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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

School nurses and asthma

School nurses and asthma

So what's the Winning With Asthma? It's a way to help out the school nurses by having other people know what to do if a student has an asthma attack.

I just read an article in our local paper, and I am stunned by how hard the school nurses work. I know they don't just take care of asthma, they have to deal with students that have diabetes, seizure disorders, ADHD, and developmental delays just to list a few.

Then, what about the student who falls and hits their head while on the monkey bars? Or someone who falls of the swing and breaks their arm?

In our area, there are 3 school districts. One school district has a nurse/student ratio of 1:6,004, another has 1:4,222 and another has 1:7,643.

What do you do if your son or daughter has an asthma attack? Is the school nurse there? For Kitty, she's fine as long as she has an asthma attack on Thursday between 8:00 am and 12:00 pm. For Son #2, he can have an asthma attack on Mondays between 8:00 am and 12:00 pm. That's when the school nurse is there at their schools. (Like you can ever plan a convenient time to have an asthma attack!)

So, what do you do? I carry my cell phone everywhere I go, usually it's me that's on call. I run over to the school to help out, leaving work or my grocery cart in the middle of the aisle.

There is an option for school teachers, recess guards and secretaries. (or anyone else that wants to learn!) The Utah Department of Health has a program called "Winning with Asthma", it's an online training that takes about 20 minutes. It was originally made for coaches, but anyone who works with kids should take it. It explains what asthma is, shows a student having an asthma attack, and shows how to treat it. After you complete the training, if you put your address in, they will send you a free clipboard that has the warning signs of an asthma attack printed on the back, and when to call 911.

I would send it to your child's teachers or anyone else at the school who helps your child (or scouts, or recreation sports) I sent it to Kitty's soccer coaches. I also sent it to her school teacher - last year she had 7 kids in her class with asthma! It might give you a little peace of mind to know that people taking care of your child during the day know what to do.

Log on and do the training, then let me know what you think. I'm always anxious for feedback but don't get many comments on the blog. Feel free to leave a comment, I don't bite!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Diabetes and asthma?!

Diabetes and asthma?! I was just reading on Web md about a new study released by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. It says that asthma may increase your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease. Great, one more thing to worry about! I'm not sure if this link will work - It seems that the inflammation is the common link with asthma, diabetes and heart disease. The link between COPD and diabetes has been shown in many studies. (COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema). So they say that the link between asthma and diabetes is "plausible". They also say steroids can throw someone into a diabetic state. But it doesn't say for how long someone is using steroids. Some people do a short 5 day burst, others use a low dose as a "preventative measure". I guess the caution here would be just to keep an eye on yourself or your kids. Webmd lists the usual symptoms for diabetes as increased thirst and urination, blurred vision and fatigue. If you suspect something, check with your doctor. Just because you have asthma doesn't mean that's all you get to deal with. You can have other medical problems as well. Just a happy thought to start your week out with......

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mold Dogs

Mold Dogs

I was at a performance for hubby and Son #1's bagpipe and celtic band, when I saw an ad for "Mold Dogs" pop up on the screen listing sponsors.

What in the world is a "mold dog?" I went to their website, and it said they apparently have a dog that is trained to sniff out and detect mold. It would be a less messy way to detect where the mold is in the walls than what we had to do-have the certified contractor rip away parts of the ceiling and wall until there was no more mold! (Of course they were wearing hazmat suits at the time and had professional grade respirators on)

It's well know that dogs have a much keener sense of smell and taste then humans. I once read an article that said dogs don't just smell a cake baking, they can smell the eggs, sugar, vanilla, etc.

So it makes sense that they could detect mold. Other dogs have been trained to detect cancer, seizures, even death.

I can't vouch for the company, I don't know anything about them , but if it looks interesting I am including the link. I hope I NEVER need to call them, I've had more than my share of mold issues in this house and our previous house. But if you're curious, here's the link-

Woof! I mean good luck!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Allergy shots

Are allergy shots working?

Hubby and I were talking to Son #1 last night, our college aged son is moving out and the new state he's going to is VERY green. Which makes me think allergies. Great.

