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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dr. Oz -Weather causes 'Fake Allergies Attacks' and Thunderstorms Cause Asthma Attacks

Dr. Oz

I saw something interesting on the Dr. Oz show, he was talking about how changes in weather can affect your health. One of the things they talked about was a 'fake allergy attack.' The guest on his show was talking about what can happen when there is a sudden drop in temperatures-say 10 to 20 degrees in an hour.

Dr. Oz explains what happens inside the nose, but I can't tell it as good as he does, so if you want to watch the story, click here.

He also talks about how thunderstorms can trigger asthma attacks. The wind gusts that come before thunderstorms are often filled with dust and pollen. And guess what happens when we breathe all of that in? Yep, the Drama Queen Effect-our bodies over react and cause an asthma attack.

He also showed a stretch that has been shown to reduce asthma attacks. You put your hands above your head, lace your fingers together (palm side up) and stretch. I would like to find the research on that, or at least know how to spell the name of the stretch. You'll have to watch the video and let me know what you think.

He also suggested a few other things to avoid an asthma attack during a thunderstorm:

  • Close the windows in your house to keep the dust and pollen out
  • Put the windows up in the car, and shut the vents
It seems like I find out new things about allergies and asthma all of the time. Good to know too, in case we need to protect ourselves from a thunderstorm or sudden drop in temperatures.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Climbing 23 flights of stairs for asthma?

We went up to our local American Lung Association's event, called the "Fight For Air Climb." It's where people climb 23 flights of stairs to raise money for the local American Lung Association's asthma programs. They asked my daughter, Kitty, to hand out medals again this year, so that was fun for her. Even if she is a little shy....

The most amazing part of the event was to watch the fire fighters climb the 23 flights of stairs-in full gear. Many people have a hard time climbing the stairs on their own, but try adding 60-70 pounds of fire fighting gear! By the time many of them reached the top of the stairs, they were exhausted. Several collapsed at the top of the stairs, and their buddies would remove their gear so they could go sit down. I could always tell when they were nearing the top, because their alarms would go off on their oxygen tanks (I think that's what the alarm was for.) As they reached the top, they would run out of oxygen. And I can tell you that they always got loud cheers from those of us already on the floor. What amazing men.

Hubby remarked that all the firefighters looked like ex-football players. They would have to be to carry 60 pounds of equipment. For those of us with asthma, some days can be a challenge to breathe. And that doesn't include strapping 60 extra pounds on while we get a little exercise.

I looked like a manly competition too, to see which firefighters could make it to the top the fastest. I think there were several different agencies from the city there. I'm not sure who ended up with bragging rights for the best time.

For my part, I manned the display table and told people about programs that are available for people with asthma. Open Airways is a great class that helps kid aged 8-11 manage their asthma. We show the kids how to use an inhaler, peak flow meter, explain about different types of medication, etc. Studies show that kids that complete this course (6 weeks- one 45 minute class one day a week ) have less asthma attacks, fewer visits to the emergency room and less missed school days.

If you are interested, contact your local American Lung Assocation, the class are free, and the kids get a t-shirt on the last day of class and a fun party.

If you missed the Fight For Air Climb, there's always next year. Until then, look forward to summer when our local American Lung Assocation sponsors a Fight For Air walk. Now that's more my speed-a stroll around a local park. If you ask me, that beats climbing 23 flights of stairs!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Deadly asthma attacks

I hear a lot of people say "oh, it's JUST asthma." Well, JUST asthma can kill you. It is rare, but every day in the United States, 11 people die from asthma attacks.

I was watching NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, and he told about a New York Times correspondent that died of an asthma attack in Syria. Anthony Shadid was covering the unrest in Syria when he had an asthma attack and died at the age of 43.

