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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

In the hospital over the holidays?


This is the time of year when lots of cold and flu is going around, and that means that sometimes kids can end up in the hospital.

So, what if that happens to you? 

Start by being prepared! When my kids were little, they were in the hospital 12 times for asthma. It seems like as soon as they got over one illness, their nose would start to run, and I would think "This can't be happening.....they are getting sick-again??!!" A simple cold for my kids would often turn into pneumonia, which would mean another hospitalization.

I asked my doctor what to do if the kids got worse after 5:00 when his office closed. He told me about the after-hours network. In our area, many of the pediatricians work together on a network and take turns working nights. So, if my kids were getting worse, and it couldn't wait until morning, I would just call my pediatrician's office. They would have a recording that would list which doctor was on call that night, the phone number and address of the office. It got to the point where I knew were ALL of the other pediatrician's offices were!

I would always stress out, but I could call and easily get an appointment for after hours. Often, they would give my kids an injection of steroids, a breathing treatment with the nebulizer, and start them on an antibiotic. Sometimes, that's all they would need for them to turn the corner. Other times, they would take one look at my kids and send us to the pediatrics ward of our hospital. They would call ahead with the orders to admit one of the kids, and the nurses would get the room ready.

So, you may find yourself in the hospital during one of the holidays. We have spent birthdays there, 4th of July and New Year's Eve. There's nothing you can do, so just accept that you are going to spend the holiday there. On the plus side, our pediatrics ward is stocked with blankets, toys, etc. And my kids would get spoiled from the kind people who had donated things to the hospital.  (Of course the kids have to be REALLY sick to be admitted in the first place.....so the least they can do is make it a little more fun for the kids by spoiling them with toys or blankets)

You may be unprepared, but the nurses are there to help. Not only your child, but you as well. The nurses have loaned me scrubs to sleep in (when I came straight from work in a suit and high heels!)  They also have toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs, socks, etc for parents. When I didn't want to leave my kid's rooms, the nurse would give me juice, crackers, etc. to tide me over until Hubby could make it to the hospital to "switch shifts" . He would first head to the cafeteria, grab dinner and we would eat together on our child's hospital room. Then I would head home, and Hubby would spend the night. (It helps if you pack a foam bedroll too-the pull out beds are really thin!)  We would switch off often during the day, so one of us could go home and shower and check on the other kids. It also helps if you take turns sleeping in your child's hospital room. After a while, the constant beeping of the machines can really get to you. As can the constant interruptions of sleep to check vital signs, give breathing treatments, etc.

 Just remember, the nurses are there to help you. They are helping to save your child's life! We are always VERY kind to them and thank them for all of their help. After one of the kids would be discharged from the hospital, we would return later with a box of donuts and a thank you card with a picture of our kids. Maybe that's why the nurses always remembered us and would say, "You are back again??!!" Yes, we loved our nurses, but not enough to go back and see them time again!!

So, if you find yourself in the hospital with child, try to make the best of it. You will be scared, worried, tired, and cranky. Your mind will be worried about the other kids at home, work projects, and countless other things. But there's nothing you can do about it, except take one hour at a time. Hope they improve, and try sleeping in hospital scrubs, they're actually kind of comfy!


Friday, December 27, 2013

Nut allergies caused by your mom eating nuts? NOT SO FAST!!


Okay, all you moms who are tired of "mom guilt" - aren't you tired of feeling guilty for all the things you did/did not do during your pregnancy? Everything seems to be "mom's fault?"

Now comes the debate whether eating nuts while pregnant will protect your child from nut allergies. I just watched a story on ABC news about this very topic. They shared information from a newly published study from the Journal of American Medical Association.The study found that:
"when pregnant women ate more peanuts and tree nuts they tended to have children with fewer nut allergies" 
 The story on ABC News said that the study only showed an "association" not a "cause and effect." What does that mean? Researchers are very reluctant to say "one thing causes another thing" or that "doing one thing helps prevent another."  So, they will probably want to do more research.
Does that mean that you can have a peanut butter sandwich if you are craving it? One of the doctors interviewed in print version of the story, Dr. Samuel Freidlander, still wants women to be careful.
 He says: “The advice is to eat a healthy diet and we don’t quite know whether avoidance [of allergens] is helpful or not,” said Friedlander of advising pregnant women on what to eat. “It shows also that we need to be careful about recommendations that we make.”  

