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Friday, December 19, 2014

Using your Epin Pen or Inhaler correctly?

Well, I'm having computer problems today, so this will be a short post. (Poor little laptop.....you have served me well, but I can see that you are ready for retirement.)

There was a story on Good Morning America this morning with Dr. Michael Besser. He said that most people are NOT using their Epi Pen or asthma inhaler correctly, and it can be deadly.

Sometimes, people may not be trained properly the first time they get an Epi Pen or asthma inhaler. Or, it may have been a long time since they were trained and they suddenly find that they need to use it - but can't remember how! Uh oh!

He said that most people who use their Epi Pens correctly administer it into the thigh (you swing your arm down and jab it into your thigh), but then it hurts- so they pull it out again. BUT - you have to leave it there for 10 seconds or all the medicine won't come out of the tiny needle. There is a short video here that shows how to use an Epi Pen. 

There is another option too - Auvi Q. It's another epinephrine injector, but it is about the size of a cell phone - and the helpful thing is that it "talks" you through using it. See the video here.

The other thing Dr. Besser talked about was how to use an asthma inhaler. He said it's important to breathe OUT all the way before you use your inhaler. Here's a video that shows how to properly use an inhaler.

These are good reminders to make sure you are using them correctly. When you have an asthma attack or see someone having an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) it can be normal to panic and not remember what to do. It can be a scary thing to experience or watch happen to a loved one.

Watch the videos and book mark them - just in case you need them someday ....

 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Real or artificial Christmas tree?

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Well, I wish it looked like this where I lived. But, no such luck. We are in a drought! I have accepted the fact that we will NOT have a white Christmas. Sigh.

It's that time of year when people are putting up Christmas Trees. So - the age old battle starts.....is it better to have a real or artificial Christmas tree?

Everyone is different - so it depends on if you are allergic to trees. (Yes....many of us are allergic to various trees, flowers, bushes, grass, etc. ) I saw an interview with Dr. Michael Borts, from St. Louis, who specializes in asthma, allergies and sinus care.

He said some people may have problems with a real Christmas tree because the tree may have pollen and molds on the branches. Once you bring the tree inside your house, it may cause problems for anyone with allergies and asthma. 

However, with an artificial tree, if it's stored in the attic or basement, it might be dusty or have mold (if your basement is damp). And if you are allergic to mold or dust, you may have allergy and asthma problems.

In his video interview, he suggests several things to do, either for a real or artificial tree. 

Our teenagers are allergic to Christmas trees (how sad!!) So, we have had an artificial tree for years. I miss the smell of a fresh Christmas tree. But, it's not worth the running nose, sneezing, and asthma attacks. And for us - it would last the entire time the tree was in the house.

So, we just put up our artificial tree every year. Besides - we tell ourselves that we are also saving the environment by using the same tree over and over again every year.

For some reason, it's just not the same as having a real Christmas tree. Oh well. :(

 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Joking about kids with food allergies??!!

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I was a little shocked this week when I read a story online about a school board member who joked that students with food allergies "should be shot." I believe they were discussing food allergies in schools and how to handle them.

I COULD NOT BELIEVE WHAT I WAS READING. 

Anaphylaxis is no joking matter. I have a seafood allergy, and Son #2 has a tree nut allergy. I have actually witnessed a severe allergic reaction - anaphylaxis   in Son #1.

I never want to see that again as long as I live. I have shared this story before, but here goes....

Son #2 was in the hospital (one of 8 hospitalizations), thanks to pneumonia. Hubby came down for his turn at the hospital, so I went home to pick up Son #1 and daughter Kitty. Son #1 needed his weekly allergy shots. Our plan was to get shots, grab a pizza, and head back down to the hospital to have dinner and watch a movie as a family.

We ALWAYS wait 20 minutes after allergy shots. You are supposed to stay so just in case you have an allergic reaction. I told Shot Nurse that we weren't going to stay this one time, that we were going to grab a pizza and head back to the hospital. She said, "you'll be fine....what are the odds that anything will happen?"

So, we hopped in the car and were a block a way when Son #1 said, "Mom, I think something's wrong." I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a VERY red-faced son. His neck was bulging, his eyes were glassy and bulging, and he was coughing. I swerved over to the side of the road, flipped a U-turn, and headed back to the office. I called the office to let them know what was going on. 

