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Monday, December 31, 2012

Bronchial thermoplasty-what is that?!

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I was reading a story in the newspaper last week, about a newer way to treat severe asthma. The patient in the story was waking up almost EVERY night for the past 42 years with an asthma attack. He has had asthma attacks so bad that on two occasions they have had to call the helicopter to fly him to the hospital. He's also been on a ventilator twice.

So how can doctors treat someone like him? Bronchial thermoplasty is an option. It's a technical sounding name but easy concept to understand. They put a small bronchoscope through the nose into the lungs. The bronchoscope zaps the smooth muscles in the airways. The heat softens the muscle and reduces the spasms that cause asthma attacks.

The article said that 80% of those treated with the heat have had a better quality of life. It has meant having to miss fewer days of work or school because of asthma attacks. It also meant fewer trips to the emergency room and fewer hospitalizations.

This patient had to a series of 3 bronchial thermoplasty treatments done in the hospital under local anesthesia. Each time, he was well enough to go home an hour later. It has made a dramatic in his life, before he would wake up and need his asthma medication. Now he can sleep through the night. Medicare will cover bronchial thermoplasty, but his insurance wouldn't cover it, so he paid $20,000 out of his own pocket. But to have such a change of life was worth it to him.

Bronchial thermoplasty is approved by the FDA for those 18 years or older. They are conducting studies to see if it can be used for children too.



Thursday, December 27, 2012

What's it like to be in the hospital?

(A Pink Sunset)

Angela Giaco, who manages Pink Sunset Blog contacted me while she was in the hospital for asthma. Angela was lucky enough to get out of the hospital just before Christmas! Asthma never picks a good time to hit, my kids have been in the hospital 12 times over the years, including the 4th of July, New Year's Eve and on their birthday. Angela's story is interesting, you can read what it's like to be in the hospital from her point of view.

So why do you need to be hospitalized for asthma? There comes a point when you can't do anything more at home and you are still having a hard time breathing. My kids already take daily asthma controller medicine, allergy medicine, a leukotriene modifier, and have had 5 years of allergy shots. When my kids start the horrible asthma cough and their peak flow meter  is in the yellow zone, they take oral steroids, prednisone  Sometimes that works for my kids, other times they continue to get worse, and we move to the next step, which is an steroid injection-decadron. 

If they are looking really pale and their lips are turning dark, we head to the Emergency Room as fast as we can. It also helps to have an oximeter to watch their oxygen saturation rate. I know that if their oxygen level dips to 91, it's time to head to the hospital. They usually admit the kids when their oxygen saturation rate is around 89. Once in the hospital, they start the kids on oxygen and give them an IV of corticosteroids. They take a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia and the respiratory therapist comes in every 4 hours to give them breathing treatments and listen to their lungs.

Here's more information from Webmd on when to go to the doctor of hospital

You may never end up in the hospital with your asthma, then again you might. Learning more about the emergency signs of an asthma attack can help you know if and when you need to head to the hospital. Better to learn now than when you are in the middle of a severe asthma attack. 
So stay healthy and keep taking your asthma medicine!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Over the river and thru the woods...

(Shutterstock image) Grandmother's house we go. It's supposed to be a fun time at grandma's, but I'm starting to think my in-laws have other motives. Are they trying to kill me off?!

It's scary traveling with food allergies, and grandma's house has everything we are allergic to. Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts, and what does she have? Almond milk and almond butter.  Same thing happened last time we were there, we had to go buy a gallon of milk and remind her that Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts, and that means he can't drink almond milk. He needs regular old cow's milk.

Then Hubby decided to make Clam Chowder for Christmas Eve dinner. I am allergic seafood, so I bought a can of chicken noodle soup at the store so I could have something to eat. I left the kitchen when he started cooking, and was watching TV in the area next to the kitchen. Suddenly, I felt a flushed feeling race through my body and my heart started pounding. My first thought was the seafood. Uh oh! I ran from the room into another part of the house, closed the door and opened the window. I started breathing in deeply to fill my body with fresh air. I grabbed my Epi pen just in case I needed to use it. Maybe I didn't breathe in enough of the cooking fumes, because it didn't get any worse.

Strange reaction? I was at a conference this spring when an allergy specialist was talking about seafood allergies. He said in rare cases, you can have anaphylaxis just from breathing in cooking vapors of seafood. I found an article about seafood allergies from American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Seafood has a protein that becomes airborne while you are cooking. If you are allergic to seafood, simply breathing in the same room while someone is cooking seafood can cause anaphylaxis! 

Did you also know that a seafood allergy can appear later in life? I remember eating seafood as a kid. I didn't like it, but I ate it. I developed an allergy to it about 20 years ago. My brother still thinks it's all in my head because I ate seafood as a kid. It's frustrating and dangerous when people don't believe you have a food allergy, or don't understand how scary it is to have a food allergy. Once you develop an allergy to seafood, it's usually there for the rest of your life.

So, we survived the weekend. For those of you who don't have food allergies, please take it seriously when someone is visiting your home and they say they have food allergies. It can be be the difference between life and death for that person. Asthma and Asthma Network, Mothers of Asthmatics has a great article about anaphylaxis. 

You should read it, it might help you save a life someday.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Allergy shots for only 3 years?

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For those of you that have allergies, it can be a real pain. My college-aged son and teenage son and daughter are allergic to everything. Literally. Grass, trees, flowers, bushes, animals, dust and mold. You name it, they're allergic to it.

There comes a time when no matter how much medicine you take, you are still miserable. My kids would take Singulair and Zyrtec and still be miserable all the time. They would sneeze, their eyes would itch and water, and they would start wheezing. Asthma Doc told them to shower every night before bed (to wash all the pollen off their skin and hair.) That didn't help either. Daughter Kitty would sneeze all night long and wake us up. Then she would get a bloody nose. Fun times!

So all three of our kids have had to have allergy shots (immunotherapy) 
It's a long process, it usually takes 3 to 5 years. And it takes A LOT of time. You have to go to the doctor's office twice a week. Have one shot in each arm, then wait 20 minutes so you don't have anaphylaxis, then you can leave. After a while, you can go once a week. It's a pain to have to find a time every week to take kids to allergy shots. My two sons have already completed their 5 year's worth of allergy shots. Daughter Kitty is on year 4. I just read an article in the Winter edition of Coping with Allergies and Asthma Magazine.   

The article quoted a study from the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. They are quoted as saying 
"Our research shows that three years is adequate duration for the treatment of childhood asthma associated with dust mites. An additional two years adds no clinical benefit." 
I wonder if that holds true for other allergens too? My kids are allergic to so many things. In fact, Son #2 may have to repeat the allergy shots because he is still having problems. For us, it's better to have the kids complete the 5 years worth of allergy shots. If you aren't allergic to that many things, maybe you only have to do it for 3 years. Check with your doctor and see what he says.
It's an exciting idea, but it never seems to be that easy for my kids. See what your doctor says, maybe you'll be lucky enough to shave off 2 years of the series of allergy shots.

Good luck!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Strong emotions can cause an asthma attack

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Did you know that strong emotions can cause asthma attacks? I have been thinking about the families of the school children in Connecticut. They're dealing with shock, panic, disbelief, anger and sadness.

When you experience any strong emotion (laughing, crying, fright, etc) it can cause an asthma attack. On Webmd's website, they have an article about asthma, stress and anxiety. The article says that asthma attacks can be caused from exposure to violence, public disasters, public speaking, school exams and family conflicts.

