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Monday, January 31, 2011

Pharmacies and free samples

Pharmacies and freesamples
Don't let the title confuse you, they are unrelated, but happened on the same day.

Is it a good thing when I walk up to the pharmacy window, and the pharmacy tech immediately turns around and grabs my refill out of the box- without me saying anything other than 'good morning?' Is that a good or bad thing that they know me? We have 5 family members who get prescriptions filled there, and it's not like it's a little corner pharmacy. It's inside a national chain store, so they have plenty of patients.

Of course, all 5 of us have allergies, and 4 of the 5 of us have asthma. But I didn't realize we were going in for refills THAT often. I guess it's a good thing that they know us, and can take care of us....

Later that day, we were at a warehouse store loading up on groceries. I managed to pry Kitty and Son #2 off the computer to accompany me. Lucky them, it was free sample day. I glanced at all the samples, none of them seemed a problem. But I turned around to say something to one of the kids, and noticed Son #2 was about to put a piece of a granola bar/power bar in his mouth. Think slow motion-me waving my arms and running towards him, fixated on the sample nearing his mouth, yelling 'nooooooooooo!' He was a little shocked, and quickly pulled the sample down from his mouth. I panted, 'did you check for tree nuts?' We examined the bar, but couldn't tell. We went back to the vender, but she didn't know what was in the sample. I snatched the box to read the label, and sure enough-there was a tree nut allergy warning.

That was a close call, Son #2 is usually good at checking for tree nuts. It's surprising how many places they show up.

That's the one scary thing about allergies and asthma, you can never let your guard down. I haven't had to use the Epi Pen yet, the time one of the kids had an anaphylactic reaction, we were only a block away from Asthma Doctor.

People laugh when I say my goal in life is to keep my kids alive, but if you have kids with food and other allergies, and asthma, you know what it's like. 12 hospitalizations for asthma have been 12 too many. No wonder I have gray hairs....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Paranoid about sick people

I am paranoid about sick people

Yes, it's a fact. I was talking with a friend online last night about germs and sick people. She has it much worse than I do. She has a daughter with a rare muscular disorder that also affects her breathing. The daughter is dependent on a tracheotomy tube and is wheelchair bound. She is also hibernating for the winter inside her nice, safe house-away from sick people.

I can't say to her that "I know how you feel" because I don't. I can commiserate to a degree. And I'm not saying what we go through compares with their struggles. The problem with asthma is that any respiratory infection is magnified. There's no such thing as a simple cold-for us anyway. The minute I hear someone coughing, we get up and leave. I know it sounds dramatic, but I can't expose my kids to other sick people.

When my kids get sick, it means a trip to Asthma Doc (I love that man for keeping my kids alive the last 11 years!) Often times, we end up with antibiotics and steroids. Of course that's on top of their maintenance medication and additional breathing treatments with the nebulizer.

Sometimes that isn't enough, and we go to the next step-which is a shot of Decadron. More steroids! Often times that will keep the kids out of the Emergency Department or out of the hospital.

Sometimes I know I'm in over my head, so we head to the Emergency Department. I am more than happy to let the professionals take over (of course I watch them like a hawk to make sure the kids have oxygen on, then I quiz the medical personnel about what medication and doses they're giving. We have had medication errors)

Admittance to the hospital always means more steroids (usually a Salumederol IV) and oxygen.

So, if I get up and leave an activity because someone is coughing, don't take it personnally. Some of us have had more experience than we would like with hospitals. If you are sick, please stay home! You may just be irritated by a little sniffle and cough, but for some of us it can turn deadly.

Please keep your germs to yourself.

Thank you,


My life as an asthma mom

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sick again

Sick again

Or as Son #2 says, "What else is new?" We were out of town and returned to find Son #2 coughing. I asked him how long he had been coughing, and he said,
"I dunno." He seems so used to it, it's not a big deal.

Of course for me, it's a warning that he's about to have a big drop on his peak flow meter. When I hear him cough, it instantly makes me anxious, I start quizzing him on his peak flow number and ask him if he's taking all his medications. About a week later, we were at Asthma Doctor's office, getting Son #2's Xolair shot. Asthma Doctor could tell something was wrong by the way Son #2 was acting. He was listless and not his usual joking self. He was starting to cough up some yummy colored phlegm too.

Asthma doctor knows Son #2 all too well. So does Pediatrician. We don't see the pediatrican that often, but he says, "I know what he's like, I wouldn't be too concerned about other kids who are sick like this, but I know he drops really hard really fast."

So, we're back on steroids and an antibiotic. He is feeling lousy, but doesn't want to miss high school. (Who would want to stay home when you can hang out with your buddies?!) I am making sure he is doing his nebulizer treatment before school starts. Otherwise, I know I'll just get to work and he'll call because he's not feeling well and he'll tell me his inhaler doesn't seem to be working.

