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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fires vs floods


You know, it would be REALLY nice if Mother Nature could even things out a little bit. Mothers aren't supposed to have favorites, right?!

Yet The West is experiencing abnormally high temperatures for this time of year, and very little to no rain - following years of drought.

The South is getting dumped on with crazy amounts of rain. 

I would gladly take some of their rain! (Just not all of it....)

The national news had a story about the weird weather. They showed Houston and surrounding areas covered in water and then a map of The West with  27 forest fires burning. 

I talked to a family member and friend that live on the West Coast, and they both have asthma and are struggling to breathe. Ash is falling around them, and the air is thick with smoke. They have had a horrible heat wave and are not used to high temperatures. So, they don't have swap coolers or central air to cool down, and can't open their windows at night to get fresh air - because there is no fresh air! It is full of smoke.

So, no matter where you live, you may be having problems with asthma. The floods lead to mold problems that affect asthma. 

The wild fires and smoke also affect asthma (in fact, I had a son who almost died due to smoke from a forest fire....so we are a VERY careful at our house when it comes to forest fires and smoke.)  

On my last post, I wrote about flooding, mold and asthma. 

Now it's time to talk about wildfires and smoke. 

How do you protect yourself? Well, the Centers for Disease Control has information about Protecting Yourself from Wildfire

There are things you can do such as checking the local air quality, avoiding spending time outdoors if possible, and making sure you are taking your asthma medicine, etc. All of that is listed in the "Protecting Yourself from Wildfire" website listed above.

I am changing plans to avoid time outside, am taking my controller inhaler and am also using my rescue inhaler when I feel like I need it.

Don't be afraid to call your doctor if your asthma flares up and if they ask you to evacuate, that may be the safest thing when you have asthma! 

Good luck to those affected by the wild fires and those dealing with the flood :(

 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Cleaning up after a flood

I have seen some pretty unbelievable videos and photos images from Houston and surrounding areas this past week. They have left me speechless (and that's pretty hard to do....)

How can I help? Well, I have already donated money to the Red Cross. But, as Environmental Health Educator (and nerd for all things science), maybe I can help with a little knowledge about cleaning up?
We had a small flood in our basement a few years ago (nothing like Houston.) We had a 100 year rainstorm that cascaded down our basement stairs, overwhelmed the french drain, and rushed into the basement. 

It wasn't even close to the amount of water I am seeing in photos from Houston, but enough that we were overwhelmed. And of course insurance didn't cover it because it was "An Act of God."

So, we were on our own. The disaster companies were busy with other homes and businesses who were damaged more than we were, so I recalled my training from the National Center for Healthy Housing training. I'll spare you my story, but it took 6 weeks for the basement to dry out enough so we could re-carpet (FYI - concrete can LOOK dry....but may not be.)

Here's a photo of Hubby using a moisture meter from the hardware store to test the moisture in the basement floor. 

If your house has been damaged by flooding, here is some important info from FEMA:

    

"Cleaning up After a Flood:"

"The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises the homeowner to take the following steps:
  • Wear protective clothing. Rubber gloves and boots will help protect you from bacteria and possible infections.
  • Avoid putting your hands near your face or mouth when working.
  • Be sure the main power source to your home or business is turned off.
  • Check for shifts in the house or building and cracks in the foundation.
  • Open doors and windows to help dry out the rooms.
  • Remove any standing water. Basements should be pumped out slowly, about one-third of the water each day. Water soaked grounds can cause a collapse of basement walls.
  • Clean up mud, silt and other debris before they dry out.
  • Hose down walls as quickly as possible and follow up with a second hosing with water containing bleach or a disinfectant. Disinfect surfaces, like shelves.
  • Appliances that contain insulation cannot be easily cleaned. Have them checked by a service person before attempting to use.
  • Remove all soaked materials and furnishings. Fully upholstered furnishings and mattresses cannot be cleaned and should be destroyed to avoid health problems.
  • Carpets and rugs may be cleaned. Permanently attached carpeting should be removed before attempting to clean. Clean items out of doors or have them done professionally.
  • Items like sheets, bedspreads, curtains and draperies should be washed with very hot water and detergents, or professionally dry-cleaned.
  • Any flooded food items should be discarded unless they are in undamaged cans or commercially sealed glass jars. Sanitize the container before opening it.
  • Sanitize pots, pans, utensils, dishes, glassware and other items you intend to keep."
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also has info about how to "Be Safe After a Hurricane." 
And "Clean Up Your Home."

