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Thursday, November 8, 2018

Yes or no to flu shots?

It's that time of year again, where the flu is making the rounds. I always worry about getting the flu, because it can be especially bad for people with asthma. 

Any cold or flu can be worse when you have asthma. 

And I am already hearing about people dying from the flu. In fact, a young (and I assume healthy) 29 year old female lawyer died of the flu in October. And there was no mention of that she had asthma.

Last year, The Hubby got the flu.

Even though I had quarantined The Hubby to our bedroom, was cleaning everything with bleach wipes, and I was sleeping on the couch to try to avoid the germs, I got sick anyway. 

I was at work and felt a little tickle in my throat, so I used my inhaler. As the day went on, my lungs started to burn. That was unusual because I didn't have a runny nose, and I wasn't coughing or sneezing. I didn't feel sick. But my lungs just started to burn-  and it quickly got worse. 

That's unusual for me, because my lungs don't burn unless I have been exposed to dogs, smokers, etc. They usually burn after an asthma attack. Or - from being sick for days at a time.

 I left the office and went home to use my nebulizer. At this point, I knew it that just using my inhaler wasn't going to cut it, I needed something stronger.

Even after using my nebulizer, my lungs kept getting worse. Then the chills and fever started. Great.

By now, it was early evening, and the doctor's office was closed. 

I knew this could not wait until morning. Since The Hubby was too sick to drive, I managed to drag myself to Urgent Care. I told Urgent Care Doc that my husband had the flu, I think I caught it, and I have asthma. 

That always changes how doctors treat a patient who comes in with problems breathing. They know that those of us with asthma get sicker than the average person (who doesn't have asthma.)

Urgent Care Doc said that there was a shortage of the anti-viral drug they use to treat the flu, but he was going to give me a prescription and to start it immediately.

I could barely drive myself to the closest 24 hour pharmacy to get my medicine and drive back home. This is the first time that I have been scared that I was going to end up in the hospital. 

The flu hit so hard and so fast, that I was worried. My kids had been in the hospital 12 times when they were younger (mostly for pneumonia and bad air quality).

But, this is the first time I was worried that I would end up in the hospital. 

As a Certified Asthma Educator, I knew how to treat myself at home, but I there were a few hours where I worried I was going to have to call one of my college aged kids to take me to the hospital.

I really feel that if I hadn't had my flu shot, it would have been worse. I know that it offered some protection. And that if I didn't have my flu shot, I would have ended up in the hospital.

So, if you are debating about getting the flu shot this year, and you have asthma, do you really want to take a chance? 

People do end up in the hospital or worse - die from the flu. 

Don't think it can happen to you? Neither did the 80,000 people who died from the flu last year.


Don't take a chance - if you can protect yourself, do it! Get your flu shot today!  


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Getting help for asthma in rural areas

(shutterstock image)

I live in very large state with a lot of sparsely populated areas. To give you an idea of how big, you would have to drive for 8 hours to cross from the north to the south end of my state. And about 5 hours to drive from the west to the east.

We have several big cities, but also a lot of tiny towns - the kind of towns where they are so small that they don't have stop lights. 

Once, I was traveling on the interstate near a small town and I noticed the other drivers suddenly putting on their brakes. I couldn't see what was going on until I got closer, and then I saw that the farmer's cows had broken through the fence and were loose on the interstate. The highway patrol was trying to keep them out of the traffic lanes until they could get the rancher to come on horse back.

True story. 

So when we have these tiny towns that are far away from hospitals and clinics, how can they get help?

Enter Telemedicine and Telehealth. The FCC says:

"Telemedicine can be defined as using telecommunications technologies to support the delivery of all kinds of medical, diagnostic and treatment-related services usually by doctors. For example, this includes conducting diagnostic tests, closely monitoring a patient's progress after treatment or therapy and facilitating access to specialists that are not located in the same place as the patient."

Sounds a little confusing, but let's break it down. 

Maybe you had to drive several hours to see a specialist (which meant taking time off work), and spent a lot on gas money, and maybe even had to get a hotel to stay overnight. Or it's time for a follow up appointment, but you can't afford to take more time off work. 

But, you could go to your doctor's office, and they could have network set up where our regular doctor can communicate with a specialist. They have special medical equipment that allows the specialist to hear your lungs or heart - from your regular doctor's office! 

This video explains it a little better. It's using technology to connect you with a doctor.

There are also a lot of websites and apps that let you talk to a doctor over the computer, or on your phone.  You may be so sick that you can't drive yourself to the doctor's office. But, you can talk to them using the camera on your computer, or your phone camera. They can do a "virtual" visit, diagnose you, and even send a prescription to your pharmacy.

So, if you live in a rural area - or are too busy or sick to be able to drive to your doctor's office, check online and see what might be available for you.

