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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fall allergies........argh!

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Does this look familiar? Itchy, watery eyes?

Some people think the only time they have allergies is in the spring when the flowers are blooming. WRONG! Many people can also have fall allergies.

My kids are complaining about itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing and a throat that won't stop itching.

Hellllllooooooo Ragweed! 

Fox 59 in Indianapolis had a story on the news this week about fall allergies. They said one ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion grains of pollen each year. Yuck!! 

Mold is also common in the fall. You know how your kids love to rake leaves into a pile and jump in? Better be careful - the leaves are full of mold. 

The Fox 59 story has several helpful things you can do:

"The first and most critical step to controlling allergies is to avoid triggers.
  • Avoiding ragweed is similar to avoiding Spring pollen. Minimize time outdoors, keep windows shut during the day, and check ragweed pollen counts.
  • Avoiding mold is a little different. Mold grows in moist areas. Therefore, it just loves piles of fallen leaves.If your children are playing in the leaves, make sure to wash them and their clothes as soon as they enter your home. If your child is the allergy sufferer, keep them out of the leaves. If you have a pet that spends time outdoors, it is important to wash them when they reenter the house as well. Otherwise, they will be shaking mold spores all over your home."

I'm not saying you can't have any fun in the fall - but know what brings on your allergy symptoms. Ragweed? Mold? And what is the best way to treat allergies? Everyone is different, but there are a lot of over the counter allergy medicines available - as well as nose sprays that help with allergies.

Talk to your doc to see what is right for you. For our family, we use a combination - over the counter allergy medicine and nose sprays (and this is after my kids have all completed 5 years worth of allergy shots.....) And they STILL suffer from allergies.

Sigh. I hate allergies and I hate the asthma attacks they trigger!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Wildfires and asthma

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Many of you who read my blog know that I am VERY nervous when it comes to forest fires. Son #2 ended up in ICU and almost died several years ago when we had a fire here. The whole valley filled with smoke (and smoke and asthma are NOT a good mix!)

It's so scary to read about what is happening to people with asthma in California. Did you know they  had to close schools in Central California?! (I know that's every kid's dream - that school is closed - but I'm not sure if that means they are stuck in their house of if they can take off to the beach.)

The article says, "Record drought in the Western US that has contributed to an explosive wildfire season is sending droves of wheezing, coughing patients to physicians and asthma clinics."
No wonder people with asthma are having a hard time! In the article, they list all of the pollutants in the smoke (it's a long list and I can't pronounce half of the list). 

And with no rain in sight, there's nothing to help with the fires. Dr. Vipul Jain, is a University of California San Francisco pulmonologist. He says that
"Patients feel it coming. Typically patients with COPD and asthma. They get coughing spasms because their lungs are trying to expel the irritants."

He tells them to stay indoors, use their inhalers, and keep the windows closed at night.

Another doctor from Bakersfield, Dr. Thu Yein, is also a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at San Joaquin Community Hospital. He says he sees patients too from forest fires. 

"It's usually within 3 weeks of a forest fire. It happens every year."   
I feel sorry for all of the people in California that have asthma. I know how hard it is to try to breathe when the valley is filled with smoke. When the fires first started in California, the smoke covered our state (2 states away!) We had to keep our windows closed for a week, turn the air cleaners on full speed, and stay inside. I can't imagine being stuck in that smoke week after week.

And how do the fire fighters stand being out in that thick smoke?

All I can say is that I am keeping my fingers crossed for rain for California! Just not too much - because then they would have flash floods.......
Record drought in the Western US that has contributed to an explosive wildfire season is sending droves of wheezing, coughing patients to physicians and asthma clinics. - See more at:
Record drought in the Western US that has contributed to an explosive wildfire season is sending droves of wheezing, coughing patients to physicians and asthma clinics. - See more at:
Record drought in the Western US that has contributed to an explosive wildfire season is sending droves of wheezing, coughing patients to physicians and asthma clinics. - See more at:


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Peanut butter for babies

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Some of you may have already read about the new study that showed that feeding babies peanut products early may prevent an allergy to peanuts later in life.


"The medically supervised study tracked 640 babies with severe eczema, egg allergy or both. Half ate a peanut product at least three times a week for five years. Half avoided peanut products. Infants who were fed peanut products were at a much lower risk of having a peanut allergy at the end of the study.