  Every situation is different. FEMA mentions cleaning carpet - but our was sopping wet and the disaster companies were overwhelmed, so there was no place to take the carpet to let it dry out and then clean it. So, we ended up tearing out the HEAVY water logged wool berber carpet (and pad) and replacing it - at our cost.

Our flood pales in comparison to Houston's flooding. Please be careful and follow FEMA's suggestions. I know that homes in many areas still have water up to the roof tops. No telling how long it will take for the water to recede.

And watch your asthma. Water, mold and asthma are NOT a good mix. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

High school sports with asthma









Daughter Kitty is running with the cross country team again this year - which can be "interesting" when you have asthma!

Like the majority of people with asthma, Kitty also has allergies. It's estimated that 65% - 75% of people who asthma also have allergies. 

One of the things she is allergic to (and can trigger an asthma attack) is grass. Another trigger for her is exercise. On top of that, we have been in the yellow air quality zone all summer. 

So, add grass, exercise and bad air quality and it can be a recipe for disaster when you have asthma.

Since it was her first cross country meet this year, I was a little worried about her asthma. But when I stopped by the house before her meet, I was happy to see that she had used her nebulizer before her race.

Sometimes, doctors will tell a patient with asthma to use their Albuterol BEFORE they exercise. 

Is that right for everyone? NO!

Since using Albuterol can cause heart palpitations and a rapid heart rate, your doctor will decide what's best for you.  

How do you know if he wants to use it? Well, if you have asthma, you should have an asthma action plan. It's like a stop light with green, yellow and red zones. Green means you are okay, yellow means caution (you are having asthma symptoms) and red means stop (and get help now!). Your doctor will help you understand each zone and what medication you should use in each zone. 



Sometimes the doctor will check the box in the green zone that says  "use Albuterol 15 minutes before activity." Ask him what he wants YOU to do.

So, did it help Kitty? Yes! She said her lungs felt fine after the meet. On the other hand, I had to help  one of her team mates that was having problems with her asthma.

Everyone with asthma is different. We have different asthma triggers and we treat it with different inhalers. 

Case in point - my three kids and I all have asthma and allergies. We all use different allergy pills and/or allergy nose sprays. And we all have different inhalers. 

We all had to find what worked for us - and you should find out what works for you!

What has your doctor told you about using Albuterol before you exercise? 

Comment below!  




 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

School supplies and asthma


Mmmmhhhhmm, it's that time of year again. 

The stores are full of notebooks, pencils and cool stuff for lockers. I feel like telling my daughter, "When I was your age....I was lucky I even HAD a locker -  and we didn't have stuff to decorate it!" Yep, I'm getting old.

I should probably take daughter Kitty to the store to get school supplies - since school starts next week. I'm a little slow.....

But besides school supplies, there is something else you need for school when you have asthma.


You can look of the laws of some of the states on the CDC's Public Health Law website.

You also have to have your doc fill an asthma action plan and permission form EVERY school year. There are different forms for each state. Here's one I found from American Lung Association 



 My school nurse always sends out an Asthma Action Plan and permission form every summer. That gives us time to see Asthma Doc so Kitty can have her annual asthma exam and Asthma Doc can fill out her paperwork for school.

Is your child ready to carry their inhaler in school and do they know when and how to use it? American Lung Association has a "Student Readiness Assessment Tool" that can help you decide. It's 15 questions in 4 areas that can help you find out what your child knows about asthma and if they know when to use their inhaler.
 
Don't forget to include the teacher in their asthma plans. At back to school night, I meet with all of Kitty's teacher and let them know that she has allergies and asthma, carries her inhaler (legally), and may need to use it during class. 
 
But, since it's embarrassing for Kitty to use it during class, we come up with a "sign" she can use with her teachers to let them know that she wants to leave the classroom and use her inhaler. (Personally, I don't care if anyone sees me use my inhaler. And as a Certified Asthma Educator, I want people to know how to use it correctly.)
 
So, what kind of sign does she use? Whatever the teacher wants - Kitty will catch the teacher's eye and twirl her car keys and nod. Or she may tug on her ear lobe repeatedly while looking at the teacher. Whatever she wants and whatever will be a silent clue to the teacher.
 
So, as you are getting school supplies and clothes, make sure you are ready for any asthma emergency by getting an Asthma Action Plan filled out and signed. 
 
