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Monday, June 29, 2015

Hmmm....a little worried about this weekend


So, Independence Day is this weekend. I can't seem to sing The Star Spangled Banner without getting a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes (it must be from allergies, right?!)

The one thing that really worries me about celebrating the 4th of July is fireworks. Once again, it seems like asthma has to get in the way of having fun. Grrrr. Our city celebration was last month, but we were gone that night and missed watching those fireworks. 

So, Hubby will want to light off fireworks in the street in front of our house. The only problem is that all the other families on our street will also be lighting fireworks - and the street gets REALLY smokey!

In fact, a long time ago when Son #2 was young, he ended up in the hospital (in ICU) thanks to smoke from a forest fire and from fireworks. The one thing you never want to see is one of your kids in the hospital for asthma - especially when they put the heart monitor on them, then we know we are in BIG trouble!!  They are watching for respiratory arrest     He survived, but some people do not. National Jewish Health explains it this way:

"Respiratory arrest is when the breathing stops.  This is not a common problem, but obviously can occur with both asthma and with pneumonia.  All asthmatics are vulnerable to having a severe attack and suffering a fatal outcome.  Unfortunately, this is not well known by the public."
 This is an article from Spain about the health effects of fireworks

So, ever since that day my son ended up in the hospital, I have been a little worried about being around fireworks. Not only for my kids (all three have asthma) but I also for myself. More than once, I have had to use my inhaler while the family was outside lighting off fireworks. 

So, what to do? We are prepared for everything. Not only do we have a five gallon bucket of water nearby to dump the fireworks in (we are trying to prevent a house fire). But I also have my inhaler handy, and will sometimes watch the fireworks from inside the house (where the air is clean!!!)

If you aren't sure if you should take someone with asthma to the emergency room, here is a short page from Nemours Hospital called When to Seek Help

Happy Independence Day everyone and I hope you can breathe well!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Can you outgrow your asthma?







Do you ever have people tell you that you will outgrow your asthma? I do!!!

I have people say, "My brother had a room mate in college whose sister had a best friend that played on a softball team with another girl who outgrew her asthma. So you will too!!!" (It's always some variation of a long story like that......)

I'm sure they mean well, but it gets REALLY annoying. I have to tell them, "Well......I'm almost 50 years old - and I haven't outgrown my asthma!" 

I just read an article on WebMD called "Can Kids Outgrow Asthma?"

The article says that if a child has asthma like symptoms that disappear around age 5 or 6, it isn't asthma. The article says it's a temporary condition that doesn't turn into a lung condition.

The article goes on to say:
"Most kids who have symptoms like wheezing and shortness of breath beyond that age are considered to have asthma, and they may always have it. But for about half of them, symptoms go away around adolescence.

It isn’t clear why this happens, says Chitra Dinakar, MD, a pediatric allergist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO. The triggers that once caused flares don't, she says, but the kid still has asthma.

The break in symptoms is more common among boys, children without sensitivity to furry animals, and kids with less severe asthma."
The article also talks about going into remission. BUT -

"There’s always a chance of the symptoms coming back. Sometimes they reappear in adulthood, and they can be brought on by triggers different from before. In about half the kids whose symptoms decline during adolescence, they'll reappear when they hit their 30s or 40s, studies say."

That's what happened to me. I have new triggers now - perfume and spray cleaners. I blogged before about having to ask someone in our office to PLEASE not wear perfume, because it would cause an another asthma attack. SIGH.

The article also said:

"If your child has the following, she’s more likely to have persistent, lifelong asthma.
  • A parent with asthma
  • Eczema
  • Sensitivity to airborne allergens (like pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds, or molds or dust mites)
  • Food allergies (milk, eggs, or peanuts)
  • Wheezing when she doesn’t have a cold
  • A high count of a certain type of white blood cells
Smoking, weight gain, and other factors can also increase the chances of symptoms coming back."

For our family, asthma is VERY common on my side of the family and on Hubby's. So, there is a strong genetic trait. And we all have life long allergies.

So, in our case......no - my kids won't outgrow their asthma. Sorry about that guys!  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Alert bracelet

I was watching a video the other day on Facebook, and it showed  a police officer who had pulled over a car. The officer had returned to his police cruiser to write a ticket. When the officer went back to the car, the driver had stopped breathing and had turned blue.

The dash cam was still turned on in his car, and it shows the officer trying to get the person to respond. He then pulls the person out and starts CPR. A passing motorist (an emergency room nurse) stops to help. The nurse asks the officer what happened. The officer doesn't know, and the nurse asks if the driver has a medical alert bracelet.

Then it hit me - I should be wearing a medic alert bracelet (or necklace, or some type of jewelry) to show that I have asthma! They also have medical alert jewelry for food allergies (I am allergic to seafood and carry an EpiPen). 

