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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

itchy, itchy, itchy

(Photo from Costco website)

Itchy is the best way to describe my teenage daughter, Kitty. We have to repeat her skin test because she is having a LOT of problems with allergies-even though she has been on immunotherapy (allergy shots) for almost 5 years.

She is still sneezing and sniffing and miserable. And she is having HUGE welts and swelling from her shots. Last week, the lump on her arm was about the size of half a hard boiled egg under the skin.

So Asthma Doc is re-testing her. I'm a little worried. She has to stop taking all allergy medicine for a week before the scratch test (otherwise it will mask the symptoms.) She was itching by the first day of not being able to take her generic Zyrtec pill. Every day that she comes home from school, she is covered in red marks from scratching. And there's nothing I can do.

She has to suffer for 2 more days. Asthma Doc had her take a short burst of oral steroids (prednisone) to help control the allergic reactions. But she is still miserable. My oldest son, Son #1, had the same problem. But he actually broke out in hives and his hands swelled up-all because he couldn't take allergy medicine for a week.

So I get to take Kitty in for more torture this week. And the bad part, she knows what's coming. This will be her third time for the scratch test. And she let me know it. She said, "Mom-you said the scratch test wouldn't hurt. And it did!" Hhm, Shot Nurse said it wouldn't hurt, that she would just scratch the skin with each allergen, then look at her back 20 minutes later and see how big the welts are. But it does hurt.

And the patient can't move for 20 minutes. So Kitty will have to lay on her stomach with an itchy back and welts forming, and not be able to move-or scratch anything! The best part is when Shot Nurse comes back in and smooths Benadryl cream all over her back.

I feel so guilty as a mom for inflicting this pain and misery on my daughter. I hope she'll forgive me. I know it will help her in the long run. But it's very hard to watch your child suffer. Even if it is for only 20 minutes (and a week of non-stop itching the week before.)

I'll have to make it up to her somehow. Guess we'll spend Friday night at the mall shopping for clothes and going out to dinner. It's the least I can do for a teenage daughter.....

Monday, February 25, 2013

Surprising asthma triggers

Grrr, stupid technology! I don't know why I can't turn the picture, I'll work on that and see if I can re-post it.

This article was in my Women's Day magazine  

I'm always reading anything that talks about asthma, and this one had a few surprising things listed that most people don't know about. But they can cause asthma attacks (keep in mind that asthma is different for everyone-what may trigger an asthma attack in one person may not bother someone else)

Since you can't read sideways, I'll tell you what the article says:

  • Acetaminophen. It's a pain killer that many people take, but the warning is that it lowers levels of glutathione. And glutathione can ease inflammation (swelling) in the lungs.
  • Gas stoves. Fumes from gas stoves can irritate the airways. They suggest that when you are cooking, make sure there's some air flow in your kitchen by turning on a fan or opening a window. 
  • Candles and perfumes. Anything with a strong scent can cause coughing fits (I've actually had this happen to me once.) They suggest not spraying perfume in an enclosed area and choose unscented candles.
  •  Blood pressure and glaucoma medicine. Both have beta blockers, which the article says can cause your airway to constrict. And when you have asthma, you don't need your chest to feel any tighter.

If any of these seem to bother you, talk to your doctor. There are always other medications and things you can use that may not affect your asthma.

This article was written by Sakina Bajowala, MD, allergist, North Aurora, IL, and a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI.)

AAAAI has a lot of good information, if you have more questions about your asthma, check out their website.

And sorry about having to read sideways, I'll try to get that fixed!  


Friday, February 22, 2013

Allergy shots not working?

(Shutterstock image)

There's NO WAY my daughter would EVER be able to do something like this with her allergies. My daughter Kitty is allergic to everything. Literally. Trees, flowers, bushes, grass, cats, dogs, horses. She's basically allergic to anything living.

She sneezes and sneezes and sneezes. And sniffs her nose. ALL NIGHT LONG. The first time we had her tested for allergies, she didn't qualify to start immunotherapy (allergy shots) 

Testing for allergies is not a fun process, I always feel guilty for having my kids' back scratch-tested repeatedly with different allergen serums and then waiting to see how big their welts get. It's not a fun test. The best part is when the Shot Nurse rubs Benadryl cream all over their back to help with the intense itching.

The other problem is that the kids can't take any allergy medicine the week before they are tested. Which means a miserable week for the kids. Kitty is being re-tested (again) to see if her serum needs to be adjusted (again).  She has weekly allergy shots, but they no longer seem to be making a difference. She has almost completed the 5 years it takes to complete the weekly allergy shots. But something has changed because the serum doesn't seem to help anymore. Asthma Doc prescribed an oral steroid that Kitty has to take the week of her test. This is to help control any reaction she may have. Son #1 had allergies so severe that he couldn't last a week without Zyrtec. His hands actually broke out in hives a few days before the scheduled test.

