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Friday, December 30, 2011

Asthma & Babysitting kittens

This week has been interesting since our neighbor's little girls got two kittens from Santa. They were so excited! But they had already scheduled a family trip after Christmas, so they asked my daughter, Kitty, if she could babysit. We were a little unsure since Kitty is allergic to all animals, trees, flowers, bushes, etc. There is actually one animal that she's not allergic to according to her skin test, and that's a rat. Shot Nurse brightly suggested that we get a pet rat for Kitty! What a teaser she is, just what we always wanted, a pet rat.

We weren't sure how this week would go with babysitting. Kitty has been doing allergy shots (immunotherapy) for about 3 years, so we were hoping she would do well being around the kittens. The kittens are at the neighbors, and Kitty goes over every couple of hours to cuddle and play with the kittens. She even bought toys for them but it seems they prefer a piece of paper tied to yarn. (Kind of like when you buy presents for your toddler and they would rather play with the box.)

Kitty decided to wear a special jacket every time she went over to cover up her clothes so she could cuddle the kitties. Then when she got home, she could take that off and hopefully remove much of the cat dander. She also washes her hands after playing with the kitties. But her idea isn't working. Even with allergy shots, she sneezes and sneezes and sneezes. At least she's not coughing and wheezing. She has to change all of her clothes and shower every night before she goes to bed to remove all of the cat dander.

It's so frustrating being allergic to so many different things. Normal people (aka people who don't have asthma) can play with kittens and even have them in their home. But if you have asthma, it's a whole other story. Why can't we just be normal and be able to pet cats and dogs, and have flowers, trees, and bushes. And a real Christmas tree?!

I can't tell you how much I hate allergies and asthma. I resent it being such a big part of our lives. On the positive side, I have been able to help countless families with what I have learned about allergies and asthma over the last 12 years.

That's My Life as an Asthma Mom

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Allergy alert bracelets/necklaces/watches/shoe tags

Wow! Things have certainly changed since I first bought a medical alert bracelet for Son #2 at the local drug store. It was an inexpensive silver band that showed that he has asthma. Of course I also would meet with his teacher at the beginning of every school year, and also let any coach or scout leader know that he had asthma. They have some new styles of bracelets, necklaces, watches and shoe tags to alert people about allergies and asthma.

He has long outgrown his asthma alert bracelet, but of equal concern is his tree nut allergy. We have to watch for that everywhere we go. In fact, last week we were in the city looking at Christmas lights and stopped at a street vender who was sellling hot chocolate. We ordered hot chocolate for all of us, and then Son #2 spotted a bag of Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies. And did they look good! He asked for a bag, and I started to reach for it, then remembered that those same cookies had caused him to have a reaction a few years before.

We were at a band concert for older brother, Son #1 (he was right in the middle of his saxophone solo) when Son #2 started eating Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies from the vending machine. His throat started itching and he started feeling warm, we thought 'uh-oh!' We raced out to hall, had him spit out the cookies, rinse his mouth out with water and spit that out too. I had a Benadryl Strip in my purse, so he quickly stuck that on his tongue and started to melt that. We had the Epi Pen at the ready, and could also race home to use the nebulizer for a breathing treatment.

Whew. What an experience. It didn't up going into full blown anaphylaxis. We were lucky! We grabbed the cookie package and read the small print that said it was made in the same factory as products containing nuts. Oh great! Who would have thought chocolate chip cookies could contain tree nuts?! What would have happened if I wasn't there? Would anyone else have known what to do? Would they even know he was allergic to tree nuts and was having anaphylaxis?

We had a similar experience years before, when Son #1 had anaphylaxis after getting an allergy injection. It was truly life threatening, and I never want to see that happen again-to anyone.

If you or a loved one has an allergy, do you have anything that warns other people? I am constantly checking for tree nuts in anything we eat, but what if I'm not around? I think I'll be ordering a few things from the Medic Alert website today. Things have come a long way from the little inexpensive silver bracelets I used to buy at the pharmacy. I need to buy something he will actually wear, otherwise what's the use? Christmas is over, but Son #2 will be getting a little gift from his mom in the mail. And it could someday help save his life.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cold weather as an asthma trigger

We went into the capitol city last night to look at Christmas lights, and Son #2 said, "What's with all the scarves?!" Since most men don't wear scarves, he was wondering why everyone else seemed to be. It was below freezing last night (but no snow yet, which is VERY odd for where we live.) But it was so cold that it could take your breath away. Literally.

Those people were smart, because they had a scarf wrapped over their nose and mouth to warm up the air before they breathed it in. Cold temperatures can be an asthma trigger for some people. In fact, some people are sensitive to anything cold, not just the outside air. I start coughing after eating yogurt, smoothies or ice cream. In fact, yesterday when I passed by our administrative assistant she said, "Are you okay?!" I was coughing because I had just eaten a yogurt. I was a little surprised that anyone would notice, I guess because I am so used to it to coughing immediately after eating yogurt, but I was fine.

With smoothies, I can usually have about two swallows of my drink before I start coughing. And with ice cream, I am fine as long as I have it on a cone so I have to eat it slowly. Eating ice cream with a spoon is too fast and makes me cough. Same thing with milk shakes- a couple of swallows and the cough starts.

Back to cold weather. If you are outside and you don't have a scarf, then what? I actually forgot my scarf last night-of all times to forget it! In a pinch, you can cup your hands over your mouth and breathe in (so you sound like Darth Vader from Star Wars) That can be enough to warm up the air so you don't have an asthma attack. If you happen to be wearing a turtle neck sweater, you can pull that up over your nose and mouth. Sometimes, I have put my elbow up over my nose and breathed into the crook in my arm to warm up the air. Do whatever you need to to warm up the air if cold temperatures are your asthma trigger.

Remember, everyone with asthma is different. Cold temperatures are one of my triggers, but it doesn't affect any of my kid's asthma.

The best thing to do is to know what your triggers are and how to avoid them. Now if I could just avoid all the crowds that come along with this time of year......

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas cookie exchange!


So, it sounds like a brilliant idea, a cookie exchange! You bake one type of cookies, pile it up on a platter and meet a bunch of friends who have each baked a different type of goodie. When you arrive, you also bring empty plates and plastic wrap. Then you choose a few cookies from each of your friend's trays and pile them on your plate. You have a beautiful plate of assorted flavored cookies, yet you only had to bake once!

What could be better than that. Well.........

You knew this was going somewhere, didn't you?! Food allergies. It's hard to find desserts without nuts. Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts, so I am always nervous when it comes to any baked goods. There are A LOT of desserts that have nuts in them. And, even if I choose one that doesn't have nuts, how do I know that there hasn't been a cross contamination?

If I scan a platter of cookies, I look for anything with nuts. Are people picking up desserts with their hands or using tongs? Are they using tongs from one tray to pick up desserts from another tray? It only takes a tiny amount of what you are allergic to to cause anaphylactic shock. That can easily come from using one set of tongs for two different trays.

I decided not to risk having a problem with tree nuts. So Son #2 didn't get any treats on the last two cookies exchanges that I have gone to. Don't worry, I have plenty of nut-free goodies at home to tide over the teenager.

If you are visiting family this week for Christmas, make sure they know of your food allergy. If they still want to serve something that you are allergic to, make sure you bring a dish of food that you can eat. You can bring a main dish and a dessert, that way you know you are safe. And make sure you are the first one to serve yourself, so people aren't using the same serving utensil for different foods. It's no fun having anaphylaxis! I have spent A LOT of money on Son #2's Christmas presents. I would like him to be alive to open them.

