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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Using oxygen

Using oxygen for asthma

Of the 12 times Kitty and Son #2 have been hospitalized for asthma, they have all included oxygen. Yet there are different ways it is administered.

I was reminded of this when Hubby was telling me about being in the hospital last week with a family member. Because of our many experiences with oxygen, he noticed that the family member's oxygen rate was only at 89%. It should be closer to 98%. This family member was sleeping, and was using a nasal cannula (a thin tube with a small nozel that fits inside each nostril). Hubby noticed the family member was breathing through their mouth, instead of their nose, so the nasal cannula wasn't helping. Hubby notified the nurse and asked her to switch the family member to an oxygen mask. I love my Hubby, what a great guy! This ended up being a better delivery system, since the mask covers the nose and mouth.

Sounds simple, right? Well, the nasal cannula and oxygen mask are used for different levels of oxygen use. The mask is usually used when patients are on a higher delivery of oxgyen, around 6 liters or above. The nasal cannula can be used for less than that. It depends on how many liters of oxygen you're on as to whether you get the mask or cannula.

Usually, when one of the kids were admitted, they would be first put on a high delivery of oxygen (6 liters) and thus the mask. Later, they try to wean the kids down by giving less oxgen every day, and then switch them to the cannula.

A few things to keep in mind is that even with pediatric sized cannulas, they can be really irritating and cause problems. We have had times when the respiratory therapist snip the tubes, so they're a bit smaller and don't go as far up the kid's nostrils.

Also, with oxygen blowing up your nose day after day, there's a good chance of getting a bloody nose. Not a good thing when you have tiny tubes trying to shoot oxygen up the nostril. So you can ask your nurse for a 'bubbler'. It's a tiny water filled box that they can attach to the oxygen tubing. It literally bubbles and sends a small amount of moisture into the oxygen to help moisturize the inside of the nose.

If you do have to be sent home with a tank (I always hated that......) there are several options. They have tiny little portable tanks that fit in a holder and can be slung on the shoulder if you need to go out. An oxygen concentrator is used if you are going to be on oxygen for a longer period of time. It concentrates regular room air, turning it into oxygen. Also, there are the regular old tanks.

Of course there are precautions around oxygen. I remember the nurses wouldn't let the kids use any Chapstick, because it was petroleum based and could spark a fire. Great. Also, no open flames - scented candles or smoking - not that we smoke. Apparently some people do that are on oxygen!

Anyway, if you ever need to be on oxygen, there's a few hints. It's not as scary as it seems, and it is ever so helpful when you can actually breathe! I'm a little picky when it comes to breathing and my kids.....I like it when they can breathe.

Happy breathing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Nothing under the bed

Tip #3

One thing I have learned is that if you have allergies and asthma, it is best to not store anything under the bed. Sounds terrible, doesn't it? (What am I supposed to do with all that junk now?!)

And if you ask Son #1, he would say, "Oh great! I've have not one, but two parents that are clean freaks!"

Well, I'm not as bad as some people (when it comes to cleaning) but I try to narrow down what triggers a case of sneezing and wheezing. And stuff shoved under the bed seems to be one of them.

When was the last time you cleaned anything out from under your bed? Be honest......the last time you moved? And then you were forced to clean it up?

Granted, it is a great place to put things. Out of the way, you don't trip over anything, great hiding place, but the last time you had to retrieve something from under the bed, how was it? Full of dust? Did you sneeze and cough?

That's one of the biggest dust magnets there is, so the rule in our house is 'nothing goes under the bed'! And, from looking at the photo, you can see how easy it is to vacuum under there and keep it clean. If you have ever woken up with a stuffy nose or itchy eyes, this could be one of the reasons. Or if you wake up sneezing at night, which Kitty does frequently, that could also be from the pile of dust you're sleeping on top of.

When the kids were younger, we used to have a long, shallow plastic box with a lid that went under the bed to store things in. Some companies make special containers that are made to go under the bed. At least that way, it is all sealed up in one container, but we found that too much dust accumulated on the lid and it was annoying to pull out every week when I vacuumed under the beds.

So, pick what works for you. If you have a smaller apartment or home, you may have to use the special sized under bed storage box. If you do, make sure you pull it out and vacuum under the bed and keep the lid clean and dust free.

If you have more room, try to not to use the area under the bed for storage. (This was also a tip from Asthma Doctor, so I can blame it on him when the kids complain that there's no space to store things......)

Just one idea to make life a little easier as My life as an Asthma Mom continues-

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Asthma advocate

Want to be an Asthma Advocate?

I always perk up when I hear about something that has to do with asthma. Do you want to help out in your kid's school and teach people about asthma? It's actually fun!

