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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Affording asthma

Since Hubby and I and all 3 of our teenagers have allergies, and the teenagers and I all have asthma, we can spend quite a bit of money at the pharmacy.

In fact, it's a little sad when I walk into the pharmacy and the employees there take one look at me, then turn around and pull our prescriptions off the alphabetized shelf. Is that a good thing? That they know me so well that they know that I am picking up allergy and asthma medicine for someone in my family?

It's kind of like when I call the mechanic, and when he hears my voice, he'll say "which one do you need to bring in now, the truck or the minivan?" And sometimes I'll say, "Ha! It's the Jeep this time!!"

You know you are visiting the mechanic and pharmacy too much when they know your voice on the phone, and they know your face when you come in to pick up a prescription. I'm glad they know me and like me, but I think I am giving them too much of my hard earned money!

What do you do if you can't afford to go to the doctor and can't afford your medicine? There is a website I have been using for years, called Needymeds. It's a database where you can find help. No matter where you live, you can find a free/low cost clinic near you, and you can also find help paying for your medicine.

The free clinic section on their website is a great place to find help. Simply click on the state where you live, or type in your zip code and find a clinic that is "free, low cost, low cost with a sliding scale based on income, or offer some type of financial assistance."  

Click here to find help paying for generic drugs (and it's ANY generic drug, not just asthma medications). Click here for brand name drugs. They also have coupons you can print out and take to the pharmacy.

Son #2 has Xolair injections to control his severe asthma, and the serum cost $1500 a month. Our co-pay is $150 a month (and that's in addition to all the other allergy and asthma medicines that we pay for.) We found a foundation on Needymeds that will pay for our copay. You are going to have to do some work to get the help. Once we found a foundation that would cover our medicine, we had to call them and start the application process. And they will ask you to verify your income.

But if they are offering to pay for your medicine, by all means let them! It's important to keep taking your medicine. You can often cause a bigger problem by not taking the medicine. Many people with asthma take controller/maintenance medication, which helps control our asthma and keep it from getting worse. I would rather pay for my asthma medicine than let it get worse and end up paying for a visit to the Emergency Room, or worse yet-end up hospitalized.

Check out Needymeds, and spread the word. We should all be able to pay for the medicine that keeps us healthy!     

Friday, July 26, 2013

Argh allergies!!!!

I feel sorry for this poor kid, this is one of the many problems with allergies. My teenage daughter, Kitty, also gets swollen eyes when her allergies are bad.

Her allergies seemed to be getting worse over the last few weeks. She is still taking her allergy medicine every night and having weekly allergy shots. If you want to know more about allergy shots, Webmd has a great section that explains it.

Part of the problem is trying to find out WHAT is making allergies worse. I can check a local allergy doctor's office to find the pollen count. But is there something nearby that is making Kitty worse? I happened to notice that the neighbors didn't plant anything in their garden this year. Instead, weeds had invaded the area and were getting higher and higher. They looked like ragweed, and it was right by our driveway. In fact, if we opened our windows or doors, the pollen from the weeds would come in the house. And Kitty would have to walk past their weed patch every day to get to the car.

What a sticky situation. What do you do? I decided to ask Neighbor if she minded if I dug the weeds out. She felt really bad that they were so out of control this year. I told her not to worry about it because she has 3 little kids that keep her very busy.

I got up early one morning and started digging up the 3' tall weeds. By the time I got to the end of the patch, my nose was running, I was sneezing, my chest was tight, and I could feel an asthma attack starting. I quickly gathered up the weeds, stuffed them in the neighbor's garbage can and haul their can out to the curb. I wanted those weeds as far away from our house as possible. 

Then I headed for tissues, my inhaler, and a shower. I couldn't help but feel annoyed about allergies. My family is completely miserable with swollen eyes, running noses, nonstop sneezing, and tight chests after the asthma flares up. Other people can be by the weeds, flowers, trees, animals, etc without so much as a sneeze. I hate the way our bodies over react to allergies.

I guess that's just all part of My Life as an Asthma Mom, right?    

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cleaning causes asthma attacks?

Cleaning itself won't cause asthma attacks (those of you that hate cleaning can't use that as an excuse not to clean......)

But for me, cleaning and dust are not a good mix. I was cleaning out a closet yesterday, and noticed some of those things have been in there for at least 4 years. It was pretty dusty, which is a problem when you have asthma. I dragged everything out so I could sort through things. And that's when my nose seemed a little stuffy. Then I started sneezing. Then my throat started feeling "twitchy"- like I needed to cough.

So I coughed. And coughed. And coughed. And coughed.

I realized I was having another asthma attack. Sigh. I grabbed my inhaler from my purse and sat down. I tried to calm down and not breathe so fast. I haven't used my inhaler for a while, so I pulled the spacer off the inhaler and primed the inhaler (you just squirt a puff into the air.)