Here's hoping for a nut-free Christmas dinner. (Yes, you can insert all sorts of jokes here about nutty family members if you wish.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Utah's Wood Burn Program


Utah has a 'wood burning program', which may seem strange to other people, but we need it. We have a unique area, we are in a 'bowl' that is surrounded by mountains. That causes cold air to be trapped near the ground, warm air is on the top, and in between is sandwiched a layer of pollution.

Sometimes you can 'taste' the air, that's how bad it gets. Utah tries to regulate when people can use their wood burning stoves, to help us all breathe better.

  • On red burn days, you are not allowed to use a wood burning stove. EXCEPT if it's your only source of heat. (You will receive a citation and fine from your local health department.) They also ask people to drive as little as possible on those days.

  • On yellow burn days, they ask for a voluntary 'no burn' day. They also caution people to drive as little as possible.

  • On green burn days, you are allowed to burn your wood stove.

So, why the regulations? Because the pollution creates tiny particles that can become stuck inside the lungs. Not good for those of us with asthma. It also affects people with cardiovascular disease. To visit the website about our Wood Burn Program, click here.

Our family has personally experienced problems with this. During one bad winter, my two youngest kids - Son #2, and daughter Kitty, were both hospitalized at the same time with asthma flare ups. They were able to share a room at the hospital together. In fact, Kitty was in the hospital on her birthday. I was trying to contact all of the parents to let them know that the birthday party was cancelled because Kitty was in the hospital. Stopping by one house, I noticed their fire place going. I asked them why they were using it during an inversion and mandatory "no burn." The wife rather bashfully said that her husband wanted to see if they could go all winter without using their furnace! At that point, I couldn't hold it in any longer and burst into tears, letting her know that my kids were both in the hospital-due in part to them using their wood burning fireplace. They only lived two blocks away from us, and the kids had to walk by her house twice a day, to and from school. Not to mention, the house was a block away from the school, so the kids were breathing in those tiny particles during recess too.

I think by that point, I was asking the teachers to keep Son #2 and Kitty in from recess, to protect them, but the damage had already been done. That's the hardest thing about asthma, is trying to get people to see that what they do can affect us, and yes, even lead to hospitalizations.

A recent study done by the Asthma Program from the Utah Department of Health has shown an increase in Emergency Department visits on days 5-7 of an inversion. To read a summary of the study, click here. Now I know our family is not alone in our suffering. Some people can be treated and released from the Emergency Department, others (like my kids) usually end up being admitted to the hospital.

So, if you live in Utah, please think about it before you use a wood burning stove or fireplace-especially on yellow or red burn days. Yes, it looks cozy and inviting to light a fire. But there are those of us out there who are paying a price for you sitting by your cozy fire.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Real or artificial Christmas tree for asthma?


What do you use for Christmas trees when you have asthma? Do you use a real tree or artificial? Often times, having asthma means you also have allergies, and my kids are allergic to anything that's alive. Well, there is one exception-during my daughter's skin test for allergies, we did find out that's she's not allergic to rats. So Shot Nurse cheerfully told us that we could get a pet rat for our daughter! Pass.

So, back to trees, since the kids (and Hubby and I) are allergic to so many different things (including trees) do we chance trying to use a real tree one year? Son #2 has completed his 5 years worth of allergy shots and daughter Kitty is about 3 years into having allergy shots. We used to get real trees when the kids were little, but they were always sick during that time too. So was it just that the kids were younger and they needed to build up their immune system? Or were they always sick in the winter because of the Christmas tree?

We switched to an artificial tree about 15 years ago. Yes, it's the same tree, and it's a little sparse. Every year Hubby and I say "we should get a new tree! This one is starting to look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree." But then something else will come along that takes a bite out of our budget. This year it looks like my lovely mini van needs new tires.

We keep the tree carefully boxed up from year to year, and let it air out before we bring it in the house. Sometimes I end up spraying it with Febreeze if it has that 'I have been stored away for a year' smell.

For those of you who have asthma, what do you use for Christmas? A real tree or artificial? Any good (or bad) stories with either kind of tree?

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Asthma is a Drama Queen

(photo from

People always laugh when I say this, but it's true. It really explains the difference between people with asthma and those who don't have asthma (aka "normal people".)

I try to explain to people what it's like to have asthma. "Normal people" can pet a dog or cat (or have one as a pet,) go horseback riding, visit a hay maze or a farm, walk through a meadow of flowers, do yard work outside, laugh or cry, wear perfume, use cleaning supplies or scented candles, go outside on a cold day, be around a smoker, and eat anything they want.

For those of us with asthma, all of these things and more can cause asthma attacks. We can't help it! Our bodies just over-react, like a Drama Queen. The inside of our airways close up, the bands around the outside of the airways shorten and squeeze the airway from the outside. And then, because the airway is injured, it produces mucus and we start to cough.

It's annoying, it's scary, it's inconvenient and I hate it.

"Normal people" may roll their eyes and think we're faking it, or putting on a show, or being a Drama Queen. No, we just can't breathe. They aren't having problems breathing, their bodies are just fine. They can't understand how they can be around the same trigger and not have a problem, but we're coughing and wheezing.

Luck of the draw I guess. They're lucky they don't have asthma. We're not. I have asthma, as well as all 3 of my children. It's a big part of our lives. I wish it wasn't like this, I wish I could do everything I wanted to. Even on maintenance (or controller medication) I still have asthma attacks. Of course my daily maintenance medication helps keep control the swelling in my lungs, so when I have an asthma attack, I don't end up in the hospital.

But all in all, I wish I was in the "normal" category. For those of you just learning about asthma, keep in mind that no two people are alike. Even with asthma, we all have different things that bother us (triggers) and cause asthma attacks. It's nice that you are just fine, but our bodies are Drama Queens, they do over-react, so please try to understand.

And hand me my inhaler.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Daughter and friend save mom's life after severe asthma attack


Wow! What a story! A woman in Wisconsin, Kandace Seyferth, had a severe asthma attack, and when she collapsed, her daughter Maddie Kestell (age 10) and her daughter's friend Katlyn Vreeke (age 12) calmly started CPR and saved her life. How did two young girls know how to do CPR? From watching Grey's Anatomy! To see the video of the story, click here.

The paramedics were shocked when they arrived at the house and saw the two young girls performing CPR on the mom. (Most adults can't do CPR) The girls thought nothing of it, since they said they had seen it numerous times on Grey's Anatomy.

The girls performed CPR for four minutes until the paramedics came, saving the mom's life. Since the body can't go without oxygen for longer than four to six minutes, she most likely would have had brain damage IF she managed to survive the asthma attack in the first place.

I don't think my kids could do CPR if I collapsed. In fact, I'm not sure I could do CPR if they collapsed. I am certified in First Aid and CPR, but could I stay calm and use what I know? I can give a nebulizer breathing treatment with one arm tied behind my back, I've done it so many times. But CPR?

Either I need to start watching Grey's Anatomy, or I need to sign up for a refresher course for CPR.

Could you do CPR if you needed to? Are you trained? Or have you seen it enough times on TV that you feel like you could do it if you need to?

