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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

World Asthma Day!

 (http://ginasthma.org/wad/)

Do you have asthma? If so, you are not alone! There are over 334 million people world wide who have asthma! 

I have asthma, as do all three of my children (well.....both of my sons are adults and my daughter is a teenager, so I guess they don't fit the "children" category anymore!)
 
Asthma is different for everyone. In our family, it led to a career change for me. My first Bachelor's Degree was in Interior Design (I still get excited when I walk into a furniture store.....) but I went back to school to get another bachelor's degree so I can help other families learn more about asthma. I wish I would have had someone to help us when my kids were diagnosed 16 years ago. I know that we made a LOT of mistakes!
 
For some people, asthma is not that bad and they may only use their inhaler once a year. For others, they have a tough time!  My kids were hospitalized 12 times and my son almost died twice. I HATE asthma. And pneumonia! And forest fires. 
 
How much do you know about asthma? I didn't know anything when my kids were diagnosed. 
Webmd has a helpful site, called "Understanding Asthma - the Basics." Right above that title is a "pair of headphones." If you click on that, it will read the page for you! There is also a  helpful slide show on the page (just click on the blue start arrow.)

There are a LOT of asthma books for kids on Amazon. Or you can also download a copy of "Understanding Asthma" from the Allergy & Asthma Network. They are a GREAT resource!
 
 There are also videos on Youtube. Everyone learns differently. The important thing is just for you to learn about asthma and how it affects you. Learn what triggers or causes asthma attacks. Learn when to see a doctor and when to change your medicine. 

Think your asthma is okay? Take the Asthma Control Test and find out!  I just read an study that showed that many people THINK their asthma is under control, when it's actually not.

Life is good! Let's breathe well and enjoy life!
Allergy & Asthma Network is the leading nonprofit patient education and advocacy organization for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions. Our patient-centered network unites individuals, families, healthcare professionals, industry and government decision makers to improve health and quality of life for Americans with asthma and allergies. We specialize in making accurate medical information relevant and understandable to all while promoting evidence-based standards of care. - See more at: http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/about/#sthash.GGdaLlUF.dpuf
 
Allergy & Asthma Network is the leading nonprofit patient education and advocacy organization for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions. Our patient-centered network unites individuals, families, healthcare professionals, industry and government decision makers to improve health and quality of life for Americans with asthma and allergies. We specialize in making accurate medical information relevant and understandable to all while promoting evidence-based standards of care. - See more at: http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/about/#sthash.GGdaLlUF.dpuf
 
Allergy & Asthma Network is the leading nonprofit patient education and advocacy organization for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions. Our patient-centered network unites individuals, families, healthcare professionals, industry and government decision makers to improve health and quality of life for Americans with asthma and allergies. We specialize in making accurate medical information relevant and understandable to all while promoting evidence-based standards of care. - See more at: http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/about/#sthash.GGdaLlUF.dpuf

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New tablet for dust mite allergies?

(Shutterstock image)

My friend sent me an article about a new medicine that is going through drug trials right now. It's for dust mite allergies. If you want a little "light reading" (ha ha) you can read more about it from The Journal of the American Medical Association

Remember the Good Ol' Days when your kids had to have allergy shots for 3-5 years?! Now you may be able to skip shots and take a pill instead. YAY!! As the mother of 3, all of whom have allergies and asthma, it was awful to have to take my kids to allergy shots. 

Of course, none of my kids were on the same schedule. One wouldn't be doing shots, one would be doing shots once every other week. One would be having shots twice a week. So, for a 10 year period, we would go back and forth to the Asthma Doc's office. It got REALLY old. REALLY fast. 

The kids were young, so I would have to drag all 3 kids with me (whether they were getting shots or not.) And would also have to plan around school, soccer, swim lessons, dance, etc..

 But many people (like my kids) are allergic to a LOT of different things. So, pills for one allergen may never replace allergy shots. 

But, if you are just allergic to grass, or dust mites. This might work for you.

There are several pills already on the market for certain allergens.

Oralair was the first pill that came out for grass allergies. 

Grastek has also been approved for grass allergies.

Ragwitek has been approved for those allergic to Ragweed.   

Seriously....who comes up with these names??

I'm not sure when the new pill for dust mites will be approved by the FDA. (Or what wacky name they might give it.....)

You can read more about the study in this NPR article.   

Until then, pass the box of tissues!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Doctors visit over the phone

(Shutterstock image)

This is how it looks when we see the doctor. 

But did you know that you can "see" your doctor without leaving your home? Wait.....what?

 You don't have to drive to their office - you can see and talk to them through a smart phone or ipad! (It's like Facetime - where you see and talk to the other person). There are many private companies and even hospital systems that are getting on board now.