When Son #2 was younger, I always made him wear a medic alert bracelet. You know - the kind that you can get at the pharmacy. He was in the hospital 8 times when he was younger, and two of those times were ICU admissions. He had status asthmaticus (severe asthma that doesn't respond to regular treatment.) It was really scary. He could wake up with a cold and cough one morning, and be admitted to the hospital and put in ICU the next day. His asthma attacks hit hard and fast. And it always worried me. You can image how thrilled he was to have to wear a medic alert bracelet to school. I think he was secretly happy when it broke!

There are a LOT of different types of medical alert bracelets, necklaces, etc. I found a lot of companies that make them. Medical Info Products has:

  • Kids medical ID bracelets
  • Teens medical ID bracelets
  • Medical ID watches
  • or you can even make your own bracelet!
Full disclosure - I am not affiliated with any of the companies I am highlighting. I just wanted to show some options. MedID's  also has a lot of options. You can also find bracelets and necklaces on eBay and Overstock.com.

IF something happened to you or a loved one, and you passed out. It would be VERY helpful to medical personnel to know that you have asthma and food allergies. That would help them know how to treat you.

Let's hope you never need it, but you never know........

Monday, June 15, 2015

How to check for drug interactions

(Shutterstock image)

This is what life looks like around my house.........LOTS of piles of tissues and LOTS of allergy medicine. With so many options (allergy nose spray, long acting allergy medicine, short term allergy medicine, ) how do you know what is safe to take and when? Can you take different combinations of the allergy medicine - depending on how miserable you are? And can you take over the counter allergy medicine with asthma medicine?

With the prescription medicines, the pharmacist can safely tell us what we can and can't take together. There have been several times when we were at the pharmacy and the pharmacist has caught a drug interaction. He talked to me about it, then called the doctor's office to have them change the prescription. I love that guy! He keeps us safe!

But what about the over the counter medicine? And how can you check to see if there is a drug interaction if the pharmacy is closed? 

 Daughter Kitty and I were trying to check and see if there were any drug interactions on several over the counter medications and prescription medications on Saturday night. (There are some pharmacies that are open 24 hours a day. There are 2 in our county. What if you are discharged from the Emergency Room at 2:00 am and you need Albuterol vials for your nebulizer? There has to be SOMEWHERE to fill prescriptions during the night! Check and see what's available where you live.)

I remembered a website called Drugs.com 

It's really helpful because you can use their Drug Interaction Checker

It's easy to use. You:
  1.  type in the first medication
  2.  then click the blue "add" button 
  3. type in the second medication
  4. then click the blue box that says "check for interaction"
  5. results! (it will either say "no interaction found", or it may have a yellow caution triangle that shows an interaction.)
It's just another fun resource I've found over the years. You can't always rely on the doctor and pharmacist, you have to be ready to take care of yourself if they aren't around.  

Hope it helps! :)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Asthma and Stress!

(Shutterstock image)

Did you know that stress can cause an asthma attack?!

WebMD has a page that talks about how stress can cause an asthma attack. They say:

Stress and asthma: What's the connection?

"Stress can affect the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, immune, and central nervous systems. Asthma is no exception.
Stress can create strong physiological reactions that lead to airway constriction and changes in the immune system, which can worsen asthma symptoms.

The mechanism between asthma and anxiety is many-fold. Uncontrolled emotions can work the nerves and cause constriction of muscles, like the smooth muscles of the airways in the lungs. They tighten up and constrict, which can worsen wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness in people with asthma.
Although stress and anxiety start in your mind, asthma is a physical disease of the lungs.
It is important to note that asthma is not a psychosomatic disease. It's not in your head. Stress can trigger symptoms if you already have the disease, but if you don't have asthma, stress does not all of a sudden cause a person to develop the disease."

We had a "fun" weekend and had a little (well....a LOT) of stress when our basement flooded (yet again.) We had 1.25" of rain in an hour, and it decided to run down the back stairs and into our basement (the water even went through the sand bags we had piled up to protect the basement from the LAST flood!) Argh!!!!!!!!

I couldn't believe it was happening - again!

This flood wasn't as bad as the last time our basement flooded. We had shop vacs, carpet cleaners and piles of towels to soak up the water. Son #1 was on a date, and I called him in a panic to come and help. (I bet his date thought that was the worst date she had EVER been on!) But it was one of those "all hands on deck" times.

We spent 5 hours sucking the water out of the carpet. Once the carpet cleaning machines were no longer getting any water out, we started the 3 industrial fans and pointed them down toward the wet areas of the carpet. I think we can save the carpet this time! It was a LOT dryer the next morning.  (Last time, insurance wouldn't cover the damage - so we had to pay $1500 for new carpet. I was NOT happy.)
 