 Nuts are one of those things to be careful about. Especially if you have a family member that is allergic to nuts (or anything else!) Son #2 is allergic tree nuts (not to be confused with peanuts), and it's VERY important that we check all food that we eat. This week, we were at a friend's house, and Son #2 asked the hostess if the cookies have nuts. She said, "no, but these do"-pointing to cookies with nuts that were ON THE SAME PLATE. I don't think that people without allergies understand how deadly food allergies can be.

Son #2 can't eat anything that is on the same tray with another food that has nuts. If one cookie has nuts, that means the whole tray/display case is contaminated, and off limits!!! I don't know if they have used the same cookie sheet and spatula to cook both batches of cookies. If they did, that means everything is contaminated with nuts. 

When I bake, I make sure I use a newly washed cookie sheet, clean bowls and utensils to make cookies. If I ever make another batch and add nuts to a recipe (which is rare) -I make sure that I mix and bake that batch AFTER the batch that is nut-free. I store them in separate containers and make sure Son #2 knows that the batch has nuts. (I only put it in a dessert that he won't eat in the first place.)

If you have food allergies, make sure everyone knows what you are allergic to. ALWAYS carry your Epi Pen, and make sure that those around you know how to use it in case you are accidentally exposed to a food allergen. You may be having problems breathing/starting an anaphylactic reaction, when that happens, you may be unable to use your Epi Pen. Those around you may need to give you your shot. If you have every seen someone going into an anaphylaxis reaction, you know what I am talking about. I have seen it once on Son #1 after he had allergy shots. I NEVER want to see that again as long as I live!!!

These are the symptoms to watch for:

  • Skin reactions, including hives along with itching, and flushed or pale skin (almost always present with anaphylaxis)
  • A feeling of warmth
  • The sensation of a lump in your throat
  • Constriction of the airways and a swollen tongue or throat, which can cause wheezing and trouble breathing
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dizziness or fainting
Watch the story above and decide if eating nuts while pregnant is right for you. It's interesting that the study seems to show that when the mom eats a MODERATE amount of nuts during her pregnancy (4 or 5 times a MONTH) it may protect her baby. If you already have kids with nuts allergies, make sure they are being seen by an allergy doctor and that you ALWAYS have your Epi Pen with you. It can save your life (or your child's life!)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Prednisone and Decadron....necessary evil!

For those of you who have been on steroids/had kids on steroids, you know how this guy feels. You feel a little nuts-that's one of the side effects of the medicine.

Steroids are needed sometimes when asthma is getting really bad, and the doctor needs to get the swelling down in the lungs-fast! In our experience, steroids can sometimes help keep my kids out of the hospital. But, it wouldn't work every time for us, sometimes the kids would still end up in the hospital. (Actually, they have been admitted to the hospital 12 times for asthma...but that's another story for another day!)

We have a bottle of Prednisone at home for each of the kids. Asthma Doc knows that when my kids get sick, they go from a little sniffle to dangerously ill very fast! He has given me strict instructions of when to give the kids Prednisone. (Depending on how old your kids are, there is a liquid version or pill.) Sometimes the medicine would be enough to keep the swelling down in their lungs and we could avoid going to the hospital. 

Other times, they would keep getting worse. So we would go back to Asthma Doc, and he would give them a SHOT of Decadron. Yep, not only is bad enough that you have a REALLY sick kid, but then they have to get a shot! Asthma Doc said that Decadron is a stronger steroid than Prednisone and by giving them a shot, it would get into their bodies and work quicker. 

But be warned that if you or your child takes a steroid, there are some not-so-fun side effects.
Here are just a few from Webmd:

irritability
mood changes
agression
agitation
increased appetite 

Doesn't that sound fun??!! Click on the link above to see all of the side effects.

Yes, there are some side effects, but that's why Prednisone and Decadron have been called a "necessary evil." Either my kids get the medicine, or they stop breathing. For us, it's pretty simple. Eventually, they start acting human again. There are days when they seem absolutely crazy!! Just know that it is just temporary, and you may have to adjust how you deal with your kids. (They really aren't in their "right minds!") You may have to just take a deep breathe and wait until the course of medicine is over. We also warn family members and friends so they don't think our kids have gone crazy. 

Ask your doctor about it. Most doctors don't like to give steroids unless they absolutely have to. And you have to follow the instructions VERY CAREFULLY. It's important that you "taper down" (slowly decrease the doses) If you stop suddenly, it can cause more problems for you.   

But, steroids can do wonders for asthma. Hopefully you won't ever need to use it, but if you do and you think you/your child is losing their mind. Just know that's only temporary! Good luck!! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

A dog for Christmas?


