Copyright 2010-2019. All Rights Reserved

** I do not advertise for companies. If you leave a comment that links to your company, your comment will be deleted**

Friday, June 28, 2013

Does asthma take a "summer break?"

(Shutterstock image)

Does asthma get a summer break? Well, I would LOVE a break from asthma. But that doesn't mean that I can just stop taking my medicine. I may FEEL fine, but I can still have swelling in my lungs if I don't take my maintenance/controller medicine every day.

There's an article from the AAAAI website (American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology), called "Summer Break" doesn't apply to asthma medications.   In the article, they say that people have a laid back attitude in summer, and that leads many of them to stop taking their medicine.

However, they say that can be a BIG mistake. And a dangerous one. Studies have shown that those people who stop taking their medicine (or cut back on it) in the summer can have BIG problems in the fall. In fact, they are more likely to end up in the emergency room or admitted to the hospital due to an asthma flare up. They see a spike in emergency room visits and hospitalizations in the fall for people with asthma who haven't been taking their controller medicine.

Why? If you are prescribed a controller/maintenance medication, and you don't take it, you can have swelling in your lungs. If you are exposed to an asthma trigger on top of that, your lungs can have a tough time fighting it off and you can end up needing medical help to breathe.

We have actually had that happen with Son #2. We didn't understand how important it was for him to take his medicine EVERY day. So when he got sick, we decided we better start giving him his maintenance medicine. Well, it was too late. His lungs were swollen, then he got a cold, and that turned into pneumonia. A very scary (not to mention expensive) lesson was learned.

Don't stop taking asthma medicine because it's summer, you are on vacation, or you "feel fine". It can be a dangerous mistake to make. Keep your lungs healthy so you can enjoy life!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Does asthma medication stunt your growth?

Shutterstock image

I know some people wonder if asthma medicine will stunt their child's growth. Sometimes people worry about side effects when they hear the word "steroid." Inhaled corticosteroids are used daily for asthma to control inflammation in the lungs. AAAAI (American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology) says they are NOT the same steroids that body builders use!

This is a list of some of the most commonly used inhaled corticosteroids from AAAAI :

  • Flovent diskus or inhaler
  • Pulmicort flexhaler 
  • Asmanex
  • Alvesco 
  • Aerobid
  • Qvar
 If your child is taking any of these, relax. An article from Webmd says the estimated height that can be lost by someone from using inhaled corticosteroids is 1/2". That's it. And that doesn't mean it will happen to every child.

My Son #2 has severe asthma and has been hospitalized 8 times and almost died twice. At age 18, he is almost 6 foot tall now. At age 22, Son #1 has mild asthma, has never been hospitalized, and is 5' 6". So how does the son who has been on a LOT more asthma medication over the years end up TALLER than his brother? No idea. 

The take away from this post is that I wouldn't stop giving my child asthma medicine because I was worried it might make them a 1/2" shorter. Daily, controller medicine can keep the swelling down in the lungs and prevent more serious asthma attacks, and for my kids, can help avoid hospitalizations.

American Lung Association has a section that talks about the effects of swelling in the lungs:

"Poor asthma management can lead to airway remodeling. Airway remodeling is a serious condition that happens when asthma is untreated or poorly managed. The lungs become scarred, asthma medicines do not work as well, and less air is able to move through the airways. Airway remodeling does not have to happen. "
I don't want my teenagers to have damaged lungs because they didn't take their daily asthma medicine. Our teenagers have regular checkups with the asthma doctor. Depending on how they are doing, he adjusts their medicine. If they're still coughing at night or using their rescue inhaler more than twice a week, he will "step up" their medicine. (Increase the dose or add another medicine). If they are doing well, he can "step down" their medicine. (Decrease a dose or have them stop taking a medicine) 

If you are worried about the medicine your child takes, do a little research and talk to your doctor. He's there to help you!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Confused by which inhaler to user?

There are a LOT of asthma medicines out there, and they can all be confusing. Especially now since they make maintenance (or controller) inhalers that look the same as quick relief (or rescue) inhalers. How are you supposed to know which inhaler you use EVERY day, and which inhaler you use if you're HAVING AN ASTHMA ATTACK?! Web md has a section on their website that explains the difference between controller and quick-relief inhalers.

But I like to SEE what the different inhalers look like, and the Minnesota Department of Health's Asthma Program has a brand new poster that shows all the different asthma medications. It's not actually the size of a poster, but you can print off an 8 1/2" x 11" poster or a 11" x 17" poster.

