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Monday, May 30, 2011

Tree nut allergy

(From Google Images)

More fun with tree nuts. Son #2 is always careful in checking things before he eats. We're visiting family and were sitting down to Sunday brunch when he noticed the tray of pastries. Mmmm. Except the cinnamon rolls were on the same plate as some almond pastries. Not good.

He asked if I had any Benadryl, he wasn't sure if there was any cross-contamination with the pastries and cinnamon rolls. So, how do you know if it's safe? Well, we weren't taking any chances. I didn't pack any Benadryl and I realized we didn't have the Epi Pen with us either. Son #2 keeps it in his back pack for school, and of course he didn't bring that when we came to visit family.

He decided not to chance it, and have something else for brunch instead. You can never be too careful with a food allergy. We read labels, and check all the food when we are at someone else's house. We're headed out to lunch at a buffet and once we get there, will carefully check the food. We're also not shy when it comes to asking what's in the food. (I am allergic to seafood, so I check for seafood as well as tree nuts)

I try to make sure we are the first to be served if we're at a family function and someone brought something with nuts, it's the only way to make sure someone doesn't use the serving utensils for a nut or seafood item, then switch it to use in another food.

Son #1 had anaphylactic shock once, after an allergy injection. It was enough to scare me for life. I never want to see that happen again, so we'll be a little paranoid when it comes to eating any food we haven't prepared. We'll scan buffets, ask the servers, and make sure things are kept separate at family dinners. And it always helps to remind people of your food allergies.

Off we go to the buffet-wish us luck!

Friday, May 27, 2011

American Lung Association

2011 Fight For Air Run/Walk Salt Lake City, Utah June 4th Sugarhouse park

It's that time of year again, it's the annual walk to help support our state's American Lung Association. We have participated in the walk for several years now. In fact, I called my state American Lung Association office to ask how to get involved in helping other people with other people, this is one of the ways I can help. We form a team and help raise funds for asthma research and programs. I've also been involved with several committees that needed input from people with asthma or parents of kids with asthma.

Our state chapter has a lot of information about tobacco, asthma, clean air, lung disease and even influenza. They also have programs they offer statewide, one is Open Airways, which is a FREE six week set of classes that teach kids how to manage their asthma. It's taught in schools once a week, (each class is about 45 minutes) and it has been shown that kids who take it miss less school days and have fewer emergency rooms visits.

Camp Wyatt is a summer camp specifically for kids who have asthma. It's always a worry to have the kids spend the night (or week) away from home, but Camp Wyatt has 'round the clock medical supervision. So kids that might not be able to go to camp because of worries with asthma have a safe place to go.

It's always nice to meet other parents at the Fight for Air walk, you can share stories or frustrations. It makes me feel better to know we're all in the same boat when it comes to dealing with asthma for ourself or our kids.

So check out your state's American Lung Association website and see what they can offer. The Open Airways classes are wonderful (I have even taught them in my area) but we have yet to experience Camp Wyatt, my kids are a little shy. Here's the link to the walk in our area-

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Are you using your inhaler correctly?

I must say that I was a little smug when I heard about a telehealth that the Utah Deparment of Health's Asthma Program offers. They have different professionals that present lectures once a quarter.

This one was on inhaler technique. The pharmacist had statistics from several studies that show anywhere from 50-90% of patients, doctors and even pharmacists don't know how to use an inhaler properly. I hate to admit it, but I think I was one of them!

They list several common mistakes, the one I make is that I don't breathe in slightly BEFORE I depress the inhaler. The propellant comes out at 50 miles per hour, so if you don't start breathing in, the medicine can go to the back of your throat.

The other mistake many people make is to breathe in quickly since the medicine comes out quickly. You need to breath in SLOWLY, usually 3 to 5 seconds.

The pharmacist said both of these go against your normal instinct, so you need to "fight your instinct" when you use your inhaler. There are a lot of other very useful things, he shows different types of inhalers, spacers and even peak flow meters.