Is anyone planning on getting a puppy for their kids for Christmas? This is Neighbor Dog, we babysit her once a week. She is soooooo cute, I mean how can I resist that face? Especially when she looks up under those big bushy eyebrows!

At first, I was really nervous about having a dog in our house. Hubby and I and all 3 kids have allergies, and everyone but Hubby has asthma. So, when we started to babysit (or dog sit) Neighbor Dog, I wasn't so sure how it would turn out. It affected our allergies at first, but we seem better now. We don't sneeze and wheeze as much as we used to.

I just read an article in The Wall Street Journal, and I had to look at the title twice, because it said  "How Dogs Might Protect Kids Against Asthma: Gut Bacteria."  

Huh?! The first line in the article sums it up:

"Scientists studying why pets appear to protect kids against asthma and allergies say the answer might lie in the world of bacteria that live in the gut." 
 Like all experiments, they were done on mice. But the study showed that mice that were exposed to dust from households that have dogs, had a change in the gut microbes. When they were exposed to allergens, they had "significantly reduced allergic responses." (The mice didn't over-react to the dust!!) 

Why is that important? Because with asthma, the body over-reacts (it's called hyper-responsiveness and hyper-reactivity) to things "normal" people (aka people who DON'T have allergies and asthma) experience.That's why some people can pet a cat or dog and it's not a big deal. But if someone with allergies and asthma pets a cat or dog, the body over-reacts. Our noses run, throat itches, eyes swell up, we start sneezing, and can have an asthma attack. All from just petting a dog or cat. Stupid bodies. Why do they have to do that??!!

So, it sounds like if you have a baby, and you have a dog, that being exposed to the dog will sort of de-sensitize the baby. It will help their immune system, so their bodies won't over-react to things they are exposed to. That's basically the same thing my kids had to do, but instead of living with a dog, they all had to have 5 year's worth of allergies shots to de-sensitize their bodies. 

I'm not saying having a dog will replace allergy shots, but if it can help their bodies from over-reacting to allergies, I would do it! I mean, dogs are A LOT cuter than the needles they use for allergy shots. 

Read the article for yourself, and let me know what you think. My teenagers are WAY to old to try getting a dog and see if it helps their allergic response. So, we'll keep dog-sitting Neighbor Dog. But, if and when my college aged sons get married, maybe they should consider getting a dog to protect their future families.....just a thought!  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday stress and asthma



This is how I am feeling lately. Work has been VERY stressful and I have had a LOT of big deadlines. Add on top of that the stress of the holidays, and this picture about says it all.

We decided to start with holiday preparations early this year (so I wouldn't be stressed out) , but I am still behind! (And I AM stressed out!!) 

We took our family photos early in the fall. We don't use a professional photographer -we just try to find a nice background, set up the camera and tripod and tell the teenagers "okay, everyone act like you like each other!"

We also started early with shopping for family, deciding which charities to buy things for, which  goodies to make for the neighbors, figuring out travel plans, etc. But I looked at the calendar yesterday, and saw that it was the 15th of December. Oh no! Only 10 days until Christmas- that's next week??!! Argggggh. 

Okay, take a deep breath. Did you know that stress can make asthma worse? Web md has a great section about stress and asthma. 

There's a vicious cycle of anxiety causing problems with asthma, and then you are anxious because your asthma is flaring up, and it goes around and around in a circle.

So, how do you break the cycle of stress/anxiety and asthma? Well, find whatever works for you, we're all a little different. I love funny movies, Elf is my personal favorite during Christmas. I have many of his best lines memorized "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup" Sometimes when I'm stressed out, I'll watch a collection of Elf clips on Youtube.


The Webmd site has several things listed that can help, such as:

Get plenty of sleep
Exercise daily
Reduce stressors
Avoid stressful situations (and I might add avoid stressful PEOPLE!!)
Delegate responsibilities
Get help!
Use relaxation techniques

The website goes into detail on all of these. The holidays can be survived (and even enjoyed!) if you are careful and pace yourself. Some things can be eliminated. Last year, we didn't send out Christmas cards....and the sun came up the next day and life went on!! If your to-do list is too much, cross things off. We have already crossed off several annual traditions because we just can't fit them in.

Take care of yourself and your asthma. The holidays aren't any fun if you are stressed out and having asthma flare ups. Check out the webmd site and see if any of the 'managing stress and asthma tips' will help you. Until then, keep watching funny Elf clips on Youtube...


