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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

School supplies and asthma


Mmmmhhhhmm, it's that time of year again. 

The stores are full of notebooks, pencils and cool stuff for lockers. I feel like telling my daughter, "When I was your age....I was lucky I even HAD a locker -  and we didn't have stuff to decorate it!" Yep, I'm getting old.

I should probably take daughter Kitty to the store to get school supplies - since school starts next week. I'm a little slow.....

But besides school supplies, there is something else you need for school when you have asthma.


You can look of the laws of some of the states on the CDC's Public Health Law website.

You also have to have your doc fill an asthma action plan and permission form EVERY school year. There are different forms for each state. Here's one I found from American Lung Association 



 My school nurse always sends out an Asthma Action Plan and permission form every summer. That gives us time to see Asthma Doc so Kitty can have her annual asthma exam and Asthma Doc can fill out her paperwork for school.

Is your child ready to carry their inhaler in school and do they know when and how to use it? American Lung Association has a "Student Readiness Assessment Tool" that can help you decide. It's 15 questions in 4 areas that can help you find out what your child knows about asthma and if they know when to use their inhaler.
 
Don't forget to include the teacher in their asthma plans. At back to school night, I meet with all of Kitty's teacher and let them know that she has allergies and asthma, carries her inhaler (legally), and may need to use it during class. 
 
But, since it's embarrassing for Kitty to use it during class, we come up with a "sign" she can use with her teachers to let them know that she wants to leave the classroom and use her inhaler. (Personally, I don't care if anyone sees me use my inhaler. And as a Certified Asthma Educator, I want people to know how to use it correctly.)
 
So, what kind of sign does she use? Whatever the teacher wants - Kitty will catch the teacher's eye and twirl her car keys and nod. Or she may tug on her ear lobe repeatedly while looking at the teacher. Whatever she wants and whatever will be a silent clue to the teacher.
 
So, as you are getting school supplies and clothes, make sure you are ready for any asthma emergency by getting an Asthma Action Plan filled out and signed. 
 
You never know when you might need one.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Air quality so thick you can cut it with a knife!


If there's one thing that really bothers my asthma - it's poor air quality.

One of my family members who lives on the west coast called to say that he was so sick that he couldn't make it into work. He was really having a hard time breathing. He was staying inside with the doors and windows closed.

Of course, I had to nag him and ask if he had used his Albuterol inhaler?! 

You can see from the map above that the west coast is being affected by a British Columbia forest fire. 


".....asthma specialist Dr. Matthew Altman, an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine, says he’s been hearing from some of his 100 patients.
'They’re reporting an aggravation of symptoms, shortness of breath, cough,' he says."

The same article also quotes a Colorado State University study about air quality and smoke from the Seattle area wildfires in 2012. The study showed a 35% increase in hospitalizations.

Yikes!

I hope that doesn't happen this time, but it wouldn't surprise me. Son #2 and daughter Kitty both ended up in the hospital when they were young because of poor air quality.

So, what is the air quality like in your area of the U.S? You can check it on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) website for air quality. The website is called Air Now. Just click on your state at the top of the page where it says "Local Air Quality Conditions", or input your zip code.

Many TV stations will also include the air quality during the weather forecast.

It can help to check air quality when you have asthma. You can decide when to avoid exercising or spending too much time outdoors. Instead of biking outside or going for a walk, we go to our city recreation center and walk on the indoor track.

The indoor track isn't as pretty as being outside, but my lungs like it a LOT better.

Our lungs can be a little cranky when it comes to breathing in bad air

And really, can you blame them?!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

My inhaler is empty? When did that happen?





One of the most common things I see when I am helping families with asthma is expired inhalers or empty inhalers.

Check yours now. Go ahead.....I'll wait.

Well? What was the date?

Was it expired?

Was it empty?

It's one of those things you don't think to check. I just carry my inhaler around all the time in case I need it and don't think to check the number of doses left or the expiration date. I just assume it will always be there when I need it.

And I LOVE that they put counters on the back of inhalers, but you actually have to LOOK at it!

I was on a work trip out of state and my lungs weren't feeling well. I chalked that up to the Texas humidity. But I just didn't feel right. 

I happen to check my daily controller inhaler - but it was empty! I don't even know how long it was empty, but the counter was at 0. That would explain the cranky lungs!

I have had families that were surprised that their inhaler was on 0. They will try a puff in the air and then look at me as if to say, "See? It still has medicine in it!"



"... the medicine often runs out before other substances that are used to make the medicine come out of the container. So what you hear, see, or taste might only be these substances, not the medicine. Breathing these substances without the medicine could cause your symptoms to worsen." 