Anthony Shadid had survived being shot and also being kidnapped while covering stories in other countries. But it was an asthma attack that killed him. I found an AP article on MSNBC, that interviewed Anthony's father. The father says Anthony had asthma all of his life, and had medication with him. (I don't know if that means he had an inhaler with him or that he had taken his maintenance medication that day.) But it appears that he was walking to the border, since traveling by car was too dangerous. He was walking behind horses, which he is allergic to. When another journalist asked him if he was okay, Anthony just collapsed. His breathing was very shallow, then it stopped all together. The story also report that a colleague tried to revive Anthony, but couldn't. When someone stops breathing, you have 4 minutes to try to save their life. In a war zone, it looks as thought they were too far away from any hospitals to get help.

To read the MSNBC AP story from Fort Meyers Florida, click here.

What a sad end to a talented man. Anthony can survive being shot, and kidnapped, but he didn't survive an asthma attack. So, what can I learn from this? I know what my asthma triggers are and I try to avoid them like the plague! I do have my medication handy at all times and I'm not afraid to use it. Sometimes I wonder if people wait too long to take their inhaler. I don't know what happened to Anthony. But I know that he left behind a wife and two children.

A brilliant life cut short.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Staying healthy with asthma

I will be the first one to admit it, I am a germiphobe. See my pop up canister of Wet Ones? That stays in my car at all times. That's the first thing I do when I get in the car after being in a store, work or any other building. I wipe down my hands and the steering wheel.

Who knows what people have on their hands? And they are all using the same door handles or hand rails that I am. Ever been in a public restroom and see people leave WITHOUT washing their hands? The thought makes me shudder. That's also why I use a paper towel to open the door when I leave a restroom.

I push elevator buttons with my knuckle instead of my finger.

If I have to use a handrail, I'll use my scarf under my hand, or make a fist and use the side of my hand.

I was wiping down the handle on grocery carts WAY before those pop up canisters were available. I used to carry small, individually wrapped alcohol wipes and wipe the cart handle down. Son #1 was a preemie, so I had to keep us healthy. I should have designed the pop up canisters that they keep by the grocery carts, I could have made millions!

We're not over reacting to protect ourselves when we have asthma, we are being smart. Just remember, a cold to a "normal" person often goes into bronchitis or pneumonia for those of us with asthma. And pneumonia for my kids means a 3 day stay in the pediatric ward of the hospital. (we've done that 12 times so far.....)

So, use Wet Ones, Purell, or whatever works for you. But wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. And did I say wash your hands? And don't touch your face. You would be suprised how many times a day you absentmindedly touch your nose, eyes or mouth. And that's just what the germs are waiting for. Hello inside of a nice warm body! That's exactly what germs love.

So far so good, I haven't been sick since last Fall's pneumonia.

Let me know if anyone else has something that works to keep them healthy. We need all the help and protection we can get.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mild winter = early allergies

The Today had a story on this morning about allergy season. It looks like for most of the country that it's going to be a loooooong allergy season. People are having symptoms now because trees and flowers are blooming. In February.

Silly little plants, don't they realize that it's still winter? But there they are on the Today show report, perky little yellow daffodils and beautiful pink blossoms on the trees. I always look forward to my flowers blooming, it's like a breath of fresh air. Just not this early in the year. We just had Valentine's Day for pete's sake!

For those of us with allergies, it means lots of sneezing and wheezing. And the problem with allergies is that it often times affects asthma. Just because you have allergies doesn't mean you will have problems with asthma. But most people with asthma seem to have allergies.

To watch the Today show report, click here. I guess for now we'll stock up on tissues, Zyrtec and Singulair. And make sure we shower every night. If you do shower at night, it cleans the pollen out of your hair and skin, making sleeping MUCH more enjoyable. Or, you can just go to bed and roll around on your pillow all night, spreading pollen around and causing you to wake up with puffy eyes and a runny nose. (If you don't wake yourself up all night sneezing. My kids sometimes sneeze repeatedly during the night, waking me up.)

For all of you with allergies, you know how I feel. It's like having a cold, only it stays for months and months and months. Constant sneezing, runny nose, itchy throat. At least it's a beautiful view. But maybe I'll just view the flower gardens from inside my pollen-free office.....