 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Allergy pills instead of allergy shots? Oh yeah!!!!!


If you have allergies like me, just looking at this picture may make your eyes water!! You just know that if you walked through this path, your eyes would water, your nose would run, your throat would start to itch, and you would start making LOTS of mucus. (And possibly start coughing and have to use your asthma inhaler.) 

Did you know that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have allergies? And 2 1/2 million of us get allergy shots every week or every month?! That's A LOT of time spent at Asthma Doc's office!!

I was excited to watch the NBC Nightly News last night and see a story from Dr. Nancy Snyderman. There are TWO new allergy pills being reviewed by the FDA, they are already being used in Europe. If you suffer from grass allergies, this may be worth checking into. The only drawback is that the pills just treat broad grass allergies. 

With allergy shots (immunotherapy), the serum covers more allergens and they can be personalized for better results. All three of my teenagers have had/are currently having allergy shots. They are all allergic to multiple triggers (grass, trees, bushes, flowers, cats, dogs, horses, etc,)  So each teenager has had a different serum created just for them and what they are allergic to.

  If you have grass allergies and hate needles, or have a hard time getting to the allergy doctor's office every week for allergy shots, the pills may be a good choice for you. The FDA just approved a daily pill, (Oralair) for grass allergies. You place the pill under your tongue to melt. Today (December 12th) the FDA is reviewing, Grastek.  

They may not be the best choice for everyone, so talk to your doctor. I'm not sure how they are monitored, but I know that with my teenager's allergy shots, they have to be given in the doctor's office every week. We also have to wait 20 minutes after the shots because there is a chance you can have an allergic reaction (anaphylaxis.) 
 
I've seen anaphylaxis once with my oldest son (after allergy shots) , and I never want to go through that again as long as I live. It was terrifying! :(

So, pills or allergy shots to treat allergies? Well, since there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for allergies and asthma, it may work for you or your children. But it probably won't work for my daughter, since she has many more allergies than just grass. But for the rest of you, do the happy dance!!  I would be easier to take a pill every day rather than driving to Asthma Doc's office and getting allergy shots once a week....

 (And you might want to call your doctor and pharmacy and see how soon the pills we be in the pharmacy. It may also be a good idea to see if your insurance will cover the pills.) 
 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Brrrrr.....cold as an asthma trigger


This are the beautiful mountains by my house, I have an amazing view from my living room window! We're actually going to have a white Christmas this year! The last few years, we didn't have much snow, but it was VERY COLD.

This year, I have already been out shoveling snow (over, and over, and over again....) The snow is beautiful, but it is soooooo cold outside. We dropped 30 degrees in temperature in one day. We were making a mad dash to the hall closet to pull out everyone's coats, hats and gloves. And checking to see if last year's snow boots still fit. Brrrrr.

I love the snow, because it makes everything look so magical. The thing I don't like this year, is that like last year, we have record cold temperatures. This is what my dashboard looked like this morning on the way to work: 
Yes, you're looking at that right, it's 3 degrees Fahrenheit!!! Luckily, I park my car in the garage overnight, so I don't have to scrape the ice off the windows. This morning, when I finished my work out at the gym and got back in the car, there was ice on the INSIDE of my windows. I guess the warmth of my breath as I drove to the gym froze on the inside of the windshield! 

Cold temperatures also happen to be one of my asthma triggers. So my chest is a little tight this morning, my throat has been a little "twitchy", and I feel the constant need to cough. So, what do you do if cold is an asthma trigger? The first thing I do is make sure I ALWAYS have my inhaler with me so I can use a puff if I need to. I also minimize my time outdoors, but I can't avoid having to walk from my car to the gym/ office /house, etc. 
 
One thing that seems to help me is to put my scarf over my mouth and breathe through that. It seems to help warm up the air before I breathe in. You can also pull a "Darth Vader." (That means cupping your hands in front of your mouth and breathing in and out to warm up the air.)

Has anyone else found something that seems to help them? Children's Hospital of Wisconsin has some good tips about cold weather and asthma.

Winter and snow can be a magical time, and you can still have fun if you are careful. Just remember to listen to your body, and if you feel like your lungs are acting up, get inside and warm up!
 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Alpha-1 can be confused with asthma


I'm on of those old-fashioned people that like to read the newspaper in the morning before I go to work. Yes, an actual newspaper! You know, the paper that some people still get on their driveway every morning. (And then I have to shuffle out to get it in my big fuzzy bathrobe and hope that none of the neighbors see me....... )
 
This week I read an article about Alpha-1 Awareness month. I've never heard of it before, so I thought I would scan the article. I'm always interested in learning something new.....trying to keep the old brain cells nice and sharp you know! 

