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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This tween is amazing!

Susan Tatelli is one brave tween! She has life threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and soy. Her mom recorded Susan using her Epi Pen and uploaded it to Youtube. She also interviews several allergy and asthma doctors who talk about when and how to use an Epi Pen. This tween does an AMAZING job using hers!!

Susan wanted to show other kids that it's not so scary - that others can use their Epi Pen if they need to. She has had a LOT of experience using her Epi Pen because she was part of a peanut allergy trial. While she was in the trial, she had 6 anaphylaxis reactions. She used her Epi Pen herself 5 out of the 6 times. Way to go!

I learned something from watching the doctors she interviewed. Dr. Sakina Bajowala of the Kaneland Allergy and Asthma Center shows how to hold the Epi Pen in your palm with your finger and thumb stretched out. 

Then she wraps her thumb around the Epi Pen first. Then she wraps her fingers around her thumb. 
She said that stops you from putting your thumb on the top of the Epi Pen (where the safety cap is) I didn't know that - and I have been carrying around an Epi Pen for years!  
You can watch the video here. You can see how red Susan's face is before she uses her Epi Pen. Scary stuff! What a brave tween to share her story with others to make it a little less scary.

She is going to do great things in this world!! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pacifier attached to a valved holding chamber and asthma inhaler?

I was at a conference and I saw a display from a company that makes a valved holding chamber that you can use with different age groups. (Basically, it's a tube that connects to your asthma inhaler. You spray the inhaler in to the tube, then you can inhale the asthma medicine out of the tube and it will go into your lungs.) 
You can use it:
  • as a valved holding chamber with an older child
  • add a mask for a younger child
  • add a mask and pacifier for an baby

Has anyone tried this yet? With the pacifier for a baby? It seems like companies are always coming up with something new!

I always used the nebulizer for my kids when they were little. I'm wondering if the valved holding chamber and pacifier would work just as well?

Any comments from anyone that has tried it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Turning lemons into lemonade

(Shutterstock image)

Many of you who are regular blog readers know that my kids have been hospitalized 12 times for asthma (thanks to pneumonia and/or smoke from forest fires.)

Over the years, people have said, "Don't you wonder Why Me?"
 No, not really. It is what it is, the kids inherited allergies and asthma from Hubby and I. So there you have it. It's my job to deal with it. 

In fact, because of what we have been through, we have been able to help MANY families over the years. I am very familiar with asthma triggers, signs and symptoms of an asthma attack, asthma medications, how the environment affects asthma, etc.
I am also familiar with hospital monitors and oxygen levels. This came in handy this weekend when we received a phone call that a family member had fallen. We took Family Member to the Emergency Department to get her checked out. While there, we noticed Family Member's oxygen level was dropping down to 76 (you should be close to 100.) If my kids had never been hospitalized, I wouldn't have known to watch the oxygen level on the monitor!
We called for the nurse and asked her to start some oxygen on Family Member. The doctor came back later to tell us the x-ray test results, and I then told him that Family Member's oxygen level was dropping to the 70's and 80's. He turned the oxygen off to see how she would do at room air and told me to watch her oxygen level. (From our experience, it's common for the nurse or doctor to turn the oxygen off and see if the  patient does well on room air. If so, they can go home.)  
So, my focus then was to watch her oxygen level. Every time she would nod off to sleep, her oxygen level would drop. Suddenly, the nurse came in with a CNA and they were ready to discharge Family Member. I said, "Wait a minute! The Doctor told me to watch her oxygen level. She is still dropping down into the 80's." 
The Nurse was NOT happy. She said, "What do you want us to do? Admit her?!" I said, "I don't know. All I know is that it's unsafe for her to leave here with low oxygen levels. Can we get an oxygen tank for her to take home?"  She looked at me and laughed and said, "At 11:00 on a Friday night?!"
She left the room to get the doctor. I kept watching the monitor and the oxygen level kept dropping. Shortly after that, I heard the nurse coming down the hall with the doctor. I could hear her explaining the situation. The Doctor looked at me as he came into the room. I said, "Here's the thing - I have 3 kids with asthma. They have been hospitalized 12 times, so I am very familiar with oxygen levels. Every time Family Member drops off to sleep, her oxygen level drops into the 80's." Just then, as if on cue, Family Member fell asleep, and her oxygen level started to drop.
The doctor saw the monitor and the oxygen level dropping and said, "Let's admit her." 
Phew! I was so worried. One time when Son #2 was discharged from a hospitalization for his asthma, the respiratory therapist said, "Now, I want you to check on him throughout the night. Don't just let him sleep because he has finally stopped coughing and can rest. With breathing problems, your oxygen level drops and drops and drops while you sleep, until some people just stop breathing and die. " 
I have NEVER forgotten that. 
So, I was really relieved when they admitted Family Member. I knew she would be hooked up to the machine that would monitor her breathing all night long. In fact, her oxygen level DID NOT improve the next day, so she was discharged from the hospital with orders to have an oxygen tank at home.

