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Friday, August 30, 2013

Mom guilt

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This is how I feel when my kids get sick. Some days I think, "I can't do this again!!!!"

All 3 of my teenagers have asthma (as do I) but when they were younger, they were sick ALL THE TIME! It got to the point that not only did I know EVERY doctor in my pediatrician's office, but I knew many of the other after-hours doctors too.
And the doctors and respiratory therapists at the emergency room.......

I would always worry if I was doing the right thing. 
I would think, "What if I don't take them to the doctor in time?"
What if I take them to the doctor and he says "It's just a virus" and I don't listen to my mother's intuition and take them back?

How do I know when to go to the after hours doctor and when to go to the emergency room?
What if the one of my kids get admitted to the hospital? Is it my fault? Did I wait too long? Should I have insisted the doctor give them oral steroids?  Should I have pushed for a chest x-ray?

I'm not a doctor or respiratory therapist, I don't have a medical degree. But I do know my kids and I know when 'something just doesn't seem right.' Hubby would say, "You're taking them back to the doctor-again?!"

I would tell Hubby and the doctor, "Look, I don't know what's going on. I can't put my finger on it, but something's not right."

As a mom, you know your kid's patterns. How and when they sleep. How much or little they eat (or drink.) How energetic they are. Even how they usually look or act. There were times the doctor would say "it's just a virus-you'll have to just let nature take its course." Okay, I'm not a doctor, I'll take his word for it. 

But there were times that I thought, "Something isn't right here. My son or daughter is WAY too lethargic and sleepy. They aren't eating or drinking. They seem to be sleeping WAY too long." The doctor said they'll be fine, what do I do? Well, I have insurance, so I would go back to the after hours clinic. If it was after 10:00 pm, I would head straight to the emergency room.

Son #2 and daughter Kitty have been hospitalized 12 times for asthma. Son #2 has been in ICU twice. Did I fail as a mom? Should I have taken them back sooner? 

We kept a bottle of prednisone (a steroid) at home for each of the kids. Asthma Doc would give me instructions on when to start them on prednisone. Then I was supposed to call and let them know. When that didn't work, we went back for a shot of Decadron (another steroid.) There were times I did EVERYTHING the doctor would tell me to, and the kids would get worse, so I would head to the emergency room.

Know that if your child ends up in the hospital, it DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD MOM!!!! You can have mild, moderate, or severe asthma. Some kids may never end up in the hospital, and others of us have spent WAY too much time in the Pediatric Ward with kids. Son #2 has severe asthma. And sometimes, no matter how much medicine we gave him, or how many times I took him back to the doctor, he would still end up in the Emergency Room. And then in the Pediatrics ward (we used to joke with the nurses and say, "Yep, we're back again. We would like our corner suite!" )

If they are hospitalized, don't blame yourself!!! Do the best you can, get instructions from the doctor and follow them VERY carefully. And listen to your mother's instinct. If you think your child is getting worse, take them back to the doctor. Webmd has a page that lists symptoms of a severe asthma attack. If you have any of those-get to a hospital FAST or call 911. 

And let go of the mom guilt. You can follow the doctor's instructions to a T and your child can still end up in the hospital. We have enough to feel guilty about (the kids aren't doing well in school, the house is a mess, you paid the mortgage late, etc. ) Don't add one more thing!  

Just know that it does get better!!!! :)

After 12 hospitalizations in a few years time, my kids are doing better now and haven't been hospitalized in 7 years! Woot woot!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What it feels like to have an asthma attack

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Well, I'll tell you what it feels like when I have an asthma attack, but it's different for everyone.

I had a bad asthma attack Friday night :(

Who knows what caused it? The weather has finally cooled down, so I left the front door open a little to enjoy the evening breeze. I thought the pollen count had dropped to low levels, so it was safe to have the door open. But maybe not! Or was it the neighbor's Tabby Kitty who quietly snuck in the house.....

Who knows?! Sometimes it's hard to figure out what triggered an asthma attack.

Friday night is Pizza/Video night at our house. Yay! I don't have to cook that night! We had already eaten pizza and were watching a movie when my throat started to feel a little "twitchy." I started to cough a little, and my chest started to feel "tight." Then I felt like I had to cough again, but REALLY cough this time. It felt like it wasn't in my throat, but deeper down in my lungs. Then the coughing wouldn't stop. I could hardly catch my breath. Hubby looked at me and said "Sheesh! Are you okay?!!" I could feel phlegm building up in my lungs and started coughing up junk. Yuck.

Then I started breathing REALLY fast and realized I was having an asthma attack. (Ya, I've been having them all my life, you think I would pick up on it a little sooner! But I thought it was just a little tickle in my throat!) Luckily, my purse was in the same room, so I grabbed my inhaler and used a puff. You're supposed to try to hold your breathe for a few seconds, and then exhale. Hard to do when you are coughing really hard and breathing fast. Here's a video that shows how to use your inhaler properly.