 
"Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency (Alpha-1) is a genetic (inherited) condition – it is passed from parents to their children through their genes. Alpha-1 may result in serious lung disease in adults and/or liver disease at any age. "

What caught my attention is how Alpha-1 can be misdiagnosed as asthma. Here are the symptoms that they list:

The most common signs and symptoms of disease caused by Alpha-1

Symptoms related to the lung:
  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Wheezing
  3. Chronic bronchitis, which is cough and sputum (phlegm) production that lasts for a long time
  4. Recurring chest colds
  5. Less exercise tolerance
  6. Asthma that can’t be completely reversed with aggressive medical treatment
  7. Year-round allergies
  8. Bronchiectasis
One woman, Diane Angell, shared her story on a medication website :
 
"Gasping for air while cross-country skiing or coughing uncontrollably whenever around perfume or smoke, Idaho (US) native Diane Angell had always attributed her chronic shortness of breath to asthma.
"As a child, I noticed my mother’s chronic cough and constant use of cough drops," Diane said. "When I was in my 20s, I also developed a chronic cough. I was eventually diagnosed with asthma, but I didn’t feel my body was responding to the medication I was prescribed."
It wasn’t until Diane was in her early 40s and visiting her physician with gastrointestinal issues that tests showed signs of emphysema in her lungs."

Alpha-1 also affects the liver. 

Symptoms related to the liver:
  1. Unexplained liver disease or elevated liver enzymes
  2. Eyes and skin turning yellow (jaundice)
  3. Swelling of the abdomen (ascites) or legs
  4. Vomiting blood (from enlarged veins in the esophagus or stomach)
 
If any of these things sound familiar, check with your doctor. Alpha-1 can be diagnosed with a blood test. It's important to know exactly what condition you have (asthma or Alpha-1) if you're going to treat it properly. 
 
I'm hoping that all of us can take care of our lungs and keep breathing!




  

Monday, December 2, 2013

"Tis the season!!

I love my calendar of daily cartoons from Argyle Sweater. This one REALLY made me laugh! It's a spoof of Julie Andrews (from The Sound of Music) trying to sing "My Favorite Things." Remember, the song that says "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens..." but the cartoon character is saying "raidrobs od roses ad whizkerz od kiddeds....." she must have a horrible cold.

It's that time of year again, cold and flu season! In fact, I'm a little surprised because I usually get really sick with pneumonia every fall. And it hasn't hit yet. KNOCK ON WOOD!!! 

When I get really sick (thanks to asthma), I can't sing, let alone talk. I can't get enough air in to talk, so I just whisper. One year, I was sick with pneumonia on my birthday. I couldn't get enough air out to blow out my candles. I just looked at them as they were burning and thought "this is so sad, guess I'll just watch them burn." Hubby took pity on me and blew out my birthday candles for me. But to make matters worse, I couldn't taste my cake either, so it was really a bad birthday!

So, how do you stay healthy?

Do you get the flu shot? There's a crazy debate going on right now with some of my Facebook friends. Yikes!

How careful are you about washing your hands? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a whole page about hand washing. Are you thinking, "how hard can it be?!" The CDC says you should lather up your hands for at least 20 seconds. Do you wash your hands for that long? It's how long it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice (in your head of course, you don't want everyone thinking you are crazy!) CDC also recommends washing your hands:  

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage
Another important thing to remember is to not touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth. That allows germs to get into your body. I look a little strange, but I always use a scarf, sleeve of my shirt, or jacket to scratch my nose. I stick my thumb in one side of my shirt, and bend over so I can use my clothes to scratch my nose, chin, whatever else is itching. It looks weird, but at least I don't touch my face that way. 

Many people think "Well, I don't touch my face that often", but you can do an experiment. You can put glitter on your hands, and then check to see how much of it ends up on your face. That will show you how many time you touch your face. We've done that in my kid's school classes when they were younger. It's also interesting to see that you can't wash the glitter off your hands with just water. Have the kids try it. It will only come off if you wash your hands with soap and water.

Does anyone have anything that they use to stay healthy? My friend swears that eating hot salsa will knock out her cold (and everyone around her that smells her onions and garlic breath!)

I would be interested to hear what other people use.  Until then, keep washing your hands, and don't touch your face!!