Once she came home, the company that provided oxygen met us at the house and brought the oxygen tank and tubing. Since we had used oxygen over the years with our kids, we felt comfortable in setting up the tank and hooking up the tubing. 
And all of this experience came from having 3 kids with asthma, and 12 hospitalizations. See? We took lemons and made lemonade!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My asthma lungs do not like surgery....

Last week was The Dreaded Surgery. I had been hoping to avoid surgery, but The Knee was being a LITTLE cranky and wanted some attention.

This getting older stuff really stinks.

So, despite trying physical therapy/elevating my knee/keeping ice on it, The Knee decided it had had enough. So, surgery was the next option.

I would rather do just about anything rather than have surgery. (I mean anything - defrost my freezer, scrub the toilets, wash out my disgusting garbage cans.....) I know from past experience that my lungs do NOT like surgery. I also know that I need to stay on oxygen for a while after surgery (which I carefully explained to the nursing staff.) It seems like they are always in a hurry to get you off oxygen, and to send you home after surgery. "Look at the great progress you are making!"

So, despite my best efforts, The Lungs were not happy after surgery. The oxygen monitor kept going off, and The Nurse was saying, "Take a breathe. C'mon Andrea. Breathe really deep for me." Argh!. 

Did I not carefully explain that I needed to STAY on oxygen for a while after the surgery?! I was too weak to say, "Why don't you just put the oxygen back on????" I had to really concentrate on breathing for The Nurse. I flopped my head over to one side to look at Hubby and hoped he could read my blank expression while I held my dripping purple Popsicle.  We have been married long enough, that he should have known I was trying to communicate to him with my mind and say, "Honey, will you please tell the nurse to put my oxygen mask back on?" 

But Hubby failed Mind Reading 101. So there I laid with my dripping purple Popsicle. Hoping someone would put my oxygen back on. It seemed like Body had forgotten how to breathe on it's own. Oh yeah! I'm supposed to breathe in and out! 

Finally, The Nurse decided that I could stay there a while longer (why?) or I could go home.

So, home we went. I had to focus on breathing in and out for the next few hours. Who knew it could be that hard? It used to seem so natural. I knew that I needed to breathe deep to open up my lungs, since some people with asthma can develop breathing problems after surgery.

I used my rescue inhaler to keep my lungs open. And I made sure I took my maintenance medicine inhaler too. I also slept upright, since that felt easier on my lungs.

Next time, I am going to do what my kid's kindergarten teacher used to do for my kids. I am going to pin a note on my hospital gown that says, "Please keep the oxygen on Andrea for several hours after surgery - she has moderate asthma." I may even add some sparkly stars to the note.

Think it will work?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hmmm....a little worried about this weekend

So, Independence Day is this weekend. I can't seem to sing The Star Spangled Banner without getting a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes (it must be from allergies, right?!)

The one thing that really worries me about celebrating the 4th of July is fireworks. Once again, it seems like asthma has to get in the way of having fun. Grrrr. Our city celebration was last month, but we were gone that night and missed watching those fireworks. 

So, Hubby will want to light off fireworks in the street in front of our house. The only problem is that all the other families on our street will also be lighting fireworks - and the street gets REALLY smokey!

In fact, a long time ago when Son #2 was young, he ended up in the hospital (in ICU) thanks to smoke from a forest fire and from fireworks. The one thing you never want to see is one of your kids in the hospital for asthma - especially when they put the heart monitor on them, then we know we are in BIG trouble!!  They are watching for respiratory arrest     He survived, but some people do not. National Jewish Health explains it this way:

"Respiratory arrest is when the breathing stops.  This is not a common problem, but obviously can occur with both asthma and with pneumonia.  All asthmatics are vulnerable to having a severe attack and suffering a fatal outcome.  Unfortunately, this is not well known by the public."
 This is an article from Spain about the health effects of fireworks

So, ever since that day my son ended up in the hospital, I have been a little worried about being around fireworks. Not only for my kids (all three have asthma) but I also for myself. More than once, I have had to use my inhaler while the family was outside lighting off fireworks. 