So how does that work? How can strong emotions cause an asthma attack?! Those of us with asthma, we know that our bodies over-react to situations. We can't help it. When we experience strong emotions, our bodies release histamine and leukotrienes, which makes our airways narrow. That's what makes it hard to breathe and causes an asthma attack.

It's important to make sure you always have your inhaler with you. Hopefully your doctor has told you when you need to use your inhaler. It's helpful to have an Asthma Action Plan, so you know what to do. It tells you step by step what to do if you have an asthma attack. I usually use my inhaler and then use some deep breathing exercises. It's common to panic when you can't breathe. So not only do your airways swell up and make it hard to breathe, but panicking when that happens makes it harder to breathe. It's a vicious cycle. Webmd recommends using relaxation techniques like muscle relaxation, deep breathing or clearing negative thoughts.

They also have other suggestions, it's worth taking the time to read the article entitled  Asthma, Stress, and Anxiety: Risky Cycle.

I know that the families in Connecticut have a lot more than asthma attacks to worry about. They are planning funerals for their children. I know that I have hugged my teenagers a little more lately (even if they hate it.) But at least my teenagers are still alive. And that's something to be grateful for. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ideas to avoid getting sick

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Yes, I am a germi-phobe. I've already been REALLY sick twice this fall. And colds and coughs are always worse when you have asthma.

My daughter, Kitty, is always careful about washing her hands. In fact, she washes them so much the skin is chapped. But she is still getting sick. She's had the stomach flu one week, sore throat the next, and last night had a blazing fever in the middle of her brother's Christmas band concert. So, we ducked out early.

So, what's the solution to staying healthy? Here are some ideas from Webmd website. 

  • Washing your hands frequently, using soap, for at least 15 seconds
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Cleaning the headsets of your telephones, and washing doorknobs, railings, and other frequently handled objects to keep them free of germs
  • Keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
 I like their ideas, especially about "keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth." If I have to scratch my nose or my eyes, I put my thumb inside my jacket or scarf and pull the fabric up to my nose and scratch it (that way my fingers don't touch my face). It looks a little strange, but at least I'm trying not to touch my face.

I also use my knuckle to press elevator keys. And I use a paper towel to open the bathroom door, or I use the bottom part of my jacket or coat.

A little much? Maybe. But it's better than being stuck in bed for 4 or 5 days while I have bronchitis. 

Webmd has other advice too, to read more, click here.

So, do what your mother told you growing up. Wash your hands (especially before eating) and don't touch your face! Maybe you can get through the holidays without getting sick!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Give your Christmas tree a shower!

Many of my friends are pulling out their Christmas tree to set up and finding out the tree is really dusty. Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! It can be especially dusty if you store it in the garage or attic.

You can try putting the tree in your shower to clean it off before you set it up. DON'T try this if you have a "pre-lit" tree! Our tree is about 20 years old (before they had pre-lit trees), but it still looks fine once I fill in all the bare parts with decorations!

If you live in an area that has mild winters, you could probably just spray the tree off with the hose, then let it dry before you put it up in the house. We do the same when we put our tree in the shower, we just let it drip dry before we put it up in the living room.

It probably sounds like a lot to bother with, you may be wondering why we don't use a real tree. Well, Hubby and I and all three of our kids are allergic to trees. We're also allergic to flowers, bushes, grass, animals and some foods. Too bad we had to pass on our defective genes to our kids! But it could always be worse, right?

Many of you may have already put your tree up. If not, consider spraying it off outside if it's warm enough-only if your tree isn't flocked and isn't pre-lit.) Or give it a shower.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2012

New talking Epi pen!!!


For those of you who have food allergies (or family members with food allergies) you may be interested in a new epinephrine injector. I usually carry Epi Pens, so it may take a while to get used to this new device. But watch-my insurance company will decide not to cover these!

I've never had to use my Epi-Pen (knock on wood!) The time Son #1 had anaphylaxis (after allergy shots) Asthma Nurse injected him with epinephrine and gave him a breathing treatment. Then she stayed with him for 2 hours, to make sure he didn't have a rebound anaphylaxis event. I will never forget how she saved my son's life.

Since that time, I've been nervous about using an Epi Pen. Watching someone having an anaphylaxis reaction is scary, can I keep my wits about me and use the Epi Pen if I needed to? Auvi-Q "talks" you through how to use one. You can watch the video that shows how to use it  here    

I've heard that it will be available in the first three months of 2013. Talk to your doctor about what's right for you. Make sure you always have an Epi Pen with you, I wouldn't wait until the new Auvi Q comes out. You never know when you might eat something that has been cross contaminated or has a hidden ingredient. My Epi Pen has gone to the Grand Canyon, Disneyland and Paris. It should have be getting frequent flier miles!

So keep checking your food, and make sure you always have an Epi Pen with you. The life you save could be your own.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Your home can affect your asthma

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Did you know that there are things in your home that can make your asthma worse?

The 2nd time my son was hospitalized, he wasn't responding to traditional treatment for his asthma flare up. My pediatrician called in an asthma specialist to confer. Asthma Doc asked us all sorts of questions about our home. Did we have pets? Did we have wall to wall carpet? Did we use scented candles? Did we have floral arrangements or silk trees? He went on and on.

That was my introduction to a sort of cause-and-effect for asthma.

12 hospitalizations later for my kids, we have tried to make a lot of changes on our home. Some of the things that are recommended through the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). You can find information about controlling asthma triggers on the EPA asthma website.

Here's some of the things we do to make our home allergy and asthma friendly

  • Wood floors-easier to keep clean than carpet. I can actually see the dust and suck it up with my vacuum nozzle. Gotcha!
  • Vacuum twice a week-it helps reduce dust, which is a common asthma trigger
  • Remove shoes-I ask everyone to do that when they enter my home. This cuts down on the amount of dirt/bacteria/fungus, etc that we track in on the bottom of our shoes
  • Don't store anything under beds-it can be like excavating for dinosaur bones under beds sometimes. It's full of dust (and you're sleeping on top of it, breathing it in all night long!)
  • Limit stuffed animals on the end of the bed. I let daughter Kitty have her 2 favorites. The others get stored away.
  • Wash bedding weekly in hot water-kills dust mites and washes out the pollen
  • Use dust mite proof pillows, pillow covers and mattress covers
  • Use roll up shades or roman shades in the kid's rooms-I found that regular blinds catch a lot of dust. And I how often do you clean your blinds?! It's not on my list of favorite things to do.  When I switched to roll up shades, there's nothing for the dust to build up. And the kids are sneezing less, so it's working!
  • Use central air rather than a swamp cooler. Swamp coolers suck in pollen, air pollution and smoke from forest fires. They also make the house very humid which can lead to mold problems.
  • No pets! If you already have them, keep them off the bed and out of the bedrooms.  
This list may look a little overwhelming. Just pick a few things to begin with, then add one thing at a time. Many of these things don't cost money, but instead you will need to spend time cleaning. Break it down into small steps. Hubby and I both work full time and the kids are all in school. But if we all pitch in a little bit each day to help clean, it's worth it. We breathe easier and our asthma doesn't seem as bad when the house is clean. And the kids haven't been in the hospital in 5 years! Knock on wood.

A clean house is a healthy house. And it helps you breathe easier. Who wouldn't want to do that for their child?

