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Friday, August 29, 2014

Missing out with asthma

Summer is winding down and things are getting colder, so camping season is coming to an end. Son #2 has been on a LOT of camp outs this summer. As a mom, I worry - no matter how old your kids are, you never stop worrying. I reminded him to take his inhaler and to be sure and use it if he started coughing or was short of breath. 

The problem with camp outs is that you are out in nature, so there are a LOT of trees, bushes, etc that can cause allergies to flare up - which can cause an asthma attack.

The other problem is being around camp fires. Who doesn't like to roast marshmallows and make s'mores? (That reminds me of a scene from the movie Sandlot. "You're killin' me Smalls!!")

Did you know that the smoke from the camp fire can cause an asthma attack? Son #2 let me know that he was VERY careful around the camp fire this summer. He made sure that he stayed away from the smoke. It seems like the smoke is always drifting - so you may have to keep moving to stay out of the smoke. (Have you ever heard of the saying that "Smoke follow beauty?" Well, I must be REALLY beautiful, because no matter where I try to stand around a campfire, it will follow me. I can move 4 or 5 times, and it still drifts over by me. Arrggghhhh!!!!)

So, now a group of friends is going to the canyon to ride on a zip line and have s'mores afterwards. Sounds like a great idea, right? Well, ya - if you don't have asthma. Not only can I NOT be around the campfire. But NO WAY am I going on a zip line, those things are way too high up in the air, and they go too fast. (Yes....I admit it - I'm a chicken when it comes to rides like that.)

At least I know my limits. Did you know that strong emotions can cause asthma attacks? If someone talked me into going up on a zip line, I know I would be beyond scared. I don't want to have an asthma attack while I'm zipping down the mountain side! 

The CDC has a web page about common asthma triggers. It says that:
"Strong emotions can lead to very fast breathing, called hyperventilation, that can also cause an asthma attack. "

So, I'll pass on the whole zip line thing.

And I also pass on the s'mores. My chest has been a little tight lately, the last thing I need is to get around a trigger and have an asthma attack.

Maybe I'll just stay home and watch a movie on Netflix instead.....

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Help for kids in school

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Like most parents, I always worried when my kids went back to school. Not just about basic things, like will they make friends? What if they get bullied? Will they actually EAT school lunch? 

I also worried about their asthma. Are there any asthma triggers in the classroom? (I think most schools are past the era of having a classroom pet...) Will they know when they are having problems with their asthma? Will they remember how to use their inhaler? Will they actually use it? Or will I just get a phone call from the school to come get my child?

American Lung Association has a program for students, called Open Airways.

It's a free 6 week program that teaches elementary kids (ages 8-11) how to manage their asthma. It's not a lecture type class, it has some fun, interactive projects. During one class, we took a paper towel roll and filled it up with marshmallows to show the kids what happens to their bronchial tubes when they have asthma. (We were trying to explain how phlegm can plug up the bronchial tube - making it hard to breathe.)

Each state chapter of the American Lung Association offers the program. If you want it taught in your school, contact your local chapter. If they don't have anyone that can teach it at your child's school, you can be trained to become an instructor.

I taught it in when my daughter was in elementary school. She was at the age where she was still willing to be seen with me in public! I tried not to do anything to embarrass her during class - like admit that I knew her. 

Years later, I had a teenager come up to me at a city park and say, "Remember me? You taught me in the asthma class. And I learned how to use my inhaler with a spacer. It's so much easier now, Thanks!"

Wow! What nice feedback! 

Check with your state American Lung Association and see if you can get the program into your child's school. If your kids are in the class while you are teaching it, just pretend like you don't know them! That way you won't do anything to embarrass your kids. Like trying to talk to them.

Friday, August 22, 2014

How often do you use a rescue inhaler?

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I've talked to two people today who told me they have family members who are REALLY struggling with their asthma. They said their family members are only using their rescue inhalers to treat their asthma symptoms. When that doesn't help, they are going to the emergency room.

Hhmmm, Asthma Doc has told me time and time again that "all rescue inhalers do is buy you time." He says they are "just a bandaid approach." He told me if I am using my rescue inhaler too often, I need to be on a daily, maintenance medication. Maintenance medications help keep the swelling down in your lungs - so if you are exposed to one of your asthma triggers, you may not need to use your rescue inhaler as often or you may not end up in the emergency room.  

How often is too often to use your rescue inhaler? 
Webmd has a page called When Should I Use My Inhaler? 

Here's a quote from their page:

A rescue inhaler is supposed to relieve sudden symptoms, not control your asthma long term. If you're using a rescue inhaler 2 days a week, or more than 2 nights a month, your asthma isn't controlled. Talk to your doctor -- you may need a control inhaler.

