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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Random thoughts inside my head





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No, this isn't what's inside my head-air blowing from one side to the other. I was just thinking about random thoughts about asthma.

I just gave a presentation about asthma to a group of people, and they were surprised by a few things.

  • It's legal to carry asthma inhalers in public schools in every state in the U.S. (BUT you and your doctor must fill out a form every year from your school district.)
  • It's also legal to carry an Epi Pen with you at all times (but fill out the school form first)
  • Asthma is the Greek word for 'panting" which is what it sounds like when you are having problems breathing
  • You can develop asthma anytime, even as an adult. It's called adult-onset asthma.  
  • You can get help paying for your asthma medications (or any other medication!) We use NeedyMeds to find a company that will help us with co-pays for my son's Xolair injections. NeedyMeds doesn't sell medication, they help you find a company that can pay for co-pays.
  • NeedyMeds also has a page that can help you find free/low cost/sliding scale clinics anywhere in the country! Just click on a state to find what you need.


I'll have to say that I know more about the every day aspects of asthma than I ever wanted to know! I might as well share a few of the things I learned along the way. I hope some of these things can help you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Getting better lungs






You can do just about anything with asthma, as long as you know what your triggers are and how to avoid them. A trigger I try to be careful with is cold temperatures, so I don't spend a lot of time outdoors in the winter. But it may not be a trigger for other people with asthma, so they can still ski, ice skate, snow shoe and jog in the winter.

In fact there are a lot of Olympic athletes who have asthma, so if they can exercise, we can too!

My kids aren't the best athletes, but there are other ways to build up your lungs. Musical instruments are a great choice. Especially those that you have to blow into such as the french horn, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, flute, oboe and even bagpipes.

My kids all play different musical instruments, and it really seems to help increase their lung capacity. Son #2 has severe asthma, but is usually able to play his horn. I think the fact that he has to breathe deeply and then blow into his horn has helped strengthen his lungs.

Son #1 plays the bagpipes, and you need a big set of lungs to play those! I was always shocked when I would see his peak flow readings, because Son #1 inherited my height  (or lack there of.) He isn't very tall, but boy does he have a set of lungs. He can really belt out a tune on the bagpipes!

So if you are worried about your child's lung capacity, talk to your doctor. You need to make sure you are treating their asthma correctly with the right combination of medications. And work with your doctor to try out different sports for your child, it's important that they stay active and healthy. And consider adding a musical instrument.

I know, I know, kids hate to practice musical instruments. But they'll thank us later.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Oh no, I lost my voice because of the pollution!






Mm, take a big deep breath!


We went up the canyon on Monday to try to breathe a little fresh air. Once we go up into the mountains, the air is clean and warm. We are in the middle of January yuck. The inversion. For those of you not surrounded by mountains, you are probably wondering what that is.

I live in a "bowl" or valley that is surrounded by mountains. The mountains trap the pollution and cold air. There is warm air above the valley, but the warm and cold air don't mix. Kind of like when you have a bottle of oil and vinegar salad dressing.You have two layers, and they don't like to stay mixed. You have to shake it up to mix the two.

Well, I am waiting for a storm to "shake up" our weather or "mix the two." Our air is "red" or unhealthy. And I can tell! At night, I have to keep my inhaler on my nightstand. I have been waking up several times a night and have needed to use my inhaler. I've never had to do that before! My chest is tight and my stomach hurts from coughing all the time. My friend helpfully pointed out that coughing can actually be a good abdominal workout! Ya, I guess. Other fun things that come with the inversion are a scratchy throat and watering eyes.

I am also losing my voice. It's worse in the morning, but sometimes it will come back by afternoon. My first thought when I woke up was, "Oh no! I can't talk!" Hubby's first thought was probably, "Oh ya! She can't talk!" Spoken like all funny husbands!

There's nothing I can do. Except stay inside. The Utah Asthma Program conducted a study that showed the relationship of air quality and asthma. People with asthma can handle an inversion for a few days (about 4.) Days 5-7 of an inversion showed an increase in emergency room visits and hospitalizations. I know how the people in the study feel! I am really having a hard time breathing. I can barely get through work. In fact, one of my co-workers had to be my voice yesterday, and facilitate a meeting for me since I can only whisper.

