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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Kid's asthma rates decreasing

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I just saw a story scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen while I watched Good Morning America on December 28th. It said that asthma rates are going down, after years of going up.

I can't find the story on Good Morning America, but found a LOT of other stories from many TV stations. The article was first published by AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner in a medical journal Pediatrics   But I can't find it there either. Sigh.

This is the best article I found on KSL TV (I like the awesome chart!) 

The article says that asthma rates were going up for years and years and now are going down. Researchers (I love smart people!) are trying to figure out why the rates would increase for so many years and then finally start to decrease.

The article from the AP website says that:

"Childhood asthma rates doubled from 1980 to 1995, partly because of more awareness and diagnosis."
Have you ever gone to the doctor with a sick kid and had them tell you, "It's just a virus."? My doctor told me that - about a week before Son #2 was hospitalized for asthma. I took my son to The Pediatrician with an article I had saved about asthma from Parents Magazine. I remember telling the doctor that I thought my son had asthma - he had a lot of the signs and symptoms of asthma. The Pediatrician said, "No. He doesn't have asthma. It's just a virus." Well, "just a virus" caused my son to have a severe cough, pale skin and dark circles under his eyes.  He seemed to get worse and worse over the next few days.

So, I marched right back to The Pediatrician and said, "something is wrong - my son just doesn't look right. " Well, something WAS wrong. The Pediatrician took one look at Son #2 and started a breathing treatment on the nebulizer and called the hospital (attached to our doctor's office) to ask them to get a bed ready for my son. He then told me to take Son #2 to the hospital and that they were admitting him to the pediatrics unit. 

Once in the Pediatrics Unit, a respiratory therapist said, "You know your son has asthma, right?" My mouth dropped open and I said, "I had him at The Pediatrician's office last week and he said my son doesn't have asthma!!"  Respiratory Therapist said, "Oh, he has asthma alright. That's why he's in the hospital." 

That was my introduction to the world of asthma - 16 years ago. Since then, all 3 of my children were diagnosed with asthma and they had 12 hospitalizations (almost all due to pneumonia.). I also figured out that is why I used to get REALLY sick every time I had a cold when I was growing up. I didn't know that I had asthma too!  That experience changed our lives forever.

But, I'm getting sidetracked! I was talking about how doctors are better at diagnosing asthma now (hopefully!), and that's why asthma rates have gone up over the last 20 years.

So, why are asthma rates going down now? Researchers aren't sure, but there are many things that make asthma worse (including obesity and bad air pollution.) Obesity rates are decreasing for kids, as are pollution levels in some areas.

I think people are more aware of asthma now and know how to treat it. Props to the CDC Asthma Program  

The CDC helps with asthma awareness at the national level, and then that helps people at the state asthma programs, which then helps people at the county and city levels. And then they can help your family!

Many states have asthma programs (Minnesota,Montana,New York, Utah, etc.)

Allergy & Asthma Network is a GREAT resource for families that have asthma. They also have a quarterly magazine, Allergy & Asthma Today that is VERY helpful. 

You can also contact American Lung Association 

Well, that ought to keep you busy for a while! Just remember that knowledge is power.

If you have asthma, use the resources above to figure out what makes your asthma worse (triggers) and learn how to avoid them. The more you know, the more if will help you take care of your asthma.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Just in case....

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Christmas is almost here and like many families, we will be traveling for the holidays. I have learned to be prepared......just in case.

I have learned to find:

  • Where did I put my Out of State insurance card?
  • Where is the nearest after hours clinic?
  • Where is the nearest emergency room?
I have learned to pack EVERYTHING.....just in case. I pack:
If you are staying home for the holidays, it also helps to know:
  • Phone number of the pediatrician
  • How their after-hours works (we have a network of doctors who each take a night being the after-hours doctor. We call our regular pediatrician, and they have a phone recording to let us know which doctor is available after hours and where his office is located. We then call there to make an appointment.)
  • 24 hour pharmacy (in our city there is one pharmacy that is ALWAYS open 24 hours a day. Find out which one is open in your city - it will save you stress down the road!)
Christmas is a wonderful day - but it doesn't mean medical problems stop that day. 
One year, we had to drive through our city of 100,000 trying to find a drugstore that was open on Christmas Day. (Son #2 had his tonsils out before Christmas and we ran out of liquid Advil and HAD to find a drugstore that was open so we could buy more.)
Kitty ended up in the hospital during New Year's Eve one year(stupid pneumonia!)
Illness doesn't take a holiday. Be prepared.....just in case. 
And Merry Christmas!! 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Hypoallergenic dogs as real as unicorns

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It's that time of year when many of us will be traveling to visit family during the holidays. 

