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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Advocating for asthma!


Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the Allergy & Asthma Network Asthma Blogger Summit. Thanks Tonya and AAN! Who is Allergy & Asthma Network?


"Allergy & Asthma Network is the leading nonprofit organization whose mission is to end the needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies and related conditions through outreach, education, advocacy and research."
A big part of what they work on is advocacy. What is advocacy? It's talking to your legislators about important topics for allergies and asthma.

As you can see from the slide, there are several things Allergy & Asthma Network are working on:

  • Safe, effective and affordable medication
  • Affordable and high-quality healthcare and insurance coverage
  • Nurses in all K-12 public schools
  • Appropriate funding for allergy & asthma health and research programs
  • Access to innovative therapies and technologies to advance medical treatment
  • Mitigate environmental health hazards and address climate change
  • End health disparities and move toward greater health equity 
 
I was able to meet with my legislators during Allergy & Asthma Day on Capitol Hill (AADCH). It wasn't as scary as it sounds. I'm not a lobbyist (they are usually paid to meet with ask for people and try to convince members of congress to support their interests.)
 
With advocacy, we talk to our legislators and educate about problems (it's hard for us when the school nurse isn't there to help my child when they have an asthma attack or allergic reaction to a food because the school nurses oversee 5-9 schools, it's important to have stock asthma inhalers in schools to treat students who forget theirs or have an asthma attack for the first time, it would be VERY helpful to have epinephrine autoinjectors in airplane medical kits, etc.) 

Many families go and share stories about how their life is impacted by allergies or asthma. It makes it real for the legislators to see what their constituents are dealing with.
 
In fact, did you know that education and advocacy helped get laws passed in all 50 states that allow kids to carry their asthma inhalers in school? Since schools are drug free zones, students were not able to carry their inhalers with them. Now they can (check with your state, you usually need to fill out a form each school year.)
 
The legislators have so many different problems that they are working on, that it helps when their constituents talk to them and educate them about different issues. I educate about allergies and asthma all day long, every day! They affect my life and my kids. So, it's easy to talk to my legislators. 
 

Want to get involved? You can! Contact Charmayne Anderson at 1-800-878-4403 or CAnderson@AllergyAsthmaNetwork.org.
 
You can help make a difference!  
 
 

 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Ah, spring time and allergies!



It's spring and my nose knows it! You can hear LOTS of sneezing going on at my house right now.

In fact, we buy allergy medicine and tissues in bulk. Hello warehouse club, we are headed your way!

My husband and I passed on our allergies to all 3 kids, so we are all miserable together in the spring and summer. Actually, we are miserable year round with allergies, but spring and summer are the worst. 

And nice mom that I am, I also passed along my asthma to all 3 kids too! So it's fun with allergies AND asthma at our house.

The funny thing about it though is that all of us prefer different medicines to treat our allergies and asthma.

Daughter Kitty likes one allergy pill, while her brothers each like a different brand of pill. And Hubby and I both like different allergy nose sprays. 

It's important that you need to find what's right for you and your body.

We have all had LOTS of visits with Asthma Doc, and he has recommended that each of us try different allergy nose sprays and pills. And he always asks for our feedback. Did it work? Did we like it? Why or why not? If we didn't like it, he would advise us to take a different brand. 

Make sure you talk to YOUR doc before you try a new medicine or change one. Tell him why you like or don't like a certain allergy medicine or nose spray.

Kitty and Son #2 don't like allergy nose spray because they get a bloody nose with it. But Hubby and I both use allergy nose spray and DON'T get bloody noses. 
Go figure.

Asthma Doc has also told us a few other things that we use to help with allergies:

  • Keep the doors and windows closed in the house (this keeps the pollen outside)
  • Keep the windows up in the car and use air conditioning (also keeps the pollen out)
  • Use Central Air instead of Swamp Coolers (Swamp/Evaporative Coolers allow pollen into the home and also increase the humidity level. They can also leak, which can cause mold problems)
  • Remove your shoes when you enter the home (store them in a basket or shelf - this keeps pollen, dirt and grime outside.)
  • Shower before you go to bed at night (this removes the pollen from your hair and skin)
  • Wash your sheets weekly in hot water (so, you shower and have a clean body -  then jump into a clean bed with clean sheets. It helps us sleep MUCH better.)
  • Keep your bedroom window closed at night (letting in the evening breeze will also let in pollen)


If you are doing everything you can to avoid the pollen and other allergies, are taking allergy medicine, but are still miserable, it may be time to talk to your doc about allergy shots (immunotherapy.)

