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Monday, April 29, 2013

What is THAT??!!

That my friends, is pollen. This is what my car looked like the MORNING AFTER I washed it. Yes, less than 12 hours after I washed it, it was already covered in pollen!! (And it was parked in my garage, with the garage door down)

And I wonder why I am sneezing and wheezing?!

You can check the pollen count in your area by visiting the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) website. 

Our area is high in Cottonwood and Birch trees now. Oak and Maple trees are in the moderate category. All I know is that I am miserable. Hubby started to open our bedroom window yesterday and I said, "NO!! Don't open it!!" The problem is that the pollen comes in the room, lands on the bed, and covers everything. That leads to itchy eyes, a runny nose and constant sneezing. Now it's affecting my asthma-my chest is really tight and I woke up during the night coughing (a sure sign that asthma is NOT under control) You shouldn't be waking up at night coughing if you aren't sick.

I didn't shower before bed last night, which means I am sleeping in pollen. We went for a bike ride and I know there is pollen in my hair and on my skin and clothes. I can change into pajamas at night, but that still leaves pollen on my skin and hair.  Then I toss and turn all night and spread pollen all over the pillow and sheets. Then I try to sleep. No wonder I woke up coughing!

Allergy medicine makes me too drowsy to go to work, even the so-called "non drowsy" formula. So I just try to keep my house a safe place and keep the windows and doors shut during high pollen season.

It's hard because Spring is a beautiful time of year and who wouldn't want the smell of fresh lilacs coming in through the window? Well, me. I can't sleep with the windows open or my allergies and asthma flare up.

Stupid body.  But things can always be worse. Talk to your doctor and see what works for you. Keeping the windows closed, avoiding high pollen days outdoors, allergy medicine, etc.

There's no one-size fits all with allergies and asthma, you'll have to find what works for you.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Letting teenagers take care of food allergies

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This is the enemy. Tree nuts. Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts and it's amazing how many things they are in. Muffins, brownies, cookies, ice cream, etc.

Son #2 went out to dinner last night with friends and had a great time. He knew from all the other times we've eaten at that restaurant that the waiter will bring out a basket with breads and rolls. One of the breads is a delicious carrot bread with walnuts. But he knows he can't eat the other rolls or bread in the basket because they are now cross contaminated with nuts.

He casually told me that he remembered to ask the waiter to bring a separate bowl for him with plain bread and rolls. Yesssssss! 

I usually have to ask the waiter for a separate bowl with just plain rolls or bread for Son #2. I  explain that he is allergic to tree nuts, so we have to be really careful. I ask him not to pick the plain rolls out of our basket and put them on a separate basket for him. They need to make sure the plain rolls haven't touched any of the breads with nuts. To make sure there's no cross contamination, I ask the waiter to get the rolls and nut breads off baking separate trays THEN put them in separate baskets and bring them to our table. Many people don't understand that foods can be cross-contaminated. That means that if Son #2 eats a plain roll that was sitting next to a delicious piece of carrot walnut bread, he can have an allergic reaction.

You can never be too careful with food allergies. To learn more about tree nuts (and sneaky places where they hide) check our Allergy Home. 

Show your kids how to watch for their food triggers. I tell my son I won't be going to college with him this fall, he needs to learn how to watch for tree nuts and protect himself. It's a scary thing, but sometimes you have to teach your kids and then let go.

And make sure they carry their Epi Pen with them!!!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I store tissues like a squirrel stores nuts!

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I am very excited for spring! Like most of the country, we've had record cold temperatures this winter. In fact, it's STILL colder than normal here. I'm determined to switch to my summer wardrobe, even if wearing sandals to work means I can't feel my toes! Yes, they are numb. But I feel happy and full of spring inside, so that's all that matters!

I have also noticed the pollen is out already. The whole family (Hubby and I and all three teenagers) have allergies. So we go through A LOT of boxes of tissues. I buy Puffs With Lotion so my nose isn't red all the time from blowing it. I stash tissues in the house, car and my purse. Why is it that no one else in the family carries tissues? Why is the mom the one that has to cart everything around in an over sized purse for everyone?!

I'm also getting strange looks from people at the grocery store as I sneeze my way up one aisle and down another. When they look at me, I say "allergies" and move on.

Lucky people. How would it be to be unaffected by plants, flowers, trees, bushes and animals?

Even though we take allergy medicine and the teenagers have all done/are doing allergy shots, we're still miserable. Sometimes just taking allergy medicine isn't enough, allergy shots (immunotherapy) helps your body build up a resistance to allergens. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) has information about how allergy shots work. 

AAAAI also has some tips about other ways to deal with pollen. 

We have found a few things that help us:
  • I always drive with the windows up in my car 
  • I keep the windows to the house closed too 
  • We use central air rather than a swamp cooler
  • We shower at night to remove pollen from our hair and skin
Spring is a beautiful time of year. You can still enjoy it, just take your allergy medicine, store tissues like a squirrel stores nuts, and talk to your doctor about allergy shots.

