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Friday, July 13, 2018

Pricey meds


(Shutterstock image)

I just opened the bill for a simple surgery and was shocked to see that it was almost $6,000! Woah!

Luckily, it was the end of my insurance year, so I had already met my deductible and out of pocket limit. So I won't have to pay a copay on that bill.

That also tells me that I have spent a LOT of money on medical care over the last year.

If you are in the same boat, what can you do?
 
We use manufacturer's coupons for our inhalers. Son #2 and daughter Kitty and I are all on long term controller (maintenance) inhalers. Even thought insurance pays for most, we still have a $75 copay each month (for each of us.)  

Luckily, I have a really good pharmacy that knows us well (since we visit them so often.....) and they will search for manufacturer's coupons for us. So, instead of paying a $75 copay for my inhaler each month, I pay $25. In fact, when I renew my prescription each year, they search for a new coupon to apply to my copay. And they do that for my son and daughter's inhalers too. 

Years ago (in 2007), Son #2 was on a biologic injection to control his severe asthma. The medicine was given as a shot once a month, and his tiny vial of medicine was $1,000 per month. And he had monthly injections for 7 years. Insurance covered most of it, but we had a $125 copay each month. 

Which doesn't sound like much - but there are 4 of us with allergies and asthma, so monthly meds really add up. We found help on a website called Needymeds. They are a sort of website where you can go to find help with co-pays, find a low income/free clinic near you, etc,

Want to see if your drug has a copay help or coupon? Click here and select from the alphabet list of medicines.  

Want to find a clinic that is free/low incomes/or pay what you can afford? Click here.

They also have a list of mental health clinics, and even substance addiction clinics.


Want to attend a camp about asthma? You can find some listed here.  

Or you can search for camps or retreats for any other medical condition too.

So, you may have to do a little digging, but there are a lot of programs out there that can help.

Good luck!


Thursday, July 5, 2018

How does surgery effect asthma?


For anyone with an upcoming surgery, there are a few things to watch for (from my experience). You should have a detailed visit with your surgeon about your medical history (and family history.) Followed up by the Surgery Nurse who will usually called the week of surgery and repeat all of the same questions (so the hospital also has your medical history).

They usually ask if you have a family history (or personal history) of diabetes, kidney disease, heart problems, asthma, bad reactions to anesthesia, allergies to latex, etc. 

For asthma, they usually want to know:

  • What medications do you take?
  • Do you take a controller medicine? Or just a rescue inhaler?
  • Is your asthma under control?
It's helpful to keep a list of medications on your phone, so it you can easily tell them the names and doses of all of the medicine you take. Surgery Nurse will usually ask you to bring your inhaler to the hospital too.

So, now that they had all of their information about your medication and medical history, what about the surgery?

Some people find that your oxygen level can drop during the surgery. That can happen when they put the tube down your throat (intubate you) to help you breathe during surgery. It can help to keep your oxygen turned up during surgery.

Sometimes people are groggy after surgery and will pull off their oxygen mask without realizing it. That can be followed by a faint "Beep, beep, beep, beep" of the alarm going off for your oxygen monitor. You may hear a "Breathe! Breathe! Breathe!" from the nurse in the recovery room. You can ask them beforehand to put your mask back on if you pull it off in the recovery room.

After surgery, you may notice that your lungs don't "feel right." Sometimes people can start to breath really shallow and have a hard time taking a deep breathe. That can lead to pneumonia. 

And if you start coughing, you can pull the stitches out of the surgery site. They may have you use an "Incentive Spirometer" to help expand your lungs. If you aren't sure what an Incentive Spirometer is, you can watch a short video here to see how they work.


It may also help to use your nebulizer and have a breathing treatment. 

So, if you have a surgery day coming up, make sure you are prepared. It helps to keep taking your daily, controller inhaler and make sure you don't miss any doses after surgery either!

Keep your inhaler or nebulizer handy and make sure you call your doc if something doesn't feel right. 


Monday, June 25, 2018

Fireworks, smoke and asthma

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Summer has flown by and I realized that Independence Day is just around the corner. That means wearing anything I can find that is red, white or blue. Then going to the annual parade, and watching fireworks.

Normally, we just watch aerial fireworks from a nearby city celebration. We found a great spot overlooking the valley, and we can see the fireworks perfectly.  But since we are a few miles away, we don't have to worry about the smoke. 