Happy cleaning! And reward yourself with a pedicure, or manicure. Or watch a chick flick.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What happens to your lungs during an asthma attack?

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I found a short video that shows what happens to lungs during an asthma attack. It is from the American Lung Association.

There are actually 3 different things that happen during an asthma attack. The video from American Lung Association shows it better than this photo. (But this was all I had to put on the blog). You can see from the picture above that the left side is what all of you "normal" people get to breathe through. The right side it what those of with asthma try to breathe through.

On their video, they explain that:
  • 1st-you have swelling in the lungs (you can see the swelling on the right side of this photo). They said the swelling is always there, even if you aren't having any symptoms (or can't "feel it")
  • 2nd-bronchoconstriction which means that the bronchial tube is being constricted (or squeezed) by the bands on the outside of the bronchial tube. This picture doesn't show it that well, you should watch their video
  • 3rd-mucus is produced, yep-that fun stuff we all try to cough up during an asthma attack
Interesting, huh? I usually tell people that don't have asthma to try jogging in place for 30 seconds, then hold their nose and try to breathe through a straw. That's what it feels like for those of us with asthma. You can see it if you watch the video.

Make sure you have an inhaler handy. And it you are using it more than twice a week, that means your asthma is not in control. You may need a daily, controller medicine. Check with your doctor about that. Remember that the swelling in your lungs can always be there, even if you can't feel it. So if you have an asthma attack and your lungs are already swollen, your asthma attack can be really bad. And who wants to end up in the hospital? I've spent enough money there over the years for my kid's asthma hospitalizations. They should have named the corner wing of pediatrics after our family, I think we paid for it!

Have fun watching the video! It's not long enough to have a bag of popcorn while you watch it, but if you have the munchies.....why not?!

Monday, December 3, 2012

How can schools help during an asthma attack?

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I always worried when my kids were little that they would have an asthma attack at school, and I wouldn't be there to help. In fact, they did have asthma attacks and they would call me on my cell phone. I can't tell you how many times I have left a grocery cart in the middle of the aisle and took off for the kid's school. The school nurse was gone and the teacher and secretary didn't know what to do. In our area, school nurses are in charge of 5 or 6 schools, so the chance that they will be there when one of my kids has an asthma attack is zero. I used to joke that our Wonderful School Nurse will be at the school between 8:30-12:30 on Monday mornings, so if they're going to have an asthma attack, make sure it's during that time!

Are the teachers and staff in your school trained to handle an asthma attack if the school nurse is gone? I know that in our state, the state health department provides an Asthma Training for Schools. It takes 15 minute and it's called, "What To Do in Case of an Asthma Attack." The training talks about how many kids in our state have asthma, the signs and symptoms of asthma, and what to do if a student has an asthma attack.

The puzzling thing is that a lot of schools will tell the state health department that they don't have time for a training. I don't understand that. I know that schools nurses are taking care of students with asthma, diabetes, seizure disorders, autism, etc, etc. If the state can train the staff how to treat asthma attacks, wouldn't the nurse have more time to help students with other medical conditions? Wouldn't the staff feel more comfortable knowing they could help a student who was having an asthma attack?

If you have kids in school, check with the school nurse and ask if the staff has been trained. You can't be there with your kids all day at school, but it would be nice if the person taking care of them for 7 hours a day was trained to know what to do.

That's just my two cents worth today..

Friday, November 30, 2012

I know how he feels....

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Poor little guy, I know what it feels like to not be able to breathe. My friend sent an interesting article from the New York Times  about breathing exercises and asthma.

It seems like there are different ways of breathing that people have tried. One is the Buteyko Method, which trains you to breathe shallowly through the nose when you are short of breath. Another New York Times article is devoted to explaining the Buteyko Method. They explain it this way:

"This technique may seem counterintuitive: when short of breath or overly stressed, instead of taking a deep breath, the Buteyko method instructs people to breathe shallowly and slowly through the nose, breaking the vicious cycle of rapid, gasping breaths, airway constriction and increased wheezing."
I'm not sure I agree with the method. The article says that when people have asthma attacks, they breathe quickly and deeply. But I disagree, I DON'T breathe deeply during an asthma attack. Neither do my kids, they actually "pant" because they are breathing so shallow.

When you have an asthma attack, not only do you have physical symptoms (coughing, wheezing, being short of breath, etc) but it also affects your mind. You start to panic when you can't breathe. To help me calm down, I use deep breathing exercises. Here's some information about breathing exercises from the Mayo Clinic.

Has anyone tried the Buteyko method? How about deep breathing exercises? I think I'm going to stick with what I know works for me and my 3 kids, and that is belly breathing. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to asthma. We all can have different triggers, medications, etc. You need to do what works for you, and what your doctor recommends.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Survived the holidays with food allergies

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Having dinner with others is always an adventure, especially if you have food allergies. Anytime we have a family dinner or eat out at a restaurant, we have to watch for tree nuts and seafood.

I was at a conference for work last week, and the featured lunch item was salmon. Most places will have chicken as an option, but I had to call and double check just to be sure. When I saw all the plates of grilled salmon the other people were eating, I was a little nervous and asked if they cooked the chicken on a separate grill. The employees there assured me that the chicken was cooked first, then they grilled the salmon.

You can never be too careful, every kitchen is different. And it doesn't hurt to ask how they prepare the food. It CAN hurt if you don't ask (anaphylaxis anyone?!) Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction that causes your whole body to react. These are symptoms of anaphylaxis from Webmd's website:

  • Difficulty breathing or wheezing
  • Tightness in the throat or a feeling that the airways are closing
  • Hoarseness or trouble speaking
  • Nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting
  • Fast heartbeat or pulse
  • Skin that itches, tingles, swells, or turns red 
  • Anxiety or dizziness
  • Loss of consciousness
The Webmd website recommends getting medical help-FAST!!  They have more steps listed on how to treat anaphylaxis. To learn more,  click here.

And if you have food allergies, keep checking your food and asking questions. I've seen one of my teenagers have anaphylaxis, and I never want to see that again for as long as I live. It's a scary experience, but thankfully he did live through it.  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Separate tubes of toothpaste to avoid getting sick

This picture is a little dark, but you can probably see two separate tubes of toothpaste (one on each shelf.) Yes, I'm a germa-phobe! I want my own tube of toothpaste and my own shelf for my toothbrush. When I get sick, I have a habit of getting REALLY sick. So I try to avoid it at all costs.

Case in point? This weekend daughter Kitty was complaining that her stomach hurt. A few hours later, she ended up with the stomach flu. All of you parents know how fun it is to clean up after a kid that's been throwing up! I carefully cleaned everything-doing multiple loads of laundry, sanitizing with Lysol and washing my hands over and over again.

When I got ready for bed that night, I was relieved to see my toothbrush and toothpaste on a separate shelf. I did NOT want to get the stomach flu. But that's what can happen if you share a tube of toothpaste-you can get infected by another family member before you even know they are sick.

Toothpaste isn't that expensive, so we get a separate tube for each family member. I would much rather try to prevent an illness, then deal with bronchitis, pneumonia or stomach flu going through the whole family. If that happens, then the kids are missing school and I have to miss work. It's much cheaper to to try to prevent it in the first place.

Just an idea, but one that has worked well for our family. Here's hoping for a healthy winter!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stress causes asthma attacks-who knew?!