Allergy shots are usually covered by insurance and take 3-5 years to complete. So, you need to be committed to them. Read the link above to see how they work. 

And make sure you ALWAYS wait 30 minutes after allergy shots. They tell you to do that just in case you have a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis.)

It can and does happen after allergy shots. All 3 kids had allergy shots, yet only one had anaphylaxis. And believe me - I never want to see that again as long as I live. Talk about scary!

So, find out what's right for you. Allergy pills? Allergy nose spray? Allergy shots?

Talk to your doc so you can find a way to enjoy spring and summer. 

Now pardon me while I go find my box of tissues. 

Achoo!







Tuesday, April 24, 2018

What's a Certified Asthma Educator (AE-C)?


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In every profession, you have titles, licenses and certifications. In the world of asthma, the goal is to be a Certified Asthma Educator (AE-C). 

If you want to learn more about asthma, you want to learn from the best, right?!
That's where an AE-C comes in. An AE-C is a voluntary certification in the U.S., so, those of us that have studied for and passed the exam do it because we want to be known as an expert in the field. (I didn't even get a raise after passing the exam and getting my certification!)

It's not a easy exam (only 65% of people who take the exam actually pass it), and it's not cheap (I paid $350 to take the exam) and it takes about 3 hours. Did I mention that it's not an easy test? There are only about 3,500 AE-C's in the US that have passed the exam (that's not many considering there are over 25 million people here that have asthma! )

 How do you qualify to take the exam? NAECB (The National Asthma Educator Certification Board) says you are eligible IF:



1. You are a licensed or credentialed health care professionals OR

2. You provide professional direct patient asthma education and counseling with a minimum of 1,000 hours experience in these activities. 


NAECB lists the following currently licensed or credentialed health care professionals that qualify for the exam under #1.
Physicians (MD, DO)
Physician Assistants (PA-C)
Nurse Practitioners (NP)
Nurses (RN, LPN)
Respiratory Therapists (RRT, CRT)
Pulmonary Function Technologists (CPFT, RPFT)
Pharmacists (RPh)
Social Workers (CSW)
Health Educators (CHES)
Physical Therapists (PT)
Occupational Therapists (OT)
I fit under category #1, and was able to take (and pass!) the AE-C exam because I am a Health Educator and had a rigorous course study for my 4 year Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree. My classes included: first aid, anatomy and physiology, biology, physical science, behavioral science, epidemiology, human diseases, medical terminology, ethics, health and diversity, environmental health, modifying health behavior, research methods, bio- statistics, etc.

Once I made it through all those classes and graduated in Public Health, I could sit for the CHES exam through NCHEC. (This is also a $300 exam that takes 3 hour and also has a low pass rate.) It also means you are top in the field of Public Health. To maintain my CHES, I must re-certify with 75 continuing education (CE) credit hours over a 5 year period. I have to keep my CHES credential current to keep my AE-C current. With the AE-C credential, you need 35 hours of CE credits over 5 years. So that's 110 hours of CE credits.....every 5 years.

What does all this mean?

It means that anyone who takes the test must have at least a bachelors degree and some pretty intense classes in hard science, health, and medical field. 

AND once you pass it, you must continue to learn more by attending webinars from Allergy & Asthma Network , the EPA, state health department asthma programs, etc. This helps us learn more about the latest research, medications, changes to the guidelines, and much more.

I also attend the National Association of Asthma Educators conference.

It means learning, and then learning some more.

And I'm suddenly feeling tired that I have done so much!

So, if you are lucky enough to work with a Certified Asthma Educator, know that they are highly educated and trained, and must continue to learn more and stay updated so they can share that information with their clients.

And with that, I am going to take a nap.  I am tired.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Tell you doctor if you hate your medicine!


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My friend was telling me that she just had to use her Albuterol inhaler, and now her hands are shaking. She said that she probably had to use her Albuterol inhaler because she stopped using her controller inhaler. When looked at her surprised, she said she stopped using her controller inhaler because she didn't like the way it made her feel.  