The Utah Department of Health's Asthma Advocate program offers a chance to get involved in your community. Asthma Advocates come up with ideas and take them into local schools. You are encouraged to be as creative as you would like, based on what interests you. You can let the schools and students know about resources that are available about asthma. You get to work it around your own schedule, which is great for all of us busy multi taskers.

The Utah Department of Health will provide a free 3 hour training, and even provide lunch.

If you want more information, contact Kelli Baxter at (801) 538-6595 or email her at She also has a blog at

There's all sorts of fun things out there, I even found some fun video games that teach about asthma that I'll blog about later.

If should blog on Friday for Flashback Friday, but if not - then have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stress as a trigger

Stress as a trigger

I was going to put another tip in here today about how we changed our home. But, we had a little family emergency last night.

We are particularly worried about one elderly family member who is in the hospital caring for their spouse. The reason for our concern is that the care giver has asthma, and stress can actually trigger an asthma attack. I wasn't even thinking about that last night as we were discussing the situation with our kids. But Son #1 brought it up.

We were worried about the care giver's coping skills, you never know how people will react in an emergency. Son #1 said, "I hope she's okay and doesn't get so stressed out that she has an asthma attack". Oh yeah, that.

Belly breathing is a great exercise if that happens. I know it's the last thing you want to think about. But you can put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest, then you breathe slowly in through your nose, and out through your mouth. I usually do it 5 times in a row.

You need to take care of yourself. Otherwise, you won't be any good to any one around you if they have to deal with two patients instead of one.

Asthma is so strange, because there are so many triggers and it affects everyone so differently. There is no one size fits all set of triggers and treatment plans.

So, if you happen to find yourself in an emergency, remember belly breathing. Take deep breaths and make sure you have your inhaler with you just in case. The last thing you need in an emergency is an unexpected asthma attack.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flash back - fires

Flash back Friday- fires

There's a beautiful historic building across the street from me that is on fire. I saw the news coverage this morning during breakfast. The area here is swarming with people taking photos. It's freezing cold outside, and the area smells of smoke.

I can smell a little bit of smoke in the main part of the building where I am, I am watching through a window.

It's a shame to see beautiful architecture lost to fire, we're all hoping if can be saved and renovated. I'm not so sure.

But I am lucky to be able to watch it from inside another building. If the cold didn't trigger my asthma, the smoke definitely would. It always makes me a little uneasy.

Smoke from a forest fires several years ago blanketed the valley where we live and almost cost Son #2 his life. It all happened so fast. He was outside playing with friends, and we didn't notice how smoky it was. You know little kids-if they're have fun, they won't come in for anything, even to use the bathroom. So, when I saw that he was outside at the neighbors, I quickly brought him in. Then the coughing started. He seemed to do well after breathing treatments, but then he wanted to go outside later and 'help' with 4th of July fireworks. The coughing started again, but this time it didn't quit, no matter how many treatments we did.

We decided we better head to the emergency department, and we got there just in time. He ended up not only on oxygen and a steroid IV, but also a heart monitor. That's when you know they're really bad, when they have the leeds and wires all over their chest. That means the doctors are afraid they're going to stop breathing and go into cardiac arrest.

I think I was in shock at the time. That's the one problem with asthma, it can go from bad to worse (or deadly) very quickly. You have to be so careful. It was a close call, and we were really scared for his life. Luckily, he made it.

I am still afraid of smoke, so I will stay inside my building where it's safe and smoke free. Asthma and smoke are a deadly combination. It makes me shudder to think about it.

Stay safe everyone, and be careful.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tip #2 - floors

Tip #2

So, as much as my historic home drives me crazy because there is always something leaking, flooding, shorting out, breaking, etc. There is one up side- original wood floors.

We had to rip out all the carpet when we moved in and Hubby refinished the entire upstairs, which had wood floors. (You can rent all the equipment at hardware stores). Hubby looked with satisfaction at his handwork and declared, "We could play a great game of basketball in here!"

I love my wood floors, especially for allergies and asthma. They're easy to clean, plus I can actually see the dirt and dust bunnies. Helllllooooo vacuum! Yes, I am a little strange. I love to vacuum. There's something about the monotonous work of vacuuming. My canister vac (equipped with a hepa filter of course) allows me to vacuum the area rugs, then flip a switch and use it on the wood floors. Then I switch attachments on the nozzle, and can clean all the edges of the rooms. Told you I was a little strange. It's rewarding to suck up all the dust and crumbs, then empty out the vacuum canister and see all the junk I just sucked up. It feels so much cleaner.

