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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?

Monday, March 5, 2018

Thanking the hospital staff again

We had a nice, long weekend with a Family Member in the hospital. I always hate getting one of "those" phone calls, then jumping in the car and driving 4 hours to the hospital.
This family member was in the ICU, then moved to a room on "the floor". 
During the 3 days we were there, I noticed the usual - room after room of patients and family members. And staff literally running from one room to the next.
How do they do it? Work 12 hour shifts and take care of one patient, run to the next room and are pleasant and helpful in that room?
When the nurse, aide or respiratory therapist would come in to Family Member's room. They were friendly, answered questions, and asked if WE needed anything (not just the family member.)
I wouldn't ask them if I needed something,  they are way too busy! Since I was there with the Hubby, one of us could stay in the room and the other could walk down to the cafeteria.
After we left to pick up something for Family Member, we decided to stop by a popular sandwich and bakery shop. We bought all of the cookies in the display, had them boxed up and left them at the nurse's desk with a note thanking them for all of their hard work.
The nurse popped in the hospital room a few minutes later, and while wiping crumbs from her cheek, thanked us for the cookies. She said she was so surprised that we would do something like that. 
I was surprised that she was surprised. Don't they ever get families that thank them?
I told her that we see you. We see you run from room to room. We see you patiently answer questions for Family Member (even if you just explained it 5 minutes ago.) We see you being friendly when we know your feet hurt and your back is sore. 
We see you and appreciate you.
We were surprised to see how quickly the cookies were eaten (and how excited the staff was), so we did the same thing the next day, with a new shift of hospital staff (that's the cookie photo above.)
Hospitals can bring out the worst in some people, and I'm sure they are not treated kindly in each room. But, I would like to spread a little joy and love.
And if I can do that with a big box of cookies, sign me up!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

When to keep kids home from school

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I was listening to the radio on my commute to work and heard the 2 male hosts discussing when it was okay to let their kids stay home from school,  and how they would treat them.

They had opposite views! 

Host A said that he would send his kids to school if they were sick (I wanted to reach through the radio and strangle him....) but if they had to stay home, they had to stay in bed and not have any electronics, Netflix, etc. He said he felt like his kids were "faking it."

Host B said he would keep his kids home if they were sick (thank you!) and to help them feel better, he  would stop and get ice cream, and shoot off confetti cannons. I like his view MUCH better!

As mom to 3 grown kids with asthma, my kids missed a LOT of school when they were little.

How do you know if you should send them? I found a blog from Dr. Chad Hayes called "Too Sick for School? Here's Your Guide"

He covers 25 different illnesses, including asthma, vomiting, rashes, pink eye, etc. Here's what he says about asthma:

"Children with asthma have a lot of different triggers—from allergen exposures to viral infections, exercise, and a lot more. There’s no concern about spreading this to other children (except maybe the cold that kicked it off), so it really depends on the child’s symptoms. If they are having difficulty breathing, or if they need treatments so frequently that the school or daycare can’t provide them, keep them at home. But remember, missing school frequently due to asthma is a sign that it’s not well-controlled."

For me, if my kids were in the Yellow Zone of their Asthma Action Plan, they would stay home. If I knew they were going to need breathing treatments on the nebulizer every 4-6 hours, I would want to keep my eye on them at home. My kids would usually go from bad to worse VERY quickly (and that's why we had 12 hospitalizations.)

It used to drive me crazy when parents would send their kids to school when they were sick. I don't want my kids around someone else who has a fever or is throwing up. Don't share the misery! There were many parents who KNEW their kids were sick and throwing up, but sent them to school anyway. Then it just spreads through the whole classroom, and then to our families.

It's also very easy for a simple cold to turn to pneumonia or bronchitis when you have asthma. And that would mean another hospitalization for my kids.

And when my kids were discharged from the hospital, Asthma Doc would tell me to keep the kids home from school for a week. It takes a while for their lungs to bounce back and he would stress that their bodies need to heal.

Talk to your doc to see what he or she recommends, so you're not infecting the rest of the classroom. 

As for me, when someone is at home sick, they get soup, ice cream, Netflix - and anything else they want. Our lungs work hard with asthma and we deserve a rest! 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


What's new with QVAR? If you are using QVAR now, you know that it's just like other inhalers, it uses a propellant to mix with the medicine and makes a nice little spray for you to inhale.

With the new QVAR, it's "breathe actuated". What does that mean?

If you have ever taken Advair, Breo, Anora Ellipta or Utibron Neohaler, you know that you usually click the inhaler device to the side, which will load a dose of the powdered medicine, and then you have to inhale it. 