Here's the link if you are interested, just click on the telehealth from May 3rd that says "In the World of Asthma, Device matters."

Enjoy! And pass the popcorn!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Low fume paint for asthma

Lowe's "Zero Voc" paint

Many of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that my first bachelor's degree is in Interior Design, and I feel that it's my duty to "practice" new ideas on my house to keep my skills sharp!

Part of that includes painting, and a new coat of paint is the cheapest and easiest way to change the whole look of a room. But it can also be very smelly. And oftentimes smells that don't bother other people can set off an asthma attack for someone with asthma. (I tell people that when you have asthma, your body reacts like a "Drama Queen" and over-reacts to everything!)

I found this "zero voc" paint at Lowe's, I have used it before and there is very little smell to it. When I used it to paint some of the rooms in my house, it didn't bother any of us or our asthma. I'm sure some of the other home-improvement or paint stores have similar paint.

Just one more little tidbit to think about if you have any spring cleaning and home improvement projects coming up. Any little thing I can do to make breathing easier for myself and my kids, I am all for it!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Crying can cause an asthma attack

I found out first hand this week that crying can cause an asthma attack.

Did you know that strong emotions can be an asthma triggers?

Me neither! But I found out this week that it is a trigger!

Weird, right?

Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America list many triggers for asthma. Here's the part where they talk about strong emotions:

Feeling and Expressing Strong Emotions

  • anger
  • fear
  • excitement
  • laughter
  • yelling
  • crying
When you feel strong emotions, your breathing changes – even if you don’t have asthma. It may cause wheezing or other asthma symptoms in someone with asthma.

My college aged son moved out this week, and you would have thought it was the end of the world. Well, he is my first to leave home, you know.

I was doing the "ugly cry" as Oprah calls it. The one where you are sobbing so hard, you can't catch your breath. Then the asthma cough started and I knew I was in trouble. I knew I needed to calm down.

I was debating grabbing my inhaler or the nebulizer. I was crying so hard I knew there was no way I could use my inhaler, I couldn't breathe in deep enough to get anything into my lungs.

So, first I started to 'belly breathe." Good thing I had taught the Open Airways class for American Lung Association, and learned how to belly breathe. With asthma, you often times start to breathe shallow, and actually "pant," after all-asthma is the Greek word for panting. See, you learn something new every day!

With belly breathing, you simply breathe in through your nose and slowly blow the air out through your mouth (hold your lips like you are blowing up a balloon.) Open Airways teaches the kids to put their hands on their belly to feel it get big when they breathe in, then get smaller when they breathe out. And it works on grown ups too. It did on me.

I was able to calm down enough to avoid using my inhaler or nebulizer.

But fair warning-any strong emotion can cause an asthma attack. Fear, anger, crying, laughing or any stress can trigger an asthma attack. If that happens, remember to belly breathe but keep your inhaler or nebulizer close by.

And lock the doors so the kids can't leave home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Driver's license renewal and asthma?

Who knew you had to get permission from your doctor to drive if you have asthma? (Well, actually in my state, it's okay if you just use an inhaler, but if you use any other medication, you have to have a doctor's permission to drive.)

Hhm, it's been a while since I renewed my driver's license. In fact, I am one of those people you hate. I have NEVER had a ticket (and let's say I've been driving for quite a while.....) So my driver's license division just sends me a renewal every four years.

Check to see what is needed for your state or country.

Where I live, you are fine if you just use an inhaler, you don't need a doctor's clearance. But if you use anything else (I use a maintenance/controller medication every day) you may have to take a form to your doctor to fill out that says it's safe for you to drive.

I'm not sure what the concern is, maybe they think I'll stop breathing suddenly (a possibility for anyone that has an asthma attack) and that could really cause a problem if you are driving! And some people need an oxygen tank to breathe.

More fun with asthma! It's always causing extra little problems in my life. But, I am still alive and breathing, and so are all three of my kids. Always a bonus.