You never know when it might come in handy! 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Teal colored pumpkins for Halloween!

I know teal is a really popular color for home decorations (and one of my personal favorites), but teal  pumpkins?


Teal pumpkins aren't made to color coordinate with your decor (although you could use them for that if you wanted to.)

The Teal Pumpkin Project (R) began in 2014 by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) to raise awareness of food allergies, and to make it safe for all kids to go trick-or-treating.

For all of you who have a child with food allergies, raise your hand! 

(I'm raising mine too)

Son #2 and I both have food allergies. 

He's WAY past the trick or treating age, but this would have been helpful for when he was a little kid. It's pretty hard to find candy without nuts.

The Teal Pumpkin project was organized to let kids with food allergies be able to safely trick or treat. 

Here's how you can help:

1. Buy "non-food treats" for your little trick - or - treaters
2. Put a teal pumpkin on your porch to let people know you have non-food treats (you can buy a teal pumpkin at the craft store, or paint your own!)
3. List your home on the Teal Pumpkin project map 
4. Let others know about it!

What are "non food treats"? FARE has a list of fun items you can buy for Halloween.  

FARE also has signs you can print out and put up in your windows to let people know you have non-food treats. 

They also have a few images you can download use for your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter accounts.  

If you have kids with food allergies, please share this post so you can help them have a safe and fun Halloween too.

Now, about your kids changing their minds on costumes 6 different times....can't help you there!

Friday, September 28, 2018

What are you suffering because of asthma?

Is asthma holding you back from the things you would like to do? 

When I am teaching families about asthma, I help them to understand the Rules of 2's.  

Many times, they THINK their asthma is fine. But they're really not controlled. 

The Rules of 2's is from Baylor University in Texas and says:

If you:

  • Have symptoms/need your inhaler more than 2 times per week
  • Wake up due to asthma more than 2 times per month
  • Refill your rescue inhaler more than 2 times per year
They have also added a new measure, "Measure your peak flow at less than two times 10 (20%) from baseline with asthma symptoms?" That sounds a little confusing!

Why make a big deal about your asthma being under control? Well, are you missing out on things because of your asthma? 

Sometimes people may think, "I'm okay, I'm just having a little flare up."

So, another thing I ask families is:

 "Is asthma holding you back?"


"Are there things you CAN'T do because of your asthma?"

You can think about how often any of these things are happening:
  1. Waiting in a crowded emergency room
  2. Having sleepless nights
  3. Missing school or work
  4. Depression
  5. Bullying
  6. Losing a job because you were missing so much work due to asthma
  7. Hospitalizations
These ideas came from a video that a group of Community Health Workers created (along with other asthma education organizations). They wanted to help families see how much asthma is affecting their life. 

Sometimes, if you look at it that way, you may think, "Hmm. I didn't realize how much asthma is controlling my life."

We're all going to have flare ups. I had a crazy winter last year and had bronchitis 4 times! So yes, I was in Urgent care late at night (I knew it couldn't wait until morning.)

You can watch the video and see if you think your life is as good as it can be (with asthma.) It can take a while to find the right medication for your asthma. 

My 3 kids and I all have asthma, yet we are all on different medications. 

You need to find what's right for you.

And if you are missing out on a lot of things in life due to asthma, talk to your doc. You may be able to change your inhaler to a different one that can work better for you.

Life is wonderful! I would like to keep my asthma under control so I can enjoy life!  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Preparing for disasters when you have asthma


The weather has been a little crazy lately. 

Some parts of the U.S. are dry as a bone and plagued by wildfires and dangerous smoke.

Other areas of the U.S. are being battered by hurricanes, with crazy winds, rain and flooding.

No matter what part of the country you are in, how do you prepare when you have asthma?
I have been watching the national news stories on TV, showing empty shelves at the grocery store and long lines at the gas stations. 
Like my late father-in-law always used to say, "It costs just as much to fill up the top half of the gas tank as it does the bottom half!"
So, I try not to wait until my gas tank is on "empty" before I fill up. In fact, I know people that will fill up when their tank gets to the 1/2 way point.  

Allergy & Asthma Network has a list of things to help. 