I am also using my moisture meter  to see how long we have to keep the fans going. I am planning on at LEAST one week, maybe longer.

But, with all that stress, both Daughter Kitty and I ended up having an asthma attack and had to use our inhalers. And I was REALLY trying to stay calm.....but sometimes you can't help it.

But, I am remembering our family mantra:

(Google image for background)

Friday, June 5, 2015

How do I know if my controller medicine is working?



It's hard to know if some medications are working, because you may not feel any different. 

However, you STILL have to take them unless your doctor tells you to stop.

Some of those medicines that work (even though you can't tell) are:
 
  • Blood pressure lowering medications
  • Cholesterol lowering medications
  • Asthma controller (or maintenance medications)  

So, why should you keep taking your asthma maintenance medicine, even if you aren't feeling any different? With asthma, you can get swelling in your lungs (which you can't see or feel.)

Mayo Clinic explains it this way:

"Inhaled corticosteroids: These anti-inflammatory drugs are the most effective and commonly used long-term control medications for asthma. They reduce swelling and tightening in your airways. You may need to use these medications for several days to weeks before they reach their maximum benefit. " (They are referring to corticosteroids such as):

  • Fluticasone (Flovent Diskus)
  • Budesonide (Pulmicort)
  • Mometasone (Asmanex Twisthaler)
  • Beclomethasone (Qvar)
  • Ciclesonide (Alvesco)


Doctors also use bronchodilators, which:


"Long-acting beta agonists (LABAs): These bronchodilator (brong-koh-DIE-lay-tur) medications open up narrowed airways and reduce swelling. Their effects last at least 12 hours, and they're used to control moderate to severe asthma and to prevent nighttime symptoms. LABAs are used on a regular schedule along with inhaled corticosteroids. Although they're effective, they've been linked to severe asthma attacks. For this reason, LABAs are taken only in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid." 
  • Salmeterol (Serevent)
  • Formoterol (Foradil, Perforomist)


"Your doctor can also give you a medication which combines the corticosteroid and bronchodilator:
Some inhaled asthma medication combinations contain both a corticosteroid and a bronchodilator:"
  • "Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus)
  • Budesonide and formoterol (Symbicort)
  • Mometasone and formoterol (Dulera)"
"As with other LABA medications, these inhalers may increase your risk of having a severe asthma attack and should be used with caution."

"Leukotriene modifiers
These medications block the effects of leukotrienes, immune system chemicals that cause asthma symptoms. Leukotriene modifiers can help prevent symptoms for up to 24 hours. Examples include:
  • Montelukast (Singulair)
  • Zafirlukast (Accolate)
  • Zileuton (Zyflo)
In rare cases, montelukast has been linked to psychological reactions, such as agitation, aggression, hallucinations, depression and suicidal thinking. See your doctor right away if you have any unusual reaction."

So, those are all of the controller (or maintenance) medications. 

As you can tell from the info from Mayo Clinic, it's important to take them because they help keep the swelling down in your lungs and open up narrowed airways.

Everyone with asthma is different, and your doctor has to decide the best treatment plan for you. But we have found that if I or the kids weren't taking their medicine every day, we would start to have an increase in symptoms. (Coughing, tight chest, short of breath)

We also had 12 hospitalizations for asthma over the years, and some of those were because my son or daughter wasn't taking their medicine every day. They developed swelling and narrow airways, so when they caught a cold, it turned into pneumonia and another hospitalization.

We now all take our maintenance (or controller) medications EVERY day.

Call me picky, but I kind of like to keep breathing....
 
 
 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer camp!


School is out and now it's time for summer camp. But - do you ever feel nervous about sending your kids with asthma to camp?

What if their allergies flare up? What if they have an asthma attack? I pack their medicine - but are they going to remember to take it?

There is a great resource - American Lung Association has asthma camps in most states. What makes their camps different is that they have allergy and asthma specialists, registered nurses and  respiratory therapists at the camp 24 hours a day. So - no matter what happens, they can take care of your little camper! They also make sure the kids take their asthma medicine on schedule and can make special arrangements for kids with dietary needs. 

They provide asthma education AND a lot of fun! 

To get an idea of what they are like, check out this asthma camp in California, SCAMP camp.  (Southern California Asthma Management Program) They also have a Youtube video that shows the camp! You can see kids playing soccer, climbing and rappelling, canoeing, etc - all under the watchful eye of camp counselors and medical personel.

If you think you can't afford it - talk to your state American Lung Association. Ours offers "camperships" (scholarships) because no child is ever turned away because they can't pay for camp. 

You can relax knowing that your child is in good hands. You could even use that time to clean out their room and get rid of stuff while they are gone (did I just admit to that?!)

Now........ where did I put the sleeping bags?