Kandace Seyferth is one of the lucky ones, 11 people will die every day in the US from an asthma attack. Think about getting trained in CPR so you would know what to do it you had to save a life from asthma or any other medical problem. You never know when you might need it. I'm sure Kandace's daughter thought the same thing. It will never happen to me.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Allergy vent filters


I was at Asthma Doc's office yesterday with daughter, Kitty, who was getting her weekly allergy shots. I notice a new magazine on the table and was thumbing through it. It carries products for 'Environmental Control & Allergy Avoidance Products.' I noticed that we already use most of the products listed in their catalog. We have dust mite proof mattress covers, dust mite proof pillow cover and pillows. Air purifiers and a special filter on our furnace.

However, I have noticed a lot of dust in my house. Especially since I have a dark wood finish on my furniture-that light coating of dust drives me crazy. Especially when the sun hits it just right. I feel like I am always wiping down the tops of tables and dressers.

I'm going to try the vent filters and see if they make a difference. They claim that the filters 'stop dust and other allergens from entering your home.' I thought that's what the filter on my new furnace was supposed to be doing, but maybe I need to check out that filter and see how efficient it is.

Has anyone ever tried using vent filters under their air conditioning and heating ducts? I guess I'll try it out, if it can cut down the time I spend dusting (one of my asthma triggers) then it will be worth it.

Now if that company will just update the photo on their website and get rid of the pink carpet.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Air quality and asthma

(Division of Environmental Quality Utah)

I live in a very different area, I live inside a "bowl" and am surrounded by mountains. Now that fall and winter are on their way, we are starting to get dirty air that gets trapped in the valley by the mountains.

So, how do you know if air pollution is affecting your asthma or not? There is a great resource on the Utah Department of Health's Asthma Program website. They have a short article and a video that explains air pollution and how it can affect you (the video is pretty entertaining-it's not one of those videos that goes over your head)

The website says that "high levels of air pollution directly affect people with asthma and other types of lung or heart disease. The particulate matter in an inversion acts as an abrasive substance that can cause damage to the lung tissue and aggravate asthma symptoms." Hubby has been complaining about how hazy the air looks, so I thought I better check out the air quality on the official website.

In our state, they rank air quality in red, yellow and green days.

Red means:

  • Unhealthy air people with lung disease (such as asthma ) and children and older adults should limit or avoid outdoor activities

Yellow means:

  • Unhealthy air for sensitive groups - people with lung disease (such as asthma) and children and older adults should limit or avoid outdoor activities

Green means:

  • Good air - no precautions

Here's a link to our Division of Air Quality Website that explains it more. I'm glad I checked the site today, because the air looks terrible, but the tiny particles in the air that can cause damage to the lungs are still in the "good" category. It can be a little confusing. But it's good to know that the hazy days aren't going to cause any problems to me right now. Some days we have a hard enough time as it is just breathing. I don't need dirty air making it worse.

It's looks like we're in the green zone today, so I think I'll take a walk during lunch to stay awake. Then it's back to the computer!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Cat Saga Continues


This is what the cat looks like that has adopted our yard. I'm sure it's only a coincidence that we happen to have a bird feed hanging from our pergola in the back yard. And that the cat just happens to choose to sit in that exact spot under the bird feeder.

It also jumps up on our front windowsill to get a better look at the ivy growing on the outside of our house. And what do you know? The ivy happens to have a bird nest in it too!

My daughter has decided to call the cat Ninja, because he (or she) is so sneaky. We also are trying to communicate with Ninja by meowing. I'm not sure what we're saying. Sometimes Ninja will run out of our yard like we're crazy freaks. Other times, it will look at us and say, "meow?"

The thing Hubby and Son #2 and daughter Kitty can't seem to resist is petting Ninja. We all have allergies, and everyone except for Hubby has asthma. But Ninja looks up at Hubby with those big green eyes, and Hubby is a goner. He can't help himself. Of course he starts sneezing non-stop. We were leaving one night and Hubby stopped to pet Ninja, then climbed in the car. So I handed him several wipes from my trusty pop up container Handi Wipes. I didn't want him sneezing all night long.

I was thinking 'as long as Ninja doesn't go in the house, I guess we are okay.' But Saturday night, as we were leaving, Ninja darted in the house. Just like he owned the place. He sauntered around and sniffed the living room and down the hallway. We were trying to shoo him out because I know that cat dander is almost impossible to get rid of. It's one thing to pet Ninja outside, but to have him in the house?!

We got Ninja back outside and I was hoping he hadn't rubbed up against anything. But, Hubby's sneezing and then later snoring answered that question.

I grew up with pets and loved them, but my lungs don't love them anymore. It's so sad that the only animals we have now are the stuffed ones sitting on daughter Kitty's bed. Sigh. I hate allergies and asthma.....

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Allergy free dogs?


I just read an article in Better Homes and Gardens about dogs and allergies. The article said that even so called "allergy-friendly" dogs can still cause their owners to sneeze and wheeze.

They said that certain dogs are known as "hypoallergenic" such as poodles, bichon frise and Maltese. However, when they took dust samples from homes with those dogs, they didn't find lower levels of allergens in the home.

So, what does that mean? Do you need to get rid of Fido or Spot? they suggest grooming your dog outdoors so the dander doesn't spread through the house. Also, wash your hands after petting your dog.

And the hardest of all things? Keep your pet out of your bedroom. As hard as it is to resist those big brown eyes and that furry little body cuddled up next to you in bed, you may need to.

If you are sneezing and wheezing , talk to your doctor. If over the counter allergy medicine doesn't work, allergy shots are always an option. You have to be dedicated, since it takes twice a week initially, but it is worth it to keep Fido around.

Happy Thankgiving! Give your dog a scratch behind the ears from me

Monday, November 21, 2011

Can you have a cat with allergies or asthma?

(Close To Home Calendar)

I love my Close to Home Calendar, it's a little like the Far Side comics. And let's just say I have a goofy sense of humor that enjoys that type of comedy.

But, this is how our family feels. Since Hubby and I and all 3 of our kids are allergic to just about everything, pets are a no-no in our house. If any of you have cats, you know that cat hair gets EVERYWHERE. We had problems with cats when Son #2 was in second grade. He kept having asthma attacks at school, and it took a while to figure out what was causing it. We couldn't figure out what was triggering his asthma attacks, but came to the conclusion that other students in the class had cats, and they would come to school with cat dander on their clothes-causing Son #2 to have asthma attacks.

That's when we started allegy shots (immunotherapy) to help de-sensitive Son #2. To learn more about it, click here. They did seem to help with his sneezing and wheezing, but of course he still has the allergies.

This was obvious last week when someone's cat decided to adopt us. Most likely it's because of the bird feeder in our backyard. Hubby was talking to The Cat while he was doing yard work. At first The Cat barred it's teeth and hissed at Hubby, then it meowed. Then The Cat decided it wanted to look around inside the house. So, it sat on the porch and meowed, and meowed, and meowed.

The kids opened the door and daughter Kitty said, "Oh mom, it's soooooo cute!" The Cat started looking around Kitty's leg and decided to check out our house. It carefully stepped inside and looked all around. The kids thought it was funny and started to pet The Cat. No sooner had Son #2 pet The Cat, then he started to sneeze and his eyes started to water. But at least he didn't have an asthma attack.

The Cat has decided that if we won't let it live in our house, it won't acknowledge that we live there. If we try to talk to it out in the yard, The Cat looks at us like it's annoyed. Stupid humans. No warm house and bowl of milk? Then I'm not talking to you.