With the QVAR RediHaler, it's the same idea - except that it's shaped to LOOK like a regular inhaler (which could be confusing for a lot of people).

 I haven't seen one in person yet, but it looks like it works like the ProAir RespiClick. With that rescue inhaler, you will remove the cap - which will click and load the dose, and then you inhale it. It doesn't have a propellant, so you will have to work a little harder to inhale the medicine. 

(For me, that's the hard part of the ProAir RespiClick. If I am having an asthma attack,  I CAN'T inhale very well, so I have a hard time using the ProAir RespiClick and will have to use my nebulizer instead.) But some people like it - so find what YOU like!

The QVAR RediHaler is a controller inhaler, which means you will take it every day. So, you should be able to take it every morning (or every morning and every night) - depending on what your doctor prescribes and easily inhale the medicine.

The reason they are starting to make the "breathe actuated" inhalers is to try to help people use their inhalers the right way. I STILL use a spacer with my inhaler. I'm not very coordinated (I can't walk and chew gum at the same time....) so I use a spacer to make sure I'm getting all of the medicine into my lungs.

Want to see if you are using your inhaler the right way? Watch this video, "Using Your Inhaler with a Spacer or Holding Chamber Device." 

So if you are one of those people who doesn't like to use a spacer with your inhaler, the new QVAR RediHaler might be an option for you. I don't really care what inhaler people use, as long as they USE it every day! (That's why they call them controller inhalers - because they control the swelling in your lungs. But you have to take it EVERY day!)

Asthma medicines are always changing, so thought I would share anything new with my readers. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any medicine you want to change!


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

New York passes bill to protect renters!

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Hats off to New York City for protecting those with asthma!

The New York City Council passed The Asthma Free Housing Act, Intro 385.

What does the bill do?

  • prioritize prevention measures in homes of susceptible persons – those with diagnosed asthma, COPD, or lung cancer;

  • require landlords to inspect for Indoor Allergen Hazards and correct them and their causes using approved methods;

  • require NYC Housing and Preservation Department (HPD) to inspect for Indoor Allergen Hazards and their causes, and issue appropriate violations;

  • require HPD to correct violations for Indoor Allergen Hazards where Landlords fail to do so promptly; 

  • create a system for physician referrals for housing inspections by the City for patients with asthma; and

  • codify safe and effective work practices for remediation of mold hazards.

What does your house or apartment have to do with your asthma? A LOT! There are many asthma triggers in a home or apartment that can make asthma worse. 

It doesn't take much to make our lungs cranky and cause an asthma attack. And if you are living in an apartment and breathing in mold spores, cockroach droppings, mice droppings and tobacco smoke, your lungs are going to let you know that they are not happy. 
Want proof that it's affecting renters? The national average for asthma in children is 1 in 11. In some areas of New York City with low-incomes, the rates are 1 in 4 kids.

As a mom with asthma who has 3 kids with asthma, I know that means lots of doctor visits, ER visits, medications and missed school days.

Why pass a bill to protect renters?

Well, you would think most landlords would do the right thing, right? Apparently not! As a former landlord, we would respond immediately if there was a problem with an apartment. We would tell our renters to let us know RIGHT AWAY if something was leaking. The faster we fixed it, the less damage there would be. 

Sometimes, they would call us and say that something had been leaking for months. It would take us a lot longer and be a lot more expensive for us to fix the problem.

We would ask why they didn't call sooner, and would gently remind them to let us know right away if something was wrong so we could quickly fix it.

They would tell us that other landlords would raise their rent or evict them if they asked for a repair.

This is frustrating for me that people don't do the right thing! But apparently we are in the minority of actually wanting our renters to have a nice, clean place to live. 

So, that means passing bills in some cities. 

Thank you New York City for protecting your renters!      


Monday, February 5, 2018

Therapy peacocks....oh puhleeze!

I saw something on the news last week that I thought was surely a publicity stunt - a "performance artist" who wanted to bring her peacock on the airplane.
Yes, you read that right - a peacock! It seems like there is a big increase in people trying to bring "comfort animals" on airplanes. The thing that is frustrating about this situation is that United Airlines told her 3 different times that she could NOT bring the peacock  - but she came to the airport with it anyway.
Oh puhleeze!
United Airlines since changed it's policy so owners have to 'confirm that the animal can behave in public and that it's up to date on it's shots.'
Here's a quote from a CBS News story:

"United has seen a 75 percent year-over-year increase in customers bringing emotional support animals onboard and has experienced a significant increase in onboard incidents involving these animals," the airline said in a statement. "We understand that other carriers have seen similar trends. The Department of Transportation's rules regarding emotional support animals are not working as they were intended, and we need to change our approach in order to ensure a safe and pleasant travel experience for all of our customers."