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I am already starting to feel a little stressed out. Thanksgiving is next week, we need to travel to see family (both sides of the family) I have a busy day at work, and we have a big event my work is sponsoring for 500 people tomorrow. Yikes!!

I was looking on the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) website to see what it says about stress. Did you know that when you are stressed out, your body releases a chemical that makes the muscles around your airways tighten? That can make for some fun times when you're trying to breathe. For those of you who don't have asthma, it's like trying to breathe through a straw while you pinch your nose closed. Try it some time.

I am doing some deep breathing right now. I breathe in slowly through my nose and out slowly through my mouth. I can already feel my shoulders relaxing. Ahhh.

There are a few other things in the AAAAI website. They have some good information about choosing a Christmas tree.

And some interesting information about leaving your pets during the holidays. There's something called the "Thanksgiving Effect." If you leave your pets home while you travel, you can have allergy and asthma problems when you get back. You lose some of the tolerance to your pets that you have built up. Weird, huh? To read more, click here.

Take a deep breath, this is the start to a busy time of year. The last thing you need while traveling and dealing with interesting family members is to have an asthma attack. So deep breathe, meditate, do yoga, whatever relaxes you. I found some great webcams sites of  Hawaiian beaches. Wish I was there......

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hurricanes and floods


Dark clouds are never a good sign, especially if a hurricane is coming your way. Most of you know about the devastation from Hurricane Sandy. So, what do you do AFTER the hurricane?

I found some information from American Lung Association. They have a section on hurricane and flooding, called "After the Disaster." They want everyone to be careful, especially if you already have lung problems. They list a few things to watch for BEFORE you start to clean up.

  • DON'T ENTER THE BUILDING unless it's been cleared by a building inspector. They also say to GET OUT if you hear the building shifting
  • IF YOU SMELL GAS, call the gas company and don't go back in until they tell you it's safe
  • IF ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT GOT WET, turn off the power and wait for an inspector to tell you it's safe
  • CLEANING UP CAN BE HEAVY AND HOT WORK and you can run into surprises, so don't go in alone. Don't go in if you have allergies, asthma, or any other lung disease. 
Remember, that when you have asthma, your body can't tolerate what "normal" people can. Our bodies like to over-react to things that we breathe in. And there is usually a lot of mold and other things in the air after flooding and hurricanes.

This is just the start to their information. To read more, click here.

And please be careful!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Can you get a flu shot if you're allergic to eggs?

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I was reading an article on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website. They were talking about if people could get the flu shot if they were allergic to eggs. They said there's a difference between being "allergic" to eggs or having an "intolerance." They recommend having an allergist or immunologist test you, because there's a big difference between being allergic and having an intolerance.

If you have an intolerance, your digestive system can't break the food down. You can feel miserable, but it won't kill you.

But an allergic reaction can. With an allergic reaction, your body over-reacts to something it thinks is an "invader" (peanuts, seafood, eggs, etc.) It makes antibodies which cause an allergic reaction. When this happens, you can itch and break out in hives and swell up. You can throw up or have diarrhea. You can also have a hard time breathing.

If that progresses to anaphylaxis, it can kill you in a matter of minutes. You will have a hard time breathing, get dizzy and may even pass out. If you don't get an injection of epinephrine, you can die. Yikes! To read this article on their website, click here.

So, how do you know if it's an intolerance or an allergy to eggs? The first thing is to see a specialist that can test you and tell you if it's an intolerance or an allergy. The website says if you are truly allergic to eggs, you can still safely have the flu vaccine if you are in a primary care doctor's office and they watch you for 30 minutes afterwards to make sure you don't have a reaction. (We do this EVERY week with allergy shots-you wait 20 minutes to make sure you don't have a reaction. It's not a big deal, just bring a book.)

If you get dizzy or lightheaded after eating eggs, you can get the flu shot in an allergist's office with a 30 minute watch time.

Why are they pushing for flu shots? Because a large number of people die every year from the flu. Old estimates were about 36,000. But the CDC (Centers For Disease Control) estimates the range of deaths over the last 31 years are anywhere from 3,000-49,000 (depending on how bad the flu season was that year.) To read more, click here.   

I don't know about you, but I want to live long enough to annoy my 3 kids. Check with your doctor, get tested for egg allergy if you think you're allergic to eggs, and see what's right for you. If that means getting your flu shot in the doctor's office and the watch time afterwards, be sure to reward yourself with a nice treat afterwards. MMMMM chocolate....

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My little blog one of "10 Best Asthma Blogs of 2012" by Healthline

I just found out that my blog was listed as one of "The 10 Best Asthma Health Blogs of 2012" by Healthline website!!! I just happened to be checking the stats on my blog, I was a little curious where people were finding my little asthma blog. And one of the links led me to the Healthline website.

I was more than a little surprised to see my blog listed on their website. They created the listing back in July, but no one from Healthline let me know that I was chosen as one of the 10 best asthma blogs. Oh well.  Here is a quote from the Healthline website about the winning blogs:

10 Best Asthma Blogs of 2012

Asthma is a growing health concern in America and worldwide, with increasing diagnoses – particularly among children. In addition to causing discomfort, inconvenience, and expense, asthma also results in excess doctor’s visits, emergency room admissions, hospitalizations, and deaths every year.
These bloggers have certainly learned resourcefulness from living (or raising a child) with asthma. From preventing attacks to helping teachers learn about asthma medication, these asthmatics and their loved ones are becoming as helpful as the experts for people new to the asthma scene

I'm glad people are noticing the blog, it's here to help other parents of kids with asthma. It's been almost 13 years since I was thrown full force into the asthma world. It seems like I am still learning new things all the time. To see all 10 blogs, click here.

Happy reading!

Monday, November 5, 2012

No more Advair

I got a letter from our insurance company over the weekend. They have decided they will no longer cover Advair (unless I have tried Symbicort and Dulera first and found them to be ineffective.) Starting in January, they are re-classifying Advair as a "tier 3" medication. Which means I have to try both Symbicort and Dulera first, then if they don't work as well, I can file an appeal with the insurance company. That seems like a lot of work. I hope one of the other medications works, who has time to battle with the insurance company?

Earlier they decided not to cover Pulmicort Respules (daily, maintenance medication we use in the nebulizer) or Xopenex Inhalers (our rescue/emergency inhaler). Albuterol doesn't seem to work as well for Son #2 (he has severe asthma) so we have used Xopenex the last few years. I called the pharmacy to ask the cash price for Xopenex, from what I remember, it was around $150- for one inhaler.

Asthma Doc gave us a sample of Xopenex, but that only last so long....

And now they won't cover Advair. They said they had a team of specialists who decided Symbicort and Dulera would be better options. Since money drives every decision, I bet Symbicort and Dulera are cheaper. Looks like I'll have to go to Asthma Doc and get my prescription changed. 

I guess I shouldn't grumble since they are covering Xolair.  For those of you who don't know what Xolair is, it's an injection given once or twice a month (in both arms.) It's for people who have allergic asthma that is moderate to severe, that can't be controlled by any other medication. Son #2 started on the injections almost 5 years ago, it was $1000 a month then, who knows how much it costs now! But insurance covers Xolair because it's less expensive than paying for a hospitalization.

I hope Xolair isn't the next medication to get the ax.....there's no way I can come up with $1000 a month for his injections. And I'm a little picky, but I kind of like it when my kids can breathe. And Xolair keeps my son breathing and out of the hospital. (He's been hospitalized 8 times-2 of those were ICU and he almost stopped breathing.)