So, I'm stuck in the muck and hoping a storm comes in this weekend. Keep your fingers crossed for me!



Friday, January 18, 2013

Trying to afford asthma medications!





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*Sigh* just thinking about paying for prescriptions makes me tired. Hubby and I and all three kids have allergies, and we all have asthma except for Hubby. So that can add up to A LOT of allergy and asthma medication at the pharmacy. I was thinking of all the prescriptions we get:


  • Albuterol
  • Dulera
  • Epi Pens
  • Singulair
  • Symbicort
  • Xolair
  • Xopenex
  • Zyrtec
We spent a lot of time at the pharmacy too. In fact, I don't even give my name when I walk up, I just go up to the window and they turn around and grab our prescriptions. Last month I was there when a college aged guy walked up to the counter and kind of stammered "uh, my name is ____ and I need to pick up a prescription." Amateur.

Of course it's probably not a good thing that they recognize us and know each prescription that we take. We must be the "asthma family!" So how do we afford all these prescriptions? Well, it isn't easy. There is a website that can help with prescription co-pays. It's called Needymeds . They don't sell medications, they just help you find companies that will help you pay for them. You can use the website for ANY medication ( for high cholesterol, depression, diabetes, ADHD, seizure disorders, heart medication, etc etc) You just type in the name of the medication, and they can help.

Each company has a different requirement, but it's worth checking into. Our copay for Xolair is $150 a month, and we get help with that. Once we pay for all the other medications we take every month, it really adds up.

The Utah Asthma Program also has a list of every asthma medication and co-pay assistance for each one. You can find that information by visiting their website.  

Good luck, and I hope one of those websites can help you be able to afford your asthma medications!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dry air in winter-use a humidifier?






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Ah, the middle of winter. Everything is freezing cold-and I mean freezing! Actually, it's below freezing here, it was -8 last night. In fact, I took the car through the car wash (since it was covered in grey frozen sludge and salt) and the door froze shut. Nice.

My house is nice and toasty warm, but with the heater on all the time, it's really dry. My lips are chapped, my skin is dry and I'm thirsty! I am tempted to buy a humidifier and run it while I am home. But humidifiers have good and bad traits.

Yes, it can help make the air moist, but it can make too much of a good thing. I was reading an article on American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology  website about allergies and humidifiers. They said if the humidifier puts too much moisture in the air, that can cause problems with dust mites. Dust mites like it when the room is humid. It can also cause problems with mold. (Where do you usually have mold problems? In bathrooms and kitchens-where there is a lot of moisture!)

I asked Asthma Doc about using a humidifier when my kids are sick. He said, "will you promise to clean the humidifier EVERY DAY and make sure there's no mold buildup?" I snorted and said, "yeah right. Just like I'm supposed to floss my teeth everyday too! Ha!" He said "if you can't scrub it every night and keep it VERY clean then don't bother using one." He said humidifiers cause more harm than good.

I went home and looked at my humidifier, and he was right. There was an orange film on the inside, yep- some type of yucky slime. I wasn't cleaning it every night. I would just refill it with water and turn it on. That is what was getting blown out into the room? Yuck! I scrubbed it out and let it dry before packing it away. It's still in the basement. I may pull it out and see if it still works. But if I use it now for the dry air, I'll make sure I scrub it out every night and let it dry before I use it again the next day.

 Until then, pass my water bottle, lotion and lip balm.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Time for new pillows!






It's that time of year again-all the stores are having 'white sales' and now is the perfect time to replace all of the pillows in the house. Why? Well, when was the last time you got new pillows? If you can't remember, you should probably replace them!

We sleep on the same pillow every night, and we drool on them (fess up all of you who have allergies and stuffy noses!) Cold season also means runny noses and coughing, and that lands on the pillow too. Spring and summer can bring a head full of hair and pollen. And during the heat of summer, when you are sweating, guess where that ends up? Yep, on your pillow.

