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Friday, June 21, 2019

Pregnant with asthma?

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Sometimes people ask me what happens to their asthma when they are pregnant. Well, like everything else with asthma - it is different for every person. As you can see from the graphic from Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA):

1/3 will  get better
1/3 will stay the same
1/3 will get worse  

When I was expecting my three children, I always worried about what would affect the baby. Foods? Medicines? Caffeine? Strenuous exercise?

Will my asthma affect my baby?

Doctors know that if mom isn't breathing well, that reduces the oxygen to the baby. Since the baby gets oxygen from the mom's blood, she needs to control her asthma so she's getting all the oxygen she needs. 

 If mom's asthma is not controlled, it might affect baby's growth and survival in utero.


Controlling asthma while pregnant

Avoiding your asthma triggers is important to reduce the chance of having an asthma attack. Like anything else with asthma, this varies by person too. So, know what YOUR asthma triggers are.

Is it time to change your inhaler? 

I'm still surprised by the people who THINK their asthma is just fine. Is yours? The Rule of Two's from Baylor University is a quick way to find out. 

If you are still struggling with asthma, there are a lot of options. Check out this poster from Allergy & Asthma Network - it lists every asthma medicine on the market. See that rainbow of inhalers? There are a lot of options out there, so talk to your doctor if you feel like you need a different dose or different inhaler. 

And when it's time to deliver, AAFA says:

"When asthma is under control, asthma attacks almost never occur during labor and delivery. Also, most women with well-controlled asthma are able to perform breathing techniques during their labor without difficulty."

It would be nice to have one less thing to worry about during delivery! And for you moms that are having c-sections, I feel your pain! (Seriously - I had 3 c-sections!)

And after delivery?

If your asthma changed while you were pregnant, most women will see their asthma return to what it was before they were pregnant (it can take about 3 months.)

So if you are pregnant, remember to take care of yourself - including your asthma. And once you deliver, you can snuggle that sweet little baby! 



Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Staying up to date

(Shutterstock image)

I recently came back from an annual asthma conference, and it was fabulous!

I try to always stay updated on new medications and research, and connect with colleagues from throughout the country.

As with any disease, asthma is always changing. In fact, within the last year, there are 4 new medications on the market!

Doctors now know that asthma is more of an umbrella term, with different "types" of asthma underneath. 

One doctor at our conference said:

 "If you have seen one case of have seen one case of asthma."
So knowing how YOUR asthma typically acts and responds to medicine is important to you.

Allergy & Asthma Network have a series of podcasts and videos about allergies, asthma and eczema. They also have medication posters that show all of the inhalers on the market (and they keep it updated!)

Asthma Community Network has webinars, podcasts, discussion forum, resource bank, etc.

The national allergy and asthma groups are also a great place to find info. 

They are:

It's helpful to stay updated to see if there are new medicines or treatment plans available. It's helpful to know what's out there so you can have an educated conversation with your doctor. 

Happy reading! 



Thursday, May 30, 2019

How does asthma affect Americans?

Image courtesy of Allergy & Asthma Network

Don't you hate it when people say "It's just asthma?" For those of you with asthma, you know it's anything but a simple disease!

Allergy & Asthma Network created infographics to show the impact of asthma and allergies on people in America. I'll just talk about asthma today.

You can see that:

25 million people have asthma in America
We add to that number - our family of 5 has 4 of that battle asthma!

1 in 10 kids have asthma
That's an average of 2 students per classroom with asthma. That's just an average - one year in my daughter's class, there were 7 kids with asthma (including her) in her elementary school classroom.
Did you know that asthma is also the most common chronic disease among children and the #1 cause of missed school days!? 
$80 billion spent on asthma
Don't I know it! We spend a lot of money at the pharmacy, doctor's office, Urgent Care, etc. 

3,168 people die every year in the US from asthma 
Yes, people actually die from asthma! In fact, approximately 10 people die EVERY day in the U.S. from asthma. By the time you go to bed tonight, 10 people will have died from asthma. 

13.8 million missed school days 
Ever had a kid fall behind in math class? Or science? Or have one of those awful gym teachers that won't let them make up gym class because they were struggling to breathe?

14.2 million missed work days 
You can miss work when you are struggling with asthma, or because you have a sick kiddo at home that it is having a tough time breathing. Or is in the hospital battling asthma and pneumonia.
Hubby missed a lot of work when our kids were little and in the hospital. I can remember him sitting by our son's bedside in the hospital with his laptop, trying to meet a deadline at work. 
3 in 5 limit their physical activity 
Ever skip the stairs and take the elevator? Some days our lungs are just cranky.
71% misuse their inhalers

Think your are using your inhaler right? Check your technique here to make sure you aren't missing anything! 

1 in 5 can't afford their inhalers
Are you in this group? If so, read my article about Coupons for Prescriptions.
Just because you have asthma doesn't mean you can't have a good quality of life. Call your doc if you are struggling, there are a lot of new inhalers that have been released. Keep trying until you find one that works for you!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Allergy & Asthma Day on Capitol Hill!

See this group of amazing people? I was lucky to be part of this group of professionals who are passionate about educating others with allergies and asthma. 

They are my people! 

We can talk about allergies and asthma - all day long! (My family usually tunes me out after awhile. There she goes again - helping someone else!)

Each of these people have their own story of how their life is impacted by allergies and asthma. If you have been reading my blog for very long, you probably know our story.