I can handle Advair not being covered. But if they don't cover Xolair I'm in big trouble. For now, I'm crossing my fingers (and my arms, and my legs, and my toes....)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Does your state make the State Honor Roll 2012?

(Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America)

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America does a research project every year to see which states have statewide policies for people with asthma, food allergies and anaphylaxis.

  • Can your kids carry their inhaler at school? Can they carry their Epi Pen? Have the teachers been trained how to use the Epi Pens?

  • Do your schools ban smoking at all schools and school related events (football games, track meets, etc)

  • Does your state still use diesel school buses? Do they let the buses idle in front of the school?
They rank each state on 18 core policy standards. Your state can even get "extra credit" points in 15 different areas!

To see where your state ranks, click here.   You can get involved and make a difference, it's amazing the power people have to make a difference in their area. They have ideas of how you can help. Have fun!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

If the doctor gives you a prescription, TAKE IT!!!!!

I was talking to a woman at the gym this morning who has been out sick for a while with pneumonia. I told her to join the club!!

She asked how long it took me to feel better, I said it always takes longer when you have asthma. I'm still weak and not back to myself after 3 weeks. We started chit chatting and she said the doctor gave her an inhaler, but she doesn't want to use it because she might get thrush. She said the doctor told her to rinse her mouth out after she uses it. I told her not to worry, I've only had thrush once or twice from my inhaler, and I've had asthma all my life.

She said she can "feel" that all of the swelling is gone in her lungs. I told her that you CAN'T feel inflammation in your lungs. Here is a direct quote from Webmd. 

Even when you feel well, your asthma hasn't gone away. Even if you can't feel it, your airways might still be inflamed.
Asthma Doc always says that if you use a rescue/emergency inhaler, all it does is "buy you time"  until you get the inflammation out of your lungs. I told her that she probably didn't have to use her inhaler all the time like I do, she should just use it until it was gone. I told her that the doctor gave it to her for a reason, so she needs to use it to get the swelling down in her lungs. Here's another quote from the Webmd site:

Treating persistent asthma with only occasional puffs from a rescue inhaler is like dealing with a leaky pipe in your basement by mopping up the water on the floor. You're only thinking about the symptom and not treating the underlying cause. Over time, if asthma isn't well controlled it can damage your airways permanently.

I like my lungs, I would like them to keep breathing for me. And they can't do that if they have a build up of scar tissue from chronic inflammation.

Lesson: if your doctor prescribes medicine for you-take it!! You only have one set of lungs, you should take care of them. For those of us with asthma, we're a little protective of our lungs. We don't take them for granted because we know what it's like to not be able to breathe.

So, be the grown up that you are and take your medicine! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween time! Check your candy for nuts!

It's that time of year again...sugar overload! I mean Halloween.

If you have a child with food allergies (or have some yourself) you need to check all the Halloween candy carefully. Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts, so we have to be careful when we pick out candy.

If you have someone that is allergic to peanuts, good luck finding chocolate candy without it! The Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and even the Butterfinger candy bars in my cauldron all have peanuts. Luckily, we're NOT allergic to peanuts, so we can eat all of these candy bars. Mmmmm.

We worry about cross contamination, so if I had a child that was allergic to peanuts, I wouldn't let him eat the Twix candy bars that are also in the cauldron. If you have candy bars that have peanuts mixed in with candy bars that don't, that can be enough cross contamination for some people to cause anaphylaxis. 

We read labels to see if the candy was produced on the same equipment that was used to make candy that has tree nuts. If it has, then that candy gets put in a pile for me to eat. Sigh, the things I do for my kids....

If you have a child with a tree nut or peanut allergy, try using a separate bowl with candy that your child can eat. They need to have some fun on Halloween too! And if they get candy that they can't eat, you might have to be a good parent and eat it for them.........

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breakfast time!

Yep, that was my breakfast this morning. An antibiotic pill first, then a steroid. MMMM. Then I did a breathing treatment in the nebulizer with Albuterol. Once my lungs were opened up a little, I could use my Advair inhaler. Breakfast of Champions, yum!

I can't believe I'm sick again. Hubby got sick the last day of our vacation, and I was careful to wash my hands and spray everything with Lysol. I thought I dodged a bullet, but a week later it was my turn to be sick. When I woke up with a scratchy throat, I thought "uh oh-not again!" Wasn't I sick with this last month?

It's been miserable. First the low grade fever started, then I had sneezing fits that could be heard by the neighbors. I followed that up with a nasty cough. I woke up on Saturday and realized I was in trouble. I was coughing up colored phlegm, a sure sign of infection. And I was so breathless that I couldn't speak above a whisper.

I called Asthma Doc's after hours line, but the phone system wasn't working. Annoying. So I called  Primary Care Doctor. I was worried my message didn't go through, so decided to go to the InstaCare facility to be seen by a doctor. As I was just about to check in at the desk, my cell phone rang, and it was my Primary Care Doctor. Since I hadn't checked in yet, I motioned Hubby to follow me out in the hall while I talked on the phone. Primary Care Doctor could tell by my voice that I was pretty sick. I reminded Doc that I have asthma (which makes every illness worse). He said he would call in an antibiotic and course of prednisone to the pharmacy (exactly what I was hoping for!) Sounds like I have bronchitis or pneumonia (again).

Hubby said, "Phew, that was close. That just saved us $75!!" Yep, that's Hubby the Tightwad. I am impressed that he was actually willing to drive me to the InstaCare and crack open his wallet for the $75 co-pay. But he was equally delighted to skip the co-pay and head to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. He must have been feeling really generous because he also brought home orange juice and home made chicken soup from my favorite restaurant.

It's been a LONG week of sleepless nights and equally miserable days. and I am still not feeling better. I thought I would head to my office to catch up on a few things, but that was a mistake. I am headed back home to bed. 

 If you get sick and you have asthma, don't hesitate to call your doctor, go to the after hours clinic or emergency room. Colds/flu/bronchitis/pneumonia are always worse when you have asthma. It's especially scary if you have kids with asthma that get sick. My kids have been hospitalized 12 separate times because of pneumonia and asthma.  It can go from bad to worse VERY quickly.

I did go see my doctor yesterday because I was still not feeling better. I had a really bad coughing spell and felt a sudden searing pain in my right side. Turns out I pulled a muscle, which makes every time I cough a real joy. It could be worse, several of my friends have told me that they actually broke a rib during a coughing spell. Sheesh! Doc listened to my lungs and said they sounded better, but to just give it a little more time.  He did prescribe a strong cough medicine, so hopefully that helps.

I think I'll head back to bed, have a little more chicken soup and orange juice and watch some chick flicks. Now all I need is a little chocolate, because that makes everything better. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What are "retractions"?

(Shutterstock image)

Retractions are one of those severe symptoms of an asthma attack. It's when you are having such a hard time breathing, that you are using other muscles to help, and the skin sucks in around your collar bone and along your ribs. You can see the collar bone sticking out each time you try to take a breathe and you can see the skin tighten over the rib cage.

It's a  BAD sign and you need to get to the hospital-FAST! A call to 911 would be a good idea.

If you want to see a photo of what it looks like, click here. The Webmd website has a slide show called "Signs of  a Pending Asthma Attack." It has 10 very helpful photos and tips about asthma.

