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Friday, November 30, 2012

I know how he feels....

(Shutterstock image)

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

(Shutterstock image)

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?!

(Shutterstock image)

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!