I wanted to give her one of those, "You know better than that!" lectures. Instead, I gently reminded her that her controller inhaler does just that - controls the swelling in her lungs. It's a preventative medicine (just like people who take medicine for high blood pressure or high cholesterol.) You have to take your preventative medicine every day, knowing that it works. 

I grabbed my asthma medication poster from Allergy & Asthma Network and showed her the rainbow of inhalers that are available. 

I told her that if she doesn't like her medicine, let her doctor know! The doctor is going to send a prescription to the pharmacy, and if they don't hear back from you, they are going to assume that you are taking it. 

I showed her the green stripe on the poster, which shows all of the combination inhalers. That's the row that she's on now. I showed her where her inhaler was on the row and showed her all of the other inhalers that she could take. A lot of that depends on her insurance and which medicines her insurance company decides it wants to pay for. 

It's helpful if she works with her doctor and pharmacy to see if she can switch her inhaler. I mean, what's the point of paying for an inhaler (we all know they aren't cheap.....) if she's not going to use it?  

If you get a new inhaler, and don't like it. Don't stop taking it! Call your doc and let him know you don't like it. They can change your prescription to one you will use. 

We all want good, healthy lungs. And part of keeping your lungs healthy is taking care of them. Which means staying on your controller inhaler if the doctor has prescribed one for you.

So, keep that conversation going with your doc! 


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Coupons for prescriptions



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I popped into the pharmacy yesterday to pick our daily controller inhalers for my daughter and I, and had quite the shock at the register. They range up at $155.

It's a new pharmacy tech, so I said "Wait a minute. What was so expensive?" He said my daughter's controller inhaler was $80, and mine was $75.

I know that my pharmacy will find a manufacturer's coupon and apply that to our co-pay, so instead of paying a $80 copay for my daughter's inhaler, it will be $30. My co-pay for my inhaler is usually $75 but with a coupon, I can get it for $25.

Some of you may be thinking, "I pay WAY more than that each month for my inhaler!" I get it. My work has a $6,000 deductible for our insurance, which is a complete joke. My coworkers have to pay $250 EVERY month for their inhaler. They also have to pay full price for every doctor visit and emergency room visit.

So, I use my husband's insurance instead. It has a lower deductible and covers medications and doctor's visits once we meet our deductible. 
I know I shouldn't complain about paying $80 and $75 for an inhaler. But that's not all we get at the pharmacy. There are 5 people in my family with allergies, and 4 have asthma. So, we end up buying LOTS of controller inhalers, rescue inhalers, Albuterol vials for the nebulizer, and allergy medicine.  Plus medicine for other chronic conditions. So we use the manufacturer's coupons anytime we can!

When my son was younger, he was on a biologic (injections) for asthma. His little vial of Xolair was $1,000 every month (he was on the injections for 7 years). Our insurance covered most of it, but we still had a $150 co-pay. And that's on top of all the other inhalers, allergy medicine, and allergy shots. So, we found co-pay help on Needymeds. If you are on Xolair, you can get financial help here. 
Needymeds is a clearinghouse for co-pay assistance. Based on how much you make, you can find help for all/part of your medicine. Any medicine, not just asthma medicine. 

Here is the link to the brand name medications. Just click on the alphabet letter for your medicine. Each medicine will have co-pay help, coupons or both!

I don't use coupons at the grocery store, but I do at the pharmacy! I can save $50 each time I get an inhaler by using a coupon. Sign me up!
I will list some websites below for coupons. Your savings will depend on your insurance. 
Check here  for Dulera and Asmanex (this is good for 12 inhalers.)
If you use Symbicort, check here.
For Advair, check here. 
Check here for QVAR.
There are many more medicines and websites, but I can't list them all. Just type in the name of the medicine and "coupon" in my search bar. See what you can find!  (Or check on the Needymeds website for coupons.)
Another option is to use the website GoodRx. You can type in the name of your medicine and your zip code, and it will tell you how much your medicine costs at each pharmacy near you. Sometimes you can find your medicine for less at another pharmacy.
Good luck!  

Friday, March 30, 2018

1st time in the hospital?


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Last night, a dear friend sent a text to tell me that her daughter was in the hospital. She said she needed my expert help. As a Certified Asthma Educator (AE-C), and mom of 3 grown kids with asthma, I knew I could help.