I learned about Doctor on Demand while at an asthma conference sponsored by Allergy & Asthma Network last fall.

One of the doctors showed us how it works. You can watch a short video that shows how it works on the website for Doctor on Demand. 

What a smart idea! Since then, I have seen 2 of our hospitals here advertising the same thing. There are times when I am so sick, I can't drive myself to the doctor (and no one else is home to drive me.) It would have been a nice idea when I had my concussion and I had to drive myself to the doctor! Or when I had a migraine and REALLY needed some anti nausea medicine.

Here's another example from a hospital I found called MountainStar

And it looks like most visits don't cost much more than a typical co-pay. One advertised $49 per visit. I know several people who have REALLY high deductibles on their insurance ($3,000 per family.) So, it is less expensive for them to pay the $49 than it would for a $125 office visit.

I think it's a great idea if you have something simple to treat like strep throat or pink eye. But what if you end up in a small local hospital and you are VERY sick and need a specialist?  Did you know that many doctors across the country (including Intermountain Healthcare ) are working with small hospitals to offer their help via computer? 

They can listen to a patient's lungs with a digital stethoscope. A nurse in the smaller hospital uses the digital stethoscope on the patient, and the specialist hundreds of miles away can use audio and video hardware to hear the lungs!  

They can also watch an EKG to see if someone is having heart problems, or the EEG to check a patient's brain waves. They can see all of the machines that the patient is hooked up to and help the local doctors who don't specialize in a certain disease.

Seriously....I can't keep up with technology! I am feeling really smart when I can Facetime my daughter when I am traveling for work. Even if it took me a while to figure out how it worked...

Check around and see what is available in your area. Maybe your doctor offers virtual visits when you are too busy or too sick to drive to the doctor's office. And they even call in the prescription for you too!

And kudos to the specialist who back up the small town doctors who need a little extra help!

What will they think of next?

 
 

 






Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Confused about inhalers?

I just listened to a helpful and VERY funny webinar from AAN - Allergy & Asthma Network. If you haven't heard of them, you are missing out on a great resource! AAN is a national organization that helps families with allergies and asthma. They also lobby congress for laws to help us (make sure kids can carry asthma inhalers and epi pens in school at all times, have schools have a "stock" inhaler that can treat anyone in the school with asthma, etc, etc.)

Randall Brown, MD, AE-C, of the Center for Managing Chronic Disease, University of Michigan - See more at: http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/advances-allergy-asthma-webinar-inhaler-confusion-2/#sthash.19Tevjff.dpuf
Randall Brown, MD, AE-C, of the Center for Managing Chronic Disease, University of Michigan - See more at: http://www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/advances-allergy-asthma-webinar-inhaler-confusion-2/#sthash.19Tevjff.dpufDr
Dr. Randall Brown, AE-C, of the center for Managing Chronic Disease, University of Michigan gave this presentation. It's called "Inhaler Hysteria or Inhaler Confusion."

It's a free webinar, just click here to access it. 

 He talks about asthma, and how everyone is different. Some people are more sensitive than others.
"Some people can be trigger by someone smoking one block away. Where others may smoke 4 packs a day and not be triggered."
He had me laughing during his presentation.  I tried to capture my favorite quote (it may not be word for word....)
"Whenever I do anything aerobic in an old building on campus, because of the dust and because of the mold and the exercise, I cough and I wheeze. But I can be in my office here with 200 cats - all of whom smoke, and not have one problem."
Bahahaha! He was trying to get the point across that all asthma is not created equal. We all have different triggers and react differently. 

He also talks about how some people have "Fire extinguisher use" with their inhaler. They will use their rescue inhaler over and over again for their asthma. But if you were having fires in your house over and over again, you MIGHT want to find out where the problem is coming from.

To compare that to asthma, if you are using just relying on your rescue inhaler to "put out fires", you need to figure out where those "fires" or asthma flare ups are coming from. The Guidelines for Diagnosis and Management of Asthma say that if you NEED to use your rescue inhaler more than twice a week, your asthma in not controlled, and they suggest starting a daily, controller (or maintenance) inhaler. 

There is a lot more great info in the webinar, watch it yourself and let me know what you think!

 

   

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ever forget to take your daily medication?

(Shutterstock image)

Well....I must admit that some days I forget to take my daily, maintenance inhaler. Daughter Kitty is VERY good, she remembers to take her inhaler every morning and every night. 

If you someone who sets a good example and reminds you to take your medicine, what else can you do to help you remember?

I have heard of many different ideas:
  • Put your inhaler near your toothbrush (since you brush your teeth every morning and night)
  • Set an alarm on your smart phone
  • Set an alarm on your watch

And now comes technology! There are new "inhaler sensors" that can track your inhaler use. WebMD says:

"The devices attach to your maintenance and rescue inhalers and automatically note when you take a dose, send you reminders that it’s time to take another, and mark where and when you needed an emergency fix."