So, what to do? We are prepared for everything. Not only do we have a five gallon bucket of water nearby to dump the fireworks in (we are trying to prevent a house fire). But I also have my inhaler handy, and will sometimes watch the fireworks from inside the house (where the air is clean!!!)

If you aren't sure if you should take someone with asthma to the emergency room, here is a short page from Nemours Hospital called When to Seek Help

Happy Independence Day everyone and I hope you can breathe well!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Can you outgrow your asthma?

Do you ever have people tell you that you will outgrow your asthma? I do!!!

I have people say, "My brother had a room mate in college whose sister had a best friend that played on a softball team with another girl who outgrew her asthma. So you will too!!!" (It's always some variation of a long story like that......)

I'm sure they mean well, but it gets REALLY annoying. I have to tell them, "Well......I'm almost 50 years old - and I haven't outgrown my asthma!" 

I just read an article on WebMD called "Can Kids Outgrow Asthma?"

The article says that if a child has asthma like symptoms that disappear around age 5 or 6, it isn't asthma. The article says it's a temporary condition that doesn't turn into a lung condition.

The article goes on to say:
"Most kids who have symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath beyond that age are considered to have asthma, and they may always have it. But for about half of them, symptoms go away around adolescence.

It isn’t clear why this happens, says Chitra Dinakar, MD, a pediatric allergist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO. The triggers that once caused flares don't, she says, but the kid still has asthma.

The break in symptoms is more common among boys, children without sensitivity to furry animals, and kids with less severe asthma."
The article also talks about going into remission. BUT -

"There’s always a chance of the symptoms coming back. Sometimes they reappear in adulthood, and they can be brought on by triggers different from before. In about half the kids whose symptoms decline during adolescence, they'll reappear when they hit their 30s or 40s, studies say."

That's what happened to me. I have new triggers now - perfume and spray cleaners. I blogged before about having to ask someone in our office to PLEASE not wear perfume, because it would cause an another asthma attack. SIGH.

The article also said:

"If your child has the following, she’s more likely to have persistent, lifelong asthma.
  • A parent with asthma
  • Eczema
  • Sensitivity to airborne allergens (like pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds, or molds or dust mites)
  • Food allergies (milk, eggs, or peanuts)
  • Wheezing when she doesn’t have a cold
  • A high count of a certain type of white blood cells
Smoking, weight gain, and other factors can also increase the chances of symptoms coming back."

For our family, asthma is VERY common on my side of the family and on Hubby's. So, there is a strong genetic trait. And we all have life long allergies.

So, in our - my kids won't outgrow their asthma. Sorry about that guys!  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Alert bracelet

I was watching a video the other day on Facebook, and it showed  a police officer who had pulled over a car. The officer had returned to his police cruiser to write a ticket. When the officer went back to the car, the driver had stopped breathing and had turned blue.

The dash cam was still turned on in his car, and it shows the officer trying to get the person to respond. He then pulls the person out and starts CPR. A passing motorist (an emergency room nurse) stops to help. The nurse asks the officer what happened. The officer doesn't know, and the nurse asks if the driver has a medical alert bracelet.

Then it hit me - I should be wearing a medic alert bracelet (or necklace, or some type of jewelry) to show that I have asthma! They also have medical alert jewelry for food allergies (I am allergic to seafood and carry an EpiPen). 

When Son #2 was younger, I always made him wear a medic alert bracelet. You know - the kind that you can get at the pharmacy. He was in the hospital 8 times when he was younger, and two of those times were ICU admissions. He had status asthmaticus (severe asthma that doesn't respond to regular treatment.) It was really scary. He could wake up with a cold and cough one morning, and be admitted to the hospital and put in ICU the next day. His asthma attacks hit hard and fast. And it always worried me. You can image how thrilled he was to have to wear a medic alert bracelet to school. I think he was secretly happy when it broke!

There are a LOT of different types of medical alert bracelets, necklaces, etc. I found a lot of companies that make them. Medical Info Products has:

  • Kids medical ID bracelets
  • Teens medical ID bracelets
  • Medical ID watches
  • or you can even make your own bracelet!
Full disclosure - I am not affiliated with any of the companies I am highlighting. I just wanted to show some options. MedID's  also has a lot of options. You can also find bracelets and necklaces on eBay and

IF something happened to you or a loved one, and you passed out. It would be VERY helpful to medical personnel to know that you have asthma and food allergies. That would help them know how to treat you.

Let's hope you never need it, but you never know........