“The high-risk infants in this study were tested to be sure they were not already allergic to peanut,” said Scott Sicherer, M.D., FAAP, an AAP expert in pediatric allergy and immunology. “At age 5 years, only 3% of the infants randomized to eat peanut had peanut allergy compared to 17% among those avoiding it.”
In the article, they remind parents to talk to your doctor first. They can help you find the best way to introduce peanut products to your child. Notice that they tested children first to make sure they were NOT allergic to peanuts before they fed them any peanut products. 

I would NOT try this at home on your own. This is something that needs to be done with a doctor. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics article lists the possible symptoms of a food allergy:

"Signs of a food allergy may include rash, swelling, vomiting and trouble breathing, typically within minutes to an hour of consuming food. If your child experiences any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately." 

It's something that I never want to see again as long as I live. It can be deadly. I am lucky that I caught it quickly and Asthma Nurse was able to save my son's life.

The article also says to be careful and not give peanuts or pieces of peanuts to kids under the age of 4, because they could choke on them. Yikes! 

This is great research. If children in the study were able to to reduce the chance that they were would be allergic to peanuts, it would be worth checking into. Especially since it was carefully supervised by doctors. Talk to your doctor about it - I would NEVER try it on my own.

Food allergies are a pain. Son #2 has a tree nut allergy. I have a seafood allergy. We have to carry an Epi Pen everywhere we go and be VERY careful about any food that we eat. 

What a great scientific breakthrough to figure out how to decrease the chance that kids may be allergic to peanuts. I love these scientists with their smart brains! 



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Virtual doctor visits

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I can't keep up with technology. Good thing I have two adult sons and one teenager who can help me with my new things (did you know you can use your thumbprint to access your iphone instead of trying to type in a 4 digit code every time?! Thanks to daughter Kitty for showing me that and setting up my phone. I LOVE IT!!!!)

Did you also know that in some states, if your child has Medicaid, they can see a doctor virtually from school? You don't have to leave work and your child doesn't have to leave school. I just read an article about a school district in Texas. Here's how they explain the program:

"They say adults shouldn’t have to take time off work and kids shouldn’t have to miss school to get routine health care, like when a child has an ear infection or skin rash, because modern technology allows a remote doctor to get high-quality, instantaneous information about patients. An electronic stethoscope allows the doctor to hear a child’s heartbeat, for example, and a digital otoscope offers a look into the child’s ear — all under the physical supervision of a school nurse."

I have never heard of an electronic (or digital) stethoscope until a few months ago. The Washington Post has a great article that explains how they work. Can you image the nurse using the stethoscope to on your child's lungs at school while the doctor listens from his office miles away? They can do the same thing with an otoscope to look in the ear. Welcome to modern technology!

If there's a problem, the doctor can call in a prescription and you can pick it up on your way home from work. Wow!

This would be really helpful for parents who can't leave work (because they don't have sick time). If they have to leave work and take their child to the doctor, they don't get paid. And the child misses school.

Here's how one doctor explains it. 

“Ninety percent of what you would see in a general pediatric clinic, we can handle it by telemedicine,” said Richard Lampe, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center. He said that included sports injuries, strep throat — and among middle and high school students especially, mental illnesses like anxiety and depression."  

This may not work for everyone, but I think it's a good idea for some families. 

What will they think of next?!   

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Over reacting asthma cells

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I love researchers! Unlike me, these people are REALLY smart! There are lots of Smart People, like my teenage daughter, Kitty - who drops her high school physics class because it's too easy. (Yeah, well I can't even spell physics - I had to use spell check for this blog entry.......) 

But these researchers are finding out new things all the time about asthma. The photo above shows a doctor looking at lungs, but the researchers are looking a lot deeper - at the cells that line the lungs (epithelial cells)

The newest research out shows that the cells that line the lungs in people with asthma are not like other people's lung cells. In "normal people's" lung cells, their cells just sit there in the lungs, like cars in a traffic jam. 