Just another fun little trivia (and warning) if you drive. You may need to take an extra trip to the doctor's office and get permission to drive. The things we take for granted......

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tip #10 - controlling mold in the bathroom

This is what you should have in your bathroom to help control the amount of steam that builds up while you (or your kids) shower or bathe.

It helps vent out the extra moisture in the room - and most of us know that extra moisture can lead to mold. And I hate mold. I've shared my experience in this blog about the 2 1/2 months it took us to get the mold fixed in our previous house. (There's a great search box on this blog if you want to try to find any other info-and I have about 100 entries on here!)

Anyway, back to the bathroom. It's a great place for wet, slimy things to grow. Make sure you stop it in it's tracks by washing your shower curtain regularly. Ever felt a little slippery stuff on the shower curtain? Might be time to throw it in the wash.

We have another bathroom that has sliding shower doors, and they're hard to keep clean. My father-in-law uses a squeegee to clean the shower doors off after each use at his house. But we haven't convinced the teenagers that it's a good idea to do the same thing at our house.

The track that the shower doors slide along is a great place for water to sit, and mold to build up. Has anyone found a great way to keep those clean? We just jam a washcloth in the track with a butter knife and slide the washcloth back and forth until it comes out clean.

I'm sure there are some better ways, if you have any great ideas, let me know.

Until then, it's time to unhook the shower curtain and liner and throw them in the wash. My life is SO exciting!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Newly Diagnosed Packet

I am developing a "Newly Diagnosed Packet" for asthma and would like some input! I have found a lot of information here and there, but haven't found something that seems to cover all areas of asthma. For most people, getting all of the information at once can be overwhelming (I was given 30 pages of printouts from the internet by the respiratory therapist while Son #2 was in the hospital for the first time.) That is how I was educated about asthma!

I was so confused and couldn't make sense of any of it! Fast forward 11 years, and I know more than I ever cared to about asthma! (12 combined hospitalizations for 2 of my kids and many, many doctor visits every year)

I am designing something that would be broken down into sections (asthma basics/signs and symptoms/triggers/medications etc) That way, people can just read the section that they need.

  • What are some of the things that you wish you would have known when you first learned about asthma?

  • What are some of the things that are still confusing?

  • Are there things you have tried that work? (medications, made changes to your home)

  • Things you have tried that didn't work? (medications, alternative therapies, etc)

  • What would you tell other parents?

  • Anything else you would like to see in an educational asthma packet?

I know most people read this as an online diary and don't offer a lot of comments, but here's your chance to let me know what you think! Asthma is a very different disease, with strange words and weird medications and treatments. (It can take a while to feel comfortable using a nebulizer, inhaler, spacer, peak flow meter, etc)

So put those thinking caps on, and let me know what you think I should add!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tip #9 - cleaning air condition & heating vents

When we bought our historic home (over 50 years old) we knew that there was a lot of dust in the heater vents.

We decided to have the vents cleaned out before we installed central air. Asthma Doc has always told us not to use a swamp cooler when you have asthma (it increases the humidity level in the home and often blows contaminants through the wet pads on the swamp coolers.) So the first thing we did when we bought the house was call the contractor for a central air unit.

However, we didn't want to install central air and blow 50 years worth of dust and gunk all over the house, so we had the had the vents cleaned out. I'm sure there were some things coming out while the previous owners were using the furnace, but we wanted a fresh start. (And the previous owners didn't have asthma or allergies!)

Most of the carpet cleaning companies offer vent cleaning now, just shop around a little. The company we used charged us per vent, so your cost will depend on the size of your house.