I could tell that this asthma attack was going to be a bad one, so I waited 2 minutes to do another puff of my inhaler. It's REALLY important to wait between puffs on your inhaler because it lets the air and medicine in your inhaler remix.   Otherwise, you aren't getting as much medicine as you THINK you are getting because it hasn't had time to remix. And what's the point of using your inhaler if you're not getting all the medicine you should in the puff?

My heart was really pounding now, not only from coughing hard and breathing fast, but from the effects of my Albuterol. I knew I needed to calm down and belly breathe. I took a slow, deep breath, and then let it out slow and deep. It took a while, but my body finally settled down.

That night, I hard a hard time getting to sleep because my chest and stomach hurt from coughing. *Sigh*

The next morning when I woke up, my chest was still tight, and I started coughing again as soon as I woke up. I think my body was trying to get the rest of the junk out of my lungs. I quickly used my inhaler again. Hubby asked how I was feeling, but I seemed to only be able to speak in a whisper. I thought, "Oh No!! I lost my voice!!!!" Hubby was probably thinking, "Oh Yeah!!! She lost her voice!!!" Ha ha!

I was really weak and wiped out that morning. And I SOUNDED terrible, so my teenagers took pity on me and actually did their chores that morning! Ha!! So I guess something good came out of it.

So, that's what it feels like when I have an asthma attack. It's not fun. Not only does it affect your body physically because you can't breathe, but emotionally since you start to panic. Make sure that you ALWAYS have your inhaler with you. You never know when an attack might hit. And try to stay calm. (And maybe your kids will feel sorry for you and decide to do their chores!!)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Do your kids know what to do?

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Now that the kids are back in school, can you relax? Well, maybe!
The house might be a little quieter :)

But do you worry about your kids having an asthma attack at school? I know I always do!
Would they know what to do if they were having breathing problems?
In our county, the nurse/students ratio is VERY high, it's 1 nurse for every 5,900 students. Yep, you read that right! Each school nurse has between 5-8 schools. So chances are, the school nurse won't be there when my kids have an asthma attack. It's not like I can tell my daughter, "If you are going to have an asthma attack, you can have one between 8-11 on Monday morning, 
because that's when the school nurse is there!!" If only asthma were that easy.....

So how do you know if your kids can handle an asthma attack at school? I would usually help my kids at home. I make sure they use their inhaler correctly, know when to use it, etc. But what happens when they are at school? It can make me a little nervous. 

American Lung Association has a FREE program called "Open Airways for Schools."  It's a six week program where trained instructors come into the school for 40 minutes once a week. They teach the kids how to manage their asthma in a fun, interactive way. They make it exciting for the kids by using role play, games, group discussion and stories.

The kids learn how about:
asthma basics
learning how to recognize and manage asthma symptoms   
taking medication correctly
avoiding asthma triggers
keeping up in school
getting exercise

The thing I like best about it? The kids have "homework" that comes home to parents. YOU get to learn about everything THEY learned about that day! And they don't feel like the only weird kid in the class that has that "little squirty breathing thing." They get to meet other kids in the school who have asthma and inhalers and it makes them feel like they are not alone :)

It's a great program, and the proof is in the pudding. American Lung Association has the results of the study to show how much it helps the kids. Open Airways for Schools was started over 10 years ago, and the kids who take the class have:

fewer and less severe asthma attacks 
took more steps to take care of their asthma
did better in school 

That sounds like a win/win situation!  Check with your state to see what you need to do to get the program into your school. I volunteer with our state chapter, so I was trained to teach the course. I taught it several years in daughter Kitty's school. It was so much fun! And it was good to see the kids feel more in control of their asthma and feel support from the other kids who have asthma.

And now I feel like Kitty knows what to do if she has an asthma attack at school and the school nurse isn't there. A little peace of mind for a frazzled mom! Ahhhhh. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Try breathing around this stuff

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I was watching the ABC World News, and there was a report about the wild fires in the Western U.S. They were spotlighting the fires in Sun Valley, Idaho.  

A local reporter there said the air quality was so bad that an air quality station had to evacuate - because even they couldn't breathe! How ironic is that?! He said many people there are using masks or bandanas "to try to keep the smoke and ash out of their lungs." I wouldn't last 5 minutes there! Neither would any of my teenagers (all 3 of which also have asthma!)