Monday, February 13, 2012

One way to stay healthy this winter

This is my my medicine cabinet, and notice that there are TWO tubes of toothpaste. One on the middle shelf, and one on the bottom. That's right, each of us in our family has our own tube of toothpaste. It's one way we have found to cut down on spreading germs. There's nothing worse than having one person in the family with a nasty chest cold or stomach flu, have them use the tube of toothpaste, then have another family member use it. Tada! Another sick person.

It may seem like we are over reacting to germs, but our kids have been in the hospital 14 times (12 of those were for asthma.) We had to try something new along the way. So the first thing that goes in the trash when the kids are sick is the toothbrush. Otherwise you can re-infect yourself. Blech.

Then we each have our own tube of toothpaste. Many times you can spread an infection before you even realize that you are sick. have you ever woken up with a fever or start throwing up in the middle of the night and think, "oh great?!" So, this is one way of protecting yourself from everyone else's germs. Tubes of toothpaste aren't that expensive, they're certainly less than it would cost for a trip to the pediatrican.

So, try it and see if it works in your family! I'm all for less sick days! If anyone else has tried something that works in their family and seems to cut down on sick days, let me know.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Can you "outgrow" asthma?


People ask me all the time if you can "outgrow" asthma. They brightly tell me stories of how their cousin's next-door neighbor's babysitter's best friend out grew hers, so I can too! Well, I haven't. And it seems like my asthma is worse now than it's ever been. And as a mom of three kids, you can guess that I'm well into adulthood now-and I haven't "outgrown" my asthma.

So I was interested to hear a telehealth this week from the Utah Asthma Program that was given by Dr. David Gourley. He said that many people do NOT outgrow their asthma, or have their asthma 'disappear.' It can actually become 'dormant' in 30% to 50% of kids at puberty, but often reappears when you are an adult. He also said that the odds are higher if the child has eczema or other family members do.

It makes sense to me, my asthma wasn't that bad when I was younger. But I take a maintenance medication every day now and don't go anywhere without my inhaler.

My poor kids haven't "outgrown" their asthma either. We have eczema, allergies and asthma on Hubby's side of the family too, so I'm afraid our kids were doomed to have asthma! Funny how some things tend to run in families.

So, just another little nugget of information. Don't be too relaxed into thinking that your kids can or will outgrown their asthma. There's always hope! But I would keep asthma medications handy and be aware of the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack. Make sure you are having annual checkups with your doctor.

If you want to listen to more of the Asthma telehealth presentations, click here. Scroll down the page and you'll see the presentations listed at the bottom. There's a new one every 3 months, Dr. Gourley's isn't on there yet, but should be shortly.

Happy viewing and grab some popcorn. Oooh, and some tasty peanut M&M's!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rules of 2's

Rules of 2's

I listened to a "telehealth" yesterday from the Utah Asthma Program. (They broadcast a speaker live over the internet once every 3 months.) They also record the telehealth presentations so you can watch them later. To see some of the programs they have done in the past, click here. (This last presentation isn't on there yet, but give them a little time and they will add it.)

Each speaker is very smart, I learn something new every time-even though I've been dealing with asthma for 12 years with my 3 kids. This program was by David Gourley, who talked about Diagnosing Asthma. He talked about the "Rules of 2." There are many people who are sure that their asthma is under control, but this is how to tell.

Your asthma is NOT under control if you are:

  • Using your inhaler more than 2 times per week
  • Waking up at night (due to asthma) more than 2 times per month
  • Refilling your Albuterol canister more than 2 times per year
Does this sound like you? What should you do if it does? A visit to your doctor or asthma specialist would be in order. Dr. Gourley said that if any of those things sound like you (or one of your loved ones) that you need to do more to control your (or their) asthma. He talked about the need to be on a controller or maintenance medication. (That's a medication that you take EVERY day, whether you feel sick or not! )

There are a lot of different medications that they can use to control asthma. You can work with your doctor until you find one that works for you. All 3 of my kids and I use different medications, different strengths of medication, etc. Asthma is a very individual disease.