Funny thing about kids, they're all different. Son #2 doesn't seem to do well using inhalers. He gets so sick so quickly, he just seems to do better on the nebulizer. Oftentimes, he can't breathe deep enough to use his inhaler.

The other thing is that even though it's been 11 years since he was diagnosed with asthma, I don't think it ever gets easier. Not for us, not when his asthma is so severe. We have had way too many bad outcomes when he gets sick. I sometimes envy parents whose kids get a cold, and that's all it is-just a cold. With asthma, everything is worse.

Oh well, it could always be worse, right?!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

More oxygen

More about oxygen

We were with a family member again in the hospital this weekend. I was happy to see he had a bubbler with his oxygen (it helps keep the nasal passages moist which helps prevent bloody noses and irritation).

I also noticed the oxygen tubing now comes with short gray padded coverings which fit over the ear area. Often times when someone is on oxygen, the ears can get irritated from the tubing.

It reminded me of one of the times one of the kids were in the hospital. When the kids are little, often times they will have little sticky pads on their cheeks which allows the tubing to adhere. That way, the tubing isn't sliding all over their face. The only problem comes in removing the thick pads from the kid's cheeks.

One of the times Son #2 was in the hospital, it came time for discharge. The male nurse came up and grabbed and edge and ripped the pads of Son #2's cheeks. You might imagine how painful it was, it left a welt and a red mark for several days.

Of course I complained about it the next time Son #2 was in the hospital. One of the female nurses said, "Oh! That's terrible. A better way to do it is to soak a washcloth in warm water and hold that over the pads for about 10 minutes. Then they'll peel right off." When it came time to discharge, the male nurse came in and reached for the pads. Not so fast! I told him. I explained what the other nurse had told us and he was a little miffed and walked out of the room. Is he crazy? There's a less painful way to remove the pads, but I'm going to let him rip them off Son #2's pads so the nurse doesn't get hurt feelings? Wrong.

This is where you protect your kids. I don't care if the nurse had hurt feelings, I'm doing what's best for my kis. We applied the warm wash cloth first, then the pads gently peeled right off.

Don't be afraid to ask questions or be a part of the decision making process. Question what medication they're giving your kids, and what doses too. People make mistakes. One new respiratory therapist came in to give Kitty a treatment and used the wrong dose.

It's your children and it's your insurance money. You have a right to ask questions and see if there's another way to do things, not to mention double checking what the staff is doing.

Hopefully none of you have little ones in the hospital right now. Every one of the 12 times our kids were admitted was heartwrenching, not to mention scary. But this is why I'm doing this blog-to give out a little advice of things we have learned over the years.

Luck to all

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter and cold air

Winter and cold air

I am officially tired of winter, and especially since this is an abnormally cold spell for us.

One of my triggers is cold temperatures, not just the cold weather, but anything cold. Ice cream, smoothies, etc. However, I am NOT giving up my beloved Baskin Robbins chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Lately, I have been having a hard time in the mornings, when the temperature is hovering around 10 degrees. I can get about five steps outside my car, and instantly can feel my lungs tighten up and I start coughing. Usually, I wear a scarf and can breathe through that. I forgot yesterday, so here's a fun tip. It looks a little strange on adults, but the kids love it.

Call it what you will, but you cup one or both hands over your nose and mouth and breath in like Darth Vader. It's just enough to warm up the air before you breath it, which helps stop the coughing and asthma overreaction of my lungs.

If you're in a pinch, it works great to allow you to get from your car to the building you are traveling to. Kids can even do it out on the playground if they're having a hard time.

We have several more months of cold weather, but it should be warming up to above freezing this week! Heat wave! Better grab the sunscreen-

Seriously, just another fun tip if cold temperatures happen to be a trigger for you. Happy breathing!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Asthma Video Game

Asthma Video Game

I am always on the look out for something new, and I found a fun video game called Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus, it's a Super Nintendo video game. This isn't a new game, it came out in 1996, but it's new to me.

Players assume the role of a dinosaur with asthma and must keep their asthma under control. But there is always evil lurking, and this comes in the form of deadly dust clouds. There are even cold viruses shot through the air by Sneezers.

The dinosaur goes through a series of activities; monitoring their peak flow, taking their medication when needed, using an inhaler correctly, following a sick day plan and avoiding triggers like dust, smoke and pollen. And of course those nasty cold viruses.

One study showed that kids with asthma who played this video game at home were able to reduce urgent care and emergency department visits by 40%! Now I wouldn't mind if my kids were playing video games if they were learning at the same time, having better health and less emergency visits.

Everytime one of the kids were discharged from the hospital, I used to tell the nurses in Pediatrics, "It's not that I don't love you, but I hope I don't see you again for a LONG time!"

