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Monday, April 30, 2012

New spacer for inhalers

This is the kind of spacer most of us use who have asthma. 

I just read an article in the Salt Lake Tribune about a new design for a spacer. It seems that four college students developed it for a contest at the University of Utah's Bench to Bedside Medical Device competition. 

One of the students has asthma and hated having to use his spacer when he was growing up. Spacers are big and bulky and they take you have to be coordinated to be able to breath in and depress the inhaler at the right time. Some people just aren't coordinated. Kind of like how I can't walk and chew gum at the same time! For you to get the most medicine from your inhaler, you need a spacer.

For those of you new to asthma, a spacer looks like a clear tube and it attaches to an inhaler. You can see that in the photo above. The medicine is sprayed into the tube, and you SLOWLY inhale it out of the tube. It will whistle if you inhale too quickly. The idea is that it allows you to get the medicine down into your lungs instead of it ending up in the back of your throat.

They haven't changed the design of spacers that much. My son got this one 12 years. There is a newer version of this one, but it doesn't look that different.

Spacers are big and bulky and not easy to carry around. These students designed a small white inhaler that is about the size of a cell phone, so you can easily slide it in your pocket. Great for guys. For us women, it wouldn't take up much room in our purses. (I choose a new purse based on if there is room for my spacer and inhaler. Yes, my life is THAT exciting.) 

These students were pretty creative to design something new. They beat out U of U graduate students and medical students. They won $15,000 for their spacer and another $5,000 for best business plan. To read about the article, click here. 

I am excited to buy one of these when they are finally mass produced. I'll take 4 please. One for me and one for each of my kids that have asthma.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Hey Horsey! What ARE you doing?!

What is this stuffed horse doing sticking out of my washing machine? It's about to get washed! Muhahah!

Stuffed animals can cause problems with asthma, but most people don't know that. How? Well, Horsey looks cute sticking out of the washer, but he is full of dust. So are the other stuffed animals on my daughter's bed. I only let her have 2 or 3 of her favorite stuffed animals on her bed-and they have to get washed regularly.

Have you ever seen a bed that has so many stuffed animals in it that there is no room for the child to sleep? I've also seen a net that hangs in the corner of a child's room, above their bed, where they can put all of their stuffed animals. Can you imagine sleeping under all of that dust? No wonder kids are sneezing and wheezing. Then there are book cases, shelves and window ledges lined with stuffed animals

Don't get me wrong, I love stuffed animals (as did my kids when they were little) But how often do you wash your kid's stuffed animals? I try to make sure the kids are washing their bedding once a week. But my daughter only washes her stuffed animals once a month.

I have heard of people putting their kids stuffed animals in the freezer over night-it's supposed to kill the dust mites. We live in a fairly dry climate, so I'm not worried about the dust mites as much as the actual dust.

My daughter gets upset if I wash her stuffed animals and it ruins the fur on her animals. How is Horsey going to look if his mane is all matted?! One thing that seems to help is to put the stuffed animals in a net bag before I put it in the washer. I've also tried putting it inside a pillow case, folding the end over and securing it with multiple safety pins. It seems to help so the fur wasn't as matted. But no system is perfect.

 You'll have to see what works for you, but think about washing your kid's stuffed animals on a regular basis. And limiting how many your kids have on their bed, maybe just 2 or 3, and then you can rotate those with their other stuffed animals.

Every person with asthma and allergies has different triggers that make their symptoms worse. But dust seems to be one of those that affects a lot of people. So, if your kids are sneezing and wheezing during the night, try washing and removing some of their stuffed animals and see if it makes a difference.




Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Reactions to allergy shots

We haven't had that many problems when the kids get their weekly allergy shots. Sometimes they can get have a reaction. Usually they just have a small bump (like the bottom photo that looks like a mosquito bite.) But sometimes, they get large welts (like the top photo.)

This was just the start of my daughter's reaction last week. The spot on the upper photo actually tripled in size, leaving a hard, hot welt on her arm.

It's important to let the doctor's office know if you have a reaction like that. The next week when you get your shots, they will reduce the amount of serum in the injection. Then you will have to slowly build back up again to your normal level.

Shot Nurse taught each of my kids to tell her how big the size of their bump was after shots. She asks if it was the size of a penny or quarter (or bigger!) My daughter's welt was half the size of a dollar bill last week.

Ask your doctor what he wants you to do if you have a large welt. We usually put Bendadryl cream on the arm, and top that off with an ice pack. The ice seems to keep the swelling down. The kids take Zyrtec, so the doctor doesn't usually recommend that you use Bendadryl too. But ask your doctor what he would like you to do.

It's important to watch for any other signs of a reaction. It's rare, but you can have anaphylaxis with allergy shots. An anaphylaxis reaction means that your whole body is reacting to the shot, not just the little bump on your arm. And it can be fatal because your throat can close off and your blood pressure can drop so low that you pass out and die. That's why the doctor's office wants you to wait 20 minutes, so they will be there to help you if you have a reaction. To learn more about the symptoms of anaphylaxis, click here.