I love cats and grew up with several of my own. But that's before I was diagnosed with asthma and understood what caused me to sneeze and wheeze. I know it's hard, but talk to your doctor before you get a pet for your home, especially cats. They are incredibly cute, but they can also make life miserable when you have allergies and asthma. And if your airways are swollen and irritated from having a cat, and then you get sick on top of that, it can spell trouble. And having experienced my kids being in the hospital 12 different times for asthma and pneumonia, I can tell you that it's no fun.

I try to keep our home allergy and asthma friendly, and that's one of the ways of doing it, is to ban pets. If you can't bear to find a new home for Fluffy the Cat or Fido the Dog, at least keep them out of your bedroom and off your bed. They will give you those big brown eyes and beg to sleep with you, but your asthma will thank you later if you "just say no!"

Take care of yourself, because no one else will. If we don't take care of ourselves, how are we supposed to take care of our families?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scented candles and air freshners linked to allergies?

(Good Morning America/Yahoo photo and article)

This story caught my eye yesterday. Scented candles and air freshners are something I try to avoid because of my allergies and asthma (not to mention my 3 kid's allergies and asthma-and Hubby's allergies) What a bunch of genetic defects we are!

This article talks about an announcement from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. At their annual conference this week, they said that candles and air freshners can cause allergy symptoms, make existing allergies worse and make asthma worse. To read the story, click here.

Sure, these make our house smell good (I live in a historic home which doesn't always smell so "fresh and new") but I have always avoided any type of air freshners. Asthma Doc has always told me NOT to use them.

So, what's the big deal with using air freshners? In the article, it talks about all of the toxic things that come along with the "fresh scent" of candles and air freshners. There are all sorts of chemicals in the "fresh" smelling air freshners that have been linked to "an increased risk of asthma in children." It also can cause headaches, eye irritation, dizziness, respiratory irritation and even memory impairment. Wow!

I think I'll pass on using scented candles or air freshners. We have enough problems already in our family when it comes to breathing.

Guess I'll just have to bake some chocolate chip cookies instead to make the house smell good......mmmmmmm

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thanksgiving and food allergies

Well, it just dawned on my yesterday that since I am hosting Thanksgiving this year, I should probably buy a turkey and other groceries and make food assignments. (I didn't realize how close Thanksgiving is!)

It will be a small gathering this year, probably about 10 people. I'm going to ask Talented Sister In Law to bring pies, she makes delicious coconut cream, banana cream, pumpkin and pecan flavors.

Which means we will have to be careful with the pecan pie. Since Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts, I am a little nervous about the pecan pie and cross contamination with the other flavors. His favorite flavor is pumpkin pie, so I will make sure he gets served first-before someone uses the pie server on the pecan pie, then uses it to pull out a piece of pumpkin pie.

It seems like we can never relax when it comes to eating. I have to always watch for tree nuts, they seem to be in most ice creams and desserts. So, I have to inspect everything we eat and ask questions. Don't be afraid to do that, I remind family members that he is allergic to tree nuts and I make sure we have the Epi Pen with us. It doesn't hurt their feelings, I know they would rather not see someone go into anaphylaxis-it is pretty scary. I've seen if once when Son #1 had an allergic reaction after his allergy shots, and I never want to see that again.

So, be careful and be polite. You can politely ask family members not to include nuts in desserts or ice cream, or you can just let them know that you or your child will need to be served first. They're usually happy to help, they like our kids to be alive as much as we do.

Happy eating!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Acetaminophen causing asthma?


Asthma continues to surprise me. I just got off the phone with my brother who asked if I saw the article linking asthma and acetaminophen (Tylenol.) I hadn't seen it yet. As much as I try to keep on top of anything related to asthma, it's almost impossible.

The journal Pediatrics reports that acetaminophen may make asthma worse. Although they can't prove that acetaminophen causes asthma, they do say that it is associated with an increased risk of developing asthma. If you are interested in reading an article on, click here.

If you want to read about the original research study listed in Pediatrics (which isn't exactly 'light' reading, click here.

However, this is contrary to Webmd claims, that Tylenol is safe for asthma because some people with asthma can have an asthma attack from asprin or ibuprofen (Advil) and they can sometimes be fatal. To read the article on webmd, click here.

So, now what? There seems to be conflicting evidence here. The concern about acetaminophen was just published in the journal Pediatrics. The article on the webmd site suggesting it is safe for asthma is from January of 2011.

It just reinforces what I try to explain to people about asthma. Asthma is a drama queen. What doesn't affect "normal" people (people without asthma) does affect those of us with asthma. I can't pet animals, walk through a field full of flowers, go through a hay maze, or go outside on a cold day, or breathe in someone's perfume without having an asthma attack. When you have asthma, your body just over-react to common, every day things around us.

And all of us have different triggers, what causes me to have an asthma attack may not be a trigger for any of my kids or for you. We're all different and need to know what bothers us. So, talk to your doctor and decide if it's better for you to use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Perfume as an asthma trigger

Some people spray a spritz of their perfume in the air, and then walk through it. Some people spray their perfume directly onto their wrists, neck and whole body. Then they go to the movie theater and all of us sitting there have to smell their stinky strong perfume. It can also cause asthma attacks. Which happened to me for the first time Saturday night. Hubby and I decided to go out and see the new Three Musketeers Movie, and just before the movie started, a college aged girl sat down a few seats away from me.

I didn't notice anything at first, then thought "that is a really stinky and strong perfume!" It was just annoying at first, then I sneeezed. Then I coughed. And coughed. And coughed. It took me a minute to realize that I was having an asthma attack! Perfume has never bothered my asthma before. I know what my usual triggers are (cold temperatures, dust, cats, etc) so I am careful around those triggers. But I have never had a reaction to perfume.

First, I got up and moved to the end of the row, where I was well away from Perfume Girl. But that didn't help and I continued to cough. You know how it can be-you can cough so hard that you gag (and can throw up-that's always fun!)

I always carry an inhaler with me, so I pulled out my Albuterol and used that at the beginning of the movie. I was careful to wait several minutes in between puffs (if you don't, the resevoir at the bottom of the inhaler won't refill all the way, and you won't get as much medicine as you THINK you are getting) So DON'T take back to back puffs on your inhaler. It's very important to wait a few minutes between puffs.

Just like magic, the Albuterol worked. The coughing stopped, except for still trying to clear the mucus out of my lungs. That's always the fun part of an asthma attack-first the coughing, then the mucus that your lungs produce to try to 'heal' themselves.

So, as plea to all of us that have asthma attacks from other people's perfume-you may love your perfume, but that doesn't mean that everyone else does! PLEASE don't use perfume if you are going to be somewhere where the rest of us are stuck and have to breathe it in (movie theater, airplane, meetings, etc)

Many people don't realize that what they do can cause those of us with asthma to have an asthma attack. Remember, asthma is a "drama queen" and our bodies over-react to things that don't bother "normal people" (you know-people who don't have asthma.) So your perfume, scented candles, smoking, pets and even landscaping can cause those of us with asthma to sneeze, cough and wheeze. And I'm kind of funny about this, but I like to breathe. So, please help us out and let us breathe clean air.

Thank you,
My Life As An Asthma Mom

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cow's milk, soy milk or almond milk for school lunch?

(Photo: Fransisco Kjolseth Salt Lake City Tribune)

I read an interesting article today about chocolate milk in schools. Yes, I know it has sugar in it and it isn't the healthiest thing for school lunch. But my kids don't drink plain milk. In fact, Son #2 was allergic to cow's milk when he was younger, but has out grown that allergy.