Shot Nurse was ready for us when we RAN from the parking lot. She gave Son #1 a shot of epinephrine (what's normally in an Epi Pen) and started a breathing treatment. Daughter Kitty was wide eyed and clutching her stuffed animal. She knew something was REALLY wrong.

Shot Nurse was calm and talked to Son #1, all the while monitoring his oxygen level and symptoms. She stayed with us for 2 hours after the office closed. (They are located right next to a hospital!)

She also let us know that you can have a rebound effect , meaning that the anaphylaxis can come back after hours or even days later. WHAT??!!

So, she gave us a prescription for an Epi Pen. We stopped at the pharmacy to fill that. Thinking that if he DID have a rebound effect that night....at least we would already be at the hospital! 

Meanwhile, Hubby called and said, "Hey, where's the pizza??!!" He was unaware that anything was going on. He had no idea that Shot Nurse was saving our son's life.

I was so scared and shaky that I could barely drive back to the hospital. We ended up just getting pizza delivered to the hospital and watched a movie with the kids. All the while I was thinking how grateful I am for modern medicine and for Shot Nurse who just saved my son's life.

The same thing can happen with food allergies. I have to inspect any food that is not prepared by me - yep, office parties, church parties, family parties, restaurants. I am not afraid to ask, "does this have seafood in it?" I will ask the person who prepared it, and if I can't find them, then Hubby will try to the food first to see if it's safe for me to eat. We do the same thing for Son #2's tree nut allergy. Tree nuts are in soooo many desserts and ice creams, we have to be very careful.

To the school board member who said "just shoot them", I would like her to visit kids in the hospital who have experienced anaphylaxis. Or read any of the stories online about someone who has died from a food allergy.

It is no joking matter.  
  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Medication problems


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Sometimes it can be really hard to keep track of all the medicines that I use. Luckily, I go to one pharmacy (and I have blogged before about how EVERYONE in the pharmacy knows me.....which isn't necessarily a GOOD thing! It's kind of like being on a first name basis with my car mechanic.....it means I am there WAY too often!!)

Last week, I had to see my regular doctor, who prescribed an antibiotic to clear up an infection. When I went to the pharmacy, the pharmacist told me that there was a drug interaction - that my doctor didn't catch! I couldn't take the antibiotic with another medication that I was on.

Scary stuff!

It's helpful to get all of your medicines at the same pharmacy. The computer system they use will "flag" when there might be an interaction between two medications. If you are using different pharmacies, they won't have a complete list of all the medicines that you take.

I am VERY grateful that the pharmacist caught the problem. If you are worried about medications that you take interacting, you can try Drug Interaction Checker, from Drugs.com. You can type in the names of medications, and it will check to see if there is an interaction. There can be minor, moderate, or major drug interactions.

You can also make sure that your medicine doesn't interact with food. I have to wait 2 hours after I drink milk to take my antibiotic. I wouldn't have known that if I hadn't read the big LONG printout from the pharmacy. 

Sheesh. Some things are complicated!!

If I want my medicine to work, I need to take it the right way. And that may mean:

  • On an empty stomach
  • With food
  • With a full glass of water
  • Without certain foods

If you have any questions, ask your pharmacist. These people are very smart!!
You may not need this now, but remember it the next time you need a new prescription :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

College student dies after being exposed to peanuts

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My sister sent a story she read in the Washington Post titled "College student dies after severe allergic reaction to peanut butter." It was so sad, I could hardly finish reading the article. Sometimes things hit a little too close to home.

Son #1 experienced a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) several years ago. Son #2  has a tree nut allergy - not to be confused with a peanut allergy. (Peanuts are actually from the legume -or bean family - and they grown in the ground.) Tree nuts grow on....... well....trees! Son #2 is allergic to pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc. I am allergic to seafood. We all carry epi pens - EVERYWHERE!!!!

Apparently, the college student, Chandler Swink, had visited an apartment where someone had made peanut butter cookies. Somehow, he came into contact with the cookies or some of the peanut residue. He started to feel symptoms of anaphylaxis and went out to his car to use his Epi Pen. 