I use a daily medicine to control my asthma. But I still have to use my rescue inhaler if I am around strong perfume, smell smoke, am out in cold weather, or get sick. (Those are my asthma triggers.) BUT - I don't use my rescue inhaler more than twice a week. If I don't feel "right" or feel like my asthma is under control, I call Asthma Doc and he can adjust my medicine. Sometimes he changes the amount or strength of my maintenance medication. If that's not working, he may try another medicine.

Asthma can change over time and can be hard to control at times. If you are having problems with your asthma and using your inhaler more than twice a week, or waking up more than twice a month due to asthma, talk to your doctor. He's there to help.

Even with asthma, we should be able to enjoy life and be able to do all the things we want to without asthma holding us back! 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Exercise and asthma

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So, what if you want your kids to be active, but exercise makes their asthma worse?

I saw an article on Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics website (AANMA) called "Exercise & Asthma: Breathe Strong"

In the article, they talk about exercising with asthma. If you (or your child) is having a hard time exercising with asthma, the first step they recommend is to talk to your doctor. For some people, exercise can trigger an asthma attack. It's called exercise-induced bronchospasm

Some people also call it exercise-induced asthma. It doesn't mean that you can't exercise, it just means that you may need to use your inhaler (or nebulizer) before you exercise. Your doctor can decide what's best for you. Everyone who has asthma is a little different. The AANMA article also says to check to make sure you are using your inhaler correctly. Most people THINK they are, but they may not be using it right. Here's a Youtube video called "How to Use an Inhaler"

Many people also find their medicine works better if they use a holding chamber (it looks like a spacer.)

Some people may be short of breath when they exercise, or think they are REALLY out of shape. Other people may cough or have a tight chest. Mayo Clinic list these symptoms of exercise induced asthma:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Fatigue during exercise
  • Poor athletic performance

They also list when you need to get help - FAST!!!

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing that is quickly getting worse
  • No improvement even after using a rescue inhaler, such as an albuterol inhaler
  • Shortness of breath that continues even after you've recovered from your workout
It's important to exercise, so if any of these symptoms sounds like you or your child, call your doctor to see if you need to change/start on an asthma medication.

Many kids may be starting sports with the start of the school year, and we want them to be healthy and happy, right?

Let's go team!!!


Friday, August 15, 2014

And it's Back to School time!! yahoo!!

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So, here we go. Summer is winding down and it's back to school time. Finally! 

We just went to Back to School Night for daughter Kitty. Oh what fun! A night of wandering around the school, visiting all 8 teachers and picking up disclosure forms.

The halls are full of families all doing the same thing. 

What's the one thing that Kitty's teachers need to know about her? Asthma. 

They need to know that she's having a lot of flare ups with her asthma, and that she made need to leave class to use her inhaler. (Did you know that it's legal in all 50 states for students to carry their inhaler with them - at all times?) And every state (except New York) allows students to carry an Epi Pen with them at all times. 

BUT you need to talk to your doctor and the school nurse. As a health care team, you have to agree if your student can "self administer" their inhaler. That means that your child knows when they are having an asthma attack and they know how to use their inhaler by themselves. Some of the younger students may not be able to do that yet. 

But older students can carry their inhaler with them and use it when they need it. Check with your school nurse, because you will have to fill out a form that you and the doctor sign that makes it legal for them to have an inhaler in a "drug free zone." Every school district has a form that they like to use, your school nurse should have a copy of that.

Otherwise, they can violate the school's "drug free policy." You will have to fill out a new form every school year to make it legal for your child to carry their asthma inhaler and Epi pen. But do know that it is legal IN ALL 50 STATES! In fact, here is a small poster you can print out and take to your school to let them know about it.   

If you want a copy of the law for your state, you can find it here. 
If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, it has a link for each state. You can click on your state and print out a copy for yourself (and one for the school.) Schools should know about this, since all states have passed Self Administration Laws. The last states were in 2010.  

So, the papers are signed, school supplies are bought, and it's time to enjoy the last weekend before school. 

See ya! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Women Breathe Free Program

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So, how many women take care of themselves? Like most moms, it seems like I am so busy taking care of everyone else, that I don't take care of myself. And that can include not taking care of my asthma.

Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) has a FREE program for women 18 and older aimed at helping us take care of our asthma.
(Don't's confidential - so you won't have to give them any personal information.) It's called Women Breathe Free 

What does the program do?

It can help us deal with problems that may cause our asthma to flare up, such as:

menstrual cycle
 being exposed to things that cause an asthma attack 
not taking asthma medicine 

You will get to talk to a nurse educator for 4 sessions (when it fits into YOUR schedule). You will also get a workbook to try to track what it causing your asthma to flare up, what to do to keep it under control and how to track your symptoms.

Sometimes, it's hard to tell what causes an asthma attack. Other times, I know EXACTLY what is triggering an asthma attack (someone's perfume, dry erase markers, cleaning sprays, cold air, etc)

Interested? You can email them at 
call the Allergy and Asthma Network at 800-878-4403

If any of you try it, let me know what you think! :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stress causing asthma attacks

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Stress is one of the asthma triggers that most people don't know about. Stress can take the form of worry, anger or crying. All those things can cause an asthma attack. Who knew??!!