In the article, there was someone from a health and fitness institute who recommended replacing cow's milk with soy or almond milk. Woah! Surely that person knows that in addition to cow's milk, soy and almond are among the top 8 things that cause allergic reactions and anaphylaxis. Click here for information about common food allergens. I know that people can outgrow milk allergies, but almond (or any tree nut allergy) is usually a life long allergy.

Click here to read the article about the chocolate milk debate.

In a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report Managment of Food Allergies in School Settings they state that "Fatalities were noted to be over represented by children with peanut, tree nut, or milk allergy and among teenagers and those with underlying asthma" Click here to read the article. It's scary to think someone wants to introduce a known food that can kill students into a school!

So, what do you think? Should schools serve cow's milk? Almond milk? Soy milk? Some people are allergic to cow's milk and can't drink what is served in school lunch now. But do we replace it with another known allergan that can also cause anaphylaxis and death?

Let me know your thoughts

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How your home affects asthma


One of the best things you can do for yourself and your family if you have asthma is make a few changes in your apartment or home.

I have blogged about this in the past, but it is so important, I need to repeat it. After many of the ideas, I have a "click here" listed. That will take you to the entry when I blogged about that subject before. Many of these ideas come from my Asthma Doc, others I have found figured out as a designer.

  • Remove your shoes when you enter your home. Why? Click here

  • Vacuum twice a week with a HEPA filtered vacuum. For more, Click here

  • Don't store anything under the bed. Really? Find out more, Click here

  • Wash bedding once a week in hot water

  • Don't keep stuffed animals on the bed. Why not? Click here

  • Replace horizontal blinds with roller shades in the bedroom. For explanation, Click here

  • Keep pets outside or at least out of the bedroom

The problem with asthma is that you can take all the asthma medication you want, but if you don't get down to the root of what is causing your symptoms, it won't matter. You need to make your home or apartment a safe and clean place to live. Because what doesn't bother other people will bother those of us with asthma. Many things can make you sneeze and wheeze, and figuring out what those things are can be different for each person.

So try a few of the things listed above and see if you feel better and breathe easier.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Candy-watch out for food allergies


Food allergies never take a holiday. Daughter Kitty was searching through her candy and offered a Heath bar to her brother, Son #2. I happened to overhear her, and went running into the other room, yelling "NOOOOOOOO!" I knew that Health bars have tree nuts in them (almonds) which Son #2 is allergic to. He's pretty good at just selecting what he wants to eat, so I reminded Kitty not to offer Son #2 any candy, but to let him pick out what he knew was safe to eat. Kitty is younger than Son #2 and doesn't realize how bad a food reaction can be.

For those of you with food allergies, PLEASE check your candy carefully. It worries me when candy bars that have tree nuts are in the same bag with candy bars that don't contain them. Everyone is different, but I don't want to chance any cross contamination that would cause anaphylaxis. I have seen that reaction once with Son #1, and I never want to see it again.

To read an article about Halloween candy and anaphylaxis from American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, click here. One of the things they mention is that "fun size" candy bars can have different ingredients than what's normally listed on the label.

If in doubt, I would throw it out. I would rather buy Son #2 a couple of full sized Twix bars, he's never had a problem with them or any cross contamination. If you have ever seen someone go into Anaphylaxis shock, it is very scary, not to mention it can also kill you.

Be safe this Halloween, and check the candy carefully if you have kids with allergies. And repeat aloud, "I will not steal my kid's candy, I will not steal my kid's candy, I will not steal my kid's candy." Well, maybe just one piece.......

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Follow up on thrush

( images)

It seems like all of us moms take care of everyone except for ourselves. I knew my tongue was looking a little discolored and thought it was probably thrush from my maintenance medication, Advair, but I didn't have time to go to the doctor.
One night, after brushing my teeth, I asked my husband if he thought my tongue looked weird, and he said it looked my elderly neighbor's hair, which is stark white! (By the way, this isn't her picture above-she would strangle me if I posted a photo of her. So it's just a fun photo I found on Google Images)
I guess I didn't call the doctor because I didn't have any sick time left at work, since I had used it all up with my earlier bout with pneumonia this month. I wouldn't have time to leave the office and go to the doctor for a checkup. I finally decided to call when my tongue started to hurt. When I looked at photos of thrush online, it looked like many of the people had sores on their tongue. Yuck.
So, I finally called the doctor. Luckily, they called in a prescription. I was afraid it was going to be a bottle of Nystatin, which you rinse your mouth with several times a day. But, they called in a 3 day treatment of a pill I just took once a day. It was an anti-fungal. Nice! That I could do-and luckily he didn't make me come in for an exam. The pharmacist said that they usually save Nystatin for the tough cases. Luckily, this prescription seems to have worked. My tongue is slowly returning to a soft pink, and it no longer hurts.
So, all you moms that are putting off calling the doctor when something is wrong, just do it! We have to be healthy and take care of ourselves if we are going to take care of our families.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thrush from maintenance medication

I think I'll have to call my doctor, I may have thrush on my tongue from my Advair. Even though I do everything right (rinse my mouth and spit out the water) I am also careful to brush my teeth and tongue right afterwares. But I can see a nice white film. Yay.

I was looking at some photos online about thrush, and their tongues look a lot worse than mine (of course, maybe they let the infection go on to long) I remember Son #2 got thrush a few years ago, and the doctor had to call a prescription for Nystatin liquid in to the pharmacy. It's an anti fungal medicine that required him to swish his mouth and spit out the Nystatin (several times a day) It was hard to get cleared up.

One more thing to deal with. Did I ever mention how much I hate asthma and everything that comes along with it? Arrrgh

Friday, October 14, 2011

Prednisone-necessary evil


As much as I hate to use it, there are times when prednisone (a steroid) is necessary to treat asthma. (Don't confuse this type of steroid with the type that body builders use. They're completely different medications!)

Using steroids is a last resort for me. Usually, I increase my daily maintenance medication and use breathing treatments with my nebulizer. When I am that sick, my inhaler doesn't work well for me because I can't breathe deep enough to get any medicine into my lungs. What works better for me is to use my nebulizer, I just sit and gently breathe in the mist.

Even using all those medications, there are times I need prednisone. I have been sick now for over a week, and one day I woke up and was having such a hard time breathing that my voice could only come out in a raspy whisper. I asked Hubby to call the after hours clinic (of course it was on a Saturday) because I couldn't talk on the phone. However, After Hours Doc needed to ask me a few questions (did I have sinus congestion with my cough and fever?) so he would know which antibiotic to call in. I think he could tell by the sound of my voice what was wrong with me and which medication for call in.

Click here to learning about different asthma medications. But- a few warnings about prednisone. Click here to read about side effects. You have to take it exactly as directed. You usually start out on a high dose several times a day, then taper down over 5 days or a week. But the side effects can be agitation, nervouseness, mood changes, and increased appetite. There are more serious side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, swelling of the face, depression, and many more.

Just know that if you or your children are on prednisone, it can make you feel a little weird. As sick as I was, my mind was racing, I couldn't sleep, and I started cleaning my basement! Hubby came downstairs and said "what are you doing?!" I shrugged my shoulders, then said "prednisone."

Then I was so tired, I had to take a 3 hour nap. You may feel a little crazy while you are on it, but that will pass. Also, be warned that it impairs your immune system, so now I have to be very careful and try not to be around anyone else who is sick.