Excuse me, I have to go blow my nose. Again. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Nutella-deliciously dangerous!!!


This photo is from Nutella's website. If you have ever been to Europe, you have probably had Nutella. I've been eating it for years, since my first trip to France.

Many people may think it's just a chocolate spread. Notice the nuts next to the bottle of Nutella? Those are hazel nuts (which is a type of tree nut.) So if you are allergic to tree nuts, DON'T EAT NUTELLA!! 

Two classmates in Oregon had a close call when one boy innocently shared Nutella with his friend at lunch. Ransom Duel was eating lunch with Sullivan Moore when Sullivan asked another student to share his "chocolate things". Unfortunately, his "chocolate things" were Nutella. Sullivan immediately started to have an allergic reaction and his 7 year old friend, Ransom, grabbed the Nutella bottle and started reading the ingredients. He noticed the hazel nuts on the label and knew that his friend was allergic to tree nuts.He grabbed the teacher, who quickly gave Sullivan his medicine (most likely an Epi Pen.) There's a cute photo of them with a story on msn now. 

The local Food Allergy Network support group leader then came to the school to give an assembly about food allergies and told the kids about the dangers of sharing lunch. What a great chance to educate a whole school about the dangers of food allergies. 

Thankfully, those little 7 year old could read!! And I'm glad Ransom knew that his friend Sullivan was allergic to tree nuts. Most adults wouldn't have figured out that quickly what was going on, let alone two 7 year old kids!! Way to go Ransom and Sullivan!!

I have a teenage son that is also allergic to tree nuts. I love Nutella, but my son knows he's not allowed to have it. We also make sure everyone around him knows that he is allergic to tree nuts. I let everyone know that I'm allergic to seafood. The hope is that if either of us accidentally ate something that had tree nuts or seafood in it that those around us would recognize that we were having a reaction. Let's hope they're all as smart as Ransom and run for help!

If you have food allergies, make sure everyone around you knows. Minutes count when your throat is closing off. They may have to help save your life by giving you your Epi pen or calling 911. To learn more about food allergies and anaphylaxis, visit Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Belly breathing for asthma

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Have you ever tried Belly Breathing? It's a simple way to calm down and help control your breathing if you are having an asthma attack. Or you are at the dentist. Or you just saw your kid's report card. Or.....

There is a fun video on Youtube with Elmo, Common and Colbie Caillat about belly breathing. 
Elmo teaches kids to Belly Breathe if their "inner monster" wants to come out. They teach the same thing to kids in American Lung Association's Open Airways for schools program.

Open Airways is taught in schools to kids aged 8-11. They teach kids how to manage their asthma. One of the ways is to Belly Breathe if they're having an asthma attack. Not only is it physically hard to breathe. But when you have an asthma attack, it affects you emotionally too. We panic when we can't breathe. It's normal to do that. Belly Breathing helps you slow down and calm down.

Belly Breathing can be used anytime. I use it at the dentist, before an important meeting or while driving in crazy traffic on the freeway. I have been in several near accidents lately. It helps me calm down afterwards.  Some people need to learn how to drive...

Try watching the video and see if it works for you. It's made for kids, but you can practice with your kids so you can use it too. It helps if you Belly Breath WITH your kids when they are having an asthma attack or are upset. You can help them calm down by breathing with them.

And who doesn't love Elmo?!

Monday, April 8, 2013

All in my head?

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We were in a group discussing healthy eating the other day, when the teacher mentioned how important it is to eat seafood. It has Omega 3 fatty acids which are good for your brain. Since I'm allergic to seafood, I take flaxseed oil capsules instead so I can get that good fat for my brain. I said it was fine with me if I was allergic to seafood since I hate it anyway!

One class member pointed to her head and said, "are you really allergic to seafood or is it all in your head?" After a few moments of shock, I blurted out, "I am allergic to seafood. I carry an Epi pen with me at all times. If I eat seafood, it can kill me!"

Sheesh people. Get a clue! Someone else in the class knew I was upset and placed their hand on my shoulder as if to say, "take a deep breath-she doesn't know any better or she wouldn't say something like that."

If you suspect a food allergy, visit an allergy and asthma specialist. They can run a blood test or a scratch test on your skin to determine if you have a food allergy. Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America has more information on their website.

You can also develop a food allergy ANYTIME in your life. You can eat the same food for decades and still develop an allergy to it.  

I'm the 1-2% of adults who has a true food allergy. Lucky me. Some people can "outgrow" certain allergies. My son outgrew his allergy to milk. However, seafood and tree nuts allergies are life long allergies. My son still has to watch VERY carefully for tree nuts.

When we eat out or go to a family gathering, we remind everyone of our seafood and tree nut allergy. People still slip up, we have to carefully check all the food we eat. Many desserts have tree nuts, and they usually pile an assortment on a tray. My son can't eat any desserts on that tray due to the risk of cross contamination.