So, think of all the fun things your pillow contains-drool, runny nose drippings, pollen and sweat. Mmm, makes you want to cuddle up in your bed, doesn't it?!

We replace our pillows every January when the stores have white sales on all of their bedding. Pillows aren't that expensive, I found a 2 pack of pillows on sale for $5 at a national chain store, so I loaded up my cart. Because Hubby and I and all three of our kids have allergies (year round) it works better for us to get new pillows every year. I searched the internet and saw various suggestions of how often to replace pillows. The ehow website article suggests every 2 or 3 years. But because our allergies are so bad, we replace them every year.

We have multiple pillows on each bed, so what should we do with the old ones? We have a big pile now! I saw an article from Heloise in Good Housekeeping Magazine. She said she is giving her old pillows to her dog to sleep on. Since we don't have any pets, I think I'll load them up and take them to my local animal shelter. I think the dogs and cats will thank me.



Friday, January 11, 2013

Fist bumps





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See this? This will NOT be me this winter. I am NOT shaking hands with people when I meet them. I've been watching the news and seeing hospitals across the nation overwhelmed with people who are sick with the flu. I'm going to take a cue from Howie Mandel (who is a bit of a germi-phobe). He doesn't shake hands with people, but instead "fist bumps" them.

I think we all know what a fist bump is, you just hit knuckles with the person you are meeting.  Time magazine even wrote an article, "A Brief History of the Fist Bump."

Even though I had the flu shot this year, I am REALLY worried about getting the flu. You can still get the flu if you've had the vaccine, but it's supposed to be less severe and not last as long. I worry because with asthma, everything is worse. Brian Williams talked about the flu on the Nightly News and said that people that are getting the flu are "falling like redwoods." He said it hits hard and fast.

They are telling people to stay home if they are sick. They said people try to be heroic and still go to work so they don't fall behind, but instead they are spreading the flu to everyone around them. And how is that going to work if the whole office is out sick because one person insisted on coming to work?!

They are also telling people to isolate the sick person at home, put them in a separate room to keep the flu from spreading. If they sneeze, the droplets can spread 6 feet-infecting other family members.

It's also a good idea to wash your hands-and don't touch your nose, mouth or eyes. That's another way the germs get into your body.

The hospitals are showing record visits to the emergency room this year, some are even putting up tents in the parking lot to treat those with the flu. For those of us with asthma, it can cause breathing problems. If you get the flu and are having problems breathing, get to the doctor or hospital-FAST! For us, the flu can lead to pneumonia. And that can make you very sick and even cause death.

Pay close attention to your asthma and make sure you are taking your medicine.

Wash your hands often, don't touch your face, and use a fist bump if you are meeting people. Sometimes it pays to be a germi-phobe!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ask an expert





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Uh, yeah. It's not me-don't get your hopes up!

American Lung Association has an ask the expert "Lung Helpline." You can talk to a Registered Nurse or Registered Respiratory Therapist who has years of experience in the health care field. You can call the number on their website 1-800-LUNGUSA or 1-800-586-4872 and talk to someone. Or you can submit a question online, there is a link on their website to do that.

They can give you information on a variety of things, such as:

  • Asthma Education
  • Medication counseling
  • Medicare/Medicaid/private insurance issues
  • Smoking cessation
  • Doctor referral
  • Intensive care for babies, kids and adults
  • Lung cancer
  • Allergies
  • Emphysema
It sounds like if they don't already know about something, they can find out for you. From time to time, people ask me for advice on the blog. This would be a great way for people to get the help they need. I've had A LOT of experience with asthma (3 kids and 13 years worth of experience.) But their experts could answer all the technical questions for you.

I just get to share the fun every day stuff of what it's like to be a mom with asthma who has 3 kids with asthma. If any of you try out the Lung Helpline, I would be interested to see how it went for you. Let me know!





