Then I put the inhaler and spacer back together and took a puff of Albuterol. I concentrated on my breathing, and tried to relax a little. I also had a I drink of water, which seemed to help. I have to time it just right so I don't choke on the water. It took a while, but the coughing slowed down. Of course then I had junk in my lungs I had to cough up for the next little while. Fun stuff!!

Usually, doctors will tell you to avoid the triggers (or causes) of asthma attacks. To learn more about other asthma triggers, check out the Mayo Clinic. I would have LOVED to have someone else clean out my dusty closet, but no one was around. There isn't an easy answer for preventing an asthma attack with dust. Wear a mask? Tie a scarf over my nose and mouth next time? Clean more often so the dust doesn't build up?

You just have to be careful with asthma. Doing a normal household project can cause an asthma attack. Just be careful and keep your inhaler around. You never know when you might need it.

Now about those cleaning those windows......where are my teenagers when I need them?!

Friday, July 19, 2013

"You are what you breathe"

I was listening to a podcast on Asthma Community Network, and loved this quote from Dr. Jay Portnoy, Director, Center for Environmental Health, Children’s Mercy Hospital & Clinics , 

He said "Just like you are what you eat, you are what you breathe." I have never heard it worded that way before, but I know that your home can affect your asthma.

He said that he can admit patients to the hospital, but he needs to know WHY they are sick. And he needs to know what to do about it. He would like to be able to send out an Environmental Health Scientist to each of his asthma patient's homes to see if there is something in the home that is making them sick. Do they have mold? High humidity levels? Water leaks?

Many people don't understand that WHERE and HOW you live can affect your asthma. Dr. Portnoy said he can prescribe expensive medicines and just treat their asthma, but he needs to know the underlying symptoms and figure out what is causing problem with his patient's asthma.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of things that can be in your home and make your asthma worse. Check and see if there are any things on the list that surprise you. As I've said before, asthma is a drama queen. What might not affect a "normal person's" lungs, can cause someone with asthma to have an asthma attack and even end up in the hospital.

Since Children Mercy's Hospital in Kansas City has been inspecting the homes of their patients with asthma, they have seen reduced Emergency Room visits, decrease in medication use and an increase in quality of life and satisfaction of life.

Isn't that what we all want? A good life? Watch the podcast and check out EPA's website. You may find some things in your home that you want to change.

Just remember, "you are what you breathe!"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is your asthma under control?

I just saw a commercial on TV yesterday from  It showed a man sitting on the steps to his home, saying his asthma was fine and under control. Then his wife appeared and says you coughed all through our date! His boss appears and says you missed work last week because of your asthma. His mom appears with the "oh no you didn't!!" attitude and says you are always using your inhaler!

So, how do you know if your asthma is "under control?" has an Asthma Control Test. It's pretty easy, you just answer 5 questions and it will give you a score that will let you know if your asthma is being controlled. The following list is from and it shows what you should be experiencing if your asthma is under control.

  • Few, if any, asthma symptoms.
  • Few, if any, awakenings during the night caused by asthma symptoms.
  • No need to take time off from school or work due to asthma.
  • Few or no limits on participation in your usual daily activities.
  • No asthma-related emergency department visits.
  • No asthma-related hospital stays.

Their website also says that many people over-estimate how well they are taking care of their asthma. 85% of people say their asthma is "completely or somewhat controlled", when in reality, testing shows they are "not well controlled."

If you are waking up at night due to asthma, missing school or work, or you can't do what you would like to, or are ending up the emergency room or hospital for treatment, your asthma is not under control.

There's no reason to live like that. There are treatment plans available and asthma medications to help make life more enjoyable. Talk to your doctor and he can help you figure out what you need to control your asthma.

It's summer, let's have some fun and enjoy life - don't let asthma control what you can do!!  

Friday, July 12, 2013

Shoutout to Arby's for nut allergy precautions!!

(Photo from

We had lunch yesterday at Arby's, and I saw the new Chicken Salad Pecan sandwich. We didn't order one, but the woman in the booth behind us had one on her tray. I overheard her tell her lunch date that she wanted to have it cut in half. She went back up to the counter to ask them to do it, but they said they couldn't because of people that have nut allergies. (I think they may have given her a plastic knife to use to cut it herself.) They couldn't use their knife to cut her sandwich, and then use it on another sandwich that didn't have nuts, since that would cross contaminate the other sandwich.

On behalf of all of us with food allergies, can I just say to Arby's, THANK YOU!!!!!!!

I was eating lunch with Son #2, who DOES have nut allergies. He overheard the conversation, then looked at me and raised his eyebrows, which in teenage-speak means "Cool."I wanted to run back up to the counter and tell them thank you, but that would have embarrassed my teenager.

What many people don't realize is how dangerous it can be if you are exposed to a food allergen. If my son is eating a sandwich without nuts, but it was prepared on the same surface as something with nuts, or cut with a knife that was used to cut nuts, he can have a serious allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis.

