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Monday, November 29, 2010

Medication changes

Medication changes

As I was using my asthma disc the other day, it dawned on my that my asthma has been pretty good lately. Hhmm.

I was looking over the 'step wise' approach listed in the national guidelines a couple of weeks ago.
I know one of the recommendations is to 'step down' medications if your asthma has been in control for 3 months. I think I'll set an appointment with Asthma Doc. I'm on a combination medication right now. Sometimes people can step down to just an inhaled corticosteroid. (Check with your doctor! They're the experts!)

I'm wondering, as I look out the window at the snow and cold if this is a good time to step down. This is going into flu season (and pneumonia season for us!) Plus cold weather is a big trigger for me. Shoveling snow yesterday didn't help the lungs much.

That's the thing about asthma, for us anyway, it requires constant tinkering with medication. By far the worse time for me is spring and summer, even with allergy medicine, we're all constantly sneezing. And then that leads to that tight chest feeling.

But in summer, we don't usually have to worry about influenza and pneumonia. Of the 12 times the kids were hospitalized for asthma, all of them were for complications with pneumonia.

I have to take Kitty for her weekly allergy shots on Friday anyway, I might as well set an appointment for myself with Asthma Doc. At least it will save me a trip. Mother/daughter bonding time (although she would prefer a trip to the mall). Maybe we'll have to do something fun after seeing Asthma Doc. Shopping anyone?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Water damage

More water damage

I say more water damage, because almost exactly when we signed on the dotted line for the house we're in now, things started going wrong.

We've had numerous floods in the basement, things shorting out, have nearly started fires with electrical problems, gas line leaks, etc etc. Looks like the washing machine is leaking now. I saw a puddle under the washer last week, hubby AKA 'fix it guy' worked on things for a while and we thought we had it fixed.

Then Saturday, I noticed a bubble in the paint on the kitchen wall (located next to the laundry room. ) I knew that wasn't good, and as I was feeling the wall to see if there were any soft spots, my hand went right through the wall. Yep, definite soft spot!

So, here we go again. I have this natural aversion to water damage and mold. In our previous house, we had a leak in the roof over our sun room. It took 3 months to fix. They had to tear the wall down to the cinderblock, then sand it, bleach it, and use a negative air pressure machine to reduce the moisture. Then resand and rebleach the walls. They had to tear out part of the ceiling and replace most of the roof. I loved seeing that part of the house sealed off in plastic and workmen coming and going in biohazard suits. We even got a picture of the biohazard symbol on the door to the sunroom - a warning to those entering the house that way.

It was just about the time Kitty had just been released from the hospital for the 4th or 5th time after a bout with pneumonia. I can't help but thinking the black mold in the sunroom had an effect on her. Mold is a definite trigger for asthma, and we had plenty of it.

So, here we go again. I have been known to be a little agressive in tearing down wet plaster to prevent mold growing. Hey, I'll do anything to protect my kids.

So, you all can have fun shopping this weekend, we'll be fixing our kitchen and laundry room walls! We'll be shopping too though, at the hardware store. Looks like the kitchen is going to get a new coat of paint once we get the wall done. So much for a relaxing weekend.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Traveling with asthma

Many of you may be traveling during the holidays. The first thing I pack is all of the kid's medications and equipment. The last thing I want is to get stuck somewhere without the nebulizer.

The last time we went on vacation, we packed all the maintenance medication, emergency medication and nebulizer. The only thing we forgot was the liquid fever reducer medicine and cough medicine. And of course, we ended up needing it. It's common to think "'we won't need that". But when you're on vacation, it's difficult to try to find a store, especially when you're in a strange place and don't know where things are located. So, now we pack everything, and if we don't need it, that's okay. I believe in Murphy's law (if something can go wrong, it will). So, I use my own logic and pack everything, thinking if I bring it, I won't need it. If I don't pack it, I will be kicking myself because I'll need it.

This spring when we were traveling, we didn't have cough medicine, Kitty was sick, and she kept us up ALL night long.