Some people are afraid of side effects of using controller medication. But it is better to have your asthma under control and not be using your inhaler so often. What if you forget your inhaler? Run out? Can't find it? Controller medication can help control the swelling in your lungs that happens with asthma. If the swelling is already there, and you get sick on top of that, it can be too much for your lungs to handle. (As we found out with our kid's 12 hospitalizations!)

Asthma can and should be under control. But it takes a little experimenting with medications and doses to get it right. If you have any problems under the Rules of 2's, talk to your doctor pronto! You should be able to enjoy life with asthma once it's under control.

And I intend to enjoy life and live long enough to annoy my kids. Ha!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Dogs visiting hospitals and care centers?

I know some people like to bring their therapy dogs to visit people in hospitals or care centers, but what if you have allergies and asthma? This weekend, we were visiting Family Members in a care center and a family member proudly brought their Show Dog. (And it's a BIG dog)

I was shocked and suprised, because I turned around and there it was. In fact, it scared me because I wasn't expecting to see a pet in a care facility. The problem is that we are allergic to dogs, as is the family member we were visiting. However the other family members felt that they were doing a service by bringing in their show dog to let all of the other residents see her. Granted, it seemed to work. There were several residents rolling along in their wheelchairs whose faces really lit up when they saw the dog. And it's rather amusing watching grown adults talking baby talk to a dog!

I guess it seems a little boring there day after day, seeing the same faces of nurses and fellow patients and not having a lot of excitement. So the Show Dog really seemed to make their day.

However, for me, Hubby, and Family Member we were visiting, we were miserable. My nose stuffed up and mucus filled my nose and ran down my throat the whole time Show Dog was there. It was pretty gross. Family Member asked them not to get Show Dog near her, as she had an asthma attack the day before and her chest was still tight. But the other family members seemed not to notice.

So, what to do? As we were leaving the care facility, another visitor was bringing in TWO dogs to visit a family member. (At least these dogs were little) I guess these people think they're brightening their family member's day, by bringing the dogs in to visit. But if we are going to have allergies and a potential asthma attack, what should we do? They know we are allergic and would rather not have the dog around, but they bring Show Dog anyway.

Anyone else had a similar sticky situation to deal with?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What if you hate your asthma medicine?

What if you hate your asthma medicine? Some people don't like the powder taste or feeling that comes from using an Advair disc. That's why talking to your doctor is important. He can always change your medications so that you feel more comfortable using what you have.

What's the point of prescribing a medication for asthma if you won't use it? Make sure you are honest with your doctor and let him know if you are taking your medication as prescribed. Are you forgetting doses? Do you not like the taste or feeling, and so you start back on your controller medication only when you are starting to get sick? (Not a good idea by the way, that can easily lead to an ER visit or hospitalization if you aren't keeping the swelling in your lungs under control. The last thing you need is irritation and swelling in your lungs from asthma, and then to get a cold on top of that. Hello hospital staff!)

Your doctor is there to help you, he wants your asthma to be under control. So be honest and let him know. For those of you that don't like the Advair disc, there's a simple fix for that-it comes in an inhaler too. Son #2 has been using it for years, Asthma Doc switched him to the inhaler to see if the smaller particle would get down further into Son #2's lungs and work better for him. A simple switch, and it seemed to work.

There are new medications on the market all the time, I noticed tv ads for Dulera. I haven't done a lot of research on it yet, if anyone is using it, let me know what you think.

Just keep in mind that medications are always changing, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all when it comes to asthma. We all have different triggers (or causes) of asthma attacks, and there are different treatment plans depending on how severe your asthma is too.

So, make friends with your doctor and be honest and tell him if you don't like your medicine (which means you won't use it.) He's there to help and can try something else.

Happy breathing!