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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Teal Pumpkin Project

And.....the fun begins! Trying to find candy without tree nuts for Halloween. Son #2 has a tree nut allergy and had an accidental exposure last month. Not good.

There are many different types of chocolate candy that don't have tree nuts (Milky Way, Milk Duds, Hershey's chocolate bars, Whoppers, etc.) But many times, the snack size candy bars are in the same bag with candy bars that DO have nuts. Or they're made in the same factory (which means they can be cross contaminated.)

What are some other candy options? The Bay Area Allergy Advisory Board has a Peanut and Tree Nut Free Candy List

Since son #2 is in college, he is WAY too old to Trick or Treat for Halloween, but I want to have some candy available when he comes home for Sunday dinners. I have to bribe him with something, right?! 

What about the kids who have multiple food allergies and so they can't trick or treat? Where's the fun in that?! They need to enjoy Halloween too!

Enter Food Allergy and Research Center (FARE.) 3 years ago, they came up with a great idea to let kids know if your house is food safe for Halloween.

It's pretty easy. You just:
  1. Buy a non food treat (bracelets, necklaces, stickers, glow sticks, etc). I get stuff at my local party supply store
  2. Put a teal pumpkin out front  
  3. Put up a free poster that explains why you have a teal pumpkin
  4. You can make a donation to The Teal Pumpkin Project
You can download free signs for your house. You can have non-food treats, or candy and non food treats. 

They also have a few more signs.

Need them in Spanish or French? They have those too!  

This is an easy way to let kids with food allergies trick or treat without worrying about getting sick or having an allergic reaction. 

Has anyone tried this in their neighborhood yet? If so, how did it go?

Let's make Halloween fun for all of the kids!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Birthday in the hospital

Since all 3 of my kids inherited my asthma (sorry guys!) we have had LOTS of late nights/doctor visits/ER visits and hospitalizations.

One of my last posts was about Kids in the Hospital

I promised I would share the story about Kitty being in the hospital on her here goes.

 Son #2 and Kitty both had pneumonia (again).  I mean - what else is there to do in winter?! Son #2 was admitted to the hospital the day before Kitty was and she was SO MAD that she had to be in the hospital again. 

Sorry kid. 

But there she was, the day before her 7th birthday. After were settled in her room and had her oxygen on, IV hooked up, and had met all of the nurses, I  realized I would have to cancel Kitty's birthday party for the next day.

  The woman in the photo above is the hospital's "Child Life Specialist" (CLS) . She helps the kids play games, gives them donated blankets and stuffed animals and generally tries to make the hospital a less scary place for kids.

CLS came to check on us and see what we needed. After a sleepless night, I was in a daze and mumbled something about Kitty's birthday was the next day and I would have to cancel her birthday party.

She said, "Don't do that! Just have the kids come here!" Since I was a little sleep deprived, I wasn't processing what CLS was saying and stared at her blankly.

CLS said that they have had other birthday parties at the hospital, and we could quickly plan one for Kitty. She asked what theme Kitty wanted? That year it was puppies. CLS said she would decorate the spare conference room, ask the hospital cafeteria to bake a puppy themed birthday cake, and arrange for security to escort the group of kids to the secure pediatrics floor of the hospital. 

Hubby had just arrived at the hospital to switch places so I could go home to shower and change and see our other kids. I was re-energized with CLS's plans, so I stopped by the party supply store for puppy themed party supplies.

I called the parents and said there's been a change for Kitty's party, can you come to the hospital tomorrow? We'll have the party there! 

The last thing to figure out was how to get Kitty to the conference room with all of her friends.

Since this was her 6th hospitalization, we had to be sneaky. The next morning I told Kitty that she needed another chest x-ray, but that we would just walk down (and pull her oxygen tank behind us) instead of taking the wheelchair. So off we went down the hall. Only I turned right instead of left and went down a different hallway. I stopped in front of a door not far from her hospital room and said, "Okay, let's go in!"  She looked at me and rolled her eyes and said, "Mom - this isn't x-ray!" (Seriously? What 7 year old kid knows what the x-ray department looks like at the hospital??)  

I threw open the door to the conference room to a loud "Surprise!!!" from all of her friends and their parents. CLS had done a GREAT job! There were balloons, posters, and lots of puppy themed toys and games. 

 In the photo above, you can see the kids wearing their black puppy ears and white puppy paw print hats while they sit around a table. CLS found cute silver dog bowls, filled them with beads, and helped the kids make beaded "dog collars".   

I don't remember the other games, or even what the cake looked like. 

But I do remember being filled with love. Love for Kitty. Love for Kitty's friends and their families. And love for CLS who took the time to coordinate a hospital birthday party for one VERY sick little 7 year old. 

She helped us make the best of a bad situation.

And for that, I am truly grateful. Despite what I see on the news each night, there is still good in the world.     

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fun with vocal chord dysfunction!

( Shutterstock image)

Fun with what? 