Anaphylaxis can be deadly. Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America has a section on their website about what can cause anaphylaxis.

Here are symptoms of anaphylaxis from Webmd:

Anaphylaxis is a rare, life-threatening emergency in which the body's response to the allergen is sudden and affects the whole body. Allergy symptoms may within minutes progress to more serious symptoms, including:
  • Itching of eyes or face
  • Varying degrees of swellings that can make breathing and swallowing difficult
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Mental confusion or dizziness

For those of you with food allergies, you know how careful you have to be when you eat out at restaurants. Some places make it easier for us to eat out, and it's good to know that Arby's is one of them! Thank you for protecting us!! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Smoke from fireworks

I love Independence Day, what an amazing way to celebrate our freedom as Americans. Our family was like many families, attending a parade, having a BBQ with the family and friends, and watching the Capitol 4th of July celebration on TV.

The only bad thing about the day was the night-especially when all the neighbors started lighting off fireworks. We had taken our box of fireworks out to light too, but I couldn't believe how smoky our street already was. As far as I could see up and down both sides of the street, the night was hazy and smelly.  I should have gone inside and watched from the house.

I love to watch fireworks, but I was getting a tight chest and having a hard time breathing. I wondered if I was alone, but it looks like I'm not. A Google search showed an article from Lincoln, Nebraska. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department was issuing a warning to people that fireworks could cause asthma attacks, acute bronchitis and could also increase the chances of respiratory infections. They also warned about possible heart problems, saying that exposure to smoke from fireworks could result in angina, arrythmia and heart attacks!

Sheesh! And we just wanted to have fun and celebrate Independence Day. Well, the 4th of July is over now, but many cities and counties may still have firework celebrations during the summer. If you have asthma or heart problems, you may want to read the health alert    

 A little precautions can still let you have a great summer and enjoy the celebrations!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hard-to-believe allergy?

(shutterstock image)

I was scrolling through the top stories on Yahoo's main page when I stumbled across one that says, "Tennis star's hard-to-believe allergy." The link took me to Yahoo Sports Page  I was curious to see just what the "hard-to-believe-allergy" could be.

The story was about tennis star Sabine Lisicki being allergic to grass. The 23 year old German tennis star used to hate playing tennis on grass. She says she has to take allergy medicine but still ends up sneezing during tennis matches. She said even though playing on grass makes her allergy worse, she seems to serve the ball better on grass courts than on clay courts. And that helped her beat tennis legend Serena Williams.

I don't think it's a strange allergy, because I have a daughter that is also allergic to grass. And she plays soccer. My daughter doesn't have a choice of where to play, you can't play soccer tournaments on clay courts!

Allergies run in the family, Hubby and I and all three of our teenagers have multiple allergies. My kids are allergic to almost everything that is alive-trees, grass, flowers, bushes, cats, dogs, rabbits, birds, etc, etc. 

People that don't have allergies don't understand what it's like to suffer from allergies. You feel miserable. Your throat itches, your eyes itch and run, you sneeze all the time (daughter Kitty even sneezes in her sleep.) It's like a cold that never ends. It makes you tired and cranky. And it affects your asthma. I get a lot of tight chests and asthma attacks from my allergies.

I'm glad Sabine Lisicki has found a medication that works for her and allows her to play at the top of her game. Making it to Wimbledon is no small feat. She is proof that you can still live a happy life even if you have to put up with allergies. I'll think about that the next time I am sniffling and sneezing and my chest is tight. If she can enjoy living with allergies, I can do it!

Now where did I put that box of tissues?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Can hot air cause an asthma attack?

Like most of the West right now, my state is in the middle of a heat wave. Yesterday it was 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This is forecast to last through the end of the week. 

The heat can cause sunburns, heat exhaustion and make everyone cranky. But it can also cause an asthma attack. There was a small study reported in Science Daily last year. The University of Kentucky Medical Center studied 6 "normal people" and 6 people with asthma.

They had them breathe in through a machine that could vary the temperature and humidity of the air. They would have the patients pant afterwards, and they would measure airway resistance. For those that had mild asthma, they showed airway resistance to hot, humid air. (That means they were having a hard time breathing) The "normal people" showed very little or now problems. Figures. Once again our asthma bodies over-react to normal every day things. Here are the results of the study:

"Results showed that breathing of hot, humid air triggered an immediate increase in airway resistance in patients with mild asthma, but caused either only a very small or no response in healthy subjects. Breathing hot, humid air also triggered consistent coughs in those with asthma."
The study also showed that when those with asthma were treated with ipratropium aerosol (Atrovent) before the test, they did not have any problems.

So, what does that mean? If you are going somewhere that is going to be hot and humid, should you use Atrovent before hand? Talk to your doctor about it, since everyone with asthma is different. There's no one size fits all. We all have different triggers and different medicine that works for us.

But it's worth looking into. I may be picky, but I like to keep breathing....