The family stay with has a dog. Another family member INSISTS that there are certain dogs that are hypo allergenic 

She says there is NO WAY we can be allergic to her dog. Well, sorry, but we are. See those watery eyes and hear the sneezing? We aren't making this up you know!

There are is no such thing as a  hypoallergenic dogs!  Don't believe me? Here's a quote from an article in the Huffington Post 

"Contrary to the many marketing claims made to appeal to people with allergies to pets, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog," Franklin D. McMillan, a veterinarian and director of well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society, told The Huffington Post in an email.

All dogs have saliva and skin, which Dr. McMillan says:

"The most common cause of pet allergies is the dead, dried flakes (dander) from your pet's skin and the protein in the pet’s saliva that sticks to these flakes," McMillan said. "The pet’s hair itself isn’t a significant problem -- it’s the dander that is attached to the shed hairs. The fur and dander then stick to carpeting, furniture, and clothing."

That explains it. We are having problems with the sticky proteins on the dog's hair. 

Some dogs may shed less than other dogs.  

But everyone has different allergies and asthma triggers too. So, what may not bother one person CAN and DOES bother another.

If you are having problems, the article suggests several ideas, such as: 
  • Give the dog a bath once a week
  • Wash it's bedding once a week
  • Have hard wood floors instead of carpet (the dog hair won't stick to wood floors like it does carpet)
  • Vacuum often (especially if there are places where the dog likes to lay down)
  • Shampoo your carpets often
  • Keep the pet our of your bedroom
  • And don't let the dog lick you!
The American Kennel Club recommends some dogs that have "predictable non shedding coats" - so, in theory - they aren't supposed to shed as much.
However, my daughter has had severe allergic reactions to a specific dog on their list.
So, just remember that everyone is different. If you are allergic to a dog.......well, then you are allergic - to it no matter what anyone else says! Work with your doc to find the best treatment. Once again, that's different for everyone. He may tell you to take over the counter allergy medicine. Or you may be WAY past that and need allergy shots.

Yeah, dogs are cute. But for us, it's not worth the miserable runny eyes, sneezing, running nose and asthma attacks.
Here's part of one last quote from the Huffington Post article (the last part of the quote has a link to the American Kennel Club and list of "predictable and no shedding coats" - but that link is above.) It was too funny, so I had to share!
"So while hypoallergenic dog breeds are as real as hypoallergenic unicorns -- or, if they exist somewhere, researchers haven't found them yet......"

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fun cartoon about asthma

I saw a great story on NBC news about comic books and a cartoon for kids with asthma. 

I'll try to include some information, but I am on SLOW speed today because I have a concussion. My brain and body aren't working the way they should. It takes a looooooong time for me to type on my computer, and I have to keep correcting my spelling. 
 I had to spend a week in bed, with dark rooms and low sounds. Limited TV and radio. Sigh. Not fun for a Type A personality!

But - back to the fun cartoon and video!

I wish this was around when my kids were little. This cartoon and coloring book series was created by a doctor, Dr. Alex Thomas, who also has asthma! He created these characters when he was only 11! He used to draw the cartoons for the newsletter for his mom's allergy patients. He is now also a pediatric allergy doctor.
The cartoon is easy to understand and has some cute characters. Iggy the Inhaler is dressed like a super hero. The Cowboy Sheriff is Bronco (as in bronchodilator - he "rescues" the muscles. Get it? A rescue inhaler that is a bronchodilator - or relaxes the muscles that are squeezing the airway from the outside.)
Sheriff Broncho releases the bands, but there is still swelling in the bronchial tube. So Coltron the Controller comes to help. 

The cartoon explains how Coltron the Controller has medicine that works for a long time. But Sheriff Broncho works fast as a rescue inhaler. 

Come to think of it, this cartoon would be good for adults too that have a hard time understanding the difference between controller (or maintenance) and rescue inhalers.

There are a lot of fun things on Iggy and the Inhalers website. Including trading cards, coloring books, videos, etc. 

Well, that's enough for today. I need to take a break and rest my brain. But I hope this helps any of your kids that need more help understanding asthma.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Holidays and asthma

This time of year can be stressful if you have allergies and asthma. 