Of course as a mom I am worried, and he is on his last vial of serum for his allergy shots. He's been doing shots for 5 years now (and he never made it past once a week injections.) Some people are lucky enough to decrease to every other week, but not us. When we started allergy shots for each one of the kids, they had to go twice a week, and get 2 injections each time. Yup, 4 injections per week.

It sometimes feels like we live there. In fact last Friday morning, Son #1 went to shots at Asthma Doctor's office to see Amazing Shot Nurse before work. Then after school, Hubby picked up Kitty to take her for allergy shots while Son #2 was getting his Xolair injection. (He's already finished is 5 years worth of allergy shots.)

But, they seem to be helping. We can stop and pet Wonderful Neighbor's miniature schnauzer dog without sneezing, wheezing and coughing.

When we were talking to Son #1 last night about moving, he was saying, "you know my nose doesn't get stuffed up anymore from allergies. I still have to blow my nose, but not like I used to, when I blew my nose so many times a day that I always got a bloody nose."

Hhmm, so all those years and all that money was worth it?! Don't get me wrong, he still has to take Zyrtec year round. But allergy shots seem to have made a difference.

Sometimes allergy medicine isn't enough, and they may need allergy shots to help reduce symptoms (and to help them feel better!) Having allergies really stinks. People think it's just like a cold. Only colds go away in a week, allergies last for months or years.

Allergy shots are an option, they've worked for all 3 of our kids. I was considering them myself....I don't want to feel left out you know!

To all of you getting allergy shots, keep going! They work and it will be worth it in the long run.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Letting go....

Letting go

So, as the kids get older, how do you let go? I say "kids" but I actually have a son in college. And another son is driving. So how do you let them take care of themselves and asthma? Without hovering?

We've been dealing with asthma for 11 years now. And it's been an adventure. Countless trips to the doctor, Emergency department and there are the 14 times they have been hospitalized. So it isn't as though I am worrying for no reason.

But there comes a time when you can't look over their shoulder and watch what they are doing. They know about asthma and what their triggers (or what causes their asthma) to flare up. They know what medicine they are supposed to take. And they know how to call in refills and drive to the pharmacy and pick up the next prescription.

They can even make doctors appointments all by themselves! But do they recognize when they are in trouble, and do they do something about it?

The sound of coughing still makes my heart race. Sometimes the kids will say "Chill mom! I just swallowed wrong!"

There comes a time when you have to let them take care of their own asthma. Make sure they know what bothers them and will set off an asthma attack. Make sure they know how to treat it-how many puffs of their inhaler. Or where the medication is for their nebulizer.

Then, let them go. Along with teaching the kids to cook, clean and all of the other fun things of growing up comes the chance to take care of their asthma.

It can be scary to let them take that big step, because not taking care of their asthma can be very dangerous. Sit down with your son or daughter and discuss asthma. See how comfortable they are taking care of it. Make sure they know what to do and who to call.

Then, maybe keep an eye on them, just to make yourself feel better............a little spying never hurt anyone, right?

They'll get the hang of it one day, until then, I'll just "check in" to see how they're doing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tip #7 Containing Clutter

Tip #7 Containing clutter

One of the things I found that helps reduce dust in my house is to keep everything organized and enclosed. These cd containers are from one of my favorite stores, IKEA. And they're cheap! I think I paid $3.99 for the two pack. They have a lot of fun colors which are important to an Interior designer! I have a stand that holds my tv, and underneath are several different shelves, which I put the boxes in. I have my music organized according to category (I worked in a music store while I was in college, so it's habit to keep it categorized and alphabetized.) It works out great, the tv stand is easy to keep clean, the surfaces wipe right off. And the boxes keep everything organized and it really reduces the dust.
Of course, I pull the boxes out and dust the shelves and tops of the boxes. Anything I can do to cut down on triggers for our asthma, I will do it. It seems to work better than a bunch of cd's on a shelf collecting dust. But, do whatever works for your home or apartment.

