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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Peanut patch showing good results!

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I'm one of those parents who has to be VERY careful when I am shopping at the grocery store. I have a seafood allergy and Son #2 has a tree nut allergy.

There is hope for those allergic to peanuts. There is a Peanut Allergy Therapy trial where patients wear a patch that releases peanut allergen into the skin. I just saw the story on CBS News.

The idea behind the study is that those wearing the patch would slowly build up their tolerance over the year. About 1/2 of the people could eat up to 4 peanuts at the end of the year.

I know what you are thinking.....4 peanuts?! Well, when you are severely allergic and ONE peanut can cause a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) that can kill you - yeah, it's a big deal! 

The doctor said there were local reactions, but no systemic reactions. What does that mean? That the patients may get a welt on their back from the patch, but that it didn't cause any other symptoms that go through the whole body (swelling in the throat,  difficulty swallowing, vomiting, hives, etc.)

They are coming up with cool stuff all the time. 

I hope it helps those kids with peanut allergies!!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Biggest cause of death from allergic reaction

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Are you surprised to see a picture of medication?!

 I was when I read the story on Webmd!

I am allergic to seafood, and Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts. And I have read plenty of stories about people who are allergic to peanuts and have had a severe allergic reaction. In fact, some allergic reactions are so severe (anaphylaxis), that they can cause death. 

When I think of someone having an allergic reaction, I usually think they ate something that caused anaphylaxis. 

But not so fast!! 

In the Webmd article, a group of researchers looked at deaths certificates from 1999-2010 from the 
U. S. National Mortality Data Base. They found almost 2,500 deaths from anaphylaxis, and they tried to figure out what caused the deaths. 

The results of the study were surprising. They found that: 
  • 59% of deaths were from medications
  •  7 % were from food
  •  15% were from venom (insect bite or sting)
  • 19% didn't specify the cause
The study also says that:
"The drug that caused the reaction wasn't identified in 75 percent of the deaths. When the responsible drug was identified, it was an antibiotic in 40 percent of the cases, Jerschow found. The next most common allergy-inducing drugs were radiocontrast agents, which are used during diagnostic imaging tests, followed by chemotherapy medications to treat cancer, the study reported. "
Most MRIs and chemotherapy treatments are done in a hospital, so you should be able to get emergency care if that happens.

The important thing is to recognize anaphylaxis. Mayo Clinic says:

"Anaphylaxis symptoms usually occur within minutes of exposure to an allergen. Sometimes, however, anaphylaxis can occur a half-hour or longer after exposure. Anaphylaxis symptoms include":
  • "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"
Mayo Clinic also says: "Seek emergency medical help if you, your child or someone else you're with has a severe allergic reaction."
Hopefully you won't ever experience anaphylaxis. But, I believe knowledge is power. So knowing what can cause a severe allergic reaction is helpful. I'll tuck the information in the back of my brain (and hope I never need to use it!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Warm winter - early hay fever!

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This is one weird winter. In Boston, they have 7 feet of snow. All you can see are mounds of snow on the side of the road - which are actually cars covered in snow. Schools, work and church are cancelled.

In the West, we have been having a dry winter and warm temperatures. People are out golfing and washing their cars in the driveway (true story!)

My aspen trees are blooming, and my crocuses and daffodils are several inches above the ground. Normally, they would be covered in snow. 

With flowers and trees blooming, comes sneezing and wheezing. Yes, hay fever season has already started for us! 

Some people can control their allergies with over the counter allergy medicine. We also keep the windows closed and shower before bed to remove any pollen from our hair and skin. 

But, sometimes that isn't enough. If you are still miserable, talk to your specialist about allergy shots.

Here's a video from Webmd that talks about allergy testing and allergy shots. 

Just remember that allergy shots need to be given in an allergy and asthma specialist's office. There is a risk of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis.) 

You MUST wait 30 minutes after EACH allergy shot. If you have a severe allergic reaction, the doctor can treat you on site.

Anaphylaxis can and and does happen after allergy shots. It happened to my oldest son after an injection. It was the one time we left the office early.

I will never forget seeing that.

