full of families all doing the same thing. 

What's the one thing that Kitty's teachers need to know about her? Asthma. 

They need to know that she's having a lot of flare ups with her asthma, and that she made need to leave class to use her inhaler. (Did you know that it's legal in all 50 states for students to carry their inhaler with them - at all times?) And every state (except New York) allows students to carry an Epi Pen with them at all times. 

BUT you need to talk to your doctor and the school nurse. As a health care team, you have to agree if your student can "self administer" their inhaler. That means that your child knows when they are having an asthma attack and they know how to use their inhaler by themselves. Some of the younger students may not be able to do that yet. 

But older students can carry their inhaler with them and use it when they need it. Check with your school nurse, because you will have to fill out a form that you and the doctor sign that makes it legal for them to have an inhaler in a "drug free zone." Every school district has a form that they like to use, your school nurse should have a copy of that.

Otherwise, they can violate the school's "drug free policy." You will have to fill out a new form every school year to make it legal for your child to carry their asthma inhaler and Epi pen. But do know that it is legal IN ALL 50 STATES! In fact, here is a small poster you can print out and take to your school to let them know about it.   

If you want a copy of the law for your state, you can find it here. 
If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, it has a link for each state. You can click on your state and print out a copy for yourself (and one for the school.) Schools should know about this, since all states have passed Self Administration Laws. The last states were in 2010.  

So, the papers are signed, school supplies are bought, and it's time to enjoy the last weekend before school. 

See ya! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Women Breathe Free Program

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So, how many women take care of themselves? Like most moms, it seems like I am so busy taking care of everyone else, that I don't take care of myself. And that can include not taking care of my asthma.

Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) has a FREE program for women 18 and older aimed at helping us take care of our asthma.
(Don't's confidential - so you won't have to give them any personal information.) It's called Women Breathe Free 

What does the program do?

It can help us deal with problems that may cause our asthma to flare up, such as:

menstrual cycle
 being exposed to things that cause an asthma attack 
not taking asthma medicine 

You will get to talk to a nurse educator for 4 sessions (when it fits into YOUR schedule). You will also get a workbook to try to track what it causing your asthma to flare up, what to do to keep it under control and how to track your symptoms.

Sometimes, it's hard to tell what causes an asthma attack. Other times, I know EXACTLY what is triggering an asthma attack (someone's perfume, dry erase markers, cleaning sprays, cold air, etc)

Interested? You can email them at 
call the Allergy and Asthma Network at 800-878-4403

If any of you try it, let me know what you think! :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stress causing asthma attacks

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Stress is one of the asthma triggers that most people don't know about. Stress can take the form of worry, anger or crying. All those things can cause an asthma attack. Who knew??!!

This week was a VERY sad week because Neighbor had to put Neighbor Dog to sleep. Neighbor Dog had a fast moving cancer that made it very obvious to all of us that she was suffering and she wasn't the same dog we knew. It was awful to watch her go downhill so fast. 

So, we all had a little time to spend with Neighbor Dog and to be able to say goodbye. I'm the worst cry baby in the world, so naturally I started to cry when I knew it was my last chance to see her alive. I was doing what Oprah would all "the Ugly Cry." I was having a really hard time and could tell that I was starting to have an asthma attack.

I had to try to calm down and slow down my breathing and then use my inhaler. Sometimes, it seems like asthma just seems to get in the way of everything! I couldn't even have a good cry because it triggered an asthma attack. Sigh.

It's a good idea to make sure you have your inhaler with you at all times. You never know when you might need to use it. Besides the usual triggers of smoke, dust, mold, exercise, strong scents, etc, you can add stress and strong emotions to the list. And remember that asthma triggers can change over time. Just because a trigger hasn't bothered you in the past doesn't mean it won't bother you in the future. (I haven't had a problem with perfume until the last 2 years - now it causes MAJOR asthma attacks.)

Anyway, so long Neighbor Dog, I'll miss you :(

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Xolair (again.....)

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Sometimes, asthma can be hard to treat. We have had a difficult time with 2 of our 3 teenagers who have asthma. Sometimes, Xolair injections can be an option for those who have allergic asthma and who are taking multiple asthma and allergy medicines and STILL aren't getting better. (And ending up in the hospital 6 times like Son #2 did....)

Son #2 had Xolair injections for 6 years and it was the only thing that helped stabilize his asthma and keep him out of the hospital. To qualify for Xolair injections, Asthma Doc orders a blood test to check the immunoglobulin E (IgE) level.   

If your IgE level falls into a certain range, you qualify for the treatment, but must still get insurance to approve it.They don't like paying for it because the serum is about $1500 per month.

IgE are antibodies found in the skin, lungs and mucus membrane. They are what causes your body to have allergic reactions. Xolair is supposed to stop that allergic reaction from happening (that's the way it was explained to me). The problem with allergies and asthma is that our bodies over-react when exposed to something (perfume, pets, mold, dust, etc.) There are so MANY asthma triggers.