If you are traveling to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving (or another family member's house) - you may worry about all sorts of things. 
  • Can you make your flight?
  • How long is the drive?
  • What is grandma's house like? (or wherever else you are going)
  • Are there cats there?
  • Dogs?
  • Is it dusty? (when is the last time the guest bedroom was vacuumed?)
  • Are there going to be other people there - like kids with runny noses and coughs?
  • Will someone make a dish for dinner that has tree nuts? (Even though you have told them MANY times that your son is allergic to nuts?) 

There are some things you can't control - like weather for flying or driving. Or if someone gets sick. 

Holidays are always an adventure!
When we travel for Thanksgiving (or any other holiday) we plan ahead. We always pack maintenance medications (Be sure to check the counter on your inhaler to see how many puffs are left. I ended up out of town for a conference and realized my inhaler didn't "feel" right. It sounded like it was working, but when I looked at the counter on the canister, it showed 0 puffs left. Oops!!)

We also pack rescue inhalers AND the nebulizer/tubing kit/canister. I also bring our oximeter.    

"Just in case, " we find out:
  • Where is the closest Emergency Department?
  • Closest pharmacy?
You never know if you might need a breathing treatment, trip to the Emergency Department, refill on a medication, etc. So, we try to plan ahead, it makes me feel safer knowing I have all of our medications and know where to go if one of gets sick or has an accident. 

What's the old saying? Prepare for the worst and hope for the best?

On that note, Happy Thanksgiving!!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Asthma and emotions

Like many of you, I watched the news of the attacks in Paris with my heart in my throat. 

Previously, Hubby and I had spent our 25th anniversary in Paris. We LOVE Paris, it is such a beautiful place! 

And then we watched the news reports. My emotions were a mess - first shock and horror, then love for the people of Paris who offered help to the innocent people caught in the cross fire. 

The hashtag #portouverte (or #opendoor) was trending on Twitter. 

The people of Paris were opening their doors to scared and injured tourists. They fed and clothed the tourists and provided a place for them to sleep and feel safe.

According to Mayo Clinic, the following can cause (or trigger) an asthma attack:

  • Airborne allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, mold, cockroaches and dust mites
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
  • Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Sulfites and preservatives added to some types of foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat

So, what do you do if you are faced with any of these asthma triggers, including stress and strong emotions?

Allergy & Asthma Network shared an article last week on their Facebook page. The article is from American Academy of Pediatrics and is called "Talking to Children About Disasters."  

The article has ideas to talk with young children and older children. And ways that parents can help kids cope with disasters. I'm going to use some of the ideas to talk to my kids. 

Until then, I will look through my pictures of Paris and remember the beautiful architecture, fabulous food and loving people of Paris. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

New medicine for severe asthma (Nucala)

For those of you who have asthma (or kids with asthma) you know that all asthma is NOT created equal. Son #2 had severe asthma, and had 8 hospitalizations (2 of those were close calls.....they had the "crash" cart parked outside his room!!)

He is one of the 10% of people with asthma who have severe asthma. He didn't seem to do well on asthma medicine. He took multiple medicines every day to try to control his allergy and asthma (and had 5 years of allergy shots). When he would get sick, he would take steroids (pills and shots) and STILL end up in the hospital. Sigh. It was a tough time for our family.

Asthma Doc started our son on Xolair injections. For our son,  it was the only thing that seemed to work to keep him out of the hospital. 

There is another option now for people who have severe asthma. GSK has a new medicine that was just approved by the FDA  

The FDA says: "Nucala reduces severe asthma attacks by reducing the levels of blood eosinophils- a type of white blood cell that contributes to the development of asthma."

They also say: "Compared with placebo, patients with severe asthma receiving Nucala had fewer exacerbations requiring hospitalization and/or emergency department visits, and a longer time to the first exacerbation. In addition, patients with severe asthma receiving Nucala experienced greater reductions in their daily maintenance oral corticosteroid dose, while maintaining asthma control compared with patients receiving placebo."  

Like Xolair, Nucala is a shot given once a month in a doctor's office. 

When my son was on Xolair injections, we had to fill out extra paperwork to get the insurance to cover the shots. Luckily, they did. I'm not sure what it will be like for Nucala. 

If you have severe asthma, ask your doctor which medicine is best for you. It seems like everyone is a little different when it comes to what asthma medicine works best. Sometimes insurance will only cover a certain medicine, so may have to work that out with your doctor and insurance company.

Anyway, just another option for treating asthma so we can be the best we can be!! :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Auvi-Q recall

This is a short post today!

CBS News had a story about a recall of the Auvi-Q injectors. 