The Beaver Creek fire has burned over 100,000 acres and there are about 700 fire fighters there trying to battle the blaze. Hats off to the firefighters!!! I know that they risk their lives every day to try to put the fires out. We only have to remember the 19 firefighters that died earlier this summer while battling a wildfire. I don't know how they are able to fight fires....I wonder if any of them have asthma? I don't know how you could be a firefighter and have asthma! You would be at risk of having an asthma attack or ending up in the hospital every day!!

Years ago, we had a bad fire in our state, and Son #2 almost died from inhaling the smoke and ash. I can't begin to explain how traumatic that was. He was in the pediatrics ward of our local hospital, and they had the "crash cart" parked outside his room - just in case he stopped breathing!! And he almost did. To this day, when  there is a wild fire in our state, I start to panic.

The year after that happened, there WAS another fire here. And did I panic? YES!!!! I grabbed suitcases, threw what I could into them, packed up the kids and left town as fast as I could. I drove to another part of the state about 5 hours away. Hubby was out of town on business, so I called him and said "Don't go home! There's another fire! We're at your parent's house!!!" We spent several days there until the fire was put out at home. I was so nervous to come home!! I kept calling my neighbor to see if the fire was out and the air was clear. I also kept close watch on Son #2's oxygen levels and I watched him for any coughing or tightness in his chest.

If you are ever living near a wild fire, and they ask you to evacuate, DO IT!!! Don't stay behind to "save your stuff." If you have asthma, you are at real risk of ending up in the hospital. Get to somewhere safe where you can breathe.

Keep up the good work firefighters!! We love and appreciate all that you do!!  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Perfect attendance with asthma?

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Can your child EVER be one of the kids who gets a "Perfect Attendance!!!!!" certificate at the end of the school year?

Maybe. My kids never did. All three of my teenagers have asthma (thanks to Hubby and I-they inherited it from us!)  Our youngest two teenagers were hospitalized 12 separate times when they were younger. So they missed A LOT of school. And even the days when they weren't sick enough to be hospitalized, they would spend days at home having breathing treatments. Or just being so weak that they can't do much but lay on the couch and watch TV. It's amazing what happens to your body when you don't get enough oxygen.

AANMA (Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics) has a great article on their website this month. It's called "Perfect Attendance: Mission Impossible?"  It really depends on how severe your child's asthma is. Maybe for kids who have mild asthma, they might be able to make it through the school year without missing class.

Son #2 has asthma so severe that he's almost stopped breathing twice (while in the hospital) which would have led to cardiac arrest and death. Yes, you read that right. You can die from asthma. It wasn't exactly the happiest time of our lives. To say it was stressful would be an understatement!!

When he and his sister were hospitalized, it was almost always due to pneumonia. Respiratory infections are always worse when you have asthma. Smoke from forest fires can also land your kids in the hospital. That was the other reason that almost caused Son #2 to stop breathing. Scary stuff!!

There are things to watch for in your school to help your child succeed. The article from the website above has a list of ideas. There are things in the school that can trigger asthma attacks. So check out your kid's classrooms. Make sure you are REALLY good friends with their teachers and the school nurse. They are there to teach and protect your kids. They can be that extra set of eyes that can let you know if your child is having a tough time in school. They can also help you spot what might be triggering problems with their asthma.  

Make sure you talk to your child's doctor if they are still struggling. He/she can also change medications or adjust the dose. They want to see your kids be happy in school too :)

They may just be one of the lucky kids that get "Perfect Attendance!!!" certificates at the end of school. I wanted to print out certificates that said "You made it through the school year alive!!!" Congratulations!! 

Don't worry, it gets better.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Back to school with asthma

(Utah Department of Health Asthma Program)

It's the most wonderful time of the year.....I'm singing that Christmas song in my head. I remember watching a Staples commercial about shopping for back to school supplies. It was hilarious! The dad was gleefully dancing in the aisle and pushing the shopping cart. He would stop and throw school supplies in while his kids were giving him their best "I hate you" face.

So if you have school supplies and new clothes for your kids, you are all set, right?!

Well, not yet! You need to talk to your school nurse about filling out an Asthma Action Plan (AAP). You need a new AAP every year for your student. There are a lot of versions, most have green, yellow and red zones. Green means they are okay, yellow means caution and red means call 911.

The AAP tells the school nurse, teacher or classroom aid what to do if your student has an asthma attack at school. What medication to give, when to call for help, etc. You can also use it at home if you're not so sure what to do when they start coughing and wheezing! :)

Your doctor will need to fill it out the AAP and sign it, most schools require a new one every year (in case your child has new asthma triggers, new medications, etc.) Since we are at Asthma Doc's office EVERY week for allergy shots, we can just leave the AAP there for him to fill out. Then his office will fax it to our school nurse. 