Our journey began 19 years ago with the first of many hospitalizations for Son #2 and daughter Kitty. Asthma education wasn't as easy to find back then, and Asthma Doc struggled to find the right treatment for my kids. If my kids caught a cold, it always turned into pneumonia and that meant another hospitalization in the pediatric ward. We also learned that smoke from forest fires are NOT good for those with asthma. Pneumonia and smoke from forest fires caused 12 hospitalizations for Son #2 and Kitty. We finally were able to control Son #2's asthma with 7 years of monthly biologic injections to control his severe asthma.

 Son #1 and I were also diagnosed with asthma. So, we have are a family of 5 - all 5 have allergies, and 4 have asthma (you could say we don't have the best genetics.....) 

Our lives have revolved around doctor visits, twice weekly allergy shots, monthly biologic injections, and epinephrine auto injectors for food allergies. Urgent Care clinics, Emergency Department visits and hospital stays were also common.

We have also made environmental changes to our home to make it allergy and asthma.

We buy allergy pills, nose sprays and tissues in bulk at the warehouse store, and also are frequent visitors to the pharmacy. 

I also switched careers (and went back to college for another degree!) so I could work in a profession as a Certified Asthma Educator. 

This is our life

But we are the lucky ones. We are able to make changes to our home to make it allergy and asthma friendly. We have insurance and can afford to see a specialist and buy our medications (but we still use manufacturer coupons!)   

We joined others in lifting our voices to educate our legislators  during Allergy & Asthma Day on Capitol Hill (sponsored by Allergy & Asthma Network.)  

The meetings went well, and our legislators were truly interested in learning about the problems  allergies and asthma cause, and how they can help.

Want to be involved?

It's not too late! Allergy & Asthma Network has a web page with everything you need. You can see the advocacy issues, download graphics, etc. Or - go straight to their Virtual Advocacy page

  Your voice can make a difference! Get involved!


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Asthma Awareness Month!

May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month!

I am one of the 60 million people in the U.S. who have allergies and asthma. So are my 3 adult kids. Sigh.

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has a new campaign out.This ties in nicely with my last post about how I don't want to be called "asthmatic" because this disease doesn't define me. I am so much more than just someone with asthma!

AAFA says:

"This year, our focus is on raising awareness about how asthma and allergies are more than just a physical condition. They impact every aspect of life. But they don't have to define you."

AAFA is sponsoring a "More Than Asthma" campaign. They are asking people with asthma to snap a photo that "shows how you overcome asthma barriers and live life fully."

They are hoping it will help with misconceptions that people have about asthma (you know......the sickly kid in gym class sucking on his inhaler.)

You can upload your photo to their website and score some sweet prizes!

 The contest ends on May 31st, so start snapping those pics. Let's show the world how strong we are and how much we do - even with asthma!   

Monday, April 22, 2019

I am not "asthmatic"

(Shutterstock image)

So, everyone with asthma is different and sees things in a different light.

My pet peeve? Being called "asthmatic."


Because I'm so much more than someone with asthma!

That is not my label.

I'm also a career woman, mom, and friend with wrinkles and streaks of grey hair. And yet none of that defines me either. 

My 3 kids also have asthma, but it isn't their label either. Nor is being college students, having allergies, blue or green eyes, and straight or curly hair. None of that defines who they are.

With medical conditions (or even disabilities), the shift for the last 20 years has been to use People First Language.  

"People First Language is an objective and respectful way to speak about people with disabilities by emphasizing the person first, rather than the disability. It acknowledges what a person has, and recognizes that a person is not the disability. In putting the person before the disability, People First Language highlights a person's value, individuality and capabilities."

You put the person first, then the medical condition or disability. For example:

  • Instead of "asthmatic", you would say "I have asthma"
  • Instead of "diabetic", you would say, "My sister has diabetes."
  • Instead of "autistic", you would say, "My nephew has autism." 
Not so hard, is it?  

I work closely with our state health department and was told 10 years ago to NEVER use the term "asthmatic". 

Shortly after that, I was part of a grant. As I was advising the researchers, I explained People First Language and suggested they not use the term "asthmatic, " but they still did.

Fast forward several years, and they want to publish their results in a medical journal. But, it wasn't accepted because there were several changes that needed to be made, including removing any time they used the term "asthmatic" and replacing it with "child with asthma."  

Even highly respected medical journals won't label people. 

So, just something to think about the next time you are going to use the term "asthmatic." Stop and think if it will label someone. Or if there is more to someone than having asthma?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Blacks hit hard with asthma - why?

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I'm always reading new research about asthma. I am so glad I can learn from these smart people!

In the article, they say that "15.3% of black children have asthma, compared to 7.1% of white children........ African American children are also almost 3 times as likely to die from asthma as white people."

A researcher in Boston (Dr. Esteban Burchard) was studying asthma when he said: 

“a black teenager died of an asthma attack right outside the hospital entrance. Which is ridiculous. There are 20 hospitals in Boston!”

Now in California, Dr. Burchard and a team of 50 researchers published a paper explaining their findings.

"A set of genetic mutations found mostly in people of African ancestry may make them less likely to respond to albuterol, the most-prescribed asthma drug in the world."
The article mentions other things that contribute to asthma - stress, environmental exposures  and even social forces such as racism and poverty.  

So, how to find those that are resistant to Albuterol? Researchers are collecting and studying DNA to find those with the NFKB1 gene. That gene is related to smooth muscle response in the lungs. Albuterol usually works by helping to release the constriction of the smooth muscles.

So, my question after reading the article is - if you have the NFKB1 gene, and Albuterol doesn't work, what else is there?

Ipratropium (brand name is Atrovent) could be another option, but it doesn't mention that in the article. 

I'm looking forward to learning more from their research!