Of course, not everyone can have wood floors. They are expensive if you need to install them. My in laws live in the south west, where tile floors are common.

I know that for us, anything that I can get rid of in our house (that is causing problems) will help with asthma. Asthma Doc always said that medicine is a 'band aid' approach. You need to get to the root of the problem. What are your triggers? What is causing problems for you in your home? You can take all the medicine you want, but if you have things in your home that are causing problems, it's an uphill battle.

So, look around. See if you can determine your triggers in your home. And I'll keep blogging about things we've done. They may or may not work for you, you can pick and choose something to try.
Good luck!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Making your home allergy/asthma proof - tip#1

How do you make your home allergy/asthma proof? Tip#1

I was listening to a presentation the other day about asthma by two pharmacists. I'm not suggesting you disagree with someone with medical training, but I will anyway.

Someone asked him if you should change things in your home to make it more allergy/asthma proof. He said no. He has a family member with asthma, and he had removed his carpet and replaced them with wood floors. But he said it would be too expensive for most people.

I think he missed the boat. There are a lot of things you can do to make your home better. The first is the photo you see here. Take your shoes off! This is the view from my front door. And if you come to visit, your shoes had better be in there.

This didn't cost much, you can find baskets at any craft store. Or use a big plastic box, whatever works for you. As a designer, mine has to coordinate with my room.....

So, what's the big deal about wearing shoes in a house? Well, everywhere you have been during the day (think public bathroom, walking through leaves and dirt, stores, work, parking lots etc.) is all on the bottom of your shoes. And that is now being tracked across your floor. Nasty stuff on them- including dirt, mold, fungi, chemicals from the lawn, etc, etc. The first 8-10 steps you take wipes all of that nasty stuff all over your carpets and floor. Now imagine if you have kids sitting or crawling around on the same floor.

The reason I think the pharmacist missed the boat on this, is because he said to just keep taking your asthma medicine. Asthma Doctor always told me that using emergency inhalers is just a band aid approach. You have to find out what is causing the problem first. So, if you can make your house a little cleaner and safer for allergies/asthma. And therefore have less inflammation in the lungs, causing less asthma attacks or problems, why not do it?

I'll keep posting tips here that we've learned over the last decade. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Flash back diagnosis

I was thinking about when Son #2 was diagnosed with asthma. It was his first time in the hospital when the respiratory therapist told us he had asthma. I still remember the shock, thinking 'wait a minute!' I already took him to the pediatrician clutching my wrinkled little article about asthma out of a parenting magazine. Something just didn't seem right. I still felt unsettled when the doctor said there was nothing wrong with him.

The day he was admitted, I took him to the doctor because he had a cold and was sick and coughing. But his color was really off, he looked very pale, had purple circles under his eyes, and his lips were a burgundy color. I just felt something wasn't quite right. So, off we went to the doctor's office. The physician's assistant came in first, then suddenly the room filled with the head doctor and a couple of nurses. I remember Son #2 seemed very sleepy. He couldn't even sit up right when they were doing a breathing treatment, so I had to hold him.

They quickly said I needed to take him to the hospital. Luckily, the doctor's office is connected to the back of the hospital, so if was a quick drive to the front of the building. I still remember calling Hubby at work. He said, "What do you mean they're putting him in the hospital? Why?" All I knew is that he was having a hard time breathing.

Boy, were we in for a new chapter of our lives! He's been admitted 8 times for asthma since then, Kitty has been in 4 times. If I only knew then what I know now......

Trust your instinct and keep pushing. You know your children best. If you feel like there is something wrong, keep searching for answers.

I remember telling the respiratory therapist that I had already visited the doctor to see if Son #2 had asthma, and he had said no. In the 30 pages of information the respiratory therapist printed out for me about asthma, one of the articles had talked about asthma being called the 'hysterical mother's syndrome'. Mothers would be up all night with sick kids, take them to the doctor first thing in the morning, and they would be fine.

Now I know cold air affects them, getting up and walking out to the car affects them. Their oxygen levels do in fact drop during the night when the kids are relaxed and sleeping.

So, I've said it before, but if you think something is wrong, be persistant. I've been told the kids are okay, only to have them admitted to the hospital 4 hours later. Keep a sharp eye on them and get a second opinion. We, as mothers, are our kid's best defense.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Water leak


I think Hubby may have finally fixed the mysterious leaking washing machine. I spent time laying on my stomach on top of the washing machine, with a flashlight trained on the pipes to see if I could isolate the leak. How hard can it be? Very difficult, it turns out. I gave up at one point.