 They are being recalled because they may not give you the right amount of medication if you have an allergic reaction.

The story says there are about 200,000 people in the U.S. that have the Auvi-Q. There were about 26 people that reported problems with the injectors, so they are recalling ALL of them. (Hey - better to be on the safe side, right?!)

So what do you do if you have an Auvi-Q? The CBS story says:

"Consumers can call 1-866-726-6340 or visit the product's website for information on how to return the injector. They should also contact their health provider to get a prescription for an alternate device."
However, if you have one of those injectors, they want you to get a replacement FIRST before you give them your recalled Auvi-Q. (You don't want to be without epinephrine......just in case you have an allergic reaction.)
"As this is a life-saving device, it is important that consumers understand not only to return the recalled device, but to get a replacement epinephrine auto-injector first," said a company spokeswoman in an emailed statement."
 Good luck to all! :)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Time for flu shots!

It's that time of year again - flu season. It can start now and last through spring.  

Anytime I am around someone who is sneezing or coughing, I back away.........I don't want to catch it! Any cold or flu is always worse when you have asthma. 

CDC estimates that 226,000 people are hospitalized every year thanks to influenza (the flu.)  3,000 - 49,000 people DIE every year from complications of the flu. Yikes!

Complications can be pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections. When my kids were little, they were hospitalized 12 times for asthma - and almost all of those were because they started with a cold or flu and ended up with pneumonia. It's scary stuff to watch your child struggling to breathe. 

I also have asthma and have had pneumonia numerous times, so I know what it feels like. For me, it feels like I was hit by a truck. I get a fever and chills and my body hurts all over, and I am so weak that I can't eat or drink. It's also a big job to try to just breathe in and out. I really have to concentrate on that. 

Once, I was so sick and coughing so hard that I pulled a muscle in my rib cage! You can search online and find many people who share their experiences. It is awful. When I get pneumonia, I have a hard cough that hurts my chest, but then I would also get a sharp pain in my side every time I coughed from the pulled muscle. It was miserable stuff. :(  

Talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot. CDC recommends everyone over 6 months of age should get a flu shot every year. 

My insurance pays for any immunization, so for me, it will only cost a little time. Many pharmacies chains also give flu shots. So I can get a flu shot while I am picking up bandages, heart burn medicine, etc.  

Nobody likes to get shots, but if you get a flu shot now, it could protect you from a miserable case of the flu later.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Teal pumpkin project

Teal Pumpkin Project™ "The TEAL PUMPKIN PROJECT and the Teal Pumpkin Image are trademarks of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE)."

I blogged about the Teal Pumpkin project last year. It was a new idea to let kids with food allergies be able to Trick or Treat on Halloween!

How? If there is a teal pumpkin on the front porch, or a Teal Pumpkin sign on the lawn (or front of the house), that lets parents know that are non-food treats at that home.

The kids could score some really cool stuff - like bubbles, glow sticks, small toys, stickers, etc. So, they can still Trick or Treat, but instead of worrying about food allergies, they can get some really cool stuff! 

If you have a child with food allergies, you know how hard it is to always have to check food labels. If there is a candy bar with tree nuts (Almond Joy) in a big bowl of candy, can my son eat any of the candy in the bowl? For us, the answer is no. Because it has been cross - contaminated. 

You can avoid worrying about candy and food allergies and go to houses that are supporting the Teal Pumpkin Project. You can also buy something for kids with food allergies that come to your house. If you want to help, you can also print off free posters from FARE. There are several different small posters in English and Spanish. Here is one example:

They are free and easy to print out. You can put one in your front window or glue it to cardboard, tape it to a stick and put it in the lawn.

What a great idea!!  Now I just need to figure out a costume for this year!

Monday, October 12, 2015

What I wish people knew about asthma....

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I saw a story on abc NEWS about Kyle Schwartz, who is an elementary teacher at Doull Elementary school in Denver. She wanted to get to know her students better, so she had an assignment for them. They had to finish the sentence, 

"I wish my teacher knew ____________"

She was surprised at the what the kids wrote. Things such as:

 "I wish my teacher knew that I don't have any pencils at home to do my homework"

"I wish my teacher knew that my reading log is not signed because my mom is not around a lot."

She started a hash tag #IWISHMYTEACHERKNEW  If you watch the video in the link above, make sure you have some tissues handy, it tugs at your heart strings!

Her idea went viral, there were so many people who LOVED what she was doing! Others have copied her idea. 