I looked for this game online, there was a good selection of games available for sale. I wouldn't mind getting one for my kid and letting them try it out.

The main thing is to keep our kids healthy and alive when they have asthma, right? And if it involves them having to play a video game to learn how to manage their asthma, then so be it! Just as long as they practice their piano lessons first.....

Friday, January 7, 2011

Flash back Friday- mold

Flash Back Friday - mold

So,this is what you get when you let leaking water problems go for too long. We had an attached sunroom on our previous house and found out (too late) that the roof was leaking. It affected the ceiling and walls as well. Our historic home was built with cinderblock, so the wallboard and insulation were removed so the workers could get to the cinderblock. The cinderblock was sanded and bleached, and a negative air pressure machine was installed in the room. (It apparently draws moisture out of a room.) Then the cinderblock was sanded and bleached again.

The sunroom was sealed off from the rest of the house, and the outside entrance was covered in heavy duty plastic and the biohazard sticker. The workers also wore bio hazard suits and high end respirators. And my kids used that as a playroom?!

I discovered the leak one day while it was raining. Kitty had just been released from the hospital for asthma and pneumonia. While in the sunroom, I noticed water dripping from the INSIDE of the upper window ledge. Hhmm, I'm no expert, but that didn't look good. I climbed on a chair and pushed on the ceiling, which felt soft. Again, not a good sign.

I called Hubby (out of town of course, everything always happens when he travels for work....) Then I called the insurance company because I thought it was more than we could fix on our own.

Funny thing about insurance companies. After an assessor came out and they began the repairs, we received a cancellation notice! So, they can take my money for 20 years, but if I make a claim, they cancel me?!

Just a word of warning, insurance companies don't like to deal with mold. Get an estimate if you have water damage. If you can fix it for less than your deductible, consider doing it so they don't cancel your coverage. We also found out other insurance companies would cover us, but with a rate increase. They actually black-balled us for 3 years, even after we moved. We were considered a risk for some reason.

So, if you happen to see any of those orange colored water spots on your ceiling, get them checked out-pronto! The longer the leak goes, the worse it is.

And the last thing you need when it comes to asthma is mold.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tip 5- New pillows!

Tip #5- New pillows

Cause and effect are a difficult thing to try to figure out. One of the things we still struggle with is what is causing allergies and asthma, often we have little flare ups in sneezing and wheezing.

I've noticed that lately I have been waking up every morning with a tight chest and a few coughs.

Kitty is also sneezing and wheezing, so I have gone through her room to try and determine the cause. The bedset has been freshly laundered, the curtains have been washed, of course I vacuum a couple of times a week, especially under the bed.

I started researching online about how often we should replace our pillows. Most websites recommended replacing pillows once a year. Apparently, body and hair oils accumulate on your pillow. Not to mention sweat and drool. Doesn't that sound fun?!

So, I decided to try new pillows. Of course Hubby said, "Didn't we just buy new pillows?" Well, 'just' to him has a different meaning to me. As in, didn't you 'just' cut your hair (yes, 6 months ago!)

So, off we went to the store for new hypoallergenic pillows. I actually decided to get new pillows for the whole family. This time of year, everyone is doing 'white sales' which includes sheets, towels and pillows. So, they were fairly inexpensive.

And I think we have success! I actually woke up this morning without a tight chest and without coughing.

So, just another tip, try new pillows. I feel like I have a second job as a detective, always trying to figure out what's causing the lastest problem. And I think this one may have worked.

Happy shopping!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Tip#4 roller shades in bedrooms

Tip #4 - Roller shades in bedrooms

This may not be for everyone, but it's something that seems to help our family with asthma. They're simple and functional, and when they roll up, there's no where for dust to settle.

The problem with having beautiful plantation shutters or 2" wood blinds, is that the horizontal surface is an unbelievable dust magnet. I don't know about you, but my weekend to-d0 list doesn't include 'spend 3 hours cleaning all the blinds in the house'.

I do have 2" wood blinds in my kitchen, but they came with the house. It's a little different having them in the kitchen versus having them in a bedroom and sleeping directly underneath them.

The roller shades are quick to wipe down, and it's easy to wash the windows too because the blinds roll up most of the way.

There are different options for roller shades. Some people adorn them with striped fabric, old maps, etc. I sewed pom pom fringe on the bottom of Kitty's blinds. As long as they can still roll up, I say let your imagination run wild.

I think it's fairly obvious to use roller shades in bedrooms when dealing with allergies and asthma. I am surprised by how many people have never thought of all the dust building up on horizontal blinds. Take a peek at yours and run your finger along the slat, see what you find. As an Interior Designer, I pick apart every nuance of my house, looking for cleaner and better options as far as furnishings and decorating. I'll continue to share any little tidbits I have found along our journey.

Keep checking back!