Years ago, when we went to Disneyland, I took all the medications, nebulizer, and oxygen saturation monitor with us. When we went to the first aid building to check them in (so we didn't have to carry them around all day). The nurse said, "are you sure you're going to need all that?" I said, "You never know, my kids have been known to have asthma attacks at the most inconvenient times, and they've been hospitalized 12 different times. In fact, Son #2 has almost stopped breathing and came close to being intubated several times." Silence. Then an "Oooohhhh" from the nurse.

You know your kids best, and you know what medications you need to bring when traveling. Asthma never picks a 'good time' to present itself. The unpredictability is what drives me crazy.

I also check the location of clinics and hospitals before we get to our destination, "just in case...." I make sure I have our insurance card for help if we need treatment out of state. The last thing you want after a vacation is a medical bill from out of state that isn't covered.

So, after I'm all packed and prepared, it's time to enjoy the holidays. Bring on the relatives!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Open Airways

Open Airways

I'm volunteering with American Lung Association and teaching an Open Airways class at Kitty's elementary school. It's a 6 week class that teaches kids age 8-11 how to manage their asthma.

It's really fun, I know most of the kids from volunteering at the school and working there for a few years. Since everyone with asthma is different, it's been fun to go over triggers, when to take their inhaler, how to get help, how to use your inhaler, etc.

I hope it helps the school nurse, since she has so many schools to cover, she's only available on Thursday mornings for a few hours. So I tell the kids "if you're going to have an asthma attack, make sure you do it Thursday mornings!" Only kidding, things never work out that tidy, do they? With the unpredictable nature of asthma, who knows when an attack will hit.

This way, they know they're not alone - other kids in the school have asthma and deal with the same things they do. In teaching them about asthma and managing it, it should help them feel more in control and not panic when they need to use their inhaler.

If there are any parents that are interested, I'm sure they teach it in all states, with the same training manual and poster book.

Tomorrow is the last day, the kids get certificates of achievement and some delicious treats. (Making sure the treats are nut free). And I get the satisfaction of knowing I'm helping them and making a difference in their lives. Check it if you're interested in teaching in your area!

Anyway, just another fun way to help other people and make a difference!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Plan ahead

Flash Back Friday - plan ahead!

I think it's important to remember that asthma can be unpredictable. I can remember one particular time when we thought we would take Son #2 to the Er "just to get some chest x-rays and make sure he was okay"

An hour later, I was standing in his hospital room in the Pediatrics wing, wearing a skirt and high heels. I hadn't thought to change after work, because I was certain he would be treated and released from the Emergency Department. Well, that's what I get for doing my own thinking.

I had to ask the nurse for a set of scrubs and some slippers that I could sleep in. They also brought a toothbrush and toothpaste-they were very nice about it.

But, since that time, I have learned to plan ahead. If I'm really worried about Son #2 or Kitty, I quickly change into a pair of workout pants, long sleeve t-shirt, sports bra, and socks with sneakers. The perfect outfit to sleep in next to the kid's hospital bed, and still be be presentable when the staff comes in to check on him (and when people come to visit)

I also have a rather large purse, so I throw in a water bottle, granola bars, trail mix, fruit and gum. I hate leaving the kid's bedside when they're in the hospital, so I try to bring everything I might need. I also grab a few magazines. Some days can be REALLY long when you have a son or daughter in the hospital. I also make sure my cell phone is charged up so I can text people.

Of course you also need to grab whatever their comfort thing is during that time- blanket, stuffed animal, portable CD player and favorite CD they listen to to go to sleep (or older kids can bring their MP3 player or Ipod.)

You may think, "oh, I don't need to bring anything, I'll be back home in a couple of hours". Well, just in case things don't go as well as planned, remember the Boy Scout motto "Be prepared".

Having a child in the hospital is an incredibly stressful time, and you can feel quite helpless. But when I bring my own water, snacks, and something to keep me busy, I feel a little more in control. I don't have to press the call light and ask the nurse for a glass of juice or a few crackers. They're much to busy to worry about that. And I feel like I have what I need, so we can hunker down in the room and pass the day watching movies, playing games or sleeping.

