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Monday, October 16, 2017

Trying to stay healthy....

(Shutterstock image)


Well, it's that time of year again. Co-workers and family members are sniffling, wiping their noses and coughing.

And I am trying to AVOID them. 

Not easy when you live with one of them, and work with an office of sick people. 

The possibilities for germs are endless. And I try to avoid all of them. 

I use my sleeve to open doors (I'm not touching those handles!) I use my knuckle to punch the elevator button and then wash my hands when I finally get to my office.

I wash my hands after I touch the handle to the microwave and office fridge. Seriously....does anyone else have one of "those " office fridges that no one cleans out? I am tired of being the only one to clean the fridge, and have left that to someone else. I know no one is going to take time to clean the fridge handle if they can't clean the inside of the fridge!

And don't get me started on the people that don't wash their hands after they use the bathroom at work. Seriously?! I work with nurses! They should know better! I use a paper towel to open the bathroom door. 

Even out in public, I have to be careful. I just made a quick trip to the grocery store and always use the pop up canister of disinfecting wipes on the cart handle. Then, when I'm done and go out to my car, I use my pop up canister to wipe my hands again. 

 
Overkill? Nope, not when you have asthma! 

I had bronchitis this spring  and was VERY sick and missed a week of work. I also had to have a course of prednisone to get the swelling down in my lungs. However, prednisone can impair your immune system, so I have to be really careful now.  

Can avoid getting sick? Maybe not, but I am going to try!
 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Teal pumpkins for Halloween?





https://www.foodallergy.org/education-awareness/teal-pumpkin-project

Why am I talking about the Teal Pumpkin Project? I mean, what does that have to do with asthma?

Well, a lot! 

70% of people that have asthma also have allergies (and many of those have food allergies, not just seasonal allergies.)  

In fact, I was just telling my co-workers how our family has to inspect ALL of the food we eat - family parties, work parties, church parties and even restaurants. EVERY time I eat at a restaurant, I have to ask the wait staff to make sure that my chicken breast is not cooked anywhere near seafood. I also have to remind them not to use the same utensils on my chicken that they are using on the seafood.

On Saturday, we went to lunch at a local bakery and sandwich shop and Son #2 ordered a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich. He knew that they make their own breads there, including some with nuts. So, he asked them to make sure there was no cross contamination. He told me that the cashier just looked at him with a blank look on her face.

So, Mama Bear came out, and I marched back up the counter and caught the eye of the manager and repeated our request. I let her know that I have an epinephrine auto injector, but would prefer not to use it. 

She said that she would make sure his sandwich is not cross contaminated by a knife, cutting board, or anything else that was used to slice bread with nuts. (The repeated requests get really old after a while......some people are quick to understand and help, while others look at us like we really weird. Which we are - but that is beside the point. )
 
Sometimes, I will pull out my epinephrine auto injector and show them so they know I am serious! 

Son #2 is in college now, but when he was younger, Halloween was a tough time because there are so many treats with tree nuts (cookies, candy, brownies, etc). Some kids are allergic to peanuts too, and that can make Trick or Treating a little scary! (Think costumes are scary? Try avoiding accidental exposure to a food allergen in Halloween candy!)

FARE (Food Allergy and Research & Education) has an entire website devoted to the Teal Pumpkin Project. What is that? The project is dedicated to:

"Raising awareness of food allergies and promoting inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season"

You can print out flyers, coloring pages, lawn signs  - all sorts of Teal Pumpkin Project to let parents know that your house is a place where they can trick or treat for allergy safe treats. 



Some families will only stock non-food treats. Other families will have 2 bowls - one with candy and one with non-food treats. FARE also has ideas for non-food treats (glow sticks, bubbles, mini slinkies, etc) Do whatever works for you!


So if you are shopping for Halloween candy, consider picking up some allergy-friendly Halloween candy or non-food treats for kids with food allergies.

We want them to be safe and happy and have a fun Halloween too! 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Asthma as a family disease


(Shutterstock image)

Like many chronic diseases, asthma doesn't just affect the person who has it - it affects the whole family.