So, if you are sick enough to need prednisone, talk to your doctor. Sometimes it is necessary and may be what you need to get the swelling down in your lungs and help you feel better. Just watch the side effects and follow all of the instructions.

Excuse me, I need to get more cough medicine and use my inhaler. Ah, flu season.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Keeping track of medication schedules

(Google images)

I'm probably one of the only people in American who doesn't have a iPod or iPhone. I'm a low-tech sort of person. I like my sticky notes-I use them for everything, including keeping track of my medications when I'm sick.

Like most people, I get a little hazy when I am sick and can't remember which medication I've taken and when. It's important to keep track since there is a possibility to overdose on medications if you are a little "out of it."

When I am sick, I will write down any medication I take so I can keep them straight. I record:

  • Advair (my daily asthma medication)

  • Advil (for fever and pain)

  • Dayquil (this contains acetaminophen, and you can take too much and damage your liver)

  • Antibiotic

  • Prednisone

  • Albuterol (my rescue asthma medication)

Some days I don't take Daqyquil, so I have to keep track of how much cough medicine I may have taken. It's easy when you are coughing to think "I should take some more cough medicine-how long has it been since the last dose anyway?"

As moms, we are expected to take care of everyone, but when we get sick, no one takes care of us! My family is so used to me taking care of them, that they didn't know what to do when I was in bed for 4 days this last week with the flu which turned into pneumonia. I was on my own when it came to getting cold washcloths, another box of tissues, and tracking my medication. I know it's important to take my doses EXACTLY as prescribed so I can get better (and not overdose and damage my liver.) After all, my job and family require me to be on top of my game.

So, use whatever works for you to track medication when you are sick. Sticky notes, note pad iPhone, whatever you use. You would be surpised how easy it is to lose track of what time you have taken each medication, especially when your brain is a little foggy from being sick.

Stay well, and remember to wash those hands!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I tried to avoid it, but the flu found me

So, this was my breakfast this morning (well, after I ate my nutritious oatmeal.) I am so careful to take precautions NOT to get sick, but I did anyway.

I was in a training for work last week, and started to notice a scratchy throat. I thought maybe it was due to the extremely strong smelling perfume of the lady sitting next to me. But my throat was still scratchy when I got home. And the next day. Then the fever, chills and body aches hit on day 3, and I knew I was in for a rough ride. My nose did a Niagra Falls impression, and I filled an entire waste basket full of used tissues. My nose could outrun any snotty nosed toddler, hands down!

I spent 4 days in bed. Alternating between "I'm freezing! Where's my jacket?!" to "Woah, it's hot in here, did someone turn the heat up!?" I was camped out on my couch with cold washcloths, Advil, Puffs tissues (with lotion of course), sinus reliever medication and popsicles. I also had all of the TV remotes and my phone. So, I was set.

I just had to wait for the flu to run it's course. But it is taking it's sweet time. By about day 5, I was getting worse and knew I needed an antibiotic and prednisone. (I was coughing up colored mucus) So, I called the after hours clinic for my doctor's office, and they called in my prescription to the pharmacy. (I think he could tell by my voice that I had pneumonia again, I could barely whisper.) I reminded him that I had asthma, and would also need a steroid.

So, a week later, this is what my breakfast looks like.

I just hope Hubby and my kids don't get sick. I am careful to wash my hands every time after I blow my nose. I also spray the remote and phone with Lysol after I touch them. And I am staying on the couch, away from everyone. I'm trying to keep my germs to myself.

I keep reminding myself "things could always be worse, things could always be worse." I'm the only one sick so far, pneumonia is what usually lands on of the kids in the hospital. So, I will keep my cough and germs to myself. And cross my fingers!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Farewell Wonderful Shot Nurse

We missed a week of allergy shots because daughter Kitty was sick. So the next Friday, the New Nurse was there giving shots instead, and we asked where Wonderful Shot Nurse was. New Nurse said Wonderful Shot Nurse was gone! She has moved on to other things (and we didn't even get to say good bye!) Kitty started to cry. I sent a text to Son #2, and he was shocked.

You see, Wonderful Shot Nurse isn't just a regular nurse. She has helped keep my kids alive for the last 11 years! She has been taking care of Kitty since she was born (she's finishing elementary school)

She has helped take care of Son #2 since he was five years old. (And he's in high school now!) She has given Son #2 his five years worth of allergy shots, and gives him his monthly Xolair injections.

She also gave Son #1 his five years worth of allergy shots and kept him alive when he went into anaphylaxis after one allergy shot. She's more than just a Wonderful Shot Nurse, she was a friend. She always talked to the kids about the new book they were reading, asked how school was going, and genuinely cared about them. She always took time to listen to me and had a great smile for the kids, her whole face lights up when she smiles!

I hope you are all lucky enough to visit a great allergy and asthma specialist's office. And I hope you have a great relationship with them, they do help keep us and our kids alive! (I even bring everone in the office a small Christmas gift every year!)

To Wonderful Shot Nurse-we are so sad you are gone, but I know that life leads us to different paths. Enjoy your new one!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Anaphylaxis (allergic reactions)

I know I have blogged about this before, but food allergies are still such a part of our lives. Hubby and I both have allergies, along with all 3 of our kids. But food allergies are a problem for myself and Son #2. There are various things that can trigger anaphylaxis such as:

  • Foods - peanuts, treenuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, almonds), eggs, milk, fish and shellfish (shrimp and lobster) and soy. To learn more about food allergies, click here.

  • Medications - ibuprofen (Advil), asprin, antibiotics and anesthetics. Click here to learn more.

  • Insect stings - yellow jackets, wasps, bees, hornets and fire ants. Click here to learn how to avoid stings.

  • Latex - disposable gloves, syringes, and IV tubes. Click here for more information.

I am allergic to seafood, and it can show up in the strangest places. I was at a catered lunch that asked for an RSVP, and I did mention that I was allergic to seafood. However, after I scooped a little pulled pork on my plate, I came upon the baked beans. As I put the ladel in the dish, I was shocked to find shrimp! I've never seen shrimp in BBQ beans before, and especially since I mentioned that I was allergic to seafood! I quicky set the ladel back down and scanned the other foods. I looked at the ladel that was in the beans and was hoping no one had used that in the pulled pork (you never know.....) since they had tongs for the meat.

I was okay eating the meat, but I was really frustrated. Why add shrimp to beans? And why didn't they have signs saying "allergy alert-seafood present?" Especially since we had to RSVP for the luncheon and list any allergies we had.

The problem with food allergies is that you can never fully relax. Especially if you are eating out at a restaurant, someone else's house, or even a catered lunch at a conference. We're forever inspecting our food for seafood and tree nuts. It also helps if we serve our plates first, before anyone starts mixing up different serving utensils for different foods. And many platters we will completely avoid, especially desserts. It's surprising how many desserts call for tree nuts in the recipe. And they pile all of the desserts on one tray, some have nuts, and some don't. But you can't chance it. There is always a risk of cross contamination. How do we know they used a separate knife to slice up the desserts without nuts and with nuts? Most people don't even think about that.

Talk to your doctor if you have any of the allergies listed above. You should ALWAYS have an EpiPen with you. And if you have to use it, call 911! The airways can close off very quickly, and it's best to let the ambulance take you to the hospital-they can run red lights. Click here for more information about allergies and EpiPens. They even have an app for your cell phone!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Seasonal allergies (I hate ragweed!)