You never know when you might need one.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Air quality so thick you can cut it with a knife!


If there's one thing that really bothers my asthma - it's poor air quality.

One of my family members who lives on the west coast called to say that he was so sick that he couldn't make it into work. He was really having a hard time breathing. He was staying inside with the doors and windows closed.

Of course, I had to nag him and ask if he had used his Albuterol inhaler?! 

You can see from the map above that the west coast is being affected by a British Columbia forest fire. 


".....asthma specialist Dr. Matthew Altman, an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine, says he’s been hearing from some of his 100 patients.
'They’re reporting an aggravation of symptoms, shortness of breath, cough,' he says."

The same article also quotes a Colorado State University study about air quality and smoke from the Seattle area wildfires in 2012. The study showed a 35% increase in hospitalizations.

Yikes!

I hope that doesn't happen this time, but it wouldn't surprise me. Son #2 and daughter Kitty both ended up in the hospital when they were young because of poor air quality.

So, what is the air quality like in your area of the U.S? You can check it on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website for air quality. The website is called Air Now. Just click on your state at the top of the page where it says "Local Air Quality Conditions", or input your zip code.

Many TV stations will also include the air quality during the weather forecast.

It can help to check air quality when you have asthma. You can decide when to avoid exercising or spending too much time outdoors. Instead of biking outside or going for a walk, we go to our city recreation center and walk on the indoor track.

The indoor track isn't as pretty as being outside, but my lungs like it a LOT better.

Our lungs can be a little cranky when it comes to breathing in bad air

And really, can you blame them?!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My inhaler is empty? When did that happen?





One of the most common things I see when I am helping families with asthma is expired inhalers or empty inhalers.

Check yours now. Go ahead.....I'll wait.

Well? What was the date?

Was it expired?

Was it empty?

It's one of those things you don't think to check. I just carry my inhaler around all the time in case I need it and don't think to check the number of doses left or the expiration date. I just assume it will always be there when I need it.

And I LOVE that they put counters on the back of inhalers, but you actually have to LOOK at it!

I was on a work trip out of state and my lungs weren't feeling well. I chalked that up to the Texas humidity. But I just didn't feel right. 

I happen to check my daily controller inhaler - but it was empty! I don't even know how long it was empty, but the counter was at 0. That would explain the cranky lungs!

I have had families that were surprised that their inhaler was on 0. They will try a puff in the air and then look at me as if to say, "See? It still has medicine in it!"



"... the medicine often runs out before other substances that are used to make the medicine come out of the container. So what you hear, see, or taste might only be these substances, not the medicine. Breathing these substances without the medicine could cause your symptoms to worsen." 

 So, just because something comes out of the inhaler when it's on "0" doesn't mean that it's medicine.  Some still have propellant, but no medicine.

So take a peek at your rescue inhaler and your controller inhaler or diskus.

You want to make sure it's not expired or empty when you need it. 

Because nothing is scarier than needing an inhaler and finding that it is expired or empty! Yikes!!
 








Wednesday, July 5, 2017

It's official - I hate neighborhood fireworks!


video

** You'll have to turn up your sound if you want to hear the video**

Yes, I love my country! In fact, we attend parades, decorate the entire house (inside and outside) with patriotic decorations and buntings.

I also LOVE watching "A Capitol 4th" and the other programs PBS broadcasts for Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. 

In fact, my dad was a waist gunner on a B-17 during WWII.  And I proudly display his old black and white photos with his squad.

But, none of those make it hard for me to breathe.

Fireworks do. 

I'm not against those fabulous aerial fireworks that the cities light off during festivals. 

I have a REALLY hard time with neighborhood fireworks. It's not just one neighbor lighting off fireworks and making the air smoky. It's a combination of street, after street, after street, of neighbors lighting off fireworks.

Not to mention all the sirens I hear and the firefighters probably rushing to yet another house fire or field fire - thanks to fireworks!

So, what's the answer?

I don't know. I can't tell neighbors that they can't light off fireworks. Although in some areas of our valley they are illegal due to fire risk.

I stay inside and keep the doors and windows shut. But am not sure what else we can do. I mean, I have to leave the house at times, and that means walking to my detached garage (about 10 steps.) That's all it takes for me to breathe in a little smoke and to wreak havoc on my lungs.

Sometimes it's just discouraging having asthma...