So, I hope none of you ever need to use this advice. But do plan for the unexpected. You will be so glad you have prepared and won't feel so much like a deer caught in the headlights. Asthma can be unpredictable, but we at least we can control our reaction to it. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Could be worse

Things Could Always Be Worse

was watching the video "Ever After" the other and there's a great line from Anjelica Houston. She is the deliciously evil step mother who says to Cinderella (Drew Barrymore), "We must'nt feel sorry for ourselves, must we? No matter how bad things get, they can ALWAYS (insert shrill trill of the tongue sound) get worse"

That has been our mantra. I sometimes have people ask if we think "why me?". It always surprises me when people say that. No we don't say 'why me?'.

I'm a fixer. Like most women, when something's wrong, I want to fix it. So, when we're in the doctor's office or pharmacy, or I'm pacing the floor because one of the kids is really bad with their asthma, I think 'how can I fix this?'

Sometimes it means multiple breathing treatments with the nebulizer, sometimes I know we need to start Prednisone (again.....), sometimes one of the kids will need a shot of Decadron (steroid injection). Sometimes I know we need the hospital with a steroid IV and oxygen.

Don't get me wrong, there are days that I think 'can I just have one day without worrying about the kid's asthma?!'

But, through it all, I have the Best Hubby In The World, and amazing friends who get us through. We've had countless dinners delivered, cookies baked, prescriptions picked up from the pharmacy, goodie bags dropped off for me with Dr. Pepper, chocolate and Interior Design magazines.

But also is the knowledge that we'll get through this. Not everyone gets through their various medical problems. Some people become became disabled, have surgeries, chemo, radiation, etc. Or don't survive at all.

So, things could always be worse. I try to remember that, even on the bad days. Remarkably, it has brought us closer as a family because it is essential that we rely on each other during the emergencies. And we all have to pick up the slack and jump in and help.

All in all, we'll get through the bad days with asthma, we always do. And 'we mustn't feel sorry for ourselves, must we? No matter how bad things get, they can always be worse!'

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Compliance issues


As the kids would say, "rolling on the floor laughing my bumb off!" (For those of you who are confused, look at the last post which was authored by Son #2.

Okay, I should act like an adult, but that was my response to Son #2 talking about compliance with his asthma medications. Let's face it, I'm a nag. I have to be. Especially when he is on a course of Prednisone, I have to make sure he is taking the correct dose morning and night. That's not a medication where you can afford to miss a dose - from what I know, it affects your adrenal gland. And that can cause some major problems if you stop taking it suddenly. It's important to take it EXACTLY as the doctor prescribes, including tapering off the medication.

As for maintenance medication, I feel like I'm always watching to see that the kids take it. If their disc or spacer & inhaler are in the exact same position on the kitchen counter for a day or two, I know they're not taking their medicine. It's hard to get the kids to do anything on a regular basis, and all kids want to cut corners. (I tell them "nice try, but you can't skip brushing your teeth and chew gum instead"). The shower? That includes using soap and shampoo.

They know the importance of taking their medication, even more important now since Kitty and Son #2 are sick (still....). But they have to be motivated to do it, and I'm not sure how to get them intrinsically motivated. I tell them they have to do this on their own, I'm not going to follow them to college and say "Oh yoo hooo! Honey! Are you being good and taking your asthma medication?!"

For now, I guess I'll keep nagging. Our pile of maintenance medications are in a decorative container on the counter, so when I take my disc, I look to see where theirs are. Then I know if they're taking their medication or not. Some people recommend putting medication by their toothbrush in the bathroom, so when they brush their teeth, they'll see their asthma medication and take it. But- if they're not brushing their teeth- or being like most kids and seeming not to notice that its there, it won't work. Just like the pile of clothing on their floor in their room that they literally walk on top of to get to the bathroom. Why is it that they can't stop and pick them up? And why can't they remember to take their medication every day?

We also have a job chart, with medication listed on each day. But it doesn't help if they don't look at the job chart.

So, in short. I feel like the kids aren't compliant, and how to get them to be compliant is the question of the hour.

Until it is solved, I get to keep nagging. Part of my Life as an Asthma Mom....