Then, as I was running a load through the washing machine, I heard a loud splash. Both Son #2 and I looked at each other, said "Uh oh" and simultaneously and jumped up to check the washing machine. Still puzzled. I had Hubby take a photo of the pipes and head over to the plumbing supply store and to see if they could help him figure out the problem.

They suggested there may be a blockage and recommended a product to clean out the pipes. He had already tested that theory, he stuck the garden hose down the pipe and turned it on full force. No blockage. He actually figured it out on his own, he deduced that there was an airlock in the pipe at one point of the cycle. He replaced a hose, and problem fixed.

I was hoping to get the hole (caused by water damage) fixed in my kitchen wall before now. It's so attractive. But of more concern is mold. With the experience we had in our old house with mold, I'm a little wary.

So, we're waiting to make sure one of the 2 x 4's in the wall is completely dried out. Hubby also cut out all the damaged wall board and will replace that. We just happen to have a can of 'Kilz' from other water damaged walls (from other leaks). It is a special primer that blocks moisture and mold growth. So, we'll paint the wall with that first, then a new coat of a warm, sunny yellow paint for the kitchen.
I found a resource on line about mold clean up, it's on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website. You can cut and paste this into your browser.

Anyway, I hope no one else is having water leaks. If so, get it cleaned up-fast! The longer it sits and leaks, the more chance there is for mold. Not what you need if you have asthma. Just one more thing for me to watch out for on my quest to keep my kids healthy with their asthma.....

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas trees

Christmas trees - real or fake?

Well, it's that time of year. Kitty was so excited to put up the Christmas tree, that we did it the day after Thanksgiving. Sorry, I only celebrate one holiday at a time. So, she had to wait.

But, do you get a real Christmas tree, or a fake one? We used to get real trees when the kids were little. But we noticed non stop sneezing and coughing. That was when the kids were first diagnosed with asthma. And since the kids have multiple triggers (basically, they're allergic to anything that's alive). Trees, bushes, flowers, grass, dogs, cats, horses.

Oh, I exaggerate. There is one animal that Kitty isn't allergic. Shot Nurse was laughing when she said there was one animal that didn't show up on Kitty's scratch test (skin test to see what you are allergic to). A rat. She said we could get a pet rat! Very funny. Not happening.

So, I know it takes the fun out of Christmas, having a fake Christmas tree. It's one of the wonderful smells. Along with the gingerbread house and sugar cookies. But, what do you do?

Listen to the kids sneeze and cough for a month? Or get a fake tree? As an interior designer, I like authentic flowers, plants and trees. None of those silk plants in my house. Except for the tree. Grumble, grumble.

But, you do what you have to as parents. It looks amazing, and no one is sneezing or wheezing.

I hope you all have fun putting up your Christmas tree, whether it's real or fake. If you're lucky enough to have a real one- fabulous! If not, you can join me in being grateful I don't have a bunch of dead needles to clean up every week.

Happy decorating!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Flash back - triggers

Flash Back Friday - triggers

lashback is just from this week. I had another asthma attack, this one on Wednesday night.

Problem is, I can't for the life of me figure out what set it off.

I remember sneezing quite a bit, and my family laughing and saying, "are you done yet?"but instead of answering, I just sneezed some more. Then I started coughing, and coughing, and coughing. I could feel my chest tightening up, then started coughing up mucus. Fun times!

So, as I was sitting on the couch in my big furry bathrobe, I had to try to think back to what I had just done. I changed clothes in my room, washed my face, then went in and retrieved a book from my nightstand.

That was it. I had to analyze each action. Anything in the bathroom that would have set it off? How about the nightstand? Was it too dusty? I remember the curtain catching on my bathrobe as I passed. Hhmm, it was the 'winter curtains' I had in the store room. I had changed my bed set to put the winter colored bed set and curtains up. Could it be that the curtains that were stored downstairs were too dusty? I usually wash them before I put them back up, but they were stored in between a couple of comforters, so they should have been protected.

Was there something else I missed? What could have set it off?

Sometimes the most frustrating thing about asthma is trying to figure out what sets off an asthma attack. I've had one while I was shopping for a baby present in a national retail store (where I've shopped for years without any problems). I had one at the hardware store this summer (where we shop frequently, because something is always in need of repair in our historic home).

So why do I have an asthma attack there one day, but not another? It's hard to determine cause and effect. And it can be unnerving, because asthma attacks can be swift and hard hitting.

This week was one of those, where I was coughing so hard I almost threw up. 'Calm'. I told myself, try to deep breath. 'Settle down.' Anxiety can make asthma attacks worse. You can't breath, so you panic, then the panic makes the asthma worse.

Everything turned out okay, but I'm still puzzled as to what caused it. Oh well, that's life with asthma.