 So, just because something comes out of the inhaler when it's on "0" doesn't mean that it's medicine.  Some still have propellant, but no medicine.

So take a peek at your rescue inhaler and your controller inhaler or diskus.

You want to make sure it's not expired or empty when you need it. 

Because nothing is scarier than needing an inhaler and finding that it is expired or empty! Yikes!!
 








Wednesday, July 5, 2017

It's official - I hate neighborhood fireworks!


video

** You'll have to turn up your sound if you want to hear the video**

Yes, I love my country! In fact, we attend parades, decorate the entire house (inside and outside) with patriotic decorations and buntings.

I also LOVE watching "A Capitol 4th" and the other programs PBS broadcasts for Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. 

In fact, my dad was a waist gunner on a B-17 during WWII.  And I proudly display his old black and white photos with his squad.

But, none of those make it hard for me to breathe.

Fireworks do. 

I'm not against those fabulous aerial fireworks that the cities light off during festivals. 

I have a REALLY hard time with neighborhood fireworks. It's not just one neighbor lighting off fireworks and making the air smoky. It's a combination of street, after street, after street, of neighbors lighting off fireworks.

Not to mention all the sirens I hear and the firefighters probably rushing to yet another house fire or field fire - thanks to fireworks!

So, what's the answer?

I don't know. I can't tell neighbors that they can't light off fireworks. Although in some areas of our valley they are illegal due to fire risk.

I stay inside and keep the doors and windows shut. But am not sure what else we can do. I mean, I have to leave the house at times, and that means walking to my detached garage (about 10 steps.) That's all it takes for me to breathe in a little smoke and to wreak havoc on my lungs.

Sometimes it's just discouraging having asthma...


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fireworks, smoke and asthma - a deadly mix

(Shutterstock image)

It's that time of year again - Independence Day (or as most people call it - the 4th of July!)

I like fireworks as much as the next person - but only aerial fireworks like the cities shoot off for the city festivals. (I'm not a fan of those carnival rides though....)

Am I just old and cranky? I only like aerial fireworks and not neighborhood fireworks? Well, yes. I mean - I am old and cranky - but there's a reason why I don't like neighborhood fireworks.

About 15 years ago, Son #2 had been outside playing with friends (as kids do during summer.) I looked out to check on the kids and noticed that the neighborhood was suddenly full of smoke from a forest fire about 15 miles away. So, I quickly called all of the kids to come into the house. 

Son #2 started coughing, so I started giving him Albuterol breathing treatments.

He had already been hospitalized before for asthma (and pneumonia), so I was worried. 

As the night went on, he was still coughing, but not too bad and the treatments seemed to be helping.

Once it was dark, Hubby wanted to light sparklers and other fireworks with the kids. Son #2 didn't seem to be struggling to breath, so I let him go out for a few minutes.

When he came back in, the coughing was worse - and harder. Many of you moms probably know what I mean about the "asthma cough" - it literally hurts your ears to hear them cough.

Anyway, after another breathing treatment, he didn't seem to be improving, so I decided to head to the ER. To cut a long story short, he was instantly taken back to the an ER room and upstairs to the Pediatrics Floor. (Thank you triage nurses - for knowing that my son needed to be seen ahead of someone that needed stitches or a had a broken arm. People who are going to stop breathing always get seen first at the ER!)

After 3 long days in ICU in the Pediatrics Ward, with the "crash cart" outside his room, we were sent home with an oxygen tank. What a scary experience!

The following year? I was scared to let him be outside in the smoke from the fireworks. So, I was  a mean mom and made him watch the fireworks from inside the house. He was one mad kid and let me know how unfair it was!

But it was my job as an asthma mom to protect my son.

Son #2 is in college now, and doesn't seem to be bothered by neighborhood fireworks. We want to enjoy summer and fireworks - but now we go inside the house once it gets too smoky. And we always have our nebulizer and asthma inhaler nearby - just in case.



   

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Losing my voice with asthma

(Shutterstock image)

This falls under the category of strange but true - losing my voice with asthma.

And this happens to be my husband's favorite thing! Ha ha.

When I have a severe asthma attack, or get bronchitis or pneumonia, I lose my voice. It usually happens after a bad coughing spell.

I can't speak above a whisper. 

The first time it happened, I was really surprised. It doesn't seem to last very long -  if I'm sick, it will last for a few days.

This was a problem this spring when I had bronchitis. I couldn't call Asthma Doc's office to make a doctor's appointment, because they wouldn't be able to hear me on the phone.