So, Kitty has to stop taking Zyrtec and start taking oral Prednisone. Next week I will allow her to be tortured once again (I'm such a nice mom.....) but when your allergies are so bad that taking Zyrtec and Singulair EVERY day of your life (yes, year round) doesn't help, it's time to go to the next step.  You need to desensitize your body to whatever it's allergic to. Allergy shots were helping for a few years, but now she's been spending more time playing with the neighbor's kitties.  Maybe that's what's causing the problems.

We'll find out next week what is going on with her allergies. You get instant results. You can literally watch the hives form on your kid's back as soon as they are scratched with the serum. Then you have to try to get them not to move for 20 minutes, so they don't disrupt the test. Try not moving with a back full of rows of itchy hives! I usually have Kitty bring her Gameboy and let her play that while she waits. I also talk to her and try to keep her distracted.

Then I take her out for a treat-whatever she wants. Dinner. Ice cream. A trip to the mall. Yes, call it a guilty conscious. I am letting Shot Nurse torture my child. It's my way of making it up to her. That's My Life as an Asthma Mom.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Did your job cause your asthma?

(Shutterstock image)

I was just reading a story in Health Day that said that certain jobs can actually cause asthma. Is your job on the list?

There was a 20 year study done in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Estonia. They found that 7% of women and up to 14% of men developed asthma from their job. They were exposed to chemicals at work which caused their asthma. The study also showed that this was despite Public Health messages urging people to use protective equipment.

Here is a list from the article "Certain Jobs May Still Pose Risk from Asthma "from Healthday:

  • spray painters exposed to compounds called diisocyanates in paint
  • plumbers who handle adhesives and foam insulation
  • cleaners who come into contact with detergents
  • health care and social services personnel who use latex gloves and are exposed to detergents
  • food and tobacco industry workers exposed to certain proteins
  • hair stylists who handle chemicals in bleach
  • nail beauticians who use fast-acting glue

Does this mean if you have one of these jobs, you will develop asthma? Some people seem more likely to develop asthma than others. Read the full article to find out.

If you do have a job in one of these areas, and you have symptoms of asthma  talk to your doctor and see what he wants you to do.

Just remember that asthma is a result of your body over-reacting to things that are bothering it. There's no one-size-fits -all when it comes to asthma. Everyone is different. Your doctor can be the best judge of how to treat your asthma.

Monday, February 18, 2013

North Pole Alaska pollution out of control

(Shutterstock image)

I was reading a story in the newspaper this morning about pollution in North Pole and Fairbanks, Alaska. The pollution there was so bad from wood burning stoves that they could hardly see across the street.

One woman talked about how bad the smoke is, even inside her home. Her 2 1/2 year old daughter was struggling to breathe, was using two inhalers, and her stomach was rapidly moving in and out as her mom was taking her to the emergency room. If a child is that bad, that's a 911 call. I've seen that many times in my own children, and they can go from bad to worse very quickly.

What is wrong with that area of Alaska?! I picture a clear snow covered area with beautiful pine trees. Instead, the air is so bad that it is DOUBLE what it is in Beijing China. The problem is that they are burning wood and coal, and it's affecting the health of people that live there. I thought LA had the worse air in the nation, but they exceed federal standards 13 days of the year. Fairbanks exceeded federal standards 48 days of the year.

Apparently, natural gas is too expensive for them to be able to heat their homes. They are only 500 miles from the biggest gas fields in the world, but there isn't a way to move the gas to their area. One resident of the North Pole said that it was so expensive to heat his home, that it costs him twice as much to heat his home as what he pays for his mortgage.

In an area where it's can be 50 degrees below zero, it's beyond cold and they need to heat their homes. But isn't there a better option than what they are doing now? I'm not a tree hugging/granola eating environmentalist. But even I can see what they are doing is affecting the health of everyone in that town. The stories in the article talk about people suffering irregular heartbeats, pleuritis (inflammation of the lining of the lungs), eyes that hurt and sore throats.

When is it enough? One resident moved to another state because the pollution was so bad.

Think about where you live. Are you doing anything that is polluting the air? Is there anything you can do to help? Remember that what goes out your chimney goes into people's lungs.

I don't know what the answer is in their area, but they will face problems with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if they don't make changes. The EPA isn't the bad guy, this is a Public Health issue and they are trying to protect the people of America. We have a right to breathe clean air.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Having a child in the hospital

(Shutterstock image)

Having a child in the hospital can be pretty stressful.  My friend is in the hospital with her son now, he doesn't have asthma but is having some other medical problems.