A scientific study published in The Lancet showed that of kids who needed to use an inhaler on a daily basis, 84 % of kids who had the inhaler sensor used it every day, compared to 30% of kids without the sensor.

That means: 

“Benefits range from improving medication adherence to reducing hospital admissions, which makes smart inhalers the next wave of respiratory care technology to improve patient outcomes,” Cassandra Perez of RT Magazine wrote in October. 
There are several version on the market. Propeller connects to your inhaler and uses Bluetooth to store data and send it to your doctor if you want.  

Smartinhaler sends alerts and stores your data in the cloud.

What will they think of next? 

Has anyone tried any of the smart inhalers? If so, leave a comment! I would be interested in seeing how they work.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Asthma and strong emotions

(shutterstock)


Did you know that laughing, crying, angry outbursts, etc can all cause asthma attacks? 

American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) list several other causes (or triggers) of asthma attacks. ACAAI divides them in categories:


  • Allergens
  • Pollen (from grass, trees or weeds)
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites
  • Animals (their dander)

  • Irritants 
  • Strong odors (perfumes, scented candles, etc)
  • Smoke
  • Chemical fumes (cleaning sprays, etc)
  • Other causes:
  • Illnesses (that pesky cold!)
  • Extreme weather (cold to hot, or dry to humid)
  • Exercise 
  • Strong emotions 

Have you ever had an asthma attack from a strong emotions? I have! I had a case of the giggles and could NOT stop laughing. I laughed so hard I had an asthma attack.

I also had a very sad situation that had me doing the "ugly cry". That also caused an asthma attack.

Unfortunately, when you have asthma, your body over reacts to things that "normal" people experience. With asthma, our lungs go crazy and cause an asthma attack.  (Seriously? Laughing or crying!? THAT causes an asthma attack too??) I really hate asthma.....

I was at the airport this week and waiting to board my flight when I saw something really sad.

  I saw a female passenger on the phone behind the gate agent's desk, sobbing. She couldn't stop crying.  The female airline employee hugged the woman as she cried and then led her to another area. 

I wasn't sure what was happening, but couldn't imagine someone crying that hard because of air travel (missed a flight, etc.) 

As I was boarding the plane, another passenger said that he over heard the phone call and that the woman's mother had died. The passenger had just talked to her mother before her flight, and the mother was supposed to pick her up at the airport. 

She was in a state of shock, as were the rest of us getting on our flight. 

It reminded me of when my mom died years ago, I can still remembered what I went through. And this passenger was having it all play out in a VERY public place. 

I thought it about during the flight home and decided I wanted to blog about it. 

Now that you know that strong emotions can cause asthma attacks, let's talk about moms. If your mom is still around, call her today or give her a hug!

We think our moms will always be there. But they won't.

Hug your mom or call her today while you still can.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Stay active with asthma!

(Shutterstock image)

Wahoo! The weather is finally getting warmer where we live. (Sorry for all you people that live in Oregon and Washington and get day after day of rain......) 

We are trying to stay active as a family, but what is the best way to do that if you have asthma? It may be different for each person with asthma. The one thing that drives me crazy about asthma is that there doesn't seem to be a one-size-fits-all treatment. 

WebMd has some ideas in an article called "Don't Let Asthma Keep You on the Couch"
These are a few highlights, but it's best to read the whole article!

  • Tennis, volleyball and golf have short bursts of energy, but then give you time to catch your breath
  •  Hiking, biking and walking can increase your endurance, but won't leave you breathless
  • If you are swimming laps and are short of breath, it could be because you are sensitive to the chlorine in the water 
They also list a few exercises that might be harder for someone with asthma:

  • Long distance running, basketball and soccer can be harder because it's a constant burst of energy
  • Hockey and cross country skiing can cause problems because of the cold, dry air 

 So, how do you know what's right for you? Try it out of course! As long as your doctor is okay with what you are doing, you can try a few sports and see what you like. Of course there are other ways to exercise that aren't on their list.

You can go canoeing, horse back riding, etc.
 
Now that the sun is out, I love riding my beach cruiser (I'm not one of those long distance bikers that wears spandex!) I just wander around the neighborhood on my bike and look at all of the neighbor's pretty flowers. 

I also enjoy walking (I love the sun on my face - and I get my best thinking done then!) 

And there's always the gym. Exercise bike, treadmill, yoga, pilates, spinning, swimming, etc.

But, no matter what I'm doing, I ALWAYS bring my inhaler! With my luck, I will be the one time I don't have it that I will need it. So, I use a sling bag and stick my keys, phone and inhaler......just in case.

Now get out and enjoy the sun!