Many people only get allergies a certain time of year (they call it seasonal allergic rhinitis-also known as hayfever.) One of the worst things for fall is ragweed. I hate that stuff! One plant can make a million pollen spores in one day, and it can really travel! According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, ragweed pollen has been found as far as 400 miles out to sea and 2 miles up in the atmosphere! Most of it falls close to the ground, but if you're sneezing, there's a good chance that ragweed is the culprit. Click here to read more information about ragweed from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.

I was reading an article in Coping with Allergies and Asthma magazine about ragweed. They had some great ideas. Some of their suggestions are:

  • Start on allegy medication the first week of August, before ragweed season hits.

  • Get treated for allergies year round which can make it easier when ragweed season starts. They say other allergies (animals, dust mites, etc) can prime your system, which can make it even worse when hayfever starts.

  • Avoid the outdoors between 5:00 am- 10:00 am, when pollen levels are highest.

  • Avoid raking leaves and mowing the lawn (both stir up pollen). If you must do either of those, use a N-95 respirator mask.

  • Wear glasses or sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen

  • Avoid irritants such as air pollution, smoke, fumes, etc that can make your symptoms worse.

  • Visit an allergist to see how he can help your symptoms

I would add to their list the things Asthma Doctor tells our family to do (and we do!)

  • Shower before bed (this removes pollen from your hair and skin and allows you to sleep better)

  • Keep the windows and doors closed to keep pollen out

  • Take your shoes off when you enter your home to avoid tracking pollen in

If you are one of the millions who suffers from allergies, I feel your pain. Hubby and I all have allergies, as well as all 3 of the kids. All 3 kids have had allergy shots, and it has helped them dramatically. To find out more about allergy shots (immunotherapy) click here.

And please pass the box of tissues!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The flu-is it a big deal?


As many of you know, I like to keep current on medical issues, especially anything concerning asthma. A recent report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) shows that many deaths from the flu can be prevented. Click here to read the story.

The report says many deaths could be prevented if you vaccinate your child and follow up with influenza anti viral drugs if they do become sick. The flu vaccine isn't 100% effective, especially for kids with high risk medical conditions. (I believe kids with asthma would be included in that group.)

What is a little scary is that almost half of the deaths of children (under 18) happened to kids that were less than 5 years of age. For those of you with kids that age, you know that it seems like they are always sick. They get over one illness, and it starts all over again.

What is shocking about this report is that half of the children who died were otherwise healthy. The other half of the children suffered from a variety of conditions such as neurological disorder, pulmonary (lung) disease, genetic disorder or heart defect.

I have enough problems keeping my kids healthy and alive. After 12 hospitalizations for my kids with their asthma (and 2 VERY close calls with death) I am a little shell shocked. The kids were sick last week when I got my flu shot, but now that they are feeling better, they will be getting the flu shot.

What a fun family outing! Fortunately, after years of allergy shots, they are used to needles so the shot won't bother them too much. But just the same, I think we'll stop for ice cream on the way home. Chocolate seems to make everything better.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Asthma medication and cavities

(Google Images)

I had a friend ask me if I had heard about asthma medications causing cavities, so I thought I would see what I could find.

There is a dentist in Nebraska that has some information on his website concerning asthma medications and cavities. He has a scientific study from 2001 that shows a link between asthma and cavities. To read it, click here.

The study shows that albuterol decreases saliva, which will lead to an increase in cavities. However, it would probably depend on how often you are using your inhaler. It's not recommended to use it more than twice a week. If you need albuterol more often than that, you should be on a daily, maintenance medication.

I always rinse my mouth out after taking asthma medication too. There are other side effects that can happen, especially if you are taking a daily, maintenance medication that can cause thrush. Thrush is a not-so-fun yeast infection of your mouth that can be treated by rinsing your mouth with a special medication. To learn more about it, click here.

From what I can find, it looks like taking care of your mouth and teeth by visiting the dentist is the best way to treat this. We go every 6 months, and are also careful to brush and floss. If you have any questions, ask your dentist the next time you are visiting him or her for a checkup.

Also, be sure to rinse your mouth out and spit out the water after using your daily, maintenance medication or your rescue inhaler.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Blow drivers cause asthma? Huh?

(Photo from

I've heard some weird things over the years, but this one takes the cake. According to an article in Reader's Digest, appliances and power lines all generate magnetic fields. They say that there was a recent study showing that women who avoided appliances (hair dryers, microwaves and vacuum cleaners) may lower the chances of their child developing asthma.

Huh? I had to go back several times and re-read that. That makes no sense to me at all. How can magnetic fields cause asthma? I would like to read that study.

On the positive side, if you are expecting a baby, maybe you could use this as an excuse to hire someone to do your housework. If you can't be around microwaves, vacuums and hair dryers, then I guess you'll have to hire someone to do it for you, right?! You wouldn't want to increase the odds that your child will have asthma!

Maybe that's my problem. All three of my kids have asthma, and I did all the cooking and cleaning while I was pregnant. Except for the fact that I was on bedrest for five months with both of my last two pregnancies. That meant not getting up except to use the bathroom or to shower. I was definitely not vacuuming or using the microwave. So how do account for something like that in their study?

I say that's the radiation=asthma claim is the weirdest thing I've heard yet. It seems like moms are always to blame for everything that goes wrong. We can't have caffeine or Advil when we're expecting. And anything that goes wrong in the pregnancy can be our fault.

Well, guess what? Asthma can also be genetic, which is how all three of my kids ended up with asthma. We have asthma on both sides of our family (grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, and cousins) In fact, in my family 11 out of 20 people that have asthma.

I guess what it comes down to is being careful about what you read about asthma. I am reserving judgement on this Reader's Digest article until I can track down the research. Don't panic and think you can't use a hair dryer for 6 months. But if you are pregnant and want to use the article to get a little help with cooking and cleaning, I can't say that I blame you!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lifting car off of motorcylist in Utah

(AP photo)

If you have been on the internet the last couple of days, you have already seen the story of a group of people lifting the car off a motorcyclist in Utah. Click here for a link to the video.

I watched this on the news last night, and to say I was shocked would be an understatement. It makes you think "what would I do?" I know I would have been one of the first ones there, and been on my belly like the lady who looks under the car to see if the motorcyclist was still alive.

The fire on the video is the scariest part, and where there's fire, there's smoke. And that's one of the things that can set off an asthma attack. Some others that are less well known are fear, anger (or any strong emotion) and stress.

I think it would be fair to say that all of the people lifting the car off the motorcyclist felt all of those emotions! I hope none of them had asthma or suffered an asthma attack from it. What a shocking situation to find yourself in!

I heard an update on the news that the motorcyclist will recover. He is badly hurt with a broken pelvis, other broken bones and road rash, but he will live.

It's one of those stories that I love to hear. There are so many tragedies on the news every night, it's nice to hear one about how good other people can be. To all of you who put yourself at risk (because no one knew when the car would blow up,) I add my voice to the chorus of everyone else who says THANK YOU!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tips to avoiding the flu

Well, illness has already struck our house (and school just started!) Son #2, Kitty and Hubby have had sore throats, fevers, nausea and diarreah. I am the only one who didn't get sick-knock on wood.

So, how can you keep from getting sick? Well, Lysol is my best friend right now. As well as lots of cleaning. I have a found a few other things over the years.