Call your school nurse if you don't have one yet. I just realized my nurse hasn't mailed one yet this summer, and school starts for us next week! Our state also requires another form for the doctor to sign that legally allows our daughter to carry her inhaler with her at all times. Since all schools have zero tolerance for drugs, many were not allowing ANY medication in schools, even asthma inhalers! Scary! I don't want my daughter's inhaler locked up in the front office if she's out on the field playing soccer during PE and has an asthma attack.  It would take way too long to get someone across the campus to bring her inhaler. Minutes count when you have an asthma attack, students need to carry their inhaler at all times, just in case....

Allergy and Asthma Networks Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) says that it is legal in ALL 50 STATES for students to carry their inhaler with them at all times!  Most states also allow students to carry an Epi Pen if they need one.

Check with your school nurse to see what forms you need to fill out for allergies and asthma. After all, this is "the most wonderful time of the year!!!" Muhahaha!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Is your state on the Honor Roll for asthma and allergies?

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It's Back To School time!!! Muhahahah! Sorry kids, but it makes parents excited!!

Is your school prepared to handle allergies and asthma emergencies? The Asthma Community Network has a list of the 2013 State Honor Roll of Asthma and Allergy Policies For Schools. 

Here's a quote from the website:

One of the bright-spots in school policy for 2013 is the speed and momentum of efforts to pass laws in the states allowing schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors – emergency medication for anaphylaxis, the most severe type of allergic reaction.
The list of states that have policies in place to protect students with allergies and asthma comes from the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America. (AAFA).You can visit their website to see how your state is doing.

Does your know if your school stocks Epi Pens in case a student has an allergic reaction to something they ate?  We never thought it would happen to us, but the first time it did, it was VERY scary!! To learn more about food allergies,  visit AAFA's website. 

Check with your school and see what policies they have in place to protect your child. Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts, and those sneaky little things are in a LOT of bakery products and ice cream flavors. So we are always reading labels.

But knowing that all 138 public school in our county are stocked with an Epi Pen "just in case" makes me feel a lot better. Talk to your school nurse or principal and see what they provide.

Chances are, your child will be fine in school. But if they were to have a reaction to something they ate, wouldn't you want the school to have an Epi Pen on hand to save their life? Let's just hope they never have to actually use it....

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Girl's Camp

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Daughter Kitty is headed to camp. Now that she is a teenager, she didn't want me anywhere around when I dropped her off with the rest of the girls. She did the dismissive hand wave and said, "You can go now." 

Oh sure, that's the thanks I get as a parent?!

I spent hours helping her pack all her gear! And camping is always more fun with allergies and asthma. Most kids just pack camp basics but it's different when you have allergies and asthma.We have to pack a LOT of medicine and boxes of tissues!

At home, she showers EVERY night to remove pollen and dust from her hair and skin. It helps reduce her sniffing, sneezing, and swollen eyes. She won't be able to do that at Girl's Camp - no showers! They are low on water this year. So now what? The only thing we could think of was to send a big package of baby wipes. She'll have to use those to wipe off her skin and hair every night. Sometimes her allergies are so bad that she has to lay with a wet washcloth on her face. So I sent up a few extra wash cloths too.

She also has her inhaler in case the allergies trigger an asthma attack.

Camping and allergies don't mix. But they have a camp nurse there, along with adult leaders. We have talked to them about her allergies, so we'll just have to see how she does. If she can't last the week, we can go and pick her up.

Until then, I'll enjoy not having her sigh and roll her eyes. Being a mom is so much fun!!!


Friday, August 2, 2013

Teenager dies in her father's arm from peanut allergy

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What a sad story, this strikes fear in the heart of parents everywhere who have a child with food allergies. It's your worse nightmare come true :(

The story was on Yahoo news, and came from a TV station in Carmichael California. 13 year old Natalie Giorgi was having a snack at Camp Sacramento with her friends and family. It was dark and she couldn't see the food that well. She took a bite of a Rice Krispie treat, but it was iced with peanut butter and chocolate on the top. She quickly spit it out, but that little taste was enough to cause anaphylaxis and cardiac arrest, with lead to her death. The Mayo Clinic has more information about anaphylaxis.

I know what it's like to have to carefully inspect food anytime I eat at a family gathering, church outing, work party, restaurant, etc. I have a seafood allergy and Son #2 has a tree nut allergy. We both carry Epi Pens. Just in case. American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) has a list of the 8 most common food allergies.

It's sad that Natalie Giorgi couldn't be saved, but anaphylaxis happens very fast. Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) has a fact sheet about anaphylaxis. For food allergies, it can be as little as 30 minutes from exposure to respiratory or cardiac arrest (which usually results in death.) A venom allergy (insect sting) can cause death in 15 minutes, and a drug allergy can cause death in as little as 5 minutes.

The scary part about all of this? Natalie left behind a twin sister-she is also allergic to peanuts.