So, if your allergies are making you miserable, talk to your doctor about allergy shots. It's not fun, but it may help you be able to enjoy being outside without having to haul around pockets full of tissues and allergy medicine. 

Good luck!


Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentines day with food allergies

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So, Valentines Day is tomorrow, and it can be a little tricky to find something safe to eat if you have food allergies.

Chocolate is always delicious! BUT - I just saw this urgent notice on ABC news that some of the boxes of See's Candies were mislabeled. The 8 oz. boxes of Classic Red Hearts with Assorted chocolates were mislabeled. The warning said that if you have an allergy to coconuts, almonds, pecans or walnuts, avoid the chocolates!

So, I thought I would order some sugar cookies from our local bakery. 

As I was completing the order, I remembered that many bakeries add almond flavoring to their sugar cookies. I asked if this bakery added almond extract, and they had to track down the baker to ask. Yes, they do. what? I had already order three large sugar cookies for my kids that each were decorated with the same saying...."You're my favorite!" As I told the employee what message I wanted on the cookies, he said, "ummmmm okay." I told him don't worry - we have  wacky sense of humor and my kids will laugh their heads off when there are three identical cookies that each say "you're my favorite!"

But, once I found out that they used almond extract in their sugar cookies, I ordered a large chocolate chip cookie instead. I asked if they could also write the same saying on that, which they could. 

I wondered if almond extract could be just as bad as eating an almond in a cookies, so I found some information on American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology website. Dr. Phil Lieberman said:
"Most almond extract doesn't come from almonds. Most commercial "pure almond extracts" are actually made from the kernels of peach or apricot pits. These kernels have the same flavor compounds as almond oil but they are less expensive to obtain and process. The compounds released from peach and apricot pits are bioidentical to those in almonds, and there is little or no information about whether extracts derived from stone fruit pits are safe for a nut-free diet. You could always use the widely available artificial nut extract, which IS considered a safe choice. Another, safe choice would substituting the almond extract with vanilla extract. Source: Cleveland Clinic. "Nut Allergy" Internet Resource. 10 February 2009"

He also shared an article from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The result of their study was:

"Conclusion: Tree nut and peanut oils may pose a threat to patients with allergy, depending on the method of manufacture and processing. (J Allergy Clin Immunol 1997; 99:502-6). "
 So, to be on the safe side, Son #2 (who is allergic to tree nuts) is getting a chocolate chip cookie for Valentine's Day tomorrow instead of a sugar cookie with almond extract. 

Son #1 experienced anaphylaxis once after allergy shots, and it's something I never want to see again for as long as live!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Open Airways for Schools

I get to teach another session of Open Airways at a local elementary school, I'm so excited about it!  If you haven't heard of Open Airways, it's a free 6 week course (taught once a week for 40 minutes) for kids aged 8-11 with asthma. It's sponsored by the American Lung Association.

What I like about the program is that is interactive. It really gets the kids involved and it empowers them to be able to understand their asthma and better control it. 

I also like that there is a handout each day that goes home to the student's family, so they can know what was taught that day. They learn:

  • how to belly breathe
  • how to identify their asthma medicine (which inhaler is for daily use, which one is for the rescue inhaler?)
  • identify what their triggers are
  • learn the 5 emergency signs of asthma 
  • six ways to stay active 
  • deciding when to go to school and when to stay home

It also helps them feel like they aren't the only student in the school with asthma. I remember one class where we talked about what to do if someone teases you because you have asthma and need to use your inhaler.

In elementary school, it seems like most students want to fit in, they don't want to be "different" because they have asthma. That lesson talks about how to handle teasing when they have asthma. It was heart warming to see the kids supporting each other. They seemed to want to protect each other from teasing. 

There is so much to learn, I can't explain it all in a blog. This video from American Lung Association explains it a little better.   

Contact your state chapter and ask for it to be taught in your student's school. 

You will be glad you did! :)

Friday, February 6, 2015


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My last post was about something only another asthma mom could understand. This one is about what only kids with asthma understand. 