And it doesn't have to be expensive. I like IKEA because I am in my 'modern' phase of decorating my home. It's a fun store, but a oversized warehouse, so wear comfortable shoes if you go. And take a snack and water bottle. Really.

Funny thing is, everytime we are on the freeway, my husband all of a sudden wants to talk to me about something important-just as we're passing the exit to IKEA. Hhmm, that sounds coincidental, doesn't it?! I think he's been dragged through there one too many times. And even the kids roll their eyes when I say, "I just want to take a quick look......"
They know me all too well.
Anyway, just one more easy idea to control clutter and reduce dust.
Happy shopping!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Flash Back Friday

Flash Back Friday

Most people I talk to about asthma don't seem to think it's a very big deal. I was thinking back to one of the times Son #2 was being discharged from the hospital after a 3 day stay with pnemonia.

Poor little guy had red, puffy cheeks from steroid IV's, he was coming home on oxygen, but he was alive! The nurse who was taking us out to the car (they are required to accompany all patients to their car when they are discharged) was telling me about her brother, who had asthma. He was having an asthma attack and his wife was driving him to the emergency room for treatment. He stopped breathing in the car. They could not revive him.

That really made me pause, because how many times have I taken my kids to the emergency room? (Over 15 times at least) Luckily they have never stopped breathing in the car, but we had a couple of close calls.

Did you know that 11 people die every day in the U. S. from an asthma attack? I don't want to be one of those statistics.

Watch for symptoms-
  • being short of breath
  • difficulty talking or walking
  • grey skin tone or dark colored lips or fingernails (Pet peeve-when people say "blue" lips. My kids lips have never been blue, but they look VERY dark, like they are wearing burgundy lipstick. )
  • skin pulling in around collar bone, base of neck, or rib cage
  • nostrils flaring
  • fast breathing
  • can't stop coughing
If you see any of these symtoms, get to the ER - FAST! Don't add to the statistic of dying in the car on the way to the ER or being found dead on the floor as you are crawling for your inhaler.

Keep on top of your asthma by using your controller medication - every day! Whether you think you need it or not. (You can't feel swelling in your lungs, but it's there) Talk to your doctor about your treatment plan, what is best for you? What do you need?

You can control your asthma and live a happy life. Just take it seriously!

Happily, it's been 3 years since Son #2 or Kitty has been hospitalized. We had 12 separate hospitalizations, but I guess since they haven't seen us for a while they probably gave away our corner suite!

It's just as well, I was getting tired of hospital food anyway.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pediatrician or Asthma Doc?

Pediatrician or Asthma Doc?

Son #2 is sick again, it started over the weekend of course. Sore throat, stomach problems, headache and a lovely cough. So, I have him check his peak flow number (little tube you blow into and it measures your lung capacity) His normal is around 350, he was down to 270. It's a big drop for most people, but normal for him when he gets sick.

So, out comes the Xopenex to start breathing treatments with the nebulizer. But then I wonder, is it just a respiratory infection, or is it strep?

Asthma Doc doesn't swab for strep, but he knows Son #2 like one of his own kids, we are in there so often and he has been his doctor for 11 years now. Hhmm. What to do.....

I decided to go to the pediatrician for a quick throat swab. It isn't the pediatrican we normally see, and this doctor didn't seem to read his chart. I made sure I brought up the fact that he has asthma. He seemed a unfazed, the other pediatrician will be very cautious and says "I know what he does! He's not like most kids who have asthma"

This pediatrican casually asked Son #2, "so you have asthma, huh?" Uh, yeah. I'll say. It doesn't worry me as much now that he gets Xopenex injections. I would normally be very worried about him ending up in the hospital. In addition to the throat swab, I just wanted to make sure his lungs sounded okay. Usually crackling sounds mean pneumonia, and the sound of a balloon rubbing together means bronchitis.

But, good news. His lungs sound good, and no strep. After 12 hospitalizations for the kids, I would rather head to the Doc and make sure they're okay, rather than wait too long and end up in the ER. So, another bout of illness- I'm still watching him to make sure he doesn't get any worse. I'll just keep my fingers crossed and keep doing treatments. Fun times!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tip #6

Tip #6 Air conditioning (instead of swamp coolers)

I found some great images from Google images this morning. The first photo is a swamp cooler, that's what I grew up with. You remember those-you have a water line from the hose on the back of the house, it goes up to the swamp cooler and the cooler pads act as 'filters' and send cool, moist air into the house.

Great, right?! Well, as long as you keep the filter pads changed and the unit doesn't leak and cause water damage to your roof. How often do you go up on your roof during a hot summer day to change the pads? Often times people don't bother, so you are blowing air through slimy filter covers into your house. Take a deep breath! Aaahhhh.

So when we bought our first house (years ago) Father In Law talked us into installing central air. "That's how much????!!!!" They're more expensive than swamp coolers, so I was very doubtful. Then I learned the differences between swamp coolers and air conditioning.

First, when you have a swamp cooler, you need to keep the windows open a bit. This can be a bad thing to do if pollen levels are really high (hello sneezing and wheezing time!) or if it's a bad air quality day. Where we live, our home is in the bottom of a 'bowl', so the dirty colder air gets trapped where we live in the valley, the warmer clean air is up above us at the ski resorts. We have a unique set of mountains here that are beautiful, but being surrounded by them at the bottom of the bowl means we get dirty air some days. It's usually worse in the winter, but the air quality can get a bit gunky in the summer as well.

And that leads me to forest fires. That is another time when you want the windows to your house closed up tight, not open a little so the swamp cooler can work. Can you imagine sucking smoke from a fire into a house filled with people with asthma?! We don't get a lot of fires here, but when we do, they can be deadly. That's what caused Son #2 to end up in the hospital one 4th of July weekend years ago. Very scary. We didn't realize until later how close he came to death while he was in the hospital. But that's another story......

After I got over the initial shock of how expensive air conditioning is, I started to enjoy it. And I felt even better when Asthma Doctor was asking questions about our home the first time we met him. One of the things he said was no swamp coolers for kids with asthma. Central air is much better for them. Ha! We made the right choice, even if I was still grumbling about the cost.

I'm not that good at explaining all the technical stuff of swamp coolers versus air conditioning, but if Asthma Doc tells me to use it, I will. I have also read articles in allergy and asthma magazines that have recommended using air conditioning. It's the first call I made when we bought our 2nd house since I learned the benefits for us. Hubby and I and all 3 kids have allergies (that's all 5 of us), the kids and I all have asthma (that's 4 of us).

I'll do any little thing I can to make our lives easier, and to have less episodes of sneezing, coughing and wheezing.

So, think about it, and do a little research on your own. And check into air conditioning if you don't already have it. It would be better to get it now, rather than waiting until the middle of July-it would probably be less expensive now too since it's off season.

Anyway, just another tip from what I've learned along the way of My Life As an Asthma Mom. I'll do anything to make our lives a little easier and our home a little safer. Stay tuned for more tips on keeping your house a little more allergy and asthma friendly.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Asthma and farming?

Asthma and farming?

An alert reader sent me this story (I always wanted to say that, I sound just like Dave Barry! Only he's a funny accomplished writer, and I just share asthma stories.. )

There's a new article on WebMD about asthma and farms. It seems that kids who grow up on farms were 30%-50% less likely to have asthma than kids not raised on farms.

The study shows that people who are exposed to to dirt, fungi and animals early in life are supposed to be protected against allergies and asthma. Well, it didn't work for me!

I didn't grow up on a farm, but I had an assortment of animals in the suburban house where I was raised. They include guinea pigs, a pet rat (really!), a couple of ducks, a few frogs, a parakeet, 2 rabbits (separate cages of course!), 4 or 5 cats and a couple of dogs.

Of course I didn't have these all at the same time! But we always had some animals, and I remember constantly sneezing when I was growing up.

As usual, I am the exception to the rule. I had plenty of animals, yet still have allergies and asthma.

If you want to check out the story, the story is called "Bacteria on Farms May Protect Against Asthma" here's the link

It's worth reading, I am anxious for the day when they can find a cure for asthma, until then I guess we can envy all the farm kids.