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Friday, April 24, 2015

scientists discover cause of asthma

(shutterstock image)

I just read a story that researchers have discovered the cause of asthma. The article said the researchers are 'incredibly excited'. The researchers are from Cardiff University, Kings College (in the UK) and also the Mayo Clinic in the U.S.

The study was completed in the UK, and researchers were able to identify the calcium-recepting sensor (CaSR). The researchers also found that if they used a certain class of drugs on the CaSR (calcilytics)  they were able to block the sensor. Calcilytics are used now on osteoporosis (for people with brittle bones) but they are finding that is also works for asthma.

They said that they can reduce the calcium level in the cells, which makes them less 'twitchy' - and that is the root cause an asthma attack. 

I am so glad that there are great minds out there researching the cause of asthma, new treatments.......and dare I say some day they may discover a cure for asthma?!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Exercise induced asthma

I keep thinking life will calm down....yeah right! I haven't been able to blog for a while since I have been traveling and have a MAJOR event to plan for work.

It seems like asthma never fails to surprise me. Daughter Kitty is on the high school soccer team which plays in the fall, and hasn't had any problems with asthma (except for once when she had a nasty cold.) 

She is also running track for the school, which is in the spring. Now she is having symptoms of exercise induced asthma. Some people call it exercise induced broncho constriction. (EIB)

These are the symptoms of EIB from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. 

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Decreased endurance
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Upset stomach
  • Sore throat

 There is also a video on the website featuring Mike Kloser, who is an elite endurance athlete who has won the Eco Challenge 3 times. 

 Son #1 also has EIB. He doesn't usually have problems with asthma - unless he is playing sports. He would come home after playing ultimate frisbee and I would hear him coughing. He would say it started while he was playing frisbee with his buddies. I asked if he used his inhaler and he said no. (You would think they could figure that one out on their own!) Once he used his inhaler, his coughing would stop and he would feel better. (Okay kids, this isn't rocket science. If you are coughing - use your inhaler! It's not that hard to figure out. Sheesh!)

Now it seems like Kitty is also having EIB. But I can't figure out why it doesn't bother her during soccer, but it does now during track. I wonder if it makes a difference because she is playing in the spring. She has horrible allergies and has already completed 6 years worth of allergy shots. (And she STILL sneezes nonstop.)

Another thing I have been thinking about is that with soccer, she may be running in short bursts, and can then rest. In track, she is running the mile. So, it seems like if she exercises for a longer period of time, it is harder on her body (and her lungs.)

Asthma Doc changed her medicine a little, so we'll see if that makes a difference. I told her to make sure she uses her inhaler before she runs. It seemed to help last time.

Just when you think you have asthma figured out, it throws a curve ball.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Breathing problems in man and beast

We drove to visit family for Easter weekend, and they had a sick dog. Earlier in the week, the dog had a fever, the shakes, and was coughing.  Unfortunately, they decided that the dog was going bette and didn't need to go to the vet.

When we arrived, I heard the dog coughing and knew that wasn't right. (I'm used to hearing people cough - since my three kids and I all have asthma.) But it was different hearing a dog cough. I picked him up and could tell he had a fever. 

I decided that we needed to take him to the vet. Of course, it was Saturday - which meant that the only place open was the emergency after hours pet clinic. We joined several other miserable dogs and one very annoyed cat in the waiting room.

We Googled "coughing dog" and Kennel Cough came up as a possible diagnosis. It made sense because he had been at the pet groomer the week before, so he probably picked up the illness there. (Just like when people pick up colds and flu from school and work.)

The vet said the dog did have Kennel Cough and would need an injection. "Ah, Decadron?" I asked the vet. He suddenly stopped and looked at me with the shot needle in his hand- he seemed a little shocked. "I have asthma, as do all three of my kids - and they have been hospitalized 12 times. So, I am VERY familiar with Decadron and Solu-Medrol. " 

My kids would get a steroid shot (Decadron) to reduce the swelling in the lungs. If that didn't work, they would end up in the hospital and get a steroid IV (Solu-Medrol) that would also help to reduce the swelling in the lungs.

 The doctor said yes, this was a steroid shot and that the dog would also need an antibiotic and cough medicine.

I had to laugh, and said to my husband, "this is just like having another kid!" We are once again at the after hours doc, who is caring for our loved one because they are having a hard time breathing.  Only this time our loved one was a dog!

So, when we went back home, it was easy to explain to family the treatment the dog received at the vet and that now we needed to watch him for pneumonia. (That was the cause of the majority of my kid's hospitalizations.) 

It's interesting that people and animals can have the same (or similar) illnesses and have the same treatment plan too. Only, we can't tell the dog to make sure that he covers his mouth when he coughs and that he needs to remember to wash his hands and not touch his face (to avoid the spread of germs!)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Real time pollen machine!

From time to time, I receive requests on my blog. The latest is from Landon Bunderson, PhD. He and his research team are developing a machine that will report pollen in real time. 

Landon says" Currently, there are less than 90 sites where pollen is being reported on a daily basis. Of those 90 sites, roughly 75 are operated by counters who are National Allergy Bureau (NAB) certified. If you look at their coverage maps, there are some big gaps in the geography, especially in the West":
"With or without the gaps, the current air sampling technology was developed in 1952. This technology requires a person to count each pollen grain and mold spore individually. If the counter is good, the accuracy can be extremely high, but the information is a day late--because pollen is collected for 24 hours and then counted."