The National Institutes of Health list these symptoms of anaphylaxis:

  • Skin—itching, hives, redness, swelling
  • Nose—sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose
  • Mouth—itching, swelling of the lips or tongue
  • Throat—itching, tightness, difficulty swallowing, swelling of the back of the throat
  • Chest—shortness of breath, cough, wheeze, chest pain, tightness
  • Heart—weak pulse, passing out, shock
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) tract—vomiting, diarrhea, cramps
  • Nervous system—dizziness or fainting 
 Chandler then drove himself to the hospital. However, he was later found unconscious in the parking lot. He had suffered cardiac arrest and an asthma attack. He was taken off life support a week later. What a horrible thing for his family to have to experience. My heart hurts for them :(

The National Institutes of Health suggest: 

If you or someone you know is having an anaphylactic episode, health experts advise using an auto-injector, if available, to inject epinephrine (a hormone that increases heart rate, constricts the blood vessels, and opens the airways) into the thigh muscle, and calling 9-1-1 if you are not in a hospital. If you are in a hospital, summon a resuscitation team.

If epinephrine is not given promptly, rapid decline and death could occur within 30 to 60 minutes. Epinephrine acts immediately but does not last long in the body, so it may be necessary to give repeat doses. 

At the first sign of symptoms, give yourself epinephrine and then immediately call an ambulance or have someone else take you to the nearest emergency facility.

Unfortunately, Chandler drove himself to the hospital. Maybe he had used his Epi Pen before and then was treated at the hospital and survived? Maybe he thought it would be okay? Who knows. 

I know I am going to have a reminder talk with my sons. Use the Epi Pen and then call 911. 

My thoughts are with Chandler's family. 

   

 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Spacers and holding chambers



Some of you may use your inhaler by itself. For me, I have found it to be MUCH more effective to use a spacer (pictured above) or a valved holding chamber. What are they?

American Lung Association (ALA) has a helpful web page that tells the difference between a spacer and a valved holding chamber. ALA says:

A spacer is a device that is placed on the mouthpiece of your quick relief inhaler. When used, a spacer creates “space” between your mouth and the medicine. This space helps the medicine break into smaller droplets. The smaller droplets can move easier and deeper into your lungs when you breathe in your medicine.

( Photo from ALA http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma/living-with-asthma/making-treatment-decisions/holding-chambers-and-spacers.html)
A valved holding chamber is a type of spacer that includes a one-way valve at the mouthpiece. This device does more than provide “space” between your mouth and the medicine. It also traps and holds your medicine, which gives you time to take a slow, deep breath. This allows you to breathe in all of the medicine. 

Sometimes it's hard to "time" when you depress your inhaler, and when you breathe in. In fact, sometimes the medicine from the inhaler can go to the back of your throat instead of down into your lungs. My holding chamber helps me get the medicine into my lungs.

Asthma Doc has all of us use a holding chamber with ALL of our medications. I have one for my daily, maintenance medicine, and one for my rescue inhaler.

However, insurance will only cover ONE PER LIFETIME! Who's genius idea was that??!! So, when I need more than one, (since I have two different inhalers) Asthma Doc can still write a prescription for a holding chamber. BUT - I have to pay for one myself. I think my last one was about $20 or $30. You can call different pharmacies and ask for the "cash price" to get the best price.

They are made of plastic, so I don't know why my insurance company thinks one will last a lifetime..... big sigh.


Friday, November 21, 2014

If you have asthma, watch for heart attack

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I just read a surprising article, it was titled "Having Asthma Could Double Your Risk of a Heart Attack." What??!! The article says:

One study found that those with asthma who require daily controller medication are 60 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event like a heart attack during a 10-year period. The other finding may be even more striking. Those with active asthma (meaning current asthma symptoms) or asthma medication use, and those who sought treatment for asthma within the previous year, are twice as likely to have a heart attack than those without active asthma.

So what does asthma have to do with your heart? How is that connected? 

The article says:

The tie between them could be inflammation, or swelling. Both asthma and heart disease are associated with higher levels of inflammation. Inflammation is the immune system’s attempt to heal body tissues after an injury, infection, or other damage. Some inflammation is good, but chronic inflammation, which occurs in many conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, nasal allergies, atherosclerosis, and asthma, can do permanent damage.

I want to learn more about this! I have asthma, as do all three of my teenagers. And we all take controller medication. So we could be at risk for a heart attack down the road. It looks like the study was presented at American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2014.  I don't see the study on the website yet, but I will be checking back to see if they post it.

This is one subject that I will definitely be following!