It made me think - what do I want people to know about asthma?

Everyone with asthma has a different story to tell. So, tell me yours! My sentence has a little different wording than the one Kyle Schwartz started, but is the same idea. 

Leave a comment below and let me know: 

"What I wish people knew about asthma....."  

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fall allergies........argh!

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Does this look familiar? Itchy, watery eyes?

Some people think the only time they have allergies is in the spring when the flowers are blooming. WRONG! Many people can also have fall allergies.

My kids are complaining about itchy, watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing and a throat that won't stop itching.

Hellllllooooooo Ragweed! 

Fox 59 in Indianapolis had a story on the news this week about fall allergies. They said one ragweed plant can produce up to 1 billion grains of pollen each year. Yuck!! 

Mold is also common in the fall. You know how your kids love to rake leaves into a pile and jump in? Better be careful - the leaves are full of mold. 

The Fox 59 story has several helpful things you can do:

"The first and most critical step to controlling allergies is to avoid triggers.
  • Avoiding ragweed is similar to avoiding Spring pollen. Minimize time outdoors, keep windows shut during the day, and check ragweed pollen counts.
  • Avoiding mold is a little different. Mold grows in moist areas. Therefore, it just loves piles of fallen leaves.If your children are playing in the leaves, make sure to wash them and their clothes as soon as they enter your home. If your child is the allergy sufferer, keep them out of the leaves. If you have a pet that spends time outdoors, it is important to wash them when they reenter the house as well. Otherwise, they will be shaking mold spores all over your home."

I'm not saying you can't have any fun in the fall - but know what brings on your allergy symptoms. Ragweed? Mold? And what is the best way to treat allergies? Everyone is different, but there are a lot of over the counter allergy medicines available - as well as nose sprays that help with allergies.

Talk to your doc to see what is right for you. For our family, we use a combination - over the counter allergy medicine and nose sprays (and this is after my kids have all completed 5 years worth of allergy shots.....) And they STILL suffer from allergies.

Sigh. I hate allergies and I hate the asthma attacks they trigger!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Wildfires and asthma

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Many of you who read my blog know that I am VERY nervous when it comes to forest fires. Son #2 ended up in ICU and almost died several years ago when we had a fire here. The whole valley filled with smoke (and smoke and asthma are NOT a good mix!)

It's so scary to read about what is happening to people with asthma in California. Did you know they  had to close schools in Central California?! (I know that's every kid's dream - that school is closed - but I'm not sure if that means they are stuck in their house of if they can take off to the beach.)

The article says, "Record drought in the Western US that has contributed to an explosive wildfire season is sending droves of wheezing, coughing patients to physicians and asthma clinics."
No wonder people with asthma are having a hard time! In the article, they list all of the pollutants in the smoke (it's a long list and I can't pronounce half of the list). 

And with no rain in sight, there's nothing to help with the fires. Dr. Vipul Jain, is a University of California San Francisco pulmonologist. He says that
"Patients feel it coming. Typically patients with COPD and asthma. They get coughing spasms because their lungs are trying to expel the irritants."

He tells them to stay indoors, use their inhalers, and keep the windows closed at night.

Another doctor from Bakersfield, Dr. Thu Yein, is also a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at San Joaquin Community Hospital. He says he sees patients too from forest fires. 

"It's usually within 3 weeks of a forest fire. It happens every year."   
I feel sorry for all of the people in California that have asthma. I know how hard it is to try to breathe when the valley is filled with smoke. When the fires first started in California, the smoke covered our state (2 states away!) We had to keep our windows closed for a week, turn the air cleaners on full speed, and stay inside. I can't imagine being stuck in that smoke week after week.

And how do the fire fighters stand being out in that thick smoke?

All I can say is that I am keeping my fingers crossed for rain for California! Just not too much - because then they would have flash floods.......
Record drought in the Western US that has contributed to an explosive wildfire season is sending droves of wheezing, coughing patients to physicians and asthma clinics. - See more at:
Record drought in the Western US that has contributed to an explosive wildfire season is sending droves of wheezing, coughing patients to physicians and asthma clinics. - See more at:
Record drought in the Western US that has contributed to an explosive wildfire season is sending droves of wheezing, coughing patients to physicians and asthma clinics. - See more at:


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Peanut butter for babies

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Some of you may have already read about the new study that showed that feeding babies peanut products early may prevent an allergy to peanuts later in life.


