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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Thunderstorm asthma"

(Shutterstock image)

What a weird world we live in! 

Many of you have probably heard about "thunderstorm asthma" that hit Melbourne, Australia last week and left so many people unable to breathe.
What is thunderstorm asthma?

The Age, an Australian news source, explained it this way:

"In Melbourne, this phenomenon occurs when moisture-charged winds immediately before a storm whip up rye grass pollen from the pastures north and west of town, sweeping them into the city. Rye grass is the pollen that causes most cases of hay fever in Melbourne."
For those of you with allergies and asthma, you probably know what it's like to have hay fever cause an asthma attack. 
Ragweed, grass, flowers or trees are in bloom - you inhale the pollen and instantly you start sneezing and your chest tightens. Then the cough starts and you frantically paw through your purse to get your inhaler. (That's what I do anyway.......)
On Good Morning America, Bill Nye the Science Guy explained thunderstorm asthma in this video 
(My kids watched Bill Nye the Science Guy when they were growing up, so now every time I see him I get his theme song stuck in my head....."Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill! Bill Nye the Science Guy!") 

In Melbourne, the problem was the crazy wind broke the pollen into smaller pieces that were then inhaled by anyone that was outside. It hit a lot of people all at the same time
The New York Times reported that patients struggling to breath:

".... flooded the city’s emergency rooms, swamped ambulance call lines and joined lines around pharmacies during six hours on Nov. 21. All were struggling for breath. About 8,500 people went to hospitals. Eight have died, and one remains in intensive care more than a week after a thunderstorm surged across Melbourne, carrying pollen that strong winds and rain broke into tiny fragments."
You can watch a video from The Age and see how hospitals dealt with the flood of patients. 

That's a LOT of patients all at once. 

So, what do you do to protect yourself if you have allergies and asthma? 

It's hard to prepare for a freak storm! But - I try to prepare for ANY asthma emergency. 

My asthma inhaler goes everywhere with me. It's been to LA, Denver, Chicago, Houston, Washington DC and Paris. I never leave home without it - even when I head to the gym for a quick work out. I don't bring my purse to the gym, but instead bring my drawstring bag and throw in my inhaler, workout gloves, keys and water bottle.

I also know the emergency signs of an asthma attack and when I need to call 911 

When my kids were younger, they were hospitalized 12 times with pneumonia (2 of those were in ICU), so I know how scary it can be when you can't breathe. 

My heart aches for those who lost their lives to thunderstorm asthma. And I hope those who were treated in the hospital can keep getting better.

This makes me want to hug my kids (even if they are in high school and college) I can just see it now, "Oh sheesh mom! Not in front of my friends!" (Insert eye roll from kids.)

That's My Life as an Asthma Mom

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Avoiding food allergies during Thanksgiving

(Shutterstock image)

And.....the fun begins of trying to avoid food allergies with holiday parties.

Son #2 is allergic to tree nuts, and I am allergic to seafood. So we are always on the lookout for cross contamination as restaurants, family parties and work parties. As careful as we try to be, we both had an accidental exposure last month, which makes me really nervous. Because the next allergic reaction to either of us will be anaphylaxis. 

This week, a family member gave us a loaf of delicious looking pumpkin bread, and when Hubby cut a slice -  I saw walnuts. I quickly turned to Son #2 and said, "Don't touch it!!!" 

Then I wrapped it up tightly, moved it to the back of the counter and sanitized the counter top. Sigh. Here we go again....

We have told family members several times about our food allergies, but it just goes in one ear and out the other. I'm not sure why - maybe because they don't have to deal with it, so they forget.

For us, it is life threatening.

This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner, and I will NOT have pecan pie in my house. I will buy any other kind of pie, but I will not bring nuts into my house.

In fact, I will be supplying the pie myself so I know that there are no nuts. 

Other friends and family can bring things like green salad, rolls and mashed potatoes. I don't have to worry about those foods.

If you have food allergies - let everyone know. You need to protect yourself.

Don't be afraid to ask what's in a certain food. I will pick up the serving utensil and dig into a dish and examine it. I will also ask if it contains seafood or nuts.

If there is something nearby that has nuts or seafood, I will ask that we serve ourselves dinner first so we can make sure people don't switch serving utensils - which can result in cross contamination. 

When I host a dinner, I will also put small signs in front of each dish so people can know the ingredients.

Speak up and protect yourself! The holidays are a wonderful time - but not if you are in the ER with anaphylaxis! 


Friday, November 18, 2016

Seeing Doctors In a New Light

I just attended a national allergy and asthma conference for doctors. As a Certified Asthma Educator (AE-C), I was hoping to learn as much as I could about new research, treatment plans. I want to make sure I am up to date when I help families understand more about asthma.

Since I work in Public Health, I felt like an outsider there. But it was interesting to see things from the doctor's point of view. 

Did you know that (gasp!) they aren't perfect?! (Seriously.....who IS perfect? No one!)

Did you know that they lose sleep worrying about patients? They worry:
  • Is there a different diagnosis? 
  • Did they miss something on a medical test? 
  • Is their patient going to be okay? 
  • Could they have done more?
The list of what they worry about can go on and on.

Not only are they doctors, but they are also parents and have their own families to worry about.

The EMR (electronic medical record) that they are required to use takes a LOT of time. It's supposed to be more accurate, but apparently many of the doctors hate it.

The presenter said that many times doctors go home after work and have "pajama time" - meaning they spend another hour or two finishing up online paperwork.

Not only do they worry, they also can suffer from depression - just like many of us do. It sounds like they are under a lot of pressure. 

This is the first time I have seen this side of their profession. 

What can we do to let doctors know that we love and appreciate them?

I send a Christmas card each year with a hand written thank you about how they specifically have helped me or one of my family members.

When I was more organized, I also would take them something from a local bakery along with the card.

I'm going to make sure my doctors get a nice card this year! And maybe I won't wait until Christmas - I think I'll do next week before Thanksgiving to show that I am thankful for them. 

Many times, we are not at our best when we are at the doctor for ourselves or with a child that is having problems with their asthma. (It's always hard watching a child struggle to breathe.)

So, I like to send something afterwards to thank them for keeping me calm and taking care of my kids.

What are you thankful for?

If it's your doctor - let them know!