Now we are at the point that we can no longer control daughter Kitty's asthma and allergies. She has had a chronic cough and wheeze for almost 3 months. Asthma Doc has tried all sorts of medicine for her, but nothing is working.

Kitty had her IgE level tested, and she qualifies for Xolair. Now we have to try to convince the insurance company to pay for it. Even with insurance, our co-pay is usually $150 per month (that's in addition to paying for multiple allergy and asthma medications for all 5 family members.) So, it adds up fast.

We found a website that can help people find help paying for ANY medication. It's called Needymeds
When you pull up the web page, click on "patient savings" and it will have a link to "Brand Name Drugs" or "Generic Name Drugs". For Xolair, I would click on "Brand Name Drugs", then I would click on the "X" on their alphabet list. That would list all medications that start with X, I would scroll down until I found Xolair.

It will list companies or foundations that will help you pay for your medicine. You can call them to see what information you need to qualify. We are able to find a foundation that will cover the entire cost of the $150 copay. How nice!

You can use the website for any medication - antidepressants, thyroid medicine, cholesterol medicine, ADD, etc, etc. Try it out and see if they can help you.

For now, we will prepare to battle the insurance company to try to get them to approve Xolair. Then apply for help paying for the co-pay.

You know, some days I am really, really REALLY tired of dealing with allergies and asthma. Sigh. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flonase nose spray now over the counter

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This is what our family looks like.....year round. Hubby and I and all three teenagers have allergies. Not just a little sneeze here and there - I'm talking year round sneezing fits. (The neighbors down the street can hear us kind of sneezing.) And allergies always make our asthma worse. 

Some people like allergy pills. Some people like allergy nose sprays. For those of you who like nose spray, Flonase is available without a prescription.  (Earlier this year, Nasacort became available without a prescription.) 

That can be nice, because you don't need a prescription - you can just buy a new bottle from the drug store or grocery store when you need it. It may save some money too, depending on your insurance. Some insurance companies have a high deductible for prescriptions (where you pay for all of the prescriptions until you meet your $500 deductible). Others only charge $5 for prescriptions.

Call your local drug store to see how much they are charging for Flonase. Hopefully you can save some money.

But I'm still a big believer in having regular check ups with my Asthma Doc. He is one smart guy. I schedule a checkup every year to see if I'm still taking all the right medicines for allergies and asthma. 

But, until then, if you run our of your nose spray, it's nice to know that you don't have to call your doctor for a refill. You can just buy it over the counter now!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

British study shows the majority of asthma deaths are preventable

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One of my colleagues (whose husband is a doctor) printed off an article for me that was titled "Two thirds of deaths from asthma are preventable, confidential inquiry finds." It's from the British Medical Journal. 

It's a little scary to think that people are dying from asthma attacks just because they aren't managing their disease. I think people don't realize that you can die from an asthma attack. It is rare, but if you or a family member die from asthma, it's a BIG deal. Most people think "I'll just take my inhaler - and I'll be fine."

This study found that 2 out of 3 deaths from asthma could have been prevented by:
  • better management including personal asthma plans for patients (asthma action plans)
  • timely reviews of asthma care
  • prescription of more appropriate drugs (too many are relying on a rescue inhaler)
The really scary part of the study says that of those who died from an asthma attack, 45% of them had not asked for medical help. The researchers said that the people who died didn't realize how sick they were until it was too late. When they looked at a group of youth ages 10 - 19, they found that 70% of children and 83% of youth died before they reached the hospital. 

The interesting thing about this study is that is showed that only 39% of the patients who died had severe asthma. The majority of people who died had mild or moderate asthma. Many of those people were only using a rescue (or reliever) inhaler to treat their asthma attack. They weren't using a daily maintenance medication.  

Asthma Doc has told us repeatedly that a rescue inhaler "will only buy you a little time." You have to find out WHY you are having asthma attacks (what is triggering or causing your asthma attacks?) And you may need a daily medication to keep the swelling down in your lungs. Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America explains that you shouldn't use your rescue/reliever inhaler more than twice a week. If you need it more often than that, your asthma is NOT controlled, and you will need a daily, maintenance medication. 

PLEASE call your pediatrician/family doctor/asthma specialist if you are not sure what to do about your asthma. And if you are relying on just a rescue/reliever inhaler, that could be a deadly mistake. 

Every day in America:
  • 44,000 people have an asthma attack.
  • 36,000 kids miss school due to asthma.
  • 27,000 adults miss work due to asthma.
  • 4,700 people visit the emergency room due to asthma.
  • 1,200 people are admitted to the hospital due to asthma.
  • 9 people die from asthma.
My youngest two teenagers are a little better now, but when they were younger, they were hospitalized 14 times for asthma. And Son #2 almost died twice. It can happen. I never want to experience that again as long as I live. I still have flashbacks about that time. :(

Please be careful and call your doctor for a check up to make sure you or your child are taking the right medication for you or your child's asthma.