This week was a VERY sad week because Neighbor had to put Neighbor Dog to sleep. Neighbor Dog had a fast moving cancer that made it very obvious to all of us that she was suffering and she wasn't the same dog we knew. It was awful to watch her go downhill so fast. 

So, we all had a little time to spend with Neighbor Dog and to be able to say goodbye. I'm the worst cry baby in the world, so naturally I started to cry when I knew it was my last chance to see her alive. I was doing what Oprah would all "the Ugly Cry." I was having a really hard time and could tell that I was starting to have an asthma attack.

I had to try to calm down and slow down my breathing and then use my inhaler. Sometimes, it seems like asthma just seems to get in the way of everything! I couldn't even have a good cry because it triggered an asthma attack. Sigh.

It's a good idea to make sure you have your inhaler with you at all times. You never know when you might need to use it. Besides the usual triggers of smoke, dust, mold, exercise, strong scents, etc, you can add stress and strong emotions to the list. And remember that asthma triggers can change over time. Just because a trigger hasn't bothered you in the past doesn't mean it won't bother you in the future. (I haven't had a problem with perfume until the last 2 years - now it causes MAJOR asthma attacks.)

Anyway, so long Neighbor Dog, I'll miss you :(

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Xolair (again.....)

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Sometimes, asthma can be hard to treat. We have had a difficult time with 2 of our 3 teenagers who have asthma. Sometimes, Xolair injections can be an option for those who have allergic asthma and who are taking multiple asthma and allergy medicines and STILL aren't getting better. (And ending up in the hospital 6 times like Son #2 did....)

Son #2 had Xolair injections for 6 years and it was the only thing that helped stabilize his asthma and keep him out of the hospital. To qualify for Xolair injections, Asthma Doc orders a blood test to check the immunoglobulin E (IgE) level.   

If your IgE level falls into a certain range, you qualify for the treatment, but must still get insurance to approve it.They don't like paying for it because the serum is about $1500 per month.

IgE are antibodies found in the skin, lungs and mucus membrane. They are what causes your body to have allergic reactions. Xolair is supposed to stop that allergic reaction from happening (that's the way it was explained to me). The problem with allergies and asthma is that our bodies over-react when exposed to something (perfume, pets, mold, dust, etc.) There are so MANY asthma triggers.

Now we are at the point that we can no longer control daughter Kitty's asthma and allergies. She has had a chronic cough and wheeze for almost 3 months. Asthma Doc has tried all sorts of medicine for her, but nothing is working.

Kitty had her IgE level tested, and she qualifies for Xolair. Now we have to try to convince the insurance company to pay for it. Even with insurance, our co-pay is usually $150 per month (that's in addition to paying for multiple allergy and asthma medications for all 5 family members.) So, it adds up fast.

We found a website that can help people find help paying for ANY medication. It's called Needymeds
When you pull up the web page, click on "patient savings" and it will have a link to "Brand Name Drugs" or "Generic Name Drugs". For Xolair, I would click on "Brand Name Drugs", then I would click on the "X" on their alphabet list. That would list all medications that start with X, I would scroll down until I found Xolair.

It will list companies or foundations that will help you pay for your medicine. You can call them to see what information you need to qualify. We are able to find a foundation that will cover the entire cost of the $150 copay. How nice!

You can use the website for any medication - antidepressants, thyroid medicine, cholesterol medicine, ADD, etc, etc. Try it out and see if they can help you.

For now, we will prepare to battle the insurance company to try to get them to approve Xolair. Then apply for help paying for the co-pay.

You know, some days I am really, really REALLY tired of dealing with allergies and asthma. Sigh. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flonase nose spray now over the counter

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This is what our family looks like.....year round. Hubby and I and all three teenagers have allergies. Not just a little sneeze here and there - I'm talking year round sneezing fits. (The neighbors down the street can hear us kind of sneezing.) And allergies always make our asthma worse. 

Some people like allergy pills. Some people like allergy nose sprays. For those of you who like nose spray, Flonase is available without a prescription.  (Earlier this year, Nasacort became available without a prescription.) 

That can be nice, because you don't need a prescription - you can just buy a new bottle from the drug store or grocery store when you need it. It may save some money too, depending on your insurance. Some insurance companies have a high deductible for prescriptions (where you pay for all of the prescriptions until you meet your $500 deductible). Others only charge $5 for prescriptions.

Call your local drug store to see how much they are charging for Flonase. Hopefully you can save some money.

But I'm still a big believer in having regular check ups with my Asthma Doc. He is one smart guy. I schedule a checkup every year to see if I'm still taking all the right medicines for allergies and asthma. 

But, until then, if you run our of your nose spray, it's nice to know that you don't have to call your doctor for a refill. You can just buy it over the counter now!