You can print these out to use at home, or school nurses or doctor's offices can use them too.

The poster has the inhalers separated into types of inhalers. You can see on the 2nd photo where there's a red bar that goes across the top of the poster, that section has relievers/rescue inhalers. Those are inhalers you use if you are having an asthma attack.

The other blue sections are controller/maintenance medications. Those are inhalers that you use every day. It's important to use them every day, since you can't feel inflammation or swelling in your lungs.

Print these out and tape them up where you can see them. Or you could even give a copy to your school nurse, day care provider, etc.

What a nice resource to be able to have! Thank you Minnesota Department of Health!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Success story!!!

I volunteer with my local American Lung Association since they are always looking for people to help them. I was trained to teach the Open Airways For Schools course and taught a session at daughter Kitty's elementary school. 

What is Open Airways? Here's a quote from American Lung Association's website:

The American Lung Association's Open Airways For Schools program educates and empowers children through a fun and interactive approach to asthma self-management.  It teaches children with asthma ages 8-11 how to detect the warning signs of asthma, avoid their triggers and make decisions about their health.

The session I taught was last year, but one of the students remembered me when he saw me at a county fair. He said, "Do you remember me from the Open Airways class?" Yes, I did! He said that he didn't have an inhaler when the Open Airways course started, but talked to his mom about getting one so he could use it at school if he had an asthma attack there. 

He got one, but he was having a hard time using it, because every time he tried to take a puff from his inhaler, the spray of medicine would land on his tongue. Well, one of the things we teach the students about is the importance of using a spacer. It's a tube that fits on the inhaler and it gets the medicine down into your lungs. Without a spacer, you have to try to time it just right so you know when to breathe in, and when to press on your inhaler. With a spacer, you just press the inhaler which sends a puff of medicine into the spacer, then you can easily breathe it in.
The medicine in an inhaler comes out at 50 miles per hour. So, if you don't time it just right, the medicine will land on your tongue or the back of your throat. When you use the spacer, you breathe in deeper, drawing the medicine down into your lungs.

Spacers are pretty cheap, mine was $20. It makes a BIG difference in making sure the medicine gets to my lungs and not the back of my throat.

If you don't have one, talk to your doctor about getting one. You will feel the difference in how your medicine works.  And that's important when you are having an asthma attack. You want the medicine in the right spot, otherwise you are just wasting your inhaler.

The spacer is a little bulky, so I use a big purse to carry everything. But I am so glad I have it when I need it!!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

2 close calls in one day?!

(Shutterstock image)

My last blog post was about Son #2 having an allergic reaction to tree nuts during a family party on Sunday. It seems they are everywhere, no matter how carefully we check food. His allergic reaction  could have been worse. But wait! There's more!!!

That same night that Son #2 had an allergic reaction, we went to a friend's house for a BBQ. We had our burgers on the grill when I saw someone walk by with salmon to add to the grill. I thought, "I am not taking any chances!" I am allergic to seafood, and I wasn't about to let someone put salmon on the grill with my burger.

I told my son to go get our burgers off the grill-QUICK!!! The hostess looked at me a little strangely, and I told her that I was allergic to seafood. I thought she knew about that, but she didn't. She  quickly went out and took care of the grill situation, and our burgers were not cross-contaminated.

Sometimes I wonder if it is worth getting together with family and friends if I have to be carefully checking the food all of the time. It seems like it's safer to stay at home and cook everything myself. But where is the fun in that? That's what makes life fun is being with family and friends.

I guess I need to keep reminding people at EVERY get together that Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts and I am allergic to seafood. It's not their fault they don't know. I thought I have told them plenty of times over the years, but I guess not.

So, for Father's Day and 4th of July get parties, I'm going to make sure EVERYONE knows that what we are allergic to and ask them if what they brought has seafood or tree nuts in it.

The tree nuts were hard to spot in the chocolate chip cookies because they were chopped so small that I couldn't see them. And I have found seafood in strange places (like shrimp in baked beans...) Webmd has a great slide show about food allergies

So, here's to doubling up my efforts to keep my son and I alive and anaphylaxis free!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sneaky Tree Nuts

(Shutterstock image)

Well, as careful as we are to try to always check food for tree nuts, Son #2 ate a cookie with tree nuts in it. We had a family BBQ yesterday, and someone brought chocolate chip cookies. They looked fine on the plate, they looked like regular cookies. At some point, Son #2 he ate one. He asked Hubby if he could take an antihistamine, but didn't say why.