When my kids were little, they were sick - a LOT! And they were hospitalized 12 times (usually with pneumonia.) And it was always a tough time for the whole family.

And that meant plans went out the window. Sleepovers were cancelled, dinner was missed, and basic things around the house were neglected.

When one of the kids was in the hospital, that's all we would focus on. Who would spend the day/night at the hospital, who would spend the day/night at home with the other kids.

We would run out of groceries, the lawn would need to be mowed, homework would be skipped. Soccer practice? Nope. Scouts? Sometimes.

We would fit in whatever we could.

I remember driving home from the hospital late one night with Son #1 while Hubby stayed at the hospital for the night. (Son #2 and daughter Kitty were both in the hospital with pneumonia.)

We were almost home when Son #1 said, "Hey mom, the new term starts tomorrow and I need gym shorts since I'm starting a gym class." Not kidding. 

It was 10:00 at night. 

I was exhausted, had a killer headache, and just wanted to climb into bed. 

So, what's the closest store that is near me and open late - and carries gym shorts? Well, we started out at Target and had Walmart as a back up. Luckily, there was one pair of black gym shorts left in his size - what are the odds? We were in luck!

In the early years, we muddled through parenting and never won "Parent of the Year!" awards.

Were we perfect parents? No. Did the other kids get neglected? Yep. 

Did we muddle through and all survive? 

Yes.


Asthma also affected our jobs.

Hubby and I would often miss work as we tried to juggle kids in the hospital and kids at home. The kids weren't hospitalized EVERY time they were sick, sometimes they were just sick enough that they would need to stay home and miss 4 or 5 days of school. So, that meant one of us would need to stay home to take care of the kids.

What can you do when you have a kid with asthma who seems to always be sick? I would let the kid's teachers know that they had a brother or sister in the hospital and that my child may need extra love and attention that week.

I would let the neighbors or grandparents take the kids to scouts, dance, soccer games and out to dinner.

When people would ask, "What can I do?" I would tell them! 

Do you have time to drop by the pharmacy? Can you pick up milk and bread at the grocery store? 

It takes a village to raise a child, so call on your fellow villagers when you need a little extra help.




 

  


Monday, September 25, 2017

Hiking, high elevations, and asthma

We live at an elevation around 4,000 feet. So when we decided to go to Moab with all the other tourists and hike up to the world famous Delicate Arch, I wasn't too worried. It's about the same elevation as where I live now.

I have hiked Delicate Arch before - in fact just a year ago. It's 3 miles round trip, but VERY steep. So this time I brought my hiking sticks. We packed water, had good hiking shoes, and were ready to go!


Enter asthma. 

Yep.

Sometimes it can be just one trigger that causes an asthma attack, other times it can be a lot of triggers piling up until your lungs can't take it anymore.

For me, it was a few triggers piling up. 

It started in the hotel room - which must have been dusty, because I woke up in the middle of the night sneezing and coughing. Dust is one of my worst triggers. So I started out the day with 2 puffs of my albuterol inhaler.  

Strike 1.

Then we followed the long line of cars to Delicate Arch and when we arrived, I noticed the weather was unusually hot.  Heat is another of my asthma triggers. 

Strike 2.   

We grabbed our water bottles and walking sticks and off we went. We hiked for about 10 minutes when I realized I wasn't going to make it up the trail. Exercise is another asthma trigger for me.

Strike 3.

I was out.

I told my hiking group that I wasn't going to be able to finish the hike and I would wait for them back in the car. I was a little annoyed. We had planned this hike for quite a while and I thought I would be fine. 

So, I turned around and headed back to the car. There are usually a LOT of people on that trail, but I was alone and could use that time to think.

I was startled to notice a vulture flying overhead. Oh pu-leeze!! He has to be kidding me! I'm not that bad - I'm going to make it back to the car just fine. (I did have a good chuckle about it later when I related that event to my hiking party!)