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know that my kids were hospitalized 12 times when they were younger (mostly due to pneumonia but once from smoke from a forest fire.)

So, I have had a little experience with kids in the hospital.

Things I wished I would have know when my kids were first diagnosed:



  • I once heard a doctor say if you wonder if.....and your next thought is "take my child to the emergency room", then go! The hospital has experts that can treat your child. If they just need to be treated and released, they will do that. But if they need to be admitted, you will be soooo glad you took them in to the emergency room. 

  • Ask questions! What is that pill? How often should she take it? What are the side effects? What is the IV for? What are you adding to the IV? What are you giving her for a breathing treatment? (I once had a new respiratory therapist give my daughter the adult dose instead of the child dose for an Albuterol treatment.) How do I know if she's getting better or worse? What should I look for?

  • Do you have a tooth brush? (Yes, the nurse or CNA can bring you a toothbrush, toothpaste and even a pair of scrubs if you are staying the night!) One time, I came to the ER after work with my son, and I was still wearing a skirt and high heels from work. I was not about to spend all night in those! So, the nurse found a pair of scrubs, slippers, and a toothbrush and toothpaste for me.
Let people know your child is in the hospital. When friends and neighbors ask what they can do to help, tell them! Ask them to pick or drop off other kids at school. Ask it they can get some bread and milk while they are at the grocery store. 

Let your child's teacher know. During one of the 12 hospitalizations for my kids, my son's 1st grade teacher came to see him at the hospital and brought a toy for him. Let all of your kid's teachers know that they have a sibling in the hospital. Your other children will need a little extra love and attention during that time. 

Most of all, be kind to yourself. Do some deep breathing to relax, have a good cry if you need one, eat a little chocolate. 

It's hard, but you can get through it!  




Monday, March 19, 2018

Ahh, spring and people burning brush.....Hey, wait!

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It's finally spring out west! And neighbors are already trimming their trees and bushes - and burning the clippings. Argh!

On my way home from work, I drove past a home just long enough for my car to fill up with smoke from them burning brush. I was starting a cold, so my lungs were already cranky. By the time I got home a short 5 minutes later, I was in desperate need of my inhaler.

I love spring - but not when neighbors trim their yard and burn the brush.

When my kids were in elementary school, a big problem was a neighbor who had a small orchard right next to the school. He trimmed all of his trees and decided to burn the tree limbs - during lunch recess - when 500 kids were outside playing. The entire playground was full of smoke.

I was NOT happy.

Since my kids were hospitalized a LOT when they were little, I was always trying to protect their little lungs. So, I marched over to the school to talk to the principal. 

It wasn't just my kids I was worried about. Its ALL the kids in the school with asthma. 1 in 12 kids have asthma, which means 2-3 kids per class, depending on the size. Times that by Kindergarten through 6th grade, and that's a lot of kids in one elementary school with asthma. 

I wanted to protect all of the kids from the fire and smoke. School is out at 3:00, why can't the neighbor wait until then to burn the tree limbs? Smoke has been known to hospitalize kids with asthma (really - my son ended up in ICU from smoke) so fires and smoke me nervous. 

From what I remember, they had me call the Fire Marshall and work out details with him to keep the neighbor from starting a fire and filling the playing with smoke.

Is there another way to get rid of tree branches and bushes? 

We have a lot of trees in our yard - 8 full grown trees, plus lots of bushes and a wisteria vine that grows up our pergola. So when my husbands trims the yard, he ends up with a truck full of branches and clippings.
 
Do we burn them? No!
 
The Hubby loads up the branches and trimmings and drives to the landfill at the edge of town. Our town has a green waste at the landfill, and they use a chipper there to grind up the branches and make mulch. Our town also has green waste garbage cans that we can fill up each week with tree limbs, ivy clippings, grass clippings, etc.
 
All of that goes to the green waste at the landfill, where they combine it into mulch. Then the neighbors head to the landfill to get mulch for their gardens. Win win! Recycling at it's finest!
 
We aren't filling the neighborhood with smoke, we are getting rid of the green waste, and it's being recycled for other neighbors to use in their gardens.  

And most of all, we are protecting our lungs.

Anyone else have a tough time with neighbors burning tree limbs or leaves?