It seems to have made a difference, I don't have to dust that often. Asthma is really strange, it's the only disease I know of that is affected so much by the environment around us. So, anything I can do to make it a little safer for breathing-I'm all for it!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day asthma attack

Well, I didn't see that one coming. We were having a great garden party on Mother's Day, we had worked all day Saturday getting the yard cleaned up and it looked beautiful. (This isn't a photo of my yard, but it looks similar. Apparently my camera doesn't like having sand in the lens from our trip to the coast to see family-so no photos yesterday )

The longer I sat outside on the patio, the more I sneezed and wheezed. I didn't want to get up and leave our guests, so I just visited with them. How bad can allergies get, right?!

Well, I finally did give up and went in the house, but by then it was too late. We still had guests at our home, so I couldn't hop in the shower. (Which is what I normally would have done). So, I changed my clothes, washed my face with soap and water and ran a wet was cloth over my hair to try to capture some of the pollen.

But it was too little, too late. I started the lovely 'asthma cough' and ended up staggering over to my purse for my inhaler. Happy Mother's Day! Gotta love my inhaler though, it's worth EVERY penny.

I still felt lousy after that, so I ended up taking a nap (isn't that what we moms are allowed to do on Mother's Day?)

Today, I have a sporadic cough and my lungs feel terrible, they are still trying to recover from yesterday. And my allergy medicine is making me feel like I am on slow speed.

Isn't life with allergies and asthma fun? Always unpredictible, always at the worst time.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Not so loveable stuffed animals

Sure, stuffed animals look cute! But what do they do for those of us with allergies and asthma?

They're full of dust! And dust just happens to be one of the most common allergies, so if your kids are sneezing and wheezing, the stuffed animals could be to blame.

I just read an short article about stuffed animals in the April issues of Womans Day Magazine, and it said stuffed animals could be harboring millions of dust mites and making your family's allergies worse.

Of course most kids love stuffed animals on their beds (no matter how old they get.......) so we wash Kitty's stuffed animals once a month in the washing machine in hot water. (their suggestion was every two weeks-guess I should be a little better at that)

But I always feel like a murderer when I'm trying to push the stuffed animals down into the water in the washing machine so they get clean, they always seem to bob up to the surface.

One of the things they suggest is putting stuffed animals into the freezer for 24 hours every two weeks. Now that's an idea. Kitty gets really angry when I wash her stuffed animals and it ruins the long mane of fur on her stuffed horses. In the past, I have tried washing them in a lingerie mesh bag, or inside a pillow case. But it still seems to mess up the fur. And heaven forbid I annoy a pre-teen. I already get enough sighing and eye-rolling as it is!

So, try freezing your kid's stuffed animals. Of course, the trick is getting them away from the kids and explaining why you are putting the stuffed animals in the freezer. I can't help you there. I always had to sneak the stuffed animals off Kitty's bed after she went to school and try to run them through the washer and dryer and get them back to their spots.

The things we do as parents........but if your kids seem to sneeze and wheeze when they are in their rooms, check out the stuffed animals. Sure they look cute, but boy do they get dusty!

Let me know if any of you try freezing the stuffed animals or if washing seems to work better.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Traveling with asthma

This is what we packed for a short weekend trip to the coast for a family of 5 with allergies and 4 with asthma.
We needed:

  • 3 bottles of Singulair

  • 1 bottle of generic Zyrtec

  • 1 Advair 250 disc

  • 1 Advair 100 disc

  • 1 Advair inhaler

  • 1 box of Albuterol for the nebulizer

  • 1 Albuterol inhaler

  • 1 Peak flow meter

  • 1 tubing kit for the nebulizer

  • 1 BIG box of tissues (not pictured-because it's empty now ....)

You never know when you might need something, it's better to take things with you and not use them than not have something.

Traveling with asthma can be adventure, luckily we were all fine this time. But pack everything you have! Even if you think you may not need it. You don't want to be in another state and not have medication, a trip to the Emergency room can easily cost $2,000.

So, stock up and have fun if you are traveling somewhere this summer. Make a list and check it twice and make sure you have ALL of the medication, spacers, peak flow meters, nebulizer and tubing kits. Make sure you have enough medication for how long you will be gone. It's better to be safe than sorry......