These are the symptoms according to American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology:

• Red rash, with hives/welts, that is usually itchy
• Swollen throat or swollen areas of the body
• Wheezing
• Passing out
• Chest tightness
• Trouble breathing
• Hoarse voice
• Trouble swallowing
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Stomach cramping
• Pale or red color to the face and body
• Feeling of impending doom

If you have any of these symptoms, they recommend using your Epi Pen immediately, or CALL 911!

We have had this happen once several years ago, to Son #1. And I NEVER want to go through that again. Shot Nurse literally saved my son's life. He now carries an Epi Pen with him at all times.

For our 3 kids, allergy shots have made a dramatic difference in their lives. Both of my sons are done with their allergy shots, and my daughter is on her last year. It has made it so they can be around other people's pets without having a severe asthma attack. We seem to be the only family I know that doesn't have a pet.

But it takes dedication and time. You have to be willing to take your kids to the doctor's office once or twice a week for about 5 years. Yes, you read that right. 5 years. You start our going twice a week, then move to once a week. Some people can go less often, but not my kids. And with EACH visit, you have to wait 20 minutes after they get their shot.

So, if you are doing allergy shots now, my sympathy. It's a long road, but well worth it. Just keep an eye out for any reactions.

Friday, April 6, 2012

You know your allergies are bad when......

I picked up a Reader's Digest to read yesterday and found an article about allergies. I thought I had read it all and seen it all, but the first line of the article has me laughing! It said:

"When the sounds of birds chirping instantly trigger a runny nose,
you know your allergies are bad."

They had a few simple ideas from the article and the show "The Doctors"

  • Avoid going outside during high pollen times-5 am to 10 am.
  • Avoid windy days.
  • Use a HEPA filter in your vacuum, air conditioning and heating system (otherwise, you can just spread around the dust and pollen)
  • Try switching allergy medications if yours makes you drowsy. The article says Zyrtec, Allegra and Claritin may help you feel more alert. They also say to take it at night, so you sleep through some of the drowsy side effects.
  • Try allergy eye drops and nasal sprays instead of a pill.
  • Use a sinus rinse, my doctor recommends a Neti Pot.
The article didn't mention an important idea- shower before you go to bed at night. Otherwise you are rolling around in pollen covered sheets all night. That can make you wake up with swollen eyes, running nose and keep you up all night sneezing. I know this from personal experience!
The other thing the article didn't mention was immunotherapy (allergy shots.) Sometimes, doing all of the things listed above just aren't enough to control allergies. To read more about allergy shots, click here.
The doctor's office can perform a simple (yet itchy) scratch test on your back to see what you are allergic to. Then they mix up a serum of what you are allergic to and you get tiny shots every week. They gradually increase the dose while your body starts to build up a defense against the allergies. It's not a quick fix-it can take 3 to 5 years. But it has made life easier at our house.
All allergies are not created equal-what might bother you may not be a problem for your kids. And vice versa. So try different ways of dealing with allergies and see what works for you.
And buy boxes of tissues in bulk! I'm shocked at how many we go through....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Advair inhaler instead of the disc

I know that I have already blogged about this before, but I keep meeting people who have never heard of an Advair inhaler. Even doctors don't know it is available. Most people only know about the Advair disc.

There are some people who don't like the "taste" of Advair. (Or should I say they don't like the powder in the Advair disc. )The Advair disc has two medicines in it to help with your asthma symptoms. It MUST be taken every day. If you wait until you are sick to start on a daily controller medication, it will be too late. That's the mistake we made when we were first learning about asthma, and my kids ended up hospitalized frequently until we figured out how to treat their asthma.

For those of you who hate the powder, there's another option-an Advair inhaler. It's the same medicine, but in an inhaler version. Many people are used to their rescue inhalers, so to have their maintenance medication also be in an inhaler makes it easier for them.

Remember that you still need to rinse your mouth out after using your inhaler and spit the water out. I also use my Advair right before breakfast so I can eat right after using it. Both of those things will help prevent thrush. If you've ever had the white infection on your tongue from thrush, it's no fun! It can be hard to get the thrush infection under control. So-rinse your mouth out!Every time! And spit the water out. I have found that it helps to eat too.

I have put a picture of the Advair inhaler on here. One of my friends used it to show her doctor, she was telling me how her daughter wouldn't use her Advair disc. So I suggested she get the Advair inhaler instead. She didn't know they made an Advair inhaler, so I took a picture of Son #2's inhaler and sent it to her. She kept it on her phone and then showed the doctor, who was also surprised to learn that they made an Advair inhaler!

Since it isn't common, the pharmacy most likely will have to order one in for you. And I'm not sure what different insurance companies will do. They should cover the Advair inhaler, just like they cover the Advair disc. BUT insurance companies are notorious for doing strange things. So check with your insurance company so you don't get stuck paying for the whole bill.

Happy shopping!