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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Tis the season for using the fireplace....

As you can see, we decided to start decorating for Christmas! Usually I'm one of those one-holiday-at-a-time!!!!! kind of people. But this year, Thanksgiving is a week later than normal, and my irresistibly sweet teenager FINALLY talked me into it.  

Hubby also decided that since it is VERY cold outside now, we should use the fireplace. He likes the cozy feel of a fireplace. It has been an ongoing "discussion" between us. We have an older home, and as soon as we signed our names on the dotted line, EVERYTHING started to leak, short out, flood, break, etc. 

We had so many ongoing problems that I refused to let Hubby use the fireplace until he had it inspected. With our luck, I was sure that if we used it, our house would burn down. We've had so many strange things happen with our house, it actually wouldn't surprise me....

So, 10 years later, he finally paid to have an inspector come and check out the fireplace and chimney. It was actually in good shape! 

So, he lit a fire. And I waited. I was a little concerned because our 3 teenagers and I all have asthma. All night, my chest was tight. And I was coughing. And had that "twitchy" feeling in my throat. And
 I had to use my inhaler. 

The next morning, our living room still smelled a little smoky. It may have been from the left over ash. Hubby wanted to make sure it had cooled down before he put the ashes outside. I have heard stories about people who THOUGHT their ashes were cool, but the ashes actually ignited and started their garbage can and house on fire.

So, now what? I wanted to know if it was just me, or if there is a problem with fireplaces and asthma? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a page about fireplaces and asthma. Here is a quote from their website:

"Smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contain a mixture of harmful gases and small particles. Breathing these small particles can cause asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, aggravate heart and lung disease and may increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses. If you're using a wood stove or fireplace and smell smoke in your home, it probably isn't working as it should."

I'll have to have a talk with Hubby about using our fireplace. He did say that he would only use the fireplace for "special occasions." I have a friend that uses hers EVERY night. I know that in our state, it's actually illegal to use it during days when the air quality is listed as "unhealthy." 

 I know that a roaring fire can seem cozy and it makes you just want to curl up and read a good book. But, if you can't breathe while you are reading....what's the point?

Check out the EPA's website and see what's best for you and your family. I think I'll ask Asthma Doc about it too. For now, I think I will just finish decorating our mantel and skip using the fireplace. At least it will look good, right?!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Another strange thing....

As a follow up to my other blog entry about traveling, it seems like no matter what hotel we stay in, I always have problems with my asthma. I know the room is clean, I check for dust on surfaces. I also look to see if the bed is on a platform (so there's no dust build up under the bed.)

But still, every time I would stay in a hotel this year, I would sneeze and wake up with a tight chest. I would have to use my inhaler EVERY morning. 

With asthma, it can be VERY hard to figure out what is causing (or triggering) and asthma attack. But after my last stay, I FINALLY remembered something Asthma Doc said. 

When he first met us 14 years ago (the 1st time Son #2 was in the hospital) he asked about all sorts of things about our home. Do we have carpet? Pets? Burn scented candles? Have silk flower arrangements? Do we use feather pillows?

I forgot about the last one, feather pillows!! That's what most hotels seem to use. They look so pretty when you check into the room, all lined up on the bed with a nice crease in the top of each one. 

Of course, it's not a big deal to "normal people" aka people without asthma! For those of us that have allergies and asthma (and a body that over reacts to everything......) it can be enough to cause sneezing and wheezing.

I was curious, so I Googled "feather pillow allergies" and found an article on the Livestrong website. They talk about if people are allergic to birds, they may not be able to have down pillows. So that's my problem! All 5 of us (Hubby, myself and all 3 teenagers) are allergic to EVERYTHING! Trees, flowers, grass, cats, dogs, horses, birds, etc. If it's alive, we're allergic to it! We use allergy medicine year's so annoying. It's like a cold that NEVER goes away. Sigh. 

I wonder if I have to be one of those people that carries a pillow with me on through the airport? Hubby (the sensible one) reminded me that I can just take a pillow cover. We use zippered pillow covers on all of the our pillows to protect against dust mites and other allergens. It would be MUCH easier to just tuck a pillow cover in my suitcase rather than haul my pillow around the airport. 

Of course, it could come in handy when I am sitting next to one of "those" people that want to talk the whole flight. Maybe I can just cover my face with my pillow and pretend they aren't there.... 

If you are sneezy and wheezy when you travel, consider packing a zippered pillow cover. Or you can haul your pillow on the plane and cover your head when the annoying person next to you wants to talk for the whole 5 hour flight!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flying with asthma

(Shutterstock Image)

So, I've been traveling a lot lately. And that means going through security at the airport. Again.

I take out all my liquids and put them in a plastic bag, which goes in the grey plastic bin.....which then rolls through the conveyer belt and goes through the x-ray machine. 

I usually leave my rescue inhaler and Epi Pen (I'm allergic to seafood) in my purse, and send that through the x-ray machine. This time, I stuck my daily maintenance inhaler in my purse too, because I don't like to pack it in my luggage. It would be my luck that it would get lost....

So I had a LOT of medicine in my purse this time!! I always worry that the TSA agents will pull me over and search me because I have an Epi Pen. I mean, for a while you couldn't even carry fingernail clippers on the airplane, and I am carrying something that has a needle in it!