I have actually seen retractions on Son #2 once, it was one of the many times he ended up in the hospital-only that time he was listed in ICU. (Intensive Care Unit) It was something I never want to see again. He was sick and I had just given him a breathing treatment with the nebulizer and I was rinsing out the canister in the kitchen. I walked back into the living room and saw his stomach suck WAY in, the skin was stretched tight against the rib cage (I could see each rib individually) and his collar bone was sticking out. I ran closer to look at him, and he was very pale and his lips were a dark burgundy color. He looked bad. I got him in the car and drove as fast as I could to the closest Emergency Room (BIG mistake-I should have called 911)

There was a flurry of activity around him in the hospital, and they had the "crash cart" parked outside his hospital room. They wanted it close by so if he stopped breathing, they could quickly resuscitate him. Nice thought, huh?
Asthma is very different. Some people have mild asthma, some have moderate asthma, some have severe. They all can have different triggers (or things that cause asthma attacks), are treated with different medications and can have different symptoms. The following quote is from the Webmd website.

Other Signs of Asthma Emergencies

If you notice any of the following, get emergency help at once:
  • difficulty talking
  • inability to exhale or inhale
  • shortness of breath
  • feelings of anxiety or panic
  • coughing that won't stop
  • pale, sweaty face
  They also list chest and neck retractions, and blue/grey lips or fingernails.

Hopefully you never have to experience any of these, or see these signs in a loved one. But if you do, get help FAST!!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Don't climb a tower after using your inhaler....

Something was bothering me one morning on vacation. I don't know what it was-sometimes that's how it is with asthma. You can't figure out what triggered an asthma attack. I decided I had better use my inhaler, and I felt much better afterwards.

We were visiting a beautiful old cathedral, and we had to wait some time to climb to the towers on the top and over look the city. I didn't think much of it until I started climbing the 350 stairs to the top. (And it was a narrow spiral staircase!) My lungs felt like they were on fire. And my heart was beating quite fast. I realized that was thanks to using my inhaler AND climbing a steep flight of stairs.

It was harder to climb the tower than I thought it would be. Luckily there was an older woman in front of me that had to stop to catch her breath. She apologized, and waved me on. I told her I wasn't going any faster than she was and I would wait. It gave me a moment to try to belly breathe and slow my breathing down. I couldn't have passed by her on that narrow spiral staircase anyway! We made it to the top and the view was certainly worth it!

But lesson learned, I have to be careful if I'm going to do strenuous exercise right after using my  inhaler. Some people can use their inhaler and then head out for a soccer match, basketball game, etc. It might not bother some people to use their inhaler right before exercise, but for me it does. Just another example that asthma is not a one-size-fits-all disease.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Vacation time!!!!!


Time for a vacation, so I won't be blogging while I'm gone. I'm one of the few people in American who doesn't have a smart phone, so I couldn't blog even if I wanted to.

Have fun reading through all the old posts, you can use the search bar to look up any information you would like.

I hope my asthma behaves itself while I'm on vacation.....

Friday, September 28, 2012

Does your school stock Epi Pens?

This is my Epi Pen, it goes EVERYWHERE with me, since I am allergic to seafood. Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, etc.) NOT to be confused with peanuts-since a peanut isn't a nut, but a "legume."

What if your child suddenly has a reaction to food at school? For the first time? It was a surprise to us when Son #2 had a reaction to tree nuts. We were shocked! Would your school have an Epi Pen on hand to treat your child? Many schools do not.

 Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)  has an article in their latest magazine, Allergy & Asthma Today, that says less than half of schools stocked epinephrine for general use.  Yikes. 

In their article entitled, "ACE (Anaphylaxis Community Experts) Team Spotlight:Sharing the Know-How. Anaphylaxis can kill someone in less 30 minutes.  To read more about the article, click here.

What is anaphylaxis? It's an allergic reaction that can be very mild or severe enough to kill you. To learn more from AANMA and American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (ACAAI)  click here.

It might be interesting to find out if your school stocks an Epi Pen for emergency use. We are lucky in our county because ALL of our public schools (3 school districts) stock Epi Pens. Every school gets a new prescription for Epi Pens every year and the school nurses train their staff how to use them. You never know if you need to use one. Many people have the "it won't happen to me syndrome" but it did happen to us. Son #1 went into anaphylaxis shock, and I never want to see that again-as long as I live. I will never forget it. 

It's also the law in every state (except New York) that students can carry their Epi Pens and asthma inhalers with them at all times IF the parents and doctor fill out a form. If you have a reaction, you have only a few minutes to treat it. You don't want the Epi Pen locked up in the front office. Check with your state health department to see what form you have to fill out. (Many of the schools don't know about the law, so it may not help to ask them.) We fill out a new form every year, it allows our kids to carry their asthma inhaler and Epi Pens with them.

Better safe than sorry.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What if..........

(Shutterstock image)

What if Hubby and I go an anniversary trip and one of the kids get sick while we're gone? My kids are much older than this cute little toddler in the photo. But it seems like they were a lot sicker a lot more often when they were little. In fact, it's been 4 years since Kitty or Son #2 have been hospitalized for asthma! Knock on wood.....

Even so, Hubby and I are planning a trip and there's a lot to consider when you have kids with chronic health problems. Did I refill all their prescriptions before I go? Inhalers? Check. Singulair? Check. Zyrtec? Check. Asmanex? Check. Symbicort? Check.

Are there vials of Albuterol for the nebulizer? Check.

Call the doctor's office. Check. I had to call the doctor's office today to see what I need to do to make sure the kids can come in for an office visit if they get sick while Hubby and I are gone. (With our luck, something will happen while we're gone.) Our close family friend is helping out with our kids while we're gone. My doctor's office said as long as we type up a letter with the kid's name and birth dates, and list the name of our close family friend and state that we give her permission to take the kids in to the doctor for treatment, we are good. Phew. That's a lot of work.

But you never know what might happen. We typed up a letter like that the last time Hubby and I went out of town.....just in case.....and ended up using it. While we were gone, Son #2 got sick, was having problems with his asthma, and then his lung partially collapsed. So Hubby and I were on the phone from 3,000 miles away, talking to the doctor and hospital. That made for a great vacation!

In fact, that's why Hubby and I haven't gone away together for the last 5 years. You can't relax on your anniversary if you're worried about sick kids. We decided that the kids are older now (teenagers) and their asthma seems to be stable. Hopefully all goes well on this trip.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!!!!!    

Friday, September 21, 2012


Why do I have a package of straws on my blog? It's something I use to let people see what it feels like to have asthma. This is for all of you who think it's "just" asthma-no big deal, right? People should just use their inhaler and everything's better, right? You can try this at home if you DON'T have asthma.

  • Run in place for 30 seconds (or climb a flight of stairs)
  • Stop
  • Plug your nose
  • Put the straw in your mouth and try to breath through it
  • Take the straw out after 30 seconds

How do you feel? Can you get all the air that you would like to? Is it hard to breathe? How do you feel emotionally? Are you panicking a little?

This is what it feels like to have asthma. EXCEPT you can take your straw out of your mouth and breathe normally. If you have asthma, you can't. You have to use an inhaler or nebulizer and try to keep yourself calm until the medicine kicks in.

