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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A little trick we learned along the way.....

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If you have kids with asthma, you probably already know that they tend to get REALLY sick. A cold to a "normal" kid is just that - a cold. To a kid with asthma, it can turn into pneumonia. And for us, that would mean another hospitalization. 

My youngest 2 kids (now teenagers) were hospitalized 12 times with pneumonia. (Yes, that was AFTER getting the pneumonia vaccine!!)

One of the doctors gave us a little advice along the way. He told us about a "numbing cream" that can be applied to the back of the hand before an IV needs to be inserted. The brand our hospital used was EMLA.   Why use a numbing cream? Well, when our kids were admitted to the hospital for pneumonia, their oxygen level was usually around 89, it should be closer to 100. If there isn't enough oxygen in the blood, it makes it VERY difficult to get an IV in the vein. 

You (or a child) may have experienced the same thing if you were dehydrated. Being dehydrated or having a low oxygen level affects the veins, the nurse said that it made the veins less plump. That can mean several attempts at finding a "good vein." It can also mean the nurse may need to move the needle around a little to try to find the vein. Talk about scary and painful for a little kid! Most adults can't handle that, let alone a child!! :(

One of the times Son #2 was in the hospital, his oxygen level was really low (only 82) which affected his veins. It took 7 tries to get the IV in. You read that right, 7!! At one point, the nurse filled up disposable diapers with hot water and wrapped those around the back of his hands to try to get the veins to plump up so they could get the IV in. 

Shortly after that, we learned about numbing cream. Every time after that, as soon as we would get to the emergency room, I would ask for the cream. Some of the nurses would just stare blankly at me, they had no idea what I was talking about. I would tell them to go get the doctor, because my kids were NOT going to get an IV until the numbing cream kicked in. (I'm so mean.....) I would have the nurse smear a bunch of cream on the back of both of my kid's hands, then cover it with a plastic covering, then we would wait 30 minutes for the skin to be numb. THEN they could try getting the IV in a vein. 

It's my job as a mom to protect my kids. I can't always take away the hurt and suffering (insert your own mom guilt here). But if there's something like numbing cream that can decrease the pain for my kids, you can BET that I am going to insist on using it!!! I hope you never have a child in the hospital, and may never need to use it. But ask your doctor about numbing cream for IV's. Every doctor and hospital are different, but mine use it. If I can take away a little pain for my kids, you know I will!  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It's been one of those days

This is an all too familiar sight with my kids, since they've been in the hospital 14 times (12 of those were for asthma.) Now that my kids are older, things are better.

But for a while, every time they would start to cough or their nose would run, I would panic. For us, a simple cold can go easily turn into pneumonia (thanks to asthma.) That would mean another hospitalization. And we spent WAY too much time at our Pediatrics Ward in the hospital. When you start to know all the nurses and respiratory therapists by name, you know you've been there too many times!

But our family mantra is "Things Can Always Be Worse!"

 I was reminded about that when I was listening to the radio on the way to work. A Brad Paisley song came on, called "One of Those Lives." In the song, he is complaining about it being "one of those days" - because his boss yelled at him, he is stuck in rush hour traffic, and a Cadillac just cut him off. Then his wife calls to tell him about their friend's little boy, and says "the doctor says his cancer is back". Then comes the chorus of the song: 

"Man, it's been one of those days
When I've been thinkin' poor me
I've got no right to complain I guess
'Cause right now all I can see
Is a little angel in a Yankees cap
It makes me realize
It's just been one of those days for me
But for him it's been one of those lives

There are so many families struggling with sick kids. Don't get me wrong, 9 people die every day in the U.S. from asthma. My son almost died twice!! I knew that each hospitalizations would last about 3 days, followed by my son or daughter coming home on oxygen, and then missing a week of school. But MOST OF THE TIME, I knew they would get better. 

Many families have a hard time dealing with the stress of having a sick child. Yahoo Health has an article about how the whole family is affected when you have a chronically ill child. Know that you are not alone in feeling stressed!! The article lists several things to do to help relieve the stress. 

If you are feeling stressed about having a child in the hospital (who wouldn't be?!) Ask your nurse for help. Our hospital has a social worker and psychologist on staff to help family members. They have great coping skills they can teach you. You can also have friends help out by bringing in dinner and taking other children to school/scouts/dance practice, etc. 

If friends say "What can I do to help?" Let them know what you need! One time I was craving home- made, gooey, chocolate chip cookies. So I told my friend that, and she made a batch and brought it to the hospital. It really boosted my spirits!

Keep things in perspective. You can do this! You may have good and bad days, but remember that "Things Can Always Be Worse!!"

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tennessee law makes stocking Epi Pens in schools legal

I just read a story in the Houston Chronicle about a new law in Tennessee. It makes it legal for schools to stock Epi pens for use on any student who may need it. (In the past, it's been difficult for schools to use an Epi Pen unless that student had a prescription.) It also provides legal protection for the staff member who uses it.  If anyone in the school has an allergic reaction, a staff member can use the Epi Pen to save their life. Way to go Tennessee!!!! 