Speaking of a "pleasant travel experience, " how do those of us with allergies and asthma protect ourselves on a plane? We have rights too you know!

I REALLY don't want to sit next to someone's dog, cat, etc on a long flight. Especially if they are petting their comfort animal or service animal, which will release dog and cat hair (and dander into the air.) 

I would hate to be trapped next to an animal and have allergies set off an asthma attack.  I have had asthma attacks before from people's dogs and cats, but could at least leave their house or yard and get away from the animal. But, being stuck on a plane next to one? Yikes! 

The New York Times shares a horrible story about a family kicked off a plane because their son was allergic to dogs.

George Hobica, founder of says:

“I would say almost every plane has had a dog in the last month, and they’re not deep cleaned very often. You still have dander, and if you’re highly allergic you may react to it"

 From now on, I'll be taking allergy medicine BEFORE my flight - just in case. And I always have my inhaler with me on board the flight. 

If I am seated next to someone with a "comfort animal" or "service animal", I will ask to be re-seated, as far as possible from the animal!

I have no problem with people that need a comfort animal or service animal, I just can't sit next to one on a flight. 

I have a rights too - the right to be able to breath on a flight and not coughing so hard from an asthma attack that I throw up. That would make for a fun flight...



Monday, January 29, 2018

Yeah, I know everything about asthma, you can't help me

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Every time I hear someone say (or act like) they know everything there is to know about asthma, I just want to do a face palm.

This isn't a competition to see who knows more about asthma!

NO ONE knows everything there is to know about asthma. There are a myriad of people who work with asthma - researchers, doctors, asthma specialists, health educators, parents of kids with asthma, people with asthma. 

We all come from different backgrounds and have different experiences.

I LOVE the work researchers do! They find new medications, develop new asthma tracking apps, experiment with environmental interventions. etc. Do they know everything about asthma? No - because many of them don't actually LIVE with the disease! But some researchers ask patients to help guide their research based on their experiences (with asthma, diabetes, cancer, etc.) PCORI is one example of an organization that funds research guided by the patients!  

I love my doctors too - but many of them don't have asthma either. And if Asthma Doc is out of town, I may have to go to my Primary Care Doc. He doesn't specialize in asthma or understand what it's like to live with asthma, but he can follow the NAEPP guidelines for asthma control. That helps him to know what medications to prescribe and when to change them based on a patient's control or severity. 

Health Educators can provide what the doctors and nurses don't have time to do - asthma education. But it may be hard for them to really "get it" if they don't live with asthma and have never had an asthma attack.  

Parents of kids with asthma really have their hands full, managing each kids' symptoms and prescriptions. As the mom of 3 grown kids with asthma, I spent my fair share of time at Asthma Doc's office, the Pediatrician's office, After Hours offices, Emergency Room and in the hospital. But, since I have asthma, I knew EXACTLY what they were feeling and how to help them.

There are people who have asthma but don't have allergies. So they can have dogs, cats, and a yard full of flowers. Wow! How would that be? IF someone's dog walks up to me, (and even if I don't pet it), I will start sneezing and have my chest tighten up.

Those of us with asthma AND allergies have a very different viewpoint of asthma. Especially when you are allergic to so many different things - that can all set off an asthma attack. Some of us take allergy medicine every day, some of us have years worth of allergy shots. Some do both.

Some parents have never had to deal with a kid with asthma being hospitalized (lucky!) My kids were hospitalized 12 times for asthma (2 ICU). I was usually sitting at their bedside, coughing right along with them, because when they got pneumonia, I got pneumonia. 

Some people with asthma only have to use their Albuterol (rescue inhaler) a couple of times a year. Wow....really? How would that be? I use mine once or twice a week (and I already take a daily controller inhaler.)

Some people with asthma have never had to use a biologic. Biologics are medications given by injection for those whose asthma can't be controlled with traditional treatment programs. My son started on the first biologic back in 2008 and had monthly injections for 7 years!
Do any of these people know more than someone else? No - because we all experience asthma differently.

Even if you think you know everything, you can always learn more!

I watch webinars every month from Allergy & Asthma Network.   

I watch asthma webinars from various state health department Asthma Programs, the EPA and CDC. 

I attend national asthma education conferences every year.

I read about new research in medical journals (they're really not that bad once you get used to them!)

How do you stay up to date?

Asthma is always changing, and if someone wants to share something with you, you can politely listen. If  it's new info, great! If if something you already know, that's okay - they were trying to help.

Remember that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences and asthma is different for everyone. It's not a competition of who knows more, it's a collaboration to learn and share!