This year, we moved into a new neighborhood. The new neighbors were telling us about an annual  4th of July tradition. They hold a neighborhood BBQ, parade for the kiddos, and end the night with a "Cul de sac of Fire."

Hhhmm. I was okay until they mentioned fireworks. They make me VERY worried. Smoke from fireworks landed Son #2 in ICU when he was 8 years old, and it was one VERY scary time for us. 

So, I am very worried about fireworks and smoke. Not only do I worry about Son #2, but I also have 2 other children with asthma (and I also have asthma.) So we could all have an asthma attack, ER visit or hospitalization.

In fact, Son #2 is older now, but was just saying that he dreads 4th of July and the fireworks because he struggles to breath for several days (because it takes that long for the air to clear out.) Our street is usually so smoky from fireworks that we can hardly see the house across the street!

I have asthma attacks EVERY time I try to go outside to watch the neighborhood fireworks, so with the Cul de sac of Fire, I will be watching from inside my house! (With all of the doors and windows closed!) 

The American College of  Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) says:

"Fireworks and campfires are a staple of the 4th of July, but smoke can cause asthma symptoms to flare. Allergists recommend keeping your distance from campfires – and if you have to be near one, sit upwind if possible. If you can’t resist the fireworks, consider wearing a NIOSH N95 rated filter mask to keep smoke out of your lungs, and always carry your reliever inhaler."

 If you are going to be around fireworks on 4th of July, be careful! Keep your distance (or watch them from a building!) and make sure you have your inhaler or nebulizer handy!

 

 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Horses, teenagers and asthma

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There comes a time when you realize that you taught your kids well and they actually LISTENED to what you said!

As a Mom with asthma, who has 3 adult children with asthma, our life is always changing.

We all have different asthma triggers, and we try to avoid our triggers as much as we can.

In fact, when Daughter Kitty was young, she loved horses. So, she started riding lessons. But, she kept having a LOT of problems with her allergies while she was riding. Those allergies would trigger an asthma attack.

The arena where she took lessons was a long drive from our house. So, she would take her allergy and asthma medicine, but then still have problems while she was riding. She would change her shirt to try to get most of the dirt and horse dander off before we drove home. But she would still be sneezing, wheezing, and coughing.

So, we ended those lessons.

Now she is older, and two of her high school buddies also love horses and work at a barn. Which is fabulous - except when they get together for a BBQ after work.

During the BBQ, Kitty noticed she was sneezing, wheezing and coughing. She and her friends (who also have asthma) figured out it was the horse dander that was still on her friend's clothing. 

So, the 3 of them figured out a plan. Her friends would go home first, shower and change clothes, and then come over for the next BBQ.

I was so happy, because I knew that she had learned how to take care of herself and her asthma. She's headed to college, and I won't always be around. So my kids have to learn how to take care of their allergies and asthma. 

So, it was a proud mama moment!

Friday, June 15, 2018

"Stock albutero" inhalers in schools

(Infographic courtesy of Allergy & Asthma Network) 

What is "stock albuterol?" 

Well, that means schools can "stock" (or store) an albuterol inhaler in school - in case someone has an emergency.

 Shouldn't everyone have their own inhaler? Well, in a perfect world, yes. Inhalers are small and can be easily lost, left at home, or even expire before they are empty.

I have heard many stories of families that can't afford an inhaler, so 3 or 4 kids are sharing one inhaler at school. Or sometimes mom takes the inhaler to work, and if the school nurse calls her, she will take the inhaler to the school for her child to use. They family shares 1 inhaler between mom or dad's office and the school.

I don't know about any of you, but I had moments of panic when I couldn't find my inhaler - even though I KNEW it was in my purse.


This is why there are stock inhalers in schools.


11 states allow schools to stock albuterol inhalers. Is your state one of the lucky states? You can check the graphic up above. The dark blue states are schools that have stock albuterol laws. Yellow states have guidelines.

Looks like my state needs some work!

What about your state? Ask your school nurse, superintendent or your local legislator why your school doesn't allow stock albuterol inhaler for emergencies. 