Did you know VCD is commonly mistaken for asthma? And just to confuse you a little more, there are people that can have asthma and VCD.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) list the following symptoms of VCD:

Symptoms & Diagnosis

Symptoms of VCD can include:
•    Difficulty breathing
•    Coughing
•    Wheezing
•    Throat tightness
•    Hoarse voice
•    Voice changes

Several months ago, Asthma Doc suspected VCD in daughter Kitty. (She also has asthma.) Sometimes, her throat feels "tight" (instead of her lungs feeling "tight".) Asthma Doc said the best treatment is speech therapy, but he couldn't find a speech therapist locally who specializes in VCD. I found one through our local hospital system and set an appointment.

This week was her first appointment. Speech Therapist said my daughter fits the typical profile: young females between 14-21 who are very athletic. Hmm.

He is going to spend several sessions with her to help her control her breathing so she can be more active. She will be learning special speech therapy techniques and deep breathing.

She could already feel a difference on the first visit. He made her run the stairs at the hospital, then practice the technique he taught her - and it worked! 

Yes, this is only the first visit, but I see hope on the horizon!

Mayo Clinic says your doctor may suspect VCD if:

  • It's harder to breathe in than breathe out when symptoms flare up
  • Asthma medications don't seem to ease your symptoms
  • Results of breathing (pulmonary function) tests or other tests for asthma are normal
 If you wonder if you could have VCD instead of asthma (or in addition to asthma), talk to your doc.

There's something new to learn every day!





Thursday, September 29, 2016

Kids in the hospital

(shutterstock image)

It's funny the things that kids can remember. 

When my kids were little, they were hospitalized 12 times for asthma.

Even though daughter Kitty is in high school now, she told me she can still remember the last time she was hospitalized at age 7. She said she was SO MAD that she had to be in the hospital AGAIN!

Kitty and Son #2 both had pneumonia (as is our usual winter activity...) and were both VERY sick. We had already:

And they were still getting worse. Son #2 was the first to end up in the hospital. He was admitted one night around 3am (they always get worse during the night.....)

Neighbor was at home while we were getting Son #2 admitted. and she was watching Kitty. When I returned from the hospital at 4am, i gave Kitty another breathing treatment. As soon as the doctor's office opened, I was on the phone to get them to look at Kitty.

Pediatrician listened to her lungs, reviewed her medications, and said, "Well, if she gets worse, you can bring her back tomorrow." I replied, "She won't be here tomorrow, she'll be admitted tonight."

I surprised myself when I said that. I don't know how I knew....I just knew.

I watched her all day and watched for the signs of an asthma emergency  

I knew she was getting worse. The final straw was when I was using the oxygen monitor that night.

It had been steadily dropping and had reached 91 (you should be close to 100.) I knew from past experience that our hospital will admit my kids if they have all the signs of an asthma emergency and their oxygen level drop to 90 or 91.

I called Hubby at the Pediatric Unit and said, "I'm bringing Kitty down to get admitted. Meet me in the ER." By this time, I had learned "the ropes" of having a kid in the hospital for asthma.
As soon as we entered the ER, they took us right back to a room and could see how sick she was. I told the ER Doc that her brother was admitted the night before and I felt she needed to be admitted too - it was time for the professionals to take over. She said, "Yes, good idea."  

I asked ER Doc to call up to Pediatrics and move Son #2 to a double room so he and Kitty could share a room. (See? I told you I had learned the ropes....)
This is the part where Kitty gets mad because she has to be admitted to the hospital.....again. But, she got to spend time with her brother and they were able to battle pneumonia together. Until he was discharged a day later, and she was stuck there for her 7th birthday. (The birthday story can be another post on another day.)
It's always funny to hear what kids remember. She was mad that she was admitted to the hospital again, but doesn't remember the story leading up to it. 
Well, you know!  

My Life as an Asthma Mom! Sometimes I wonder how I have survived all the stress over the years....


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Can my child carry an inhaler at school?

(Shutterstock image)

The short answer is YES! Your child can carry an inhaler at school. 

Some parents say, "What about the drug-free zone at schools? I thought they can't have ANY medicine at school." Nope. 

"All 50 states have laws in place that allow students with asthma to carry and self administer asthma quick relief inhalers and other lifesaving medicine. The laws vary by state and each school district may have its own policy and paperwork requirements. Contact your school nurse or school officials and ask about the self-carry/self-administration policy in your school district."

We  have a state law that allows ANY student to carry and use their inhaler IF they have a form filled out at the beginning of the school year. Our form is a combination form. The front side is an Asthma Action Plan and the back side is the permission form that allows the kiddos to carry their inhaler.

For those of you that have asthma, you know the panic that can set in if you don't have your inhaler handy. I don't want my daughter's inhaler locked up in the front office while she is out on the soccer field. When she has an asthma attack, she needs her inhaler RIGHT THEN.

She can't wait while someone runs to the office, locates the secretary to unlock the nurse's office, finds the inhaler, then takes it back out to the field. Crazy!

Our state has an AWFUL student/nurse ratio. Our nurses have between 5-9 schools that they supervise. Yep, not kidding. School Nurse is at the high school Mondays from 8:30 -11:30. I sarcastically tell daughter Kitty that if she is going to have an asthma attack, make sure she has it during that 3 hour block of time. She rolls her eyes and says, "Yeah, right mom. I'll make sure that happens."

