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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.