"The medically supervised study tracked 640 babies with severe eczema, egg allergy or both. Half ate a peanut product at least three times a week for five years. Half avoided peanut products. Infants who were fed peanut products were at a much lower risk of having a peanut allergy at the end of the study.

“The high-risk infants in this study were tested to be sure they were not already allergic to peanut,” said Scott Sicherer, M.D., FAAP, an AAP expert in pediatric allergy and immunology. “At age 5 years, only 3% of the infants randomized to eat peanut had peanut allergy compared to 17% among those avoiding it.”
In the article, they remind parents to talk to your doctor first. They can help you find the best way to introduce peanut products to your child. Notice that they tested children first to make sure they were NOT allergic to peanuts before they fed them any peanut products. 

I would NOT try this at home on your own. This is something that needs to be done with a doctor. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics article lists the possible symptoms of a food allergy:

"Signs of a food allergy may include rash, swelling, vomiting and trouble breathing, typically within minutes to an hour of consuming food. If your child experiences any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately." 

It's something that I never want to see again as long as I live. It can be deadly. I am lucky that I caught it quickly and Asthma Nurse was able to save my son's life.

The article also says to be careful and not give peanuts or pieces of peanuts to kids under the age of 4, because they could choke on them. Yikes! 

This is great research. If children in the study were able to to reduce the chance that they were would be allergic to peanuts, it would be worth checking into. Especially since it was carefully supervised by doctors. Talk to your doctor about it - I would NEVER try it on my own.

Food allergies are a pain. Son #2 has a tree nut allergy. I have a seafood allergy. We have to carry an Epi Pen everywhere we go and be VERY careful about any food that we eat. 

What a great scientific breakthrough to figure out how to decrease the chance that kids may be allergic to peanuts. I love these scientists with their smart brains! 



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Virtual doctor visits

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I can't keep up with technology. Good thing I have two adult sons and one teenager who can help me with my new things (did you know you can use your thumbprint to access your iphone instead of trying to type in a 4 digit code every time?! Thanks to daughter Kitty for showing me that and setting up my phone. I LOVE IT!!!!)

Did you also know that in some states, if your child has Medicaid, they can see a doctor virtually from school? You don't have to leave work and your child doesn't have to leave school. I just read an article about a school district in Texas. Here's how they explain the program:

"They say adults shouldn’t have to take time off work and kids shouldn’t have to miss school to get routine health care, like when a child has an ear infection or skin rash, because modern technology allows a remote doctor to get high-quality, instantaneous information about patients. An electronic stethoscope allows the doctor to hear a child’s heartbeat, for example, and a digital otoscope offers a look into the child’s ear — all under the physical supervision of a school nurse."

I have never heard of an electronic (or digital) stethoscope until a few months ago. The Washington Post has a great article that explains how they work. Can you image the nurse using the stethoscope to on your child's lungs at school while the doctor listens from his office miles away? They can do the same thing with an otoscope to look in the ear. Welcome to modern technology!

If there's a problem, the doctor can call in a prescription and you can pick it up on your way home from work. Wow!

This would be really helpful for parents who can't leave work (because they don't have sick time). If they have to leave work and take their child to the doctor, they don't get paid. And the child misses school.

Here's how one doctor explains it. 

“Ninety percent of what you would see in a general pediatric clinic, we can handle it by telemedicine,” said Richard Lampe, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center. He said that included sports injuries, strep throat — and among middle and high school students especially, mental illnesses like anxiety and depression."  

This may not work for everyone, but I think it's a good idea for some families. 

What will they think of next?!   

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Over reacting asthma cells

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I love researchers! Unlike me, these people are REALLY smart! There are lots of Smart People, like my teenage daughter, Kitty - who drops her high school physics class because it's too easy. (Yeah, well I can't even spell physics - I had to use spell check for this blog entry.......) 

But these researchers are finding out new things all the time about asthma. The photo above shows a doctor looking at lungs, but the researchers are looking a lot deeper - at the cells that line the lungs (epithelial cells)

The newest research out shows that the cells that line the lungs in people with asthma are not like other people's lung cells. In "normal people's" lung cells, their cells just sit there in the lungs, like cars in a traffic jam. 

But people who have asthma have lungs cells that can be explained by  a study from Harvard Public Health 

“scramble around like there’s a fire drill going on”

I always tell people that asthma is like a "drama queen". (Those of you with teenagers know all about drama and over reacting.)  With asthma, your body over reacts to normal every day things - you know, like stress, animals, grass, trees, flowers, perfume, cleaning supplies, air pollution (these are "asthma triggers" - they trigger an asthma attack). Normal People can be around these things without thinking twice. But someone with asthma gets around any of those asthma triggers and our lungs over react and swell, make mucus, and the bands around the bronchial tubes tighten. 