  • Each family member should have their own tube of toothpaste. (Toothpaste isn't that expensive, it's less expensive than getting sick and paying a co-pay for the doctor)

  • Keep each toothbrush on a separate shelf (and please don't keep it next to the sink where water from washing your hands can flip bacteria all over your toothbrush)

  • Use fresh hand towels daily

  • Use a new glass daily for drinking water

  • Throw away your toothbrush once you get sick so you don't re-infect yourself

  • Get a new toothbrush at the end of the illness (that's right folks-two new toothbrushes)

  • Wash, wash, wash your hands

  • Don't touch your face with your hands

I have used these with much success over the years. Someone has to stay healthy so I can take care of everyone that's sick! And nothing is worse than being sick while one of the kids are sick and is in the hospital. Since I have asthma, as well as all three of my kids, it's easy for me to get sick when they get sick. Many of the 12 times they were hospitalized with asthma and pneumonia, I was sick with pneumonia too. But somehow was able to keep going.

So, just a few tips. If you have used something else that has worked, or have any other ideas, please feel free to comment!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Buying a oximeter (sat monitor)


What is this? An oximeter (or sat monitor) can tell you how much oxygen is in the blood. You should be as close to 100 as possible. From our experience, we found that our kids would be admitted to the hospital when their 'sat' was 89 or below. My two youngest kids-daughter Kitty and Son #2- have been hospitalized 12 times with asthma.

How times have changed! We used to think having a sat monitor was a luxury. We would borrow one from a neighbor. She inherited her sat monitor from a neighbor who passed away after suffering all his life from Cystic Fibrosis. Now you can buy one at the local corner drugstore.

That sat monitor was a lifesaver for us (literally.) I could check the kids as they slept, because their oxygen levels always dropped while they were asleep. We were warned about this from a respiratory therapist during one of the times Son #2 was in the hospital. He said, "don't relax when he falls asleep and think 'he's finally stopped coughing and can sleep'." He said people with breathing problems can die in their sleep because their oxygen level just keeps dropping until there's not enough oxygen in their system.

So, I spent many a nights pacing the floor and checking my kid's oxygen level with my sat monitor, once it reached 91, we would head to the hospital. I knew once they were in the ER and fell asleep, their level would continue to drop. That would be captured on their sat monitors at the hospital and then the doctors would admit my son or daughter. The nurses can set the alarms to go off when the oxygen level drops too low, and the respiratory therapists and nurses can take over. That's what they're trained for.

Sat monitors (oximeters) have really dropped in price. The hand held unit we always used still sells for $800, but you can find a finger oximeter for as little as $39 at a nation wide drugstore. They even have sizes just for kids.

If your kids have asthma, and you feel like you are always going to the doctor, emergency room, or hospital, I would suggest buying a sat monitor (oximeter.) Especially if you are just learning about asthma. It has saved my kid's life more than once. Talk to your doctor about purchasing one and see what he thinks. He can tell you how they work and when you should bring your child to the doctor's office or emergency room.

The great thing about technology is that it's always changing, and prices are dropping. So, happy shopping!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Dancing with asthma?

(Google Images)

It seems like I can never get away from asthma! This week I attended a cooking with vegetables class. As I was thumbing through the Health Monitor magazine they handed out, I saw an article called "Dancing with Asthma."

I have to admit that I don't watch Dancing with the Stars, but apparently one of the dancers on the show, Anna Trebunskaya, has asthma. The article tells her story of living with asthma. Originally from Russia, she said her asthma was made worse by living in an industrialized area. Once she moved to California, her breathing improved instantly due to the ocean air. (She must not live too close to LA, because anyone who's been there has probably experiened their bad air due to all the cars!)

Anna uses breathing exercises that she says trains the lungs to take in more oxygen. The website where this is available is based in Australia and is a partnership with two drug company, four universities, and two medical researcher institutes. Click here for the link

I tried the exercises, they were hard for me. Let me know if any of you found them helpful. I have found it is helpful to to try control my breathing during an asthma attack. The faster and more shallow I breathe, the worse I feel.

But if Anna is a world class dancer and can keep her breathing and asthma under control, it's worth a shot. Now, if only I had a dancer's body like she does, that would be nice too!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pneumonia vaccine

(Google Images)

This is what you DON'T want your lungs to look like.

So should you get the pneumonia vaccine (Pneumovax 23?) According to, people ages 2-65 should get the vaccine if they are risk of developing pneumonia because of another disease (such as asthma, diabetes, lung disease or heart disease, alcoholism, liver or kidney disease.)

You should only get the pneumonia vaccine once. In special circumstances, they may give it again, but there is more of a possibility of more serious and frequent side effects. To read their advice, click here.

Son #2 had the vaccine when he was younger because he had already been hospitalized several times with pneumonia. His doctor recommended the vaccine, so we had it done. A couple of months later he wound up in the hospital (again) - with pneumonia! I was shocked! The nurse in the Pediatrics unit said "Well, it doesn't work on all strains of pneumonia and it doesn't work on all people." Just our luck.

I think if you have asthma, it's worth getting the vaccine. Since I have asthma, I decided to get the vaccine, as well as my daughter, Kitty, who also has asthma. We need all the help we can get since our lungs can often become inflamed and irritated. What is a cold to normal people often turns into pneumonia for us.

Check with your doctor to see what he recommends. After you (or your kids) get your pneumonia shot, take yourself (or your kids) out for a treat! Chocolate makes everything feel better!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Flu shots for asthma

(Google Images)

Funny cartoon about flu shots. It's that time of year again, I am waiting for the supply to come in at my local health department. If I get mine at the doctor's office, I have to first pay for a well check up for all 5 of us ($25 each-so $125) or I can wait for the health department to get their shipment.

I think I'll get mine at the local health department. I know they have the flu mist, but people with asthma aren't allowed to have the flu mist. Click here to find out why

Asthma falls into the category of "chronic medical condition" and the mist is made from a live, weakened virus. So it's not recommended for those of us with asthma.

But what's the big deal about a case of the flu anyway? Well, if you have asthma, you are more likely to develop pneumonia. Click here for more info

Two of my kids have been hospitalized a total of 12 different times for asthma and pneumonia. And it's not fun. In fact, it's one of the scariest things you can see as a parent.

So, be brave, get a flu shot and protect yourself! It may help you stay away from the hospital too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

School classroom and asthma

(Google Images)

School started this week, and we went to Back to School Night to meet my daughter's teacher. Of course we had to fill out the emergency form listing her asthma, and talk to her teacher about that.

While I was there, I was able to see what Kitty's classroom looked like. I was relieved to see that it looked clean and uncluttered. (Yes, I know it is the start of the school year, so it's clean NOW...) but I was happy to see that there weren't piles of stuffed animals, a furry rug or oversized pillows in the classroom. I did see a couple of beanbag chairs for the kids to sit in while they read, but they were a smooth vinyl, and not fabric. That's a better surface to repel dirt and dust.

Also, the class was free of pets except for a salt water fish tank. Do some classrooms still have class pets? Lately, they're showing a Target commercial where the teacher has a guinea pig that she says she'll send home with each student to take care of. No thanks. I thought those days were over. Please keep pets out of the classroom!

Has anyone had an experience lately with a classroom pet? I'm curious to see if other schools allow those, ours is a pet free zone. Anyone had to babysit their child's classroom pet over the weekend? Pets and asthma don't usually go together, but each person is different. We don't have any pets, but do seem to be able to dogsit our neighbor's miniature schnauzer.

Let me know if any of you have run into problems with pets in the classroom