This time, I went through security, and was waved over to the side. (I did get a quick pat down, but nothing too bad.) And then I turned to get my luggage.......but it wasn't at the end of the conveyer belt. Hhhmmmm, that's weird! The TSA agent was still looking at my purse through the x-ray machine, then he was looking at me. I smiled, and reached over and grabbed my carry on. He must have decided that I didn't look too suspicious, because he let my purse go through.

I wonder how many Epi Pens they see a day? He must have thought it was okay because I had two inhalers with it too. Who knows? The guy probably felt bad for me! Maybe he thought, "I'm glad I don't have food allergies and asthma!"

Has anyone else had any interesting stories about traveling with inhalers and Epi Pens? Have the TSA ever given you a hassle about carrying and Epi Pen or inhaler on the plane?

You know, I can never go anywhere without those. With my luck, it would be the ONE time I didn't have my inhaler or Epi Pen with me, and I would need it. 

The joys of having allergies and asthma......

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Are you giving your kids medicine the right way? Only 1 in 169 parents are...

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How hard is it to give kids medicine the right way? Well, it may be harder than you think!  A new study by Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City showed that only 1 in 169 caregivers gave children their asthma medicine the right way. Yikes!!

What happens if you don't give them their medicine the right way? According to Dr. Douglas Jones, who is an immunologist at Rocky Mountain Allergy and Asthma and Immunology clinic, 
"This poor administration leads to a low concentration of the drug into the lungs, which, in turn, inadequately controls the disease"
I understand that sentence to mean that kids may not have the protective benefits of the medicine when they need it most. If they aren't getting all of the medicine into their lungs, it won't help control the swelling. If your kids already have swelling (or inflammation) in their lungs (which you can't see or feel), then that may put them at risk of getting REALLY sick if they get a cold when their lungs are already swollen. (For our kids, that means pneumonia and being admitted to the hospital...)

Here's a quote from Webmd's website about asthma and inflammation in the lungs:

"People with asthma have red and swollen bronchial tubes. This inflammation is thought to contribute greatly to the long-term damage that asthma can cause to the lungs. And, therefore, treating this inflammation is key to managing asthma in the long run." 
 So, what is the right way to use asthma medicine? There is an asthma telehealth on the Utah Department of Health's Asthma Program website from May 3, 2011 (so scroll down the page until you find the right episode). It's called, "In the world of asthma, device matters." Dr. David Young, PharmD,  is an Associate Professor (Clinical) at the University of Utah. He shows how to use the most common asthma medicine on the market.

He teaches all sorts of cool stuff! Did you know that you shouldn't take 2 quick puffs on your inhaler? Why? There is a reservoir at the base of the inhaler. If you take 2 quick puffs, it doesn't allow time for the air and medicine in the reservoir to mix after the first puff of the inhaler. So, you aren't getting all of the medicine that you THINK you are getting! Watch the telehealth to learn more. You may find that after all these years, you have been using your inhaler wrong!

My asthma medicine is VERY expensive, and I want to make sure all the medicine is making it into my lungs. I paid for it, I'm going to get the most out of my medicine! 

Happy Viewing!! :) 

Monday, November 4, 2013

No insurance? I found a place that helps!! :)

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I was talking to a woman at the gym today (I'm not a morning person, but sometimes I'm awake enough to carry on a conversation.....) and she was talking about her job at the hospital. I said, "Oh, we used to be there ALL the time! My kids have asthma and they were in the hospital 12 times when they were younger. Their asthma seems to be better now that they're older."

She asked how old my kids are now, because she has a son that is almost 26 (which means he will no longer be covered on her insurance.) And that will be a BIG problem because he has diabetes. She said he better find a good job that has insurance!!

We REALLY worry about that with my husband's job. If he ever lost his job, who is going to hire him? Who would want to insure him - with a wife and 3 teenagers who have asthma (and a history of hospitalizations?!!) We would be one of those families that no one would want to insure. I went on the website and here's what it says about covering  pre-existing conditions. :

Being sick doesn't keep you from getting coverage

Starting in 2014, being sick won't keep you from getting health coverage. An insurance company can't turn you down or charge you more because of your condition.
Once you have insurance, the plan can't refuse to cover treatment for pre-existing conditions. Coverage for your pre-existing conditions begins immediately.
This is true even if you have been turned down or refused coverage due to a pre-existing condition in the past.

One exception: Grandfathered individual health insurance plans

The only exception is for grandfathered individual health insurance plans -- the kind you buy yourself, not through an employer. They do not have to cover pre-existing conditions.
If you have one of these plans you can switch to a Marketplace plan during open enrollment and immediately get coverage for your pre-existing conditions.

I still worry because Son #2 has monthly Xolair injections to control his severe asthma (and those cost  hefty $1500 a month.) What if he has to buy his own insurance? The website says that "Grandfathered" plans don't have to cover pre-existing conditions. 

Where do you go for help if you don't have insurance? We use Needymeds to get co-pay assistance for Son #2's Xolair. But they also have a map that lists FREE or LOW COST clinics anywhere in the U.S.  Just click on your state, or enter your Zip Code and it will search for clinics near you. I randomly clicked on a state (Arizona) and found 209 free/low cost clinics.

Don't skip going to the doctor because you don't have insurance. Check out Needymeds to find a clinic near you, and then to find co-pay assistance. Programs are out there, let's use them!!