You may think, "Well, my son or daughter doesn't have food allergies, so I'm not going to worry about it!" Yeah, that's what I thought once too! Boy, was I wrong!

The Chronicle article states that:
"About a quarter of anaphylaxis cases in schools occur among students who are not aware that they have an allergy." Yikes!!!!!
 We didn't know that our son was allergic to tree nuts until one day about 10 years ago, when he ate a piece of bread at a family member's house. He took a few bites and said "Mom, I don't feel so good." I couldn't figure out why he would suddenly feel sick and say his throat was itchy. I looked at his slice of bread but couldn't see anything. Then I looked at the bread in the bag. I could see a few tiny pieces of chopped walnuts on the bread. I asked the family member why there were chopped nuts on top of the slices of French Bread. They said that they put the French bread in a bag that had previously had chopped walnuts in it.

I can't remember what happened after that, it was all a blur. I do remember that we went to see  Asthma Doc. They did a skin prick test on Son #2's  back, and Asthma Doc said that he is indeed allergic to tree nuts. 

What if something like that were to happen to your son our daughter while they were at school? It's rare, but it can happen. There are all sorts of things that can cause an allergic reaction. The article lists:

"Aside from bee stings, anaphylactic shock can be a reaction to such foods as peanuts, wheat, shellfish, milk or eggs. The epinephrine is particularly effective in stopping swelling in the throat or tongue that can be deadly, as well as preventing respiratory or cardiac failure."   

One little boy in the article was stung by a wasp. That caused hives on his neck and made him have a hard time breathing. The nurse gave him an injection of Epinephrine. She reports that at the emergency room, the doctor told the family that they are lucky that he was still alive. Without the injection, he may not have made it to the hospital, which was 30 minutes away. Sheesh!

If you have kids in school, talk to your principal and see if your school stocks Epi Pens. Son #2 carries an Epi Pen with him at all times. But what about the students who may not know that they have a food allergy, and have their first reaction at school? Our school district stocks Epi Pen in EVERY school, every year. Just in case.........


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Breathe Easies

I am always on the look out for anything new about asthma. I saw a silly little video about some puppets, The Breathe Easies, who call themselves "the world's most famous (and only) asthma-rock band, here to tell you all about asthma triggers in your home!"

You can find the videos on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website called Attack Asthma.   They have several short videos on their page, each one is less than a minute long. You can watch "Clean Up the Mold", "Don't Smoke in the House" and "Vacuum the floor."

If there's one thing I've learned over the years about asthma, it is how everything around me can affect my asthma, and my three teenager's asthma. I know that making your home and office a safe allergy and asthma friendly place to be is sooooo important!! You can take all the asthma medicine you want, but if someone in the home smokes/ it's not being vacuumed/ things are dusty/you have pets, you're may still have a lot of asthma attacks.

There's a link on the website to another page that teaches about Triggers in the Home (those are all the things that can "trigger" or cause an asthma attack. The weird thing about asthma is that triggers can be different for everyone. What may be a trigger for me, may not be a trigger for my kids. It's interesting to see the list and read all the things that can cause asthma attacks.

Some of the things on the list might be surprising to you. It may also help you figure out what is causing asthma attacks with your family. There's also a cute page with fun things for kids to do, it's called Kid's Stuff.


Have fun looking around on the website!! :)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dealing with teenagers and asthma

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This weekend, I met with a group of other moms who had kids with asthma. It's interesting to talk to other moms and find out all the things we have in common. 

One problem is that when they start their teenage years, they don't tell you what is going on. Unless you hear them coughing, you may not know they are sick/having an asthma attack. They won't tell you that their chest is tight, they are feeling really weak, or that they don't feel well.

Why? Good questions. Teenagers are a strange! I think part of it that they don't want to feel "different." Think about it. Junior high and middle school are tough years. Kids are going through puberty, getting acne, trying to figure out who they are.  And the last thing they want is to FEEL DIFFERENT! They want to "fit in" and be normal. 

They don't want anyone to see them using their inhaler. And, if my teenagers are not feeling well, that means I won't let them head over to a friend's house, go on the weekend scout campout, go to a movie with their friends, etc. Yes, I'm a mean mom. When my teenagers are having big problems with their asthma, I have them stay home and rest.

Asthma Doc always stresses the importance of letting your body heal after an asthma attack/illness. Our lungs need to recover, as does the rest of our body.

So, if may take a little more detective work to see how your teenagers are feeling. You may have to watch for body language and see how they are acting. One of the best things I used was a Peak Flow meter.  Your doctor will have to write a prescription for one.

You blow quickly into a tube that gives you a reading of what your lung capacity is. That always helped me figure out how the kids were feeling (even if they weren't going to tell me......). It has green, yellow, and red zones. So I knew that if they were in the yellow zone, I would have them use their inhaler or have a breathing treatment with the nebulizer.  Then we would cancel activities for the day if they were getting sick.