Yeah, and we wonder why we suddenly start coughing or are short of breath?!

So, now we know that the cells in our lungs seem to over react (and they also have an unusual shape.) Check out the videos on the Harvard Public Health page. It's pretty interesting.

Now that the researchers have found this, it leads to more questions 

"Now that it’s known that epithelial cells in asthmatic airways are oddly shaped and are not jammed, scientists have to figure out why it’s happening—whether it’s asthma causing the cells to unjam, or if it’s the unjamming of these cells that causes asthma."  

That is kind of like "which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

Well, keep on working researchers! I would love to see the day when they find a CURE for asthma. They making great strides in finding out what causes asthma, let's find a cure you Smart People!  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Fires again!


I've been watching all of the stories on the news about the fires in California and Oregon. It's so hard to see the home owners on the news after their houses have burned. It shows families going back to what was their house, only to find ashes there now.

We live two states away, and our skies are filled with smoke from the fires.

Smoke and asthma are NOT a good mix. In fact, when I was watching the stories on the news, my first thought was "How can those people be there around all that smoke!?" I can't see how any of the reporters, government officials, home owners and fire fighters can stand it. It made me wonder if any of them have asthma?

The smoke is bad enough where I live, how can they stand being in the same area where the fire is burning? I have been having problems with my asthma and my throat is burning and my eyes are running. 

 I work in an office, so the air here is filtered. I also have air cleaners and a filter system on my air conditioning at home. And luckily, I have a button in my car where I can re-circulate the air, so it doesn't pull in smoke from outside. But I still don't feel well at all.

I shouldn't complain - when Son #2 was around 10 years old, he almost died from the smoke from a forest fire in our valley. He had been outside playing, and I didn't notice how far the smoke had spread. The fire was about 15 miles away, but the smoke filled the whole valley. 

(You would think kids would be smart enough to come inside when it's that smokey, but hey - that might interrupt any fun they are having hanging out with friends!)

By the time he came inside, he was really struggling to breathe. We used the nebulizer and gave him a breathing treatment, but he just got worse. He ended up in the Emergency Department, and they quickly admitted him to the Pediatrics ward of our hospital. He was in ICU, and they had the "crash cart" outside his room. (I found out later that they parked the cart there in case he stopped breathing so they could resuscitate him.)  

 I have learned SO much since then! We didn't know much about asthma, and what could make asthma worse. Smoke is high up there on the list for us. 

If you are having problems breathing, and aren't sure if you should treat it at home, or go to the emergency room, Nemours has a great webpage that may help.

As for me, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for rain. These fires are horrible! 


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

10 worst cities to live in if you have asthma

(Shutterstock image)

Have you ever wondered if there was a "safer" place to live if you have asthma? 

When my kids were younger and frequently in the hospital, I wondered the same thing. Out of desperation, I asked Asthma Doc, "Is there a better place to live for asthma?" He sort of chuckled and then said, "There are going to be asthma triggers wherever you go - cats, dogs, dust, plants, grass, etc. You could move to a new area that has new plants that you aren't used to - then that would cause more allergy and asthma problems."

Rats. I was hoping he would say that medically, the best place for us to live was Hawaii. A girl can try, can't she?!

Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA) have released their list of the top 100 worst place to live if you have asthma. You can see the Top 10 on WebMd's site 

You can visit AAFA's website to see all 100 cities.This is how they decide which cities are the worst:

"2015 Rank - Rankings for the Allergy Capitals™ are based on analysis of data from factors including: Prevalence Data, Seasonal Pollen,
Allergy Medicine Utilization per Patient, and the number of Board Certified Allergists per patient. Weights were applied to each factor and a
composite final score was calculated for each Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)."
Sounds technical, but they are looking at how many people in that city have asthma, the pollen counts, how many people are taking allergy medicine, and if there is an asthma specialist in the city. 

I'm not sure how they gather their data - see how many bottles of Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin the local Walgreens sells?!

Anyway, it's fun to look at the list and see if your city is on it. 

Happy viewing!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Back to school time!!

(Shutterstock image)

I can't believe summer is coming to and end! We still have a few weeks until daughter Kitty starts school, but we are already planning ahead for her asthma.

School Nurse sent an Asthma Action Plan this summer. What is an Asthma Action Plan? The Centers for Disease Control,  CDC  explains it this way:

What is an asthma action plan?