Monday, January 7, 2013

Kids-recess-dirty air

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If you live in an area with bad air quality, how do you know if it's okay for your kids to play outside at recess? The air quality is so bad here, it looks like you have to chew it before you can breathe it in! But how dangerous is it?

The Utah Department of Health's Asthma Program has a website just for schools. It's called Recess Guidance For Schools Based on Air Quality. You can
  • Check to see what the air quality is for the day. 
  • You can get air quality recess alerts via email. 
  • You can even watch a clever video about air quality, schools, and recess.
Some days the pollution LOOKS really bad, but technically, it's "safe to breathe." There are days when it's safe for healthy people to breathe. Today, the warning says:
Health Advisory: Sensitive people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.
If you read "respiratory" that means asthma (or COPD) . That also means I won't be going spending anytime outdoors today. Luckily my kids are older now, and no longer have recess at their schools. But there are plenty of other kids who still need to go out to recess. This website is a perfect place to check to see if it's safe. If you live in our state and your school isn't already getting the recess alerts, I would ask them to sign up. If your state doesn't have this alert system, you are lucky because you have clean air!

So take a deep breathe and enjoy the air for us. Until then, I'll be staying indoors.


Friday, January 4, 2013

BAD flu season!!!





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All the news programs were talking about flu season last night and how the numbers are off the charts. On my way to work the radio station was talking about the flu. They had a parent on the radio whose healthy college age son contracted the flu and suddenly died. Yikes!

I found Google Flu Trends, which tracks the flu. The United States is bright red-which is the "intense" category. If you want to see another site that tracks the flu, you can visit Flu near you It's a real-time tracking tool for the flu.

NBC news reports that 29 states have reported "high rates" of the flu. They report that 2, 257 people have been so sick, they have had to be hospitalized. And 18 children have died. From the flu!

They said this year the flu season has hit early, it hasn't hit this early since 2003 or 2004.  The story also says that:


.... for people who reported both flu symptoms and vaccination status, of those who got the flu, three out of four were not vaccinated, while a quarter had gotten their flu shots.

No vaccine is 100% effective, but the flu shot can offer you some protection. And it's not too late to get your flu shot. Remember that if you have asthma and get the flu, chances are you will be A LOT sicker than someone who doesn't have asthma. And there's a good chance it will turn into pneumonia. My kids have been hospitalized 12 times for asthma, almost all of those were for pneumonia.

It's very scary to watch someone struggling to breathe. Talk to your doctor about a flu shot. And take precautions-wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!!!! 


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Slice me off a hunk of air, will ya?






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Blech. The air quality here is terrible. We have beautiful mountains that surround us but that can cause problems. Since we are surrounded by mountains, we have a beautiful valley or "bowl" that most of us live in. In winter, when the weather is really cold (it was 4 degrees Fahrenheit when I drove to work) we get bad air. Why? Well, years ago you probably learned in science class that hot air rises. If it's really cold outside, the cold air gets trapped under the hot air because the cold air is denser. Then the pollution is trapped in the cold air and we get to breathe it in.

I get email alerts every day from our state Environmental Quality office. Today it said:


Air Quality Condition: Unhealthy for sensitive people, Wood Burn Forecast: NO BURN
Health Advisory: Sensitive people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid prolonged or heavy exertion. Everyone else should reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

What this means is that if you have asthma or heart disease, you need to be very careful if you go outside. That means not staying outside for a long time (jogging, walking, kids playing at recess, etc.)

NO BURN means it's against the law here to use a wood burning stove or fireplace -unless it's your only source of heat. The division of Environmental Quality can issue a heavy fine.

Our state health department's Asthma Program conducted a study that showed that people with asthma tend to have more asthma attacks, use more asthma medicine, and end up in the emergency room more often during an inversion that lasts longer than 5 days.

So keep us in mind if you want to make a crackling fire in your fireplace tonight. Remember that what comes out of your chimney goes into my lungs and makes it hard to breathe. I have spent A LOT of money at my local hospital for asthma, and would like to keep my money to myself this year. So please don't use your fireplace when the air quality is bad. I thank you, and my lungs thank you.