If you have teenagers, my sympathies! Just kidding. I love my teenagers, but they are hard to deal with at that age. Just do the best you can try to help them with their asthma. And just know that they may hide it from you because they don't want to be the "weird or different" kid in class. Every teenager is different, so figure out how to deal with yours and what works for you. GOOD LUCK!!!!!     

Friday, October 4, 2013

Getting to know your pharmacy

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We spend A LOT of money at the pharmacy. In fact, I just walk up to the counter, and the pharmacy technician (who knows me and all of my family by name) will see me, turn around and grab my multiple prescriptions out of the bin and ring them up.

So, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Should I be a frequent customer? It's kind of like that with my mechanic. Hubby will call, and as soon as they hear his voice, they will say "Which one do you need to bring in? The truck or the van?" Sometimes we trick them and say "Ha!! It's the Jeep this time!!"

So, knowing your pharmacy and mechanic well may not be the best thing, because that means you are probably spending WAY too much time and money there.

But, having good relationships with them is important, because they help take care of us. They can let you know about generic version, or even coupons that are available. They are also good listeners. I used to spend a lot of time talking with Pharmacy Technician at our pharmacy. I would complain every time my insurance company would stop covering a certain drug, and they would make me switch to another one that was cheaper. (Right now, they will only cover one brand of rescue inhaler, so I had to make sure Asthma Doc had that on his record so he prescribes the "right" brand for all of us. Otherwise, instead of paying $20 for a new inhaler, if it was a brand they didn't cover, it would be $75) 

 We would share complaints about red tape, insurance companies, co-pays, etc. She was always so sweet and loving. So, it was quite a shock when I went to pick up 3 prescriptions last night, and they had a notice up about her funeral. WHAT???!!!  I noticed she wasn't there the last few times I picked up prescriptions, but I wondered if she was finally able to quit and stay home and take care of some health problems she was having. I didn't ask the pharmacist about her, because I know they aren't allowed to talk about their employees. 

As I sat there staring at her obituary, I was in shock. I can barely remember sliding my credit card through the machine to pay for the medications. The pharmacist apologized said she was sorry that I had to find out that way, to read an obituary posted on their window. She's probably been doing a lot of that the last few weeks. I just snatched my bag from the counter and ran out of the store, I didn't want anyone to see my crying.

It's just another reminder about being kind and loving to the people we see every day. Whether it's a family member, co-worker, neighbor, Pharmacy Technician,or mechanic. It could be their last day here on earth.

I'm really going to miss her. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Allergy shots

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This is what it looks like to be tested for allergies. All 3 of my teenagers have had this done when they were younger. But my kids had WAY BIGGER welts on their back!!

Before you can do the scratch test (allergy test), you have to stop taking all antihistamines for a week beforehand. My kids are absolutely miserable. Son #1 could only last a couple of days before his hands swelled up and were itching like crazy. Poor guy :(  So we had to postpone doing the testing until Christmastime, when most of the fall allergens had died down.

At our doctor's office, Shot Nurse brings in her container of serums which have a sharp plastic tip.
She marks the kid's back in 3 rows according to category (food, plants, animals, etc.) Then she does a quick scratch of the skin in that row. She goes across all three rows, and then the fun starts!! 

The kids have to lay still on their stomach for 20 loooooong minutes while the welts develop. Then Shot Nurse measures the welts and gives a report to Asthma Doc.The hardest part is getting the kids to not move for 20 minutes. Last time, I distracted my daughter with Cute Cat Videos on Youtube. A little bribery helps too (honey, where do you want to go to lunch?!) There's nothing worse than having your whole back itch, and not be able to touch it-let alone scratch it!

Then Asthma Doc orders a serum based on what the kids are allergic to. Then comes 3-5 years of visiting his office for shots.  They start out with a tiny dose of the serum and then gradually increase the amount. 

We started by going twice a week.That means taking time off work, driving to the office, waiting 20 minutes after shots, and driving back home. It's vital that you wait 20 minutes after shots. You are being injected with a substance that you are allergic to, so you can go into anaphylaxis. Your doctor has minutes to give you a shot of adrenaline or you can potentially die. (Son #2 actually had anaphylaxis the ONE TIME we left shots early. But that's another story.)

Once you get to a certain level (maintenance), you can cut back to once a week, then once every other week. It's a LONG process and you have to plan around everything else. You aren't supposed to be physically active for 2 hours before or after shots. (I think Asthma Doc said the increased blood flow will increase your chance of anaphylaxis-or something like that.) So we have to plan around dance class, soccer, etc, etc. It's hard to find a time to go to shots. And now that Son #1 and Son #2 are adults, they can take her to shots so I don't have to take time off work every week.

If your Asthma Doc recommends allergy shots, it may be worth doing. Some people have allergies so severe that Zyrtec, Claritin or Singulair just aren't enough. If your kids go to bed sneezing/wake you up during the night sneezing/or wake up in the morning sneezing, it may be time to talk to your doctor. 

Until then, pass the tissues.....