You can also contact Allergy & Asthma Network. They are based in Virginia and are:

"Allergy & Asthma Network is the leading nonprofit organization whose mission is to end the needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies and related conditions through outreach, education, advocacy and research."
Allergy & Asthma Network sponsor a Day on Capitol Hill in Washington DC each May. They work tirelessly on laws to protect families and help create new laws for families with allergies and asthma.

I was lucky enough to go to DC and talk to my legislators. It's not that scary, you just share your story of living with allergies and asthma. Many of us have some pretty scary and powerful stories of dealing with allergies or asthma. You can talk to your local or state legislators too.

Allergy & Asthma Network can explain how to talk to your local legislators, PTA, etc and educate them about important issues with allergies and asthma. 


Lend your voice! You can help make a difference!


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Don't forget asthma inhalers when school is out!


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School is out for summer in most states, and that means emptying out the backpack your kids have been carrying around all year (how long has THAT been in there?)
 
As you empty out their backpacks, make sure you check for their asthma inhaler.
 
Some kids will have an inhaler at home and another one at school. Sometimes you can forget about the inhaler at school. 
 
Older kids usually carry their inhalers in their backpacks, but the younger kids might have theirs stored in the teacher's desk.
 
By the way, did you know it's legal in every state in American for kids to carry their inhaler with them at school? American Lung Association says:
 
"Although all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed a law allowing students to carry and use inhalers at school, some kids are still being denied access to these lifesaving medications during the school day."
 
When my kids were little, I would fill out a permission form at the beginning of every school year and Asthma Specialist would sign it. That would allow them to legally carry their inhaler with them at all times (even though schools are a drug free zone.)
 
Since our family has had LOTS of experience with asthma (it's been 18 years since the 3 kids and I were diagnosed - and we had had 12 hospitalizations for asthma). So, we are very used to inhalers and nebulizers. My kids were responsible enough to carry their inhaler when they were very young. 
 
But other families may find that young kids goof off with inhalers (spray it in their air, let their friends play with it, etc.) So they may have the teacher keep it in his or her desk. 
 
So, do the "end of the year dump"of the backpack and look for your kid's inhaler. If you can't find it, you may have to double check with their teacher or school nurse.
 
Chances are you are going to need that over the summer!   
 
 








Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Asthma Mom is sick, now what?

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Well, as though this year wasn't bad enough, I am sick with bronchitis (again) - 4th time since November.

What's going on? Well, I've been traveling - and airplanes and airports are some of the germiest places you can be.

For anyone who regularly reads my blog, you know that I am a germaphobe. However, my husband (who likes to come along on my work trips if I'm going to a cool city) isn't a germaphobe.

I can easily go through a whole package of antibacterial hand wipes during a 4 day trip. That nasty tray on the airplane? It's getting wiped down before I have my pretzels and Coke!

Think it's not that dirty? CNN has a slide show called "Journeys with Germs" What are the dirtiest things on the airplane?"  You might be surprised!  

Think of everything else you touch - door knobs, elevator buttons, the TV remote in the hotel. 

I use the antibacterial wipes like a mad woman. And follow it up with hand sanitizer.

The Hubby? Not so much. 

Even though I gave him a travel pack of wipes and practically begged him to slip them in his pocket and use them while he was sight seeing.

Did it happen? Nope. 

This is the 4th trip we have had, and this is the 4th time he has become sick from out trip. So he coughs and sneezes and doesn't wash his hands, and then I get sick.

So, what happens when the Mom is sick? Well, it's almost comical - watching my family stumbling around the kitchen, opening cupboards, the fridge and freezer - like a magical meal will just appear! Not while Mom is sick.

They are a little clueless when it comes to Mom being sick. Usually, I check to see if the kids need a cold washcloth for their forehead. Popsicles? Snack? Movie to watch? 

Nobody checks on me when I'm sick.

 So, I just pull the nebulizer out and put it close to me so I can have a breathing treatment while I'm propped up on the couch. I pile up my cough drops, prescription cough medicine, box of tissues and throat lozenges. Then I keep a note pad handy so I can write down what time I have each medicine (so I know when I can have the next dose.) 

I tend to get a little fuzzy headed when I'm sick, so it's better for me to write down when I take my meds so I don't forget any of them or take them at the wrong time.

I can image all of you moms reading this and laughing. Because you get it. Our families can win and complain when they're sick and we take care of them. 

But no one takes care of mom when we are sick.

So good luck to all of the rest of you moms out there!