  • Stay on your schedule for taking medicine (it's easy to miss a dose, but can cause problems if you do)
  • Medications - quick relief inhaler (Albuterol), daily controller inhaler (if you use one) and 2 epinephrine auto injectors (if you need those.)
  • Nebulizer - some need power and others run on batteries. I have an adapter so I can run my nebulizer from my car (it plugs into the cigarette lighter.) Find out what your nebulizer needs.
  • Bottled water, allergy free food (if you have food allergies) and cash to buy supplies  
  • Medical records and refill information - if your medicine is lost, it may help in getting refills. Sometimes, you may need to pay cash for a refill if it's "too soon" for your insurance to refill it. But don't go without your medicine!
  • N95 mask - can help protect your lungs 
  • Medical alert bracelet/tag - this will help rescuers to know if you have asthma, food allergies, diabetes, etc
  • Meeting place - where can you go if you need to evacuate? Do you have another family member's house you can go to? Church? School? If family members are split up, they will know where to meet. 
American Red Cross also has an Emergency Preparedness Checklist  
Remember to also keep calm (easier said than done - I know!) Since strong emotions are an asthma trigger, you could end up with an asthma attack on top of the stress of a natural disaster. 
Watch out for:
  • Crying
  • Fear
  • Anger  
  • Yelling
  • Laughter
  • Excitement

The weather can really surprise me sometimes, and it can catch you off guard. Make sure you are prepared for any sort of disaster that may come your way.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Nose spray for anaphylaxis?


I was really excited to see a story on the Allergy & Asthma Facebook page about a nose spray for anaphylaxis.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has given "Fast Track designation" to a Epinephrine Nasal Spray, which could be used to treat anaphylaxis.

The Fast Track is: 

"....a process designed to facilitate the development, and expedite the review of drugs to treat serious conditions and fill an unmet medical need. The purpose is to get important new drugs to the patient earlier. Fast Track addresses a broad range of serious conditions."

How do they decide if something is "serious"? It depends on if the FDA feels that the drug will:

 "have an impact on such factors as survival, day-to-day functioning, or the likelihood that the condition, if left untreated, will progress from a less severe condition to a more serious one."

For those of you with food allergies, you know that if "left untreated", our reaction will progress to a "serious condition". 

Son #2 and I have both had anaphylaxis in the last week due to cross contamination. And I would really rather use a nose spray any day over my epinephrine auto injector. 

It's SO frustrating. We always check our food, and as careful as we are, we may not know that someone has contaminated our food until we start to experience symptoms. Then we panic and wonder what happened?!

Someone must have used the same cutting board/knife/cookie tray etc for all of the food prepared.

It's frustrating that when we talk to the restaurant manager, and they say, "Really? Like that's a thing? Like it really can make you sick?"

I want to punch them!  Hard.

Yes, it can make me sick. And even kill me. 

Unless someone has a food allergy, they just don't understand how serious it is. So, we carry epinephrine auto injectors to protect ourselves.

And hopefully soon, we will be carrying a nose spray that does the same thing!  

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Can you avoid the September Epidemic?

(Shutterstock image)

First of all, what IS the September Epidemic?

Well, most parents worry about kids getting sick during cold and flu season (winter). It seems to make sense that winter is the most likely time to get sick and end up in the hospital. 

But - it's actually September! Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American (AAFA), says:

   "There is a September asthma hospitalization “epidemic.” Many more people are hospitalized for asthma shortly after school starts than at any other time of the year. The number of asthma hospitalizations peak first for school-age children, then preschool children, then adults."
 For those of you with school aged kids, that probably makes sense. I can remember being room parent for many years and helping out in my kid's classrooms. And the hygiene (or lack of) was shocking. I saw plenty of kids sneezing without covering their nose, coughing all over on their seatmate, and wiping their nose on their sleeve. 

That's how my kids would get sick, then their little brother or sister would get sick, then the Hubby and I would get sick. No matter how carefully I wiped down counters and door knobs, and no matter how often we washed our hands, we still picked up germs. 

The problem is that you can't control what goes on in school, especially when you have over 1,000 kids in a school. And they come to school with a cold because "Hey - it's just a cold, what's the big deal?"

Well, the big deal is that with asthma, a cold isn't "just a cold" - it can easily morph into bronchitis or pneumonia. Which for our family means another hospitalization.

So, what do you do? Short of coating everything with hand sanitizer?

There are some things we have found helpful when my kids were little. They are:

  1. Make sure you stay on your daily, controller inhaler (this will keep the swelling down in your lungs)
  2. Make sure each kid has their own rescue inhaler 
  3. Wash your hands (you should wash them for 20 seconds.) Wash them after you use the bathroom (seems obvious but you wouldn't believe how many people I see walk out of bathrooms without washing their hands.) Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
  4. Open the bathroom door with a paper towel (to protect yourself from those people who don't wash their hands and then touch the handle....ugh!)
  5. Sneeze into a tissue or your elbow (so you don't spread germs on everyone else).
  6.  Keep pop up hand wipes in the car to sanitize your hands after shopping
Keep an eye on your child if they get sick. They can go from bad to worse very quickly.  Nemours Hospital has a webpage that lets parents know "When to Go to the ER If Your Child Has Asthma".

So, stock up on hand sanitizer and tissues and let school begin!