The September Asthma Spike

As many of you probably know, the month of September has been been known as the Asthma Spike. The “so-called asthma spike – the day on which many parents will show up at the hospital with school-age children in the throes of asthma attacks” is a common thing, as the return to school and more exposure to allergens, like dust can cause youth’ asthma to flare up.

How do you try to prevent this from happening? Do you have a plan with your doctor? Perhaps you have discussed a plan with your pulmonary specialist or allergist. Do you feel your lungs are getting the best attention they can? When you have asthma and you know what triggers it, being proactive is the way to go!

Allergic Living has a great article on this, I suggest having a read 🙂

http://allergicliving.com/index.php/2010/07/02/asthma-spike-in-september/

Who knows about your Epipen?

If you have severe, life-threatening allergies and carry an Epipen are your friends aware that you have one on you? Or perhaps even two. Do they know what the signs are that you are having a reaction? Personally, I am pretty quick to bring up the topic, with new friends and acquaintances as it is so important. What if something happened and you couldn’t administer it to yourself? If ever I am hesitant about telling someone, likely a person I don’t know well, I always remind myself… “there’s no shame  in having allergies, and the Epipen is what will save your life”. We all have our moments.

At work, my colleagues know about the Epipen, and I demo’d how to use the Epipen to the colleagues I share an office with. How do you discuss your allergies with your employer? Or do you? I know I was a little unsure at first how to approach them. In the end, it came down to a simple talk. In your experience, what has the response been? Are they accommodating?

 

Back to School and Asthma

With classes approaching, asthmatics (children and young adults alike) will be faced with unique challenges and awareness of the triggers will be of great importance. How have you prepared for your child’ return to school in the past? If you are a University student, what does back to classes mean to you, that is if you were off for the summer…

I know I had a tough time, especially during pollen season. However, there is usually a work around, and hopefully some of your professors are understanding and willing to accommodate. In my own experience, discussing your allergies and asthma with the professor at the start of the course and/or making an appointment to talk with them during their office hours is always a GREAT idea!

Here’s an interesting article about back to school with asthma. http://www.fortmcmurraytoday.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3598314

Asthma attacks and Flare-ups

Have you or someone you know ever had to be on prednisone? After such a flare-up were you able to fully identify what the triggers were that lead to the asthma attack? Most of the time it is hard to know EXACTLY what the trigger/triggers were. Sometimes it is a combination of things and our body is not able to handle it.

The last 10 days have been hard as I had a flare up with my allergies and asthma which has resulted in my being on prednisone. As annoying as the side effects can be, I am glad to be feeling better. This is the first serious flare-up for me in quite some time and it makes me realize that though I have lots of support, a great allergist and family doctor, there are still some actions I can take, which would make me even better prepared for any similar attacks in the future.

Do you have an adequate “Asthma Team” in place? Here in Victoria, BC we have an Asthma Clinic which has a pulmonary specialist on call. Do you have a pulmonary specialist? What is your action plan, or the action plan for your son/daughter or loved one? Having a proper plan in place is very important. Do you have a peak flow meter and know how to use it? Knowing what your lung capacity is when you are feeling at your very best and when you are feeling tight provides a great way to monitor your lungs. The American Association of Allergy Asthma & Immunology has a great article on peak flow meters and how important they are; “A peak flow meter for asthma is like a thermometer for a fever. It helps monitor what’s going on inside your body.” AAAAI

I highly recommend having a glance through National Asthma Patient Alliance – Asthma Society of Canada‘s website. Do you know many others who struggle with asthma? Are you wondering how others deal with their asthma and how they might have overcome some of the challenges we often face on a day to day basis? Have a read through some real-life stories on the Asthma Society of Canada’s website! It’s always nice to know you are not the only one 🙂

 

 

XXI World Congress of Asthma is around the corner!

I am very excited to be attending thanks to Allergen NCE. There is a little more information on their website now about the topics that will be discussed and the FINAL Program is also up!

Looking through the numerous sessions, titles and keynotes & speakers has been extremely inspiring, as my primary concerns and interest lie in why asthma is on the rise, and, how to manage asthma in the work place or school. It is one thing to have a home that is clear of mold and dust and is controlled, however I haven’t quite figured out how to deal with alternate environments which have multiple triggers that are beyond my control.

Over the next few days, I will be looking through the program and trying to figure out which sessions I will be attending! It’s like looking at a menu! Hopefully I will be seeing some of you there!

BTW, I can’t seem to find abstracts yet either…

🙂

What flares up your asthma?

Do you have times of the year when you feel your asthma is worse? Perhaps your asthma is not majorly influenced by the variances in seasons like mine is. Do you know what your main asthma triggers are? Mold? Pollen? Exercise? Managing our asthma is often times very tough. For me, the hardest part of it all is when I can’t figure out what my trigger actually was for a specific attack. I have found myself coughing and coughing and before I know it I am wheezing, and I haven’t the slightest idea why. The worst is the asthma attacks that are brought on by laughter. I must say, I really do not enjoy these as I usually need to leave the group or whom ever I might have been with, to take my inhaler.

What do you do to try and get better control of your asthma? When do you go see your allergist or a doctor about your asthma not being as controlled as usual? If my asthma is still controlled, though I know it could be better, I will first try to ensure my sinuses are not a factor. Then if I am still having trouble controlling my asthma, I will go see a doctor, to get assessed. Often, this will mean trying a new medication or taking a closer look at what other triggers could be present in my life that I may have overlooked. Sometimes it is evident my immune system is weak and I have a cold or an infection, and it results in a prescription for prednisone or antibiotics. No two visits are identical.

In trying to be proactive in my approach, I exercise regularly as I know that it really helps me. This however, may not necessarily the case for everyone with asthma. I am also trying to add more yoga and meditation into my life in hopes of becoming more “in-tune” with my body. In practicing yoga, I find my ability to focus on my breathing has greatly improved.I am now using this skill in situations when my breathing is a little more rapid than it should be; particularly if I find I am anxious.

Here is an article written in the Yoga Journal about asthma. Have a read, maybe you’ll want to take up yoga too! 🙂

http://www.yogajournal.com/health/127

** PLEASE NOTE that if your asthma is NOT controlled and you are having an asthma attack, yoga or breathing is NOT a substitute for your inhalers. It is best to consult with your doctor before taking on any new exercise routines.

Two safe flights to start our vacation off on the right track! Thank you WestJet!

When you are planning a trip whether it be for vacation or other, what are you most concerned about? For me it’s the flight. The idea of being so high up and far from any hospital has always frightened me, though, when I fly WestJet, this seems to dissipate… 🙂

Tuesday morning my boyfriend, Mike and I headed to the airport. We were heading to Montreal for a week to visit family. We printed our tickets and went to the bag drop off counter where we were greeted by a smiling WestJet employee. I mentioned that I had severe, life-threatening allergies to peanuts, and all other nuts as well as allergies to cats and dogs. She was very understanding and made specific notes in the computer about my allergies as I explained to her that I would be wearing a mask and had 2 Epi-pens and an inhaler that I would keep in the seat pocket in front of me.  I felt less concerned about our trip already!

We then headed to security. In my mind, going through security was step 2 of the “flying with allergies process”. I had a large ziploc bag containing all my prescription medications (Epi-pens and inhalers) and antihistamines along with the actual receipts in my name. Once through security, we headed for the gate and I went straight up to the counