Monday, July 11, 2011

Asthma, Inhalers and Allergies, Oh My!

The calendar might say we're well past the beginning of summer, but the wad of pollen in my back yard says that spring is still sticking its nose in here and there.
For most people, that means fun filled months of swimming, camping and kicking the kids out the door every chance they get. At our house, that means it’s time to take out stock in Benadryl, because I’m going to spend the next three months doling out more sneeze-blockers-in-a-cup than the average pharmacy. And getting used to having an inhaler-shaped lump in each pocket. And turning down party invitations because the kids are sprawled across the living room with the nebulizer mask in one hand and a box of tissues in the other.
Okay, that’s a little overdramatic. Ish. But when you have three kids with seasonal allergies, two with mild asthma and one with a deep, personal attachment to the bright orange plastic on his inhaler that leads to it needing to be sprung every time things just start getting good, spring takes on a whole new meaning.
Living with Asthma
If you’re one of those parents who has had a kid with severe asthma since the day they were born, please stop by the comments section and tell me how you do it. Mr. A, my oldest, is the king of respiratory infections, but post-surgical pneumonia last year kicked the mild asthma he’s had since he was a baby into full gear and it’s driving me insane.
If you’re new to the asthma game, however, I’m happy to share the teeny, tiny handful of information I’ve got in my hands (and am using to keep my sanity afloat).
Rule Number One: Never will I ever leave the inhaler at home.
I don’t care if they’ve been perfectly fine for months, you’re only going to be gone for an hour and there isn’t a trigger in sight. The next attack is sitting there. Lurking. Waiting for the minute you drop your guard.
Yes, I speak from personal experience. Last year, our local Broadway League put on “Wicked”. I packed up Princess C, her godmother, her godmother’s husband and her favorite auntie and we braved the elements to check it out. She’d been healthy for months. Her asthma never kicks up when she’s not sick. Want to guess what happened in the car on the way home thanks to a quick jog down a cold street?
Rule Number Two: Using an inhaler and/or nebulizer without decongestants, antihistamines and whatever else you’re using to control the triggers is a waste of your time.
Don’t just accept that your kid has asthma, no matter how simple that diagnosis might seem. Understand what causes it, then take action to prevent while you treat. Otherwise, you can mainline steroids and albuterol until the cows come home. It doesn’t matter. You’re still going to be doing it again two hours later.    
Rule Number Three: Don’t assume that the doctor knows what they’re talking about. I adore my pediatrician. As a matter of fact, with a few notable exceptions, I’ve adored all my pediatricians. But nobody knows your child better than you. If something doesn’t feel just right, don’t be afraid to push. Pick up the phone. Ask annoying questions. A good doctor won’t mind, and a doctor that minds won’t matter.
Rule Number Four: Be willing to change your plans. Asthma attacks happen. Usually at the worst possible moment. Almost always when you have someplace else you need to be. Be willing to change your plans so your child can get the rest they need when their asthma’s acting up. That way you have one asthma attack a day instead of four or five.
Rule Number Five: LEARN. You are your child’s best chance of managing to have asthma and a life at the same time. Learn. Understand their condition, what triggers it, how you can tell they’re having an attack and what brings it back under control. Then plan accordingly. An ounce of prevention can go a long way toward helping them learn to live with asthma instead of watching their childhood pass them by.


Jenn said...

I agree, I no longer go anywhere without an inhaler and some Benedryl. I also have an epipen that I keep close by, but usually some Benedryl and an inhaler is all I need.

This summer with the high temps has been hard on my asthma, but I'm hoping that ounce of prevention will prevent me from having too many bad days.

Juan Pablo said...

Long-ish reply. As in all illnesses, this should only be taken as anecdotical (with a dash of my own opinions as an asthma-allergy kid) since each case is unique and requires individual care (but of course, you know that already).

Mom saved my life at age 3 by rushing me to the ER, ignoring the red tape at the waiting room and busting through the doors and finding a doctor. Since then, she was totally overprotective. Mistake No. 1. There is a fine line between being cautious and being a hoverer and a master of the prohibited (in my case: ice cream, laughter, exercise). You might want to find a place where both you and your kids feel comfortable with the safety measures.

About the inhaler: we learned quite late that most formulas cause tachycardia (accelerated heart rate). Luckily I never had the need for overuse. 3 doses a day is pushing it, but again, if you're giving your kids some kind of freedom, a heavier use of the inhaler might be a trade-off.

I got my asthma under control in some sort of esoteric way. I underwent a two-year treatment where I would have monthly shots of "something" and daily drops of "other something". This doctor was famous exclusively for curing asthma, so he was booked solid most of the time. Looking back, the treatment was probably based on corticosteroids, which did have physical side effects (gain weight, hormonal imbalance, acne) but it was nothing serious and it got rid of the main health hazard, so, again, a trade-off.

Now, the allergies: i live in a place (Mexico) with, perhaps, more environmental impact than other places. Food, water and air are more hazardous. Perhaps that's why, despite being hereditary, my allergies are not that severe. They consist only of random sneezing (and this is not seasonal, happens yearlong) and a mild nasal congestion. Since for me it constitutes more of a nuisance than a real health risk, I prefer to weather the episodes out than to submit to countless needle pricks and pills, but again, this is only my case.

Hope this is insightful. In any case, it's good to share. Good luck and best wishes.