We were at Pediatrician's office this week because daughter Kitty has the usual gunk that goes around in the winter  - sore throat, fever, headache, upset stomach, etc. I wanted to get Kitty's throat swabbed to check for strep. Most parents know that  part of the exam includes listening to the lungs with a stethoscope. 

When the doctor asked if he could listen to her lungs, Kitty said, "how do you want me to breathe? deep breaths, or normal?"

That's when Pediatrician laughed and said, "Every time I have a kid that comes in with asthma, they always know how to breathe!" I said, "yeah - well..... they also know how to do chest x-rays!" 

Kitty has been hospitalized 4 times for asthma, her brother (Son #2) has been hospitalized 8 times for asthma. Those were some VERY stressful years of my life.

Once, when Son # 2 was five years old, we were in the emergency room (again!) I followed the x-ray tech as he took Son #2 to get x-rays. "Don't worry, he knows how to do x-rays." I could see the x-ray tech thinking 'yeah, right lady!' But as they came out of the x-ray room, he said, "You weren't kidding. He knew all of the different angles that needed to be taken and which way to turn." 

"Yep, told you so."  Kids with asthma can spend a LOT of time at the pediatrician's office, asthma specialist's office, after-hours clinic or emergency room. They quickly learn how to "breathe" for the stethoscope and how to stand for the x-ray tech.

In fact, one of the times when Kitty was hospitalized, the nurses were laughing hysterically because Kitty asked them about their "stek-a-scope." The nurses said that it was the cutest thing they had ever seen that a 3 year old would even know what a stethoscope was!

Yep, welcome to My Life as an Asthma Mom. And now you can see things through the eyes of a kid with asthma. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Blue suckers and asthma

I love these suckers from Oriental Trading, they make me feel like a kid again!

What do they have to do with asthma? Well.......there are certain things that only another asthma mom would understand!

My Sweet Friend has a nursing background and has several kids with asthma.  

She sent me this text the other day:

"Lesson for me! Don't give your sick asthma child a blue sucker. I just went to wake my daughter up from her nap and nearly had a heart attack at seeing her blue lips!"

"Earlier that day, we had stopped to see my mom and she gave my daughter a sucker. I went straight home and put my daughter down for a nap. She was recovering from pneumonia, so when I checked on her and she had blue lips, my heart stopped and all of my training kicked in. All that education forced me to calm down and start assessing her. When I realized she was breathing perfectly fine, only then did I remember the blue sucker from earlier!"
Talk about panic!! The one thing you NEVER want to see is a child with asthma that has blue lips.

For asthma, Webmd lists when to call 911:

  • Severe wheezing when breathing both in and out
  • Coughing that won't stop
  • Very rapid breathing
  • Chest tightness or pressure
  • Tightened neck and chest muscles, called retractions
  • Difficulty talking
  • Feelings of anxiety or panic
  • Pale, sweaty face
  • Blue lips or fingernails
  • Or worsening symptoms despite use of your medications
Call 911 if you have any of these symptoms.

It's probably my fault that Sweet Friend panicked. My kids were hospitalized a LOT for asthma when they were younger (12 hospitalizations.) She heard all of the stories about their hospitalizations. In fact, Son #2 ended up in ICU twice - with blue lips (that shows that there is a dangerously low oxygen level.)

When my kids would get sick, I would always call Sweet Friend in a panic. She has a gift for listening to lungs with a stethoscope. She could hear crackling (pneumonia), balloons rubbing together sound (bronchitis), and reduced air movement. She would tell me which lung it was in (left or right) and upper or lower lobe. 

Sometimes I wasn't sure whether I should take my child to the doctor or not. I would call Sweet Friend and beg her to come over with her stethoscope. When she would hear something bad, I would head to the doctor. More than once, the doctor would say, "they sound fine." I would say, " friend is a nurse and she heard reduced air flow in the lower left lobe." The doctor would listen again, and low and behold! He would hear the same thing.

Then he would start oral steroids, give the kids a shot of steroids, or send us to the hospital so our child could be admitted for asthma.

So, blue lips can be a VERY dangerous symptom of an asthma emergency. 

Or....... it can be from a blue sucker!

Only another asthma mom would understand.

(Note to self: don't buy any more blue suckers - buy the other colors instead!)