But people who have asthma have lungs cells that can be explained by  a study from Harvard Public Health 

“scramble around like there’s a fire drill going on”

I always tell people that asthma is like a "drama queen". (Those of you with teenagers know all about drama and over reacting.)  With asthma, your body over reacts to normal every day things - you know, like stress, animals, grass, trees, flowers, perfume, cleaning supplies, air pollution (these are "asthma triggers" - they trigger an asthma attack). Normal People can be around these things without thinking twice. But someone with asthma gets around any of those asthma triggers and our lungs over react and swell, make mucus, and the bands around the bronchial tubes tighten. 

Yeah, and we wonder why we suddenly start coughing or are short of breath?!

So, now we know that the cells in our lungs seem to over react (and they also have an unusual shape.) Check out the videos on the Harvard Public Health page. It's pretty interesting.

Now that the researchers have found this, it leads to more questions 

"Now that it’s known that epithelial cells in asthmatic airways are oddly shaped and are not jammed, scientists have to figure out why it’s happening—whether it’s asthma causing the cells to unjam, or if it’s the unjamming of these cells that causes asthma."  

That is kind of like "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

Well, keep on working researchers! I would love to see the day when they find a CURE for asthma. They making great strides in finding out what causes asthma, let's find a cure you Smart People!  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fires again!


I've been watching all of the stories on the news about the fires in California and Oregon. It's so hard to see the home owners on the news after their houses have burned. It shows families going back to what was their house, only to find ashes there now.

We live two states away, and our skies are filled with smoke from the fires.

Smoke and asthma are NOT a good mix. In fact, when I was watching the stories on the news, my first thought was "How can those people be there around all that smoke!?" I can't see how any of the reporters, government officials, home owners and fire fighters can stand it. It made me wonder if any of them have asthma?

The smoke is bad enough where I live, how can they stand being in the same area where the fire is burning? I have been having problems with my asthma and my throat is burning and my eyes are running. 

 I work in an office, so the air here is filtered. I also have air cleaners and a filter system on my air conditioning at home. And luckily, I have a button in my car where I can re-circulate the air, so it doesn't pull in smoke from outside. But I still don't feel well at all.

I shouldn't complain - when Son #2 was around 10 years old, he almost died from the smoke from a forest fire in our valley. He had been outside playing, and I didn't notice how far the smoke had spread. The fire was about 15 miles away, but the smoke filled the whole valley. 

(You would think kids would be smart enough to come inside when it's that smokey, but hey - that might interrupt any fun they are having hanging out with friends!)

By the time he came inside, he was really struggling to breathe. We used the nebulizer and gave him a breathing treatment, but he just got worse. He ended up in the Emergency Department, and they quickly admitted him to the Pediatrics ward of our hospital. He was in ICU, and they had the "crash cart" outside his room. (I found out later that they parked the cart there in case he stopped breathing so they could resuscitate him.)  

 I have learned SO much since then! We didn't know much about asthma, and what could make asthma worse. Smoke is high up there on the list for us. 

If you are having problems breathing, and aren't sure if you should treat it at home, or go to the emergency room, Nemours has a great webpage that may help.

As for me, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for rain. These fires are horrible! 


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

10 worst cities to live in if you have asthma

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Have you ever wondered if there was a "safer" place to live if you have asthma? 

When my kids were younger and frequently in the hospital, I wondered the same thing. Out of desperation, I asked Asthma Doc, "Is there a better place to live for asthma?" He sort of chuckled and then said, "There are going to be asthma triggers wherever you go - cats, dogs, dust, plants, grass, etc. You could move to a new area that has new plants that you aren't used to - then that would cause more allergy and asthma problems."

Rats. I was hoping he would say that medically, the best place for us to live was Hawaii. A girl can try, can't she?!

Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA) have released their list of the top 100 worst place to live if you have asthma. You can see the Top 10 on WebMd's site 

You can visit AAFA's website to see all 100 cities.This is how they decide which cities are the worst:

"2015 Rank - Rankings for the Allergy Capitals™ are based on analysis of data from factors including: Prevalence Data, Seasonal Pollen,
Allergy Medicine Utilization per Patient, and the number of Board Certified Allergists per patient. Weights were applied to each factor and a
composite final score was calculated for each Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)."
Sounds technical, but they are looking at how many people in that city have asthma, the pollen counts, how many people are taking allergy medicine, and if there is an asthma specialist in the city. 

I'm not sure how they gather their data - see how many bottles of Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin the local Walgreens sells?!

Anyway, it's fun to look at the list and see if your city is on it. 

Happy viewing!