You can find seafood in some strange places. Once I was at a conference, and they served a BBQ dinner. I thought, phew! I'm safe. Or so I thought. I picked up the ladle for the baked beans and spotted a curly object-shrimp! Who puts shrimp in baked beans?

If you have food allergies, be careful and always have an epi pen with you. You never know if you might need it. And be prepare for the people who think "you can just pick the nuts off the dessert" or "just pick the shrimp out of your beans." They'll never know what it feels like to have an allergic reaction.  Lucky them.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2013 List of top 100 worst allergy cities in the Nation!!!

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Last night the CBS Evening News with Brian Williams had a story about allergies. The Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA) has released their 2013 list of Top Allergy Capitals.

Dr. Michael Foggs of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology said it's going to be a bad season for allergies. In some areas, they have been having problems with pollen in January! And the season is stretching into late fall. Call it global warming, call it climate change. Whatever you want to call it, warmer temperatures are making pollen worse. Allergy season is going to be long and miserable. Yay.

They interviewed Dr. Nancy Snyderman for the story. She says there are a few things that you can do to ease your symptoms. Exercise in the early morning, and make sure you shower at night to wash all the pollen off. We also keep our windows and doors closed to keep the pollen out. 

There is another story on the CBS website where Dr. Neeta Ogden, an Adult and Pediatric Allergy and Immunologist, talks about people downplaying their symptoms. Sometimes they say "it's just my allergies" but allergies can cause fatigue, headaches and  difficulty concentrating on tasks. It can affect you at work. Unless someone else at work has allergies, they may not understand how it can really wipe you out. 

If it's really causing problems, go see an allergy specialist. There are a lot of medications on the market that can help. Sometimes if allergy medicine isn't enough, you may want to check into immunotherapy (allergy shots.) You can get weekly shots of tiny doses of what you are allergic to. The idea behind that is that your body will build up an immunity to those things and you won't be so miserable when you are exposed to them next time.  There is an article on Webmd that explains immunotherapy.

If you are an allergy sufferer, just know we are in the same boat you are. In fact, daughter Kitty sneezes so loud, she makes people jump! We visited family this weekend, and Kitty started sneezing. One family member threw her arms up and her eyes flew open. She gave me a panicked look. I said, "It's just Kitty sneezing. She does that all the time. " Kitty then sneezed 3 or 4  more times, all equally as loud.

That reminds me, we are running low on tissues. I better add that to my shopping list!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Newly diagnosed with asthma?

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If you are newly diagnosed with asthma, you may feel like you are back in school. You may be reading articles on the internet, thumbing through magazines, reading books, talking to other parents, etc.

Things have come a long way from when our three children were diagnosed 13 years ago. Back then our then-5 year old was in the hospital for the first time. The respiratory therapist came into our son's hospital room and said "didn't they tell you that your son has asthma?!" He then dropped 30 pages of internet articles on the table by our son's hospital bed and said, "Let me know if you have any questions." He then left the room to visit other patients.

Huh? What?!

To say having a new diagnosis is overwhelming would be an understatement. I heard "your son has asthma" and that was about it. My head was swimming. I had taken our son to the pediatrician a few weeks before with an article from a magazine that talked about asthma. The symptoms sounded ALOT like my son, and I was sure he had asthma. The pediatrician said, "he just has a virus."

I know now that it wasn't a virus, it was asthma. I was worried that he wasn't getting better and took him back to the doctor, and this time the look on the doctor's face told me that it was serious. He gave my son a breathing treatment and then had the nurse call the hospital to get a room ready. He sent us straight there where the respiratory therapist told us he had asthma.

All I knew was that he was having a hard time breathing, and he didn't "look right." I'm so glad I trusted my mother's instinct and went back to the doctor. That move probably saved my son's life.

If you are newly diagnosed, there is a website from Allergy and Asthma Network: Mothers of Asthmatics. They have a section called Newly Diagnosed. It's helpful to learn the terminology that comes with asthma. Know the "buzzwords" and also learn about the equipment. You'll need to know how to use an inhaler, spacer and nebulizer. Web md has a helpful section on their website about using inhalers.

You can also check Youtube, there are a lot of videos that show to use an inhaler and how to use an inhaler with a spacer. There are videos that show how to use other asthma medicines too. Make sure you know how to use a nebulizer (that machine turns the asthma medicine into a fine mist so you can breathe it in a little easier.) If you have kids, you may be using that ALOT. It can save you from having to take trips to the emergency room. You can give breathing treatments at home and on vacation! We have used ours in Disneyland and the Grand Canyon, just to name a few places we have taken our nebulizer.

Knowledge is power, so make sure you read everything you can about asthma. Medicine changes over time as can your asthma triggers and how your asthma needs to be treated.

Make sure you are visiting your doctor. He can find the right treatment plan and change it if you are getting better or worse. Our Asthma Doc has literally kept my kids alive the last 13 years. We are on a first name basis. Thank you Asthma Doc for taking care of us!