Having an asthma attack is scary. No matter how many times it happens, it's still scary. It doesn't just affect your lungs, it really affects your brain. (You're not getting the oxygen you should, so that means not enough oxygen is getting to your brain.) I know that I can't think well for a while after I've had to use my inhaler. It seems like simple things (like driving) become hard. Using the computer is hard. Answering questions or talking to people is hard. The brain needs a little time to catch up. Plus you are shaking from using your inhaler and you're still coughing from the attack.

So, the next time those of you who don't have asthma think, "what's the big deal? use your inhaler and let's get going!" Remember the little straw experiment and how you felt. It's a real eye opener to see how those of us with asthma live.

Welcome to my world. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So much for soccer season

Well, soccer season is over this week and I think daughter Kitty has missed more games and practices than she's played in. Thanks to wildfires burning non stop somewhere in our state, we have had to stay inside. The latest fire is in another state, about 300 miles away. But the winds changed direction and blew the smoke from their fire into our state.

I checked the Division of Air Quality website, and today is listed as

Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups - The following groups should reduce prolonged or heavy outdoor exertion:
  • People with lung disease, such as asthma.
  • Children and older adults
  • People who are active outdoors

 Last night, there was a story on our local TV station about people with asthma ending up in the hospital because of the air quality was making it very difficult for them to breathe. (By the way, did you know that asthma kills 9 people in the US every day?)

Woah! It's been 4 years since one of my kids has been in the hospital due to asthma (a record for our family) and I would like to keep it that way. We had 12 separate hospitalizations due to asthma. In fact it feels like we paid for part of the pediatric wing of our regional hospital.....

So, we are doing all we can to avoid another hospital visit. Today I had to send a letter to Kitty's gym teacher to allow her to stay inside and exercise on the stationary bike while the other kids go outside. Kitty also had to miss last night's soccer practice due to the smoke and will miss tonight's game. And if things aren't cleared up by Saturday, she'll have to miss the last game of her season.

That's the most frustrating thing about having asthma. Other people can carry on with their lives and don't have to think twice about air quality or being around someone who is sick. If you have asthma, you know how your lungs over-react to things that don't bother other people. I call it the "drama queen" effect. It's a physical reaction our bodies have to irritants, allergens and illness.

There's nothing we can do about the smoke other than stay inside, but here's another plea to those of you who come to work, school, etc while you are sick. To you it is a cold, to us it's pneumonia and another expensive hospitalization. You'll never understand what it feels like to not be able to breathe. Take my word for it, it's one of the scariest things you'll ever experience. (Try jogging in place for 30 seconds, then plug your nose and try breathing through a straw. That's what it feels like for us who have asthma to try and breathe. If you don't have asthma, you can take the straw out of your mouth and breathe normally. I can't. I have to wait for the swelling to go down in my lungs. That can take a LONG time.) You can help by staying home if you are sick and not spreading your germs to those of us who can very easily end up in the hospital (again!) Please help us stay healthy!

Now about he smoke.....well nothing I can do about that. Except spend another day inside. And hope for rain!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Super pollen? Yikes!!

(Shutterstock image)

I was reading an article from the Washington Post about pollen, allergies and asthma. One doctor in the Midwest was shocked at the number of people being admitted to the hospital for allergies and asthma-about 20 people per day! I don't think our regional hospital ever gets that many patients per day, even in the middle of flu and RSV season!

Dr. Portnoy works at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics of Kansas City, Missouri. He is chief of the hospital's allergy, asthma and immunology section and said that this year has been a perfect storm for allergy and asthma sufferers. Hot and dry weather, little humidity and plants blooming early  means a long and miserable allergy season. Doctors can't prove yet that global warming is causing a change in allergy and asthma symptoms, but they think they may actually have some statistics by the end of the summer.  Dr. Portnoy is quoted as saying:

“It’s been a secular trend, gradually getting worse,” he said.
“This year it all came together, warm in the winter, all the plants started producing their pollen,” Portnoy said. “My guess is probably it was a worse year than other years . . . because it was a perfect storm of hot, dry, low humidity.”

The University of North Carolina has an allergist named David Peden. He says that:

Americans are likely being exposed to a new super pollen. Studies have shown that plants treated with carbon dioxide and ozone emissions — causes of global warming — release a more potent pollen, with greater amounts of allergens per pollen grain, he said.
“When you’re consistently exposed to things you’re allergic to, you never give the nose and the lungs any real rest,” Peden said. “A person’s response to things they are allergic to can be increased by other things, like ozone, air pollution and associated climate-change issues. People who encounter it will be more sensitive.”
(Shutterstock image)
That explains why people are being admitted to the hospital more often for allergies and asthma. This photo shows what we have to try to breathe through. When you have asthma, your body over-reacts to many triggers or irritants. That makes the bronchial tubes in the lungs swell from the inside. The bands on the outside of the bronchial tubes tighten and what little room is left to breathe through clogs with mucus. No wonder we have a hard time breathing! 

Hhm. No matter what you believe about global warming, it seems like things are getting worse for allergy and asthma sufferers. So, what to do? There are a few simple things that can keep you from being so miserable.
  • Use Central Air instead of a swamp cooler (swamp coolers can pull pollen into the home)
  • Sleep with the windows closed (another reason to use central air)
  • Shower before you go to bed at night (to remove pollen from your skin and hair)
  • Wash your sheets once a week in hot water
  • Talk to your doctor! If you aren't getting relief from taking these precautions and from taking an anti-histamine, see what else he or she would recommend. There are allergy nose sprays on the market that only affect the nose. You may not have the drowsy side effects of taking an allergy pill every day. 
  • Allergy shots (or immunotherapy) are another option. To learn more, click here.  
Good luck and pass the tissues. Achoo!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mom Fights for Kids with Asthma (American Lung Association)

(Shutterstock image)

Mmmm, doesn't this make you want to take a deep breath?!  There's a story on American Lung Association's website about a mom from California whose 15 year old daughter died from an asthma attack. Lydia Rojas is now channeling her grief to be an American Lung Association Healthy Air Volunteer.  Here's a quote from Lydia:

"Simply breathing dirty air can be deadly for people with asthma,” Lydia explains. “Because no one should have to experience the pain my family has endured, it is time we get tough on soot and other forms of air pollution.” 

You can read more from Lydia's guest blog on American Lung Assocation's website. No parent should have to lose a child, no matter what the cause. But people can make a difference when it comes to dirty air. You can carpool, use mass transit or commute by bicycle (depending on how far you live from your office!)

You can also do something REALLY simple. You can be "Idle Free." It's a campaign in our state to encourage people to turn off their engines if they are idling (in line at the bank, in front of the kid's schools while waiting to pick up your child, etc.) According to the Idle Free website:

"idling wastes money and contributes to increased asthma and other respiratory problems"

So "Turn Your Key and Be Idle Free." It's easy and your lungs will thank you. And so will the people behind you in their car! Let's all do a little bit to help clean up our air!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Another new drug for hard to treat asthma?

(Shutterstock photo)

I signed up to get updates from American Lung Association, and read about a study for a new asthma drug for hard to treat asthma. It won't be on the market for another 3 to 4 years, but it is showing promise.

According to HealthDay, News for Healthier Living, this new drug (mepolizumab) may reduce asthma attacks in 50% of people who take the medication.

The article says that many people with hard to treat asthma can end up on oral steroids repeatedly. My Son #2 used to have so many problems with asthma that we kept a bottle of Prednisone on hand so we could start him on it right away to try to avoid a trip to the hospital. Sometimes the steroids worked, sometimes it wasn't enough. Oral steroids have some not-so-fun side effects. To read about some of the side effects, click here. 