As I slowly made my way back to the car, I decided to change my thinking. Instead of being frustrated that my asthma ruined a fun hiking trip. I was going to be GLAD that I listened to my body. Instead of pushing through it (and really getting into trouble with my lungs - and having no cell service to call for help), I would respect my body.

It TRIED to keep up. It really did. But a dusty hotel room, heat and exercise was just too much. But that's okay! It made it through a week of traveling. My lungs and I made it up a beautiful tram ride over a flower covered meadow - hello pollen! And survived an exhilarating ride back down the mountain on a tiny cart on a cement track. 

It made through a day of kayaking and paddle boarding on a beautiful lake. Even with a crazy wind storm that blew sand all over us, knocked over the beach chairs and tumbled our beach umbrella into the lake. My lungs made it!

It survived a long car ride, dusty hotel room, heat and exercise. And then it said "uncle!"  

Even though I couldn't finish the hike, my body and lungs had been AMAZING! What a busy week. 

So, if you have to cancel an event every now and then because of your asthma, think of all the good things your body and lungs do for you every day! 

Thank you body.

Thank you lungs.

  

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Fires vs floods


You know, it would be REALLY nice if Mother Nature could even things out a little bit. Mothers aren't supposed to have favorites, right?!

Yet The West is experiencing abnormally high temperatures for this time of year, and very little to no rain - following years of drought.

The South is getting dumped on with crazy amounts of rain. 

I would gladly take some of their rain! (Just not all of it....)

The national news had a story about the weird weather. They showed Houston and surrounding areas covered in water and then a map of The West with  27 forest fires burning. 

I talked to a family member and friend that live on the West Coast, and they both have asthma and are struggling to breathe. Ash is falling around them, and the air is thick with smoke. They have had a horrible heat wave and are not used to high temperatures. So, they don't have swap coolers or central air to cool down, and can't open their windows at night to get fresh air - because there is no fresh air! It is full of smoke.

So, no matter where you live, you may be having problems with asthma. The floods lead to mold problems that affect asthma. 

The wild fires and smoke also affect asthma (in fact, I had a son who almost died due to smoke from a forest fire....so we are a VERY careful at our house when it comes to forest fires and smoke.)  

On my last post, I wrote about flooding, mold and asthma. 

Now it's time to talk about wildfires and smoke. 

How do you protect yourself? Well, the Centers for Disease Control has information about Protecting Yourself from Wildfire

There are things you can do such as checking the local air quality, avoiding spending time outdoors if possible, and making sure you are taking your asthma medicine, etc. All of that is listed in the "Protecting Yourself from Wildfire" website listed above.

I am changing plans to avoid time outside, am taking my controller inhaler and am also using my rescue inhaler when I feel like I need it.

Don't be afraid to call your doctor if your asthma flares up and if they ask you to evacuate, that may be the safest thing when you have asthma! 

Good luck to those affected by the wild fires and those dealing with the flood :(

 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Cleaning up after a flood

I have seen some pretty unbelievable videos and photos images from Houston and surrounding areas this past week. They have left me speechless (and that's pretty hard to do....)

How can I help? Well, I have already donated money to the Red Cross. But, as Environmental Health Educator (and nerd for all things science), maybe I can help with a little knowledge about cleaning up?
We had a small flood in our basement a few years ago (nothing like Houston.) We had a 100 year rainstorm that cascaded down our basement stairs, overwhelmed the french drain, and rushed into the basement. 

It wasn't even close to the amount of water I am seeing in photos from Houston, but enough that we were overwhelmed. And of course insurance didn't cover it because it was "An Act of God."

So, we were on our own. The disaster companies were busy with other homes and businesses who were damaged more than we were, so I recalled my training from the National Center for Healthy Housing training. I'll spare you my story, but it took 6 weeks for the basement to dry out enough so we could re-carpet (FYI - concrete can LOOK dry....but may not be.)

Here's a photo of Hubby using a moisture meter from the hardware store to test the moisture in the basement floor. 