The action plan is based on zones of asthma care defined by your peak expiratory flow (PEF) rate and symptoms. A PEF is a way to measure how much air you can blow out of your lungs in one second. Measuring your own PEF every day will help you track how well you are doing. Green Zone 
Green means go. You are in the green zone of the asthma action plan if your peak expiratory flow rate is 80% to 100% of your personal best measurement. You want to be in the green zone every day. You should have no asthma symptoms when you are in the green zone.
Yellow Zone
 Yellow means caution. You are in the yellow zone of the asthma action plan if your peak expiratory flow rate is 50% to 80% of your personal best measurement. Symptoms may not exist, may be mild to moderate, or may keep you from your usual activities or disturb your sleep. The yellow zone may mean that you are having an asthma episode or that your medicines need to be increased. The action plan should state what medications you need to take, how much to take, and when to take them. If you keep going into the yellow zone from the green zone, talk with your provider. Your regular medication may need to be changed.
Red Zone
Red means STOP. You are in the red zone of your asthma action plan if your peak expiratory flow rate is less than 50% of your personal best measurement. Your symptoms will be severe and you may have extreme shortness of breath and coughing or other symptoms that are specific only to you. If your symptoms and peak expiratory flow rate are in the red zone, seek medical help immediately. While you are seeking emergency help, follow your action plan and take your medications as directed. You may need emergency treatment, admission to a hospital, or to call 911.

There are a LOT of different types of Asthma Action Plans. Some schools like to use a certain version of the form, some doctor's offices have another form they like to use.

I just fill out whatever School Nurse sends me. In our case, it's an Asthma Action Plan from our state health department. Since daughter Kitty has to go to Asthma Doc every year to get a renewal on her asthma and allergy medicines, it's the perfect time for us to take the Asthma Action Plan and have him fill it out. (Believe me - she doesn't just go to Asthma Doc once a year - it seems like it's every other month.)

 Our Asthma Action Plan is a combination form - it also has a section where the doctor and I give permission for daughter Kitty to carry her inhaler with her at all times during school.

Did you know that it is legal in EVERY state in the country for students to carry their inhaler with them? However, you usually have to fill out a permission form at the beginning of every school year.

For us, it's not a problem - I just add it to the stack of all of the other forms I have to fill out!

So, while you are out shopping for school supplies to get ready for school - remember to also get ready by having an Asthma Action Plan on file at school. That way the teachers/lunch staff/recess guards will know what to do if your child has an asthma attack during school.   

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This tween is amazing!

Susan Tatelli is one brave tween! She has life threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts and soy. Her mom recorded Susan using her Epi Pen and uploaded it to Youtube. She also interviews several allergy and asthma doctors who talk about when and how to use an Epi Pen. This tween does an AMAZING job using hers!!

Susan wanted to show other kids that it's not so scary - that others can use their Epi Pen if they need to. She has had a LOT of experience using her Epi Pen because she was part of a peanut allergy trial. While she was in the trial, she had 6 anaphylaxis reactions. She used her Epi Pen herself 5 out of the 6 times. Way to go!

I learned something from watching the doctors she interviewed. Dr. Sakina Bajowala of the Kaneland Allergy and Asthma Center shows how to hold the Epi Pen in your palm with your finger and thumb stretched out. 

Then she wraps her thumb around the Epi Pen first. Then she wraps her fingers around her thumb. 
She said that stops you from putting your thumb on the top of the Epi Pen (where the safety cap is) I didn't know that - and I have been carrying around an Epi Pen for years!  
You can watch the video here. You can see how red Susan's face is before she uses her Epi Pen. Scary stuff! What a brave tween to share her story with others to make it a little less scary.

She is going to do great things in this world!! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pacifier attached to a valved holding chamber and asthma inhaler?

I was at a conference and I saw a display from a company that makes a valved holding chamber that you can use with different age groups. (Basically, it's a tube that connects to your asthma inhaler. You spray the inhaler in to the tube, then you can inhale the asthma medicine out of the tube and it will go into your lungs.) 
You can use it:
  • as a valved holding chamber with an older child
  • add a mask for a younger child
  • add a mask and pacifier for an baby

Has anyone tried this yet? With the pacifier for a baby? It seems like companies are always coming up with something new!

I always used the nebulizer for my kids when they were little. I'm wondering if the valved holding chamber and pacifier would work just as well?

Any comments from anyone that has tried it?