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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

Straws?!






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....