They are testing mepolizumab on about 600 randomly selected patients. After a year, patients getting mepolizumab  had about half as many trips to the emergency department or hospital versus the people who weren't getting the drug.

That is going to make a BIG difference in people's lives. I wish I could have prevented the 12 hospitalizations my kids endured......

Mepolizumab doesn't sound like it will be cheap, since it's given once a month by IV. But, I always like to know what options are out there for treating asthma. Just in case.

Son #2 seems to be doing REALLY well since he started on Xolair. So I think we'll stick with that medication. He's only been hospitalized once since he started on Xolair. It's not cheap either, it was $1000 when we started on it 4 1/2 years ago. But I'm sure the cost has gone up since then. Thankfully insurance covers most of that cost.

For any others that are suffering from severe asthma, talk to your doctor. There are options for treating asthma. Not always cheap or easy, but there are choices.

We deserve to live a long happy life! And to do that may mean trying out new treatments for asthma until you get the right one.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Adodder code or flu (another cold or flu)

It's that time of year again, cold and flu season. I have been VERY careful about avoiding germs, but a colleague came to work while she was sick and it is quickly spreading through the office. This is what I survived on yesterday. Not to mention watching a movie on Netflix. The kids were in school, and Hubby was at work, so I had a nice quiet house to recuperate in.

If you are sick, when should you stay home from work? According to the Centers for Disease Control:

How long should I stay home if I’m sick?

CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other things you have to do and no one else can do for you. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®.) You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.
 If you want to read more about the Center's for Disease Control's article "The Flu: What to do if you get sick" click here.

Yes, we're all busy. And yes, we all have things to do. But you aren't doing anyone a favor by coming to work or school if you are sick. One thing that people don't understand is that when they have a cold or flu, that's all it is to them. For those of us with asthma, it can easily turn into pneumonia or bronchitis. That means a trip to the doctor, emergency department or even a hospitalization. My two youngest kids (now teenagers) have been in the hospital 12 times for their asthma and almost all of those were due to pneumonia. 

If you are sick, STAY HOME!!!!! I don't appreciate getting sick because then I have to take time off work. And stay home with cold washcloths on my forehead and Advil for the fever, plus breathing treatments and boxes of tissues.  I had to call and ask colleagues to take care of pressing obligations for me the day that I was out sick. But it can be done. Stay home, take care of yourself and DON'T go out in public and spread your misery.

There, I'm done ranting now. Thank you.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Generic Singulair in Walmart Ad

I was surprised to see this ad for generic Singulair (Montelukast) in the Walmart ad this week. Their ad says save up to 50% on Montelukast. My co-pay went from $50 per month to $10 per month! Nice! Especially since all 3 of my kids take it EVERY day, yep they take it year-round.

Some kids are lucky and only have seasonal allergies. So they may only need to take Singulair in the Spring or Fall when pollen is bad. We aren't as lucky, we all have allergies year round. We're all allergic to animals, grass, trees, flowers, bushes, etc. If it's alive, we're allergic to it.

I heard an ad on TV the other day while I was making dinner. It said "Do you store tissues like a squirrel stores nuts?" I burst out laughing, because I do! I have travel size tissues in my purse, the kids have them in their backpacks, I have multiple packages stashed throughout my car. Not to mention my favorite Puffs with Lotion boxes throughout the house.

So, if you're like our family, and suffer with allergies and asthma, you may want to switch to generic Singulair (Montelukast). It will save you a LOT of money. Then you can afford to buy more tissues!

Ahh, life with allergies and asthma....

Friday, August 31, 2012

Flu shot vs flu mist when you have asthma

(Shutterstock image)

I am a big believer in Flu Shots. I know that some people try to avoid shots (who really likes needles anyway?!) If you don't have asthma, you can have the flu mist. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the flu mist is for "healthy people."

 "Healthy" indicates persons who do not have an underlying medical condition that predisposes them to influenza complications.
Asthma is one of those conditions that "predisposes people to influenza complications." The flu mist is made with a live, weakened virus. That's not good for people with asthma, especially if you use corticosteroids. One of the side effects of steroids is that it impairs your immune system. The Free Dictionary by Farlex says that:

"...patients being treated with corticosteroids should avoid receiving live virus vaccines."

So check with your doctor, but we have always been told that if you have asthma, you can't have the flu mist. My kids are used to shots anyway, they get weekly allergy shots, so it's not a big deal. Check with your doctor to see if other family members who don't have asthma can get the mist. They may want the whole family to have the flu shot instead.

I have asthma, as well as all 3 of my kids. So we all just get the flu shot every year. We have the worst luck in the world, I know that if we didn't get the flu shot, one of us would get the flu and end up in the hospital. Son #2 and daughter Kitty have been hospitalized 12 times for asthma. And that's more than enough times for me. I feel like we payed for our own corner suite in the pediatrics ward at the hospital......

So, plan a day with the kids, roll up your sleeve and get your flu shot. Then take yourself out for a treat as a reward (bakery, ice cream, whatever.) Why should the kids have all the fun? We should get a treat for getting our shots too!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Teaching my own kids.....

It's been a while since daughter Kitty has been really sick. But school started last week, so here we go with the first illness of the school year (what do you expect when you're around 1200 other kids in a school...)

She was coughing and didn't sound very good, so I knew she needed a breathing treatment with the nebulizer. She used to be pretty good at putting the nebulizer kit together and doing her own treatment, but she couldn't remember how.

This is our nebulizer, canister and tubing kit. Our canister comes apart so it can be easily cleaned. I showed Kitty how to pull it apart and add the Albuterol to the 'green volcano' and put it back together. She's old enough to sit still and read or watch TV while she does her treatment. With little kids, you may have to distract them or let them give 'teddy' or whatever stuffed animal they love a 'treatment' first. I know moms that put a little water in the canister to mimic the mist from the Albuterol and then kids can give their stuffed animal a 'treatment'. Then it's their turn, and mom adds Albuterol for the child.

Anyway, we're past those days.

But with any nebulizer, you need to take care of it and the canister and tubing kit. We've had our nebulizer for 12 years now. However, the tubing kits are disposable and should be thrown away. In the hospital, they use the same tubing kit the entire time the kids are in there. So, we use ours at home for a while before we throw them away. BUT you must make sure they are cleaned after every use. The home health care taught us to take the canister apart and hand wash it with hot, sudsy water. Then rinse it, then sterilize it by soaking it in a bowl with 1 part vinegar to 2 parts hot water. We let it sit for half an hour. Then rinse it and put it on a paper towel to air dry. (Don't put it on a dish towel, that can contaminate it.)

It's a lot of work, but well worth it. If you don't take care of the canister and tubing kit, the wet canister and tubing can grow all sorts of nasty things in it. Then you use it for a breathing treatment, and that is a recipe for disaster. Ask your doctor or home health care how they want you to clean the canister and tubing kit. Also how many times you can use the kit before you should throw it away.

You should practice putting the kit together and taking it apart. So if you are in a hurry and your child is really sick, you will be able to do it without any trouble. You would be surprised how you can panic when your child is struggling to breath. You can completely blank out and forget things. I know this from personal experience and 12 hospitalizations for my kid's asthma. It can be scary. So practice, practice, practice.  

You'll thank me later!