It brought back memories of having my kids in the hospital (14 times total-12 of those were for asthma.) It's really frightening when your child is having problems breathing. Asthma can go from bad to worse VERY quickly. There were many times when I knew I was in over my head. I knew that what I was doing at home (breathing treatments, oral steroids) weren't working and they needed more help than what I could give them. I am grateful that my husband's job provides good medical insurance and we could go to the emergency room and turn the care of the kids over to the professionals.

So when do you stay home and treat asthma for your kids and when do you go to the emergency room?I looked up some information on Webmd, here's what they have listed for "What are the symptoms of a severe asthma attack?"

  • Persistent shortness of breath.
  • The inability to speak in full sentences. 
  • Breathlessness even while lying down. 
  • Chest that feels closed.
  • Bluish tint to your lips.
  • Agitation, confusion, or an inability to concentrate.
  • Hunched shoulders and strained abdominal and neck muscles. 
  • A need to sit or stand up to breathe more easily.
These are signs of an impending respiratory system failure and require immediate medical attention.

Keep in mind that people with asthma can end up hospitalized with a severe asthma attack, or from an illness. Usually when my kids get a cold or flu, it turns into pneumonia. That's what has caused their 12 hospitalizations. Any cold or flu is always worse when you have asthma.

If there is ANY question in your mind about how sick your child is, listen to your gut.  Do you have "a feeling" you should call your doctor or head to the nearest emergency room? I have done that multiple times. I just had a feeling something wasn't right with the kids. Every time that happened, one of the kids ended up getting admitted to the hospital for 3 days while the doctors and respiratory therapist took over their care.

Take care of yourself during that time, especially if you have other kids at home. You can feel like you are spread way too thin. If people say, "let me know if there's something I can do...." let them! Give them a task-can you pick up junior from preschool? or the elementary school? Can you bring in a meal for the kids and hubby that are at home? Let people help you, it's the only way you'll make it through a hospitalization.

And let your kid's school teachers know that they have a sibling in the hospital. I have had many wonderful teachers who gave my kids a little extra TLC when their brother or sister was in the hospital. They could tell my son or daughter was acting differently, but didn't know why. It warms my heart to have their teachers keep a close eye on them during the week and give them a little extra love and attention.

Hopefully you won't have a child in the hospital, but if you do maybe that little bit of advice will make the hospital stay a little more bearable. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Traveling with asthma

It's always exciting traveling with asthma and allergies. I just finished a week long conference on the other side of the country, and what a long week!

I made sure I had my maintenance medication AND I took it every morning, I didn't want to have problems with my asthma and not be near my doctor. So it was important to me that I stay on my routine. I also packed my rescue inhaler as well as my Epi Pen (since I also have a seafood allergy.)

I was worried about going through security checkpoints through multiple airports. They are so strict about what you can bring on board an airplane, I had to make sure my fingernail clippers were taken out of my luggage. But they allow an Epi Pen with a nice sharp needle on the end.

I'm glad they understand that an Epi Pen can mean the difference between life and death with those of us who have food allergies. I wasn't about to put that in my checked luggage.

On the last leg home on my flight, the overhead bins on the plane were too full, so they made us check our carry on bags. Once again, I made sure my inhaler and Epi Pen were safely in my purse.

Ah, the joys of always being on guard and trying to prevent asthma and anaphylaxis. 

As Dorothy from Wizard of Oz says, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home!"

Friday, February 1, 2013

Essential oils causing asthma attacks?

(Shutterstock image)

Can essential oils cause an asthma attack? I recently heard about teachers who were having asthma attacks because parents of their students were using essential oils.

Essential oils are the natural compounds that can be found in roots, flowers, bark, stem or seeds of plants. Some people believe they have healing powers.

Essential oils can smell quite strong, and the problem with that is in my opinion, essential oils can fall under the "irritant" category of causing asthma attacks. Irritants are strong scents that can cause asthma attacks. It can be cigarette smoke, cleaning agents, perfumes, etc.

Keep in mind that when you have asthma, your body "over-reacts" to simple things. Things that don't bother other "normal" people-like being around pets, breathing cold air, eating certain foods, exercising, etc, can bother someone with asthma. There's a whole list of things that can cause asthma attacks.

And just because it doesn't cause a problem for you, doesn't meant that it isn't a problem for someone else. I'm not bothered by certain medications, but other people are. That doesn't mean it's not an asthma trigger, just that it is for them.

I found one website that talked about asthma and essential oils. This is from Escents Aromatherapy:

Many aromatherapy books warn against using essential oils to treat asthma. Some asthma sufferers are sensitive to fragrance and find that it triggers attacks. While you don't want to make the situation any worse, aromatherapy, using essential oils, can offer promising results when used with care. Because asthma sufferers can be extremely sensitive to scent, do a sniff test first. Test the essential oils or blend of oils you want to try by simply sniffing it to make sure there is no adverse reaction.

Just one more thing to think about when you have asthma and a body that over-reacts to irritants. We need to protect our lungs, they're the only set we have!