"We want to eliminate the gaps in air sampling stations by providing a sampler that is more automated and cost-effective and doesn't require a certified, highly trained counter at each station. We think if we can do that, more people will put up samplers. We also want to report pollen levels in real time--so that the information can inform allergy asthma sufferers in such a way that they can alter their behavior if needed."
 Landon and his team would like feedback about their machine from people who have allergies and asthma. They have a short survey on their site.  If you are interested, take the survey and let them know what you think.

Who better to give feedback than people with allergies and asthma!?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Allergies making you miserable

(Shutterstock image)

In my last post, I talked about allergies vs colds. I also wanted to talk about how having allergies affects the body.

If you don't have allergies - lucky you! For the those of us with allergies, life can be VERY miserable. I tell people that allergies are like a cold - THAT NEVER ENDS! At least with a cold, you know it's only going to last for about a week. (Unless you have asthma, and then you can develop pneumonia....but I'll save that for another post.)

I get a runny nose - but unlike a cold - the runny nose can last all spring and into summer. We go through A LOT of tissues at our house. My favorite are Puffs with Lotion (that way we don't end up with a red nose!) I almost panicked when I was at the grocery store and they only had 3 boxes left. So I bought all of them. They're MINE - ALL MINE! (Insert crazy laugh....)

To quote an allergy medicine commercial, "I store tissues like a squirrel stores nuts."  Sad, but true.....

At our house, we can easily sneeze over 30 times a day. Sometimes, daughter Kitty will start to sneeze and we will count.......17, 18, 19 times in a row.

Other "fun" things that happen with allergies from WebMD are:

  • Watery and itchy eyes
  • Sinus infections
  • Irritated throat (from breathing through your mouth)
  • Snoring (yeah - try to get a good night's sleep while that is going on....)
  • Headaches
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
It's hard to do well in school and work when all of that is happening. So...what to do?

WebMD lists several things you can do around the house. One thing they don't list is to shower before you go to bed. Asthma Doc tells us to make sure we shower before bed because you can have pollen in your hair and on your skin. If you go to sleep at night with pollen on your body, and roll around on your pillow, all of that pollen gets spread around. And you can wake up feeling even worse (and looking worse with a red nose and swollen eyes.)

WebMD also lists different ways you can treat allergies There are a LOT of options - from antihistamines, eye drops, nose sprays, to prescription leukotriene inhibitors (Singulair) and  mast cell inhibitors (nose sprays like Nasalcrom.) And let's not forget allergy shots (immunotherapy).

With all of those options, it's hard to know what is the best treatment plan. That's why we go to an allergy and asthma specialists. I like my primary care doctor, but for this, I need a specialist.
Talk to your doc and see what's right for you. Pardon me while I grab some tissues... 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Preparing for allergy season

Yep, it's started already......sneezing and wheezing.

Spring has already sprung here. In fact, the trees are in the "high" category for pollen right now. In some places in the U.S., they still have LOTS of snow. 

In the West, Winter forgot about us. We are wearing sundresses, shorts and t-shirts. 

And we are sneezing and wheezing. I was talking to a neighbor who started sneezing and then she said "allergies." I nodded, "Mmmmhmmm, we're all sneezing at our house." She asked if we took anything for allergies. "Um, yeah. Singulair, Zyrtec, Allegra and 5 years worth of allergy shots!"

Mayo Clinic has some great information about Hay fever.    Do any of these symptoms that they list seem familiar? 

  • Runny nose and nasal congestion
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
  • Sinus pressure and facial pain
  • Swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners)
  • Decreased sense of smell or taste
They also have a chart to help you figure out if it's hay fever (allergies) or a cold. They also suggest when it's time to go see a doctor for allergies. 

For us, allergies last year round. You know allergies are bad when you add tissues to the weekly shopping list.....EVERY week! We also buy allergy medicine and allergy nose spray IN BULK at the warehouse store. 

In fact, I should buy stock in those companies...I am making them rich and paying for the CEO's beach house in Hawaii! Sigh.

If you are struggling with allergies, I hope the Mayo Clinic site can help you decide what to do. Don't suffer through it - there are medicine to treat your symptoms and things you can do to make your house allergy friendly.

It's an early spring - and it's going to be a long one. I am all stocked up on tissues and allergy medicine! Bring it on!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Free allergy and asthma activity book!

There is an allergy and asthma activity book available from Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA.)

It's called "Ally and Andy's Awesome Asthma and Allergy Activities". Here's how AAFA describes the activity book:

"The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) created this coloring/activity book to provide children and their families with a basic understanding of asthma and food allergies. The activity booklet, appropriate for children of all ages, provides a fun way for children to learn how to recognize common triggers and to control their asthma and food allergy symptoms. In addition to the word finds, crossword puzzle, word scramble, maze and other activities, there is a story to read and color, plus a list of additional website resources for parents and kids on asthma and allergies."

I scanned through the book. It's about a brother and sister who have allergies and asthma, and the other kids at school tease them (that would NEVER happen, right?!) While on a school field trip, they meet a couple of woodland friends who also have allergies and asthma, and their woodland friends tease them too. They realize they aren't alone in having allergies and asthma.

It's a short story which also has a crossword puzzle, word search and other activities at the end of the story. 

If you are looking for a fun story for your kids with allergies and asthma, you can print it out here. 

Happy coloring!