My kids have always been on their own if they have an asthma attack at school. They carry their own inhalers and they are not afraid to use them!

Check with your school and see what the school asthma inhaler (and EpiPen) policy is.

Seconds count when you have an asthma attack and kids need to have their inhaler in their backpack....just in case.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

9-11 survivors develop asthma

We attended a local 9-11 anniversary memorial, and I happened to hear a REALLY FABULOUS bagpiper perform. I can't seem to listen to Amazing Grace on bagpipes without shedding a few tears - must be allergies, right?!

It was the 15th anniversary and most of the news programs talked about stories of those who had passed away. Stories about dads who had kissed their kids goodbye - not knowing that the kids would never see their dad again. There were stories about others who had died - moms, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and friends. All who died too young.

And then there were stories about first responders that helped that day and were later diagnosed with asthma. Hubby looked at me after watching the news story and said, "You should blog about that." Great minds think alike.

It doesn't surprise me that people that helped in New York City developed asthma. There was such a think layer of dust. How could it NOT damage someone's lungs?

A clip from the story says:

"It is thought that exposure to this dust through the lungs and skin has contributed to the asthma, gastrointestinal problems, and possibly the increased cancer risk experienced by rescue workers, especially those who were on the site immediately after the attack, when the cloud of debris dust was its thickest."

Another story from ABC News, "9/11 First Responders Battle Toxic Exposures 15 Years Later", says:

“They have chronic … asthma, chronic sinusitis, sometimes quite severe, sometimes interstitial lung disease [where the tissue can be scarred],” she said. “[Post-traumatic stress disorder] itself can be chronic disorder.”

There only bright side of this (if you want to call it that....) is that their care if completely covered under the World Trade Center Health Program.  PBS NewsHour has an interesting video if you have time to watch it (it's 15 minutes.) 

It's so sad that they didn't have the proper protection and equipment for working in the dust of the twin towers. And now they have life long problems. I think they did the best they could with what they had. It was an overwhelming disaster :(

For the rest of us "average Joes", did you know that there are things in our every day environment that can affect our asthma? CDC has a list Common Asthma Triggers 

Check to see what you can do to protect your lungs.

I don't think we can ever thank the First Responders enough for what they have gone through.

I am so proud to be an American! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Find where the urgent care centers are BEFORE you travel!

We have learned a LOT traveling with 3 kids with asthma over the years. I have learned to ALWAYS checked our destination for Urgent Care centers BEFORE we leave on vacation. Just in case.

Need to know what’s available by Disneyland? I can tell you! How about the Grand Canyon? Washington DC? Grandma’s house? I can tell you that too!
I’m one of those believer’s in Murphy’s Law (If anything can go wrong, it will.)

I’ve decided to outsmart Murphy over the years. It seems like if I am prepared for something, it WON’T happen. If I’m NOT prepared, something WILL happen.
So, I always look BEFORE we travel to find the closest hospital or urgent care. If there is an accident or illness while we are traveling, the last thing I want to do is try to try to find medical help while we are in a strange place and in a panic. (We learned that lesson the hard way while we were in Hawaii on vacation…..but that story is for another time.)

Over the holiday weekend, we went to see family. Daughter Kitty had a cold, but can usually use her rescue inhaler (Albuterol ) and be okay.  I asked Kitty if she wanted to pack the nebulizer for our trip. When the kids were little we ALWAYS packed the nebulizer – even if no one was sick. My kids have difficult to control asthma (as evidenced by 12 hospitalizations). So, we always felt safer knowing our trusty nebulizer was with us – just in case.

We decided not to bring it this time. Big mistake. Kitty used the nebulizer at home before we left, but still wasn’t feeling well by the time we got to family's house 5 hours later. She used her inhaler, but was still struggling to breathe. 

I told her the Urgent Care was only a couple of miles away, and we could head there for a treatment with a nebulizer. She didn’t want to go. After watching her for a while, I could tell she was getting worse. 
So, even though she complained (gotta love teenagers!), we dragged her to the Urgent Care. And I am sooooo glad we went! Not only were her lungs still really tight, but she also had an ear infection.

I told Urgent Care Doc that we were traveling and had not brought our nebulizer. They tracked down a home health care company that could deliver a nebulizer (at midnight on a Sunday night no less!) We debated whether to rent it or just buy it. But since our nebulizer is 16 years old, we decided it would be safer to have a new one. Who knows how much longer ours will last?

And there it is! A tiny new nebulizer (our old one is twice that size.....)

Kitty felt so much better after using the nebulizer. When she is sick, the nebulizer seems to work better than if she uses her rescue inhaler.

I am so glad I knew where the Urgent Care was located, so we could calmly drive there. I also knew they would take care of her and our insurance would also cover that visit. 

If you are traveling, PLEASE make sure you find the closest Urgent Care or hospital before you leave. We also carry an Out-Of-State insurance card  since our insurance will cover us in an emergency when we travel to other states.

If you are prepared, you may not need to use it. We have been going to family's house for 21 years, and this is the first time we have needed to use an Urgent Care  in their city for one of the kids. 

Include Urgent Care centers when planning for vacation.....just in case.