If your house has been damaged by flooding, here is some important info from FEMA:

    

"Cleaning up After a Flood:"

"The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises the homeowner to take the following steps:
  • Wear protective clothing. Rubber gloves and boots will help protect you from bacteria and possible infections.
  • Avoid putting your hands near your face or mouth when working.
  • Be sure the main power source to your home or business is turned off.
  • Check for shifts in the house or building and cracks in the foundation.
  • Open doors and windows to help dry out the rooms.
  • Remove any standing water. Basements should be pumped out slowly, about one-third of the water each day. Water soaked grounds can cause a collapse of basement walls.
  • Clean up mud, silt and other debris before they dry out.
  • Hose down walls as quickly as possible and follow up with a second hosing with water containing bleach or a disinfectant. Disinfect surfaces, like shelves.
  • Appliances that contain insulation cannot be easily cleaned. Have them checked by a service person before attempting to use.
  • Remove all soaked materials and furnishings. Fully upholstered furnishings and mattresses cannot be cleaned and should be destroyed to avoid health problems.
  • Carpets and rugs may be cleaned. Permanently attached carpeting should be removed before attempting to clean. Clean items out of doors or have them done professionally.
  • Items like sheets, bedspreads, curtains and draperies should be washed with very hot water and detergents, or professionally dry-cleaned.
  • Any flooded food items should be discarded unless they are in undamaged cans or commercially sealed glass jars. Sanitize the container before opening it.
  • Sanitize pots, pans, utensils, dishes, glassware and other items you intend to keep."
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also has info about how to "Be Safe After a Hurricane." 
And "Clean Up Your Home."

  Every situation is different. FEMA mentions cleaning carpet - but our was sopping wet and the disaster companies were overwhelmed, so there was no place to take the carpet to let it dry out and then clean it. So, we ended up tearing out the HEAVY water logged wool berber carpet (and pad) and replacing it - at our cost.

Our flood pales in comparison to Houston's flooding. Please be careful and follow FEMA's suggestions. I know that homes in many areas still have water up to the roof tops. No telling how long it will take for the water to recede.

And watch your asthma. Water, mold and asthma are NOT a good mix. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

High school sports with asthma









Daughter Kitty is running with the cross country team again this year - which can be "interesting" when you have asthma!

Like the majority of people with asthma, Kitty also has allergies. It's estimated that 65% - 75% of people who asthma also have allergies. 

One of the things she is allergic to (and can trigger an asthma attack) is grass. Another trigger for her is exercise. On top of that, we have been in the yellow air quality zone all summer. 

So, add grass, exercise and bad air quality and it can be a recipe for disaster when you have asthma.

Since it was her first cross country meet this year, I was a little worried about her asthma. But when I stopped by the house before her meet, I was happy to see that she had used her nebulizer before her race.

Sometimes, doctors will tell a patient with asthma to use their Albuterol BEFORE they exercise. 

Is that right for everyone? NO!

Since using Albuterol can cause heart palpitations and a rapid heart rate, your doctor will decide what's best for you.  

How do you know if he wants to use it? Well, if you have asthma, you should have an asthma action plan. It's like a stop light with green, yellow and red zones. Green means you are okay, yellow means caution (you are having asthma symptoms) and red means stop (and get help now!). Your doctor will help you understand each zone and what medication you should use in each zone. 



Sometimes the doctor will check the box in the green zone that says  "use Albuterol 15 minutes before activity." Ask him what he wants YOU to do.

So, did it help Kitty? Yes! She said her lungs felt fine after the meet. On the other hand, I had to help  one of her team mates that was having problems with her asthma.

Everyone with asthma is different. We have different asthma triggers and we treat it with different inhalers. 

Case in point - my three kids and I all have asthma and allergies. We all use different allergy pills and/or allergy nose sprays. And we all have different inhalers. 

We all had to find what worked for us - and you should find out what works for you!

What has your doctor told you about using Albuterol before you exercise? 

Comment below!  




 

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.