Later on, I asked him what was wrong and he said he didn't feel very good. His little sister, Kitty, said "The chocolate chip cookies had nuts in them!!" I found out later that the person that made the cookies chopped the nuts up really fine-so you couldn't really see them in the cookies.

What Son #2 DIDN'T tell me was that his throat was itching and then his face started itching. RED FLAG!!!!!! He was having an allergic reaction, that's why he took an antihistamine. I told him if he EVER start to feel that way again-suspect tree nuts. Because that is the only reason he would have a reaction like that. I also told him to let me know immediately if he ever feels that way again. I would have pulled out the Epi Pen.

I am worried because his body is now "primed" and the next time he accidentally eats a tree nut, it may be a worse reaction, he may be more likely to have anaphylaxis. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) has a section about anaphylaxis.  It's an allergic reaction that can kill you.

I told Son #2 to use his Epi pen next time and call for help. I think he didn't want to make a scene, so he quietly went inside. Dumb teenager. He could have stopped breathing and died. This is serious. But how to you make a teenager understand that?

Guess we'll have a little chat when I get home from work today... 

Friday, June 7, 2013


(Shutterstock image)

To say that our whole family is miserable now is an under statement. Hubby and I and all three teenagers have allergies year round, but spring is by far the worst. We are allergic to anything that is alive (trees, flowers, bushes, grass, cats, dogs, etc.)

But this time of year is always hard. We have found a few things that help us:
  • Start on allergy medicine BEFORE the season gets bad. If you wait until you are miserable to try to get it under control, it's going to be a lot harder than trying to prevent it in the first place. Kind of like when the hospital tells you to take medicine before the pain gets really bad
  •  Keep the windows rolled up while driving your car and use air conditioning instead 
  • Sleep with the windows closed and use air conditioning in the house
  • BEFORE you go to bed, shower so you remove the pollen from your hair and skin. Otherwise you will roll around in pollen all night and wake up sneezing and have puffy eyes
  • Talk to an allergy doctor about testing to see what you are allergic too and how to treat your specific allergies
Not only do all 3 of my teenagers take allergy medicine year round, but they also have had allergy shots (immunotherapy) to help their bodies fight allergies. You can learn more about immunotherapy from the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America 

Good luck and pass the box of tissues please!!!!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Another asthma attack from perfume

Yep, perfume again. I had another asthma attack from someone's perfume. This is only the 2nd time it's ever happened to me. The first time was last year, but the weird thing is that it's never bothered me before then.

I was at Kitty's dance recital last night, and could smell a strong perfume on someone. I glanced around me, but it was hard to tell where it was coming from. I was packed into a seat in the auditorium, so I decided not to get up and move. I was sure I would be okay. But the longer I sat, the worse I felt.

I could feel a sneeze coming and could feel my chest getting tighter. Last time I had an asthma attack from perfume, the same thing happened. First I was annoyed by the strong sweet smelling perfume. Could they possibly have sprayed more on their body?! Then I started sneezing, and then I started coughing.

This time, I could feel it starting and took my inhaler right away. The last time it happened, I was in a movie theater and started a bad "coughing spell" from an asthma attack. I spent most of the movie coughing and trying to clear the mucus out of my lungs. This time I took my inhaler right away, as soon as my chest tightened up.

Taking my inhaler right when I felt symptoms helped because the asthma attack wasn't nearly as bad as the last one.

As a plea from all of us who have asthma attacks from someone's perfume or cologne, PLEASE don't drown yourself in your favorite scent before going somewhere. Whether it's a movie, dance recital, meeting for work etc. If people are going to be all trapped in the same room until it's over, please don't wear perfume. And call me picky, but I would like to be able to breathe.

You may never know that you caused an asthma attack. I have no idea who was wearing the perfume either time. And there was no way of telling them that I just had an asthma attack because of their perfume.

After a fun night last night, I came to work the next morning and met our new employee and was shocked by how I could smell her perfume all over the office. As awkward as it was, I asked her to PLEASE not wear it and then propped the door open to our office to air it out. I told her it was one of my asthma triggers and that I had in fact had an asthma attack the night before because of someone's perfume.

Please help us to be able to breathe. Thank you!!!!