So, I had to have whisper to daughter Kitty that I needed her to call Hubby. She told him what was happening, then he called Asthma Doc's office to make an appointment for me. Sigh.

If I have a sudden asthma attack and use my inhaler, I can also lost my voice. It will usually last for a few hours. Then, just as suddenly as when I lose my voice, it will come back. My voice will start to crack and then just come back. 

I feel like I should be in an episode of Brady Bunch when Peter goes through puberty and his voice is changing.

It wasn't always this way. 

This just started about 5 years ago. No idea why.

When I tried to look up reasons online, all I could find was a topic about Laryngitis on WebMd.

I don't like it really fits this situation.

Anyone else have problems losing their voice with an illness or sudden asthma attack?


Monday, June 5, 2017

Embarrassed by asthma?




(Photo of the article from Family Circle Magazine)

Do any of you feel like you are embarrassed by asthma?

I read an article in Family Circle Magazine about kids that are embarrassed to use their medication.

The article was talking about how kids won't take their asthma inhalers, check their blood sugar levels, or give themselves insulin for their diabetes.

Why?

Well.....I guess because they don't want to look different. 

Everyone wants to "fit in".
Have your kids felt that way? Most of the times our kids won't tell us even if they DO feel that way. You know, that would mean they would have to talk to us....
But, even adults can feel too embarrassed to use their inhaler in public.
The researcher looked at all of the scientific studies about the stigma about asthma (embarrassment), and how that affects the lives of those with asthma.  (If you want to read his paper, scroll half way down the page and you can download his research paper.)

I used to feel embarrassed to use my inhaler in public.
 But then I decided it was my job to let people see me use my inhaler and realize it's no big deal! After all, I am a Certified Asthma Educator (AE-C), and if I don't want to use my inhaler in public, then what kind of example am I setting?!
So, I use it. 
During meetings at work, during church (yep - right there in the middle of the pew), at the movie theater or during my daughter's dance recital.
Once in a while, I will see someone looking at me. I will look back at them and smile, as if to say, "Don't worry, I got this."

I make sure I use proper inhaler technique too. If people are going to watch me, they better see me use it the right way!

If you want to make sure you are using your inhaler the right way, you can watch the video from the Utah Asthma Program.

And if you feel like you need to use your inhaler - do it! It can be scary and dangerous to wait.
And you can help set a good example for those around you. Let them see that it's okay to have asthma and use your inhaler in public!

And if you want to learn how to help your kids with ANY chronic disease, read the article, "No one Needs To Know I'm Sick". 

You'll be glad you did! 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Sad times can cause asthma attacks?




(Shutterstock image)


Sadness causing an asthma attack? Yep, it can.

Sunday is one of those days I would like to forget.
.
Even though we have allergies and asthma , we have 2 kitties (long story….we inherited them from our neighbors). Anyway, my sweet little Siamese Kitty seemed really tired Saturday night. We thought he was spending a little too much time wandering around the neighborhood.

He came home and curled up on his favorite chair, nothing unusual about that.
Sunday morning, I woke up to see if he wanted breakfast. He didn’t look good. I’ll spare you the details, but we bundled him up on his blankie and rushed him to the closest animal hospital.

They suspected leukemia or distemper. But let’s face it, either one is fatal.
After $600 in tests, it came back as positive for distemper. The vet told us that Siamese Kitty was really sick, and that of the cats she had seen that had actually survived distemper (very few) were permanently brain damaged and needed special care for the rest of their life.

We couldn’t let Siamese Kitty live that way.

We made the difficult decision to have to put him to sleep. We called the kids to and asked if they wanted to come and say goodbye.

While waiting for them to come, it hit me what was happening, and I started to do the Ugly Cry. And I was crying so hard that I had an asthma attack.


Luckily, I take my inhaler EVERYWHERE I go. I quickly pulled out my inhaler an used that while I was waiting for my kids to come say goodbye to their cute and crazy little Siamese Kitty.

How can strong emotions cause an asthma attack? I like to tell people that when you have asthma, your body over reacts - to everything. I call it the "drama queen effect". For those of you who have had teenagers.....well....enough said, right? They over react to everything. So does your body when you have asthma.

(That's why I have a picture of the crown above.) 

Strong emotions (fear, anger, sadness, laughter, etc) are all things that can cause an asthma attack. I was in such shock that it took me a few minutes to realize that a) I was coughing and b) I needed to use my inhaler.

So, if you find yourself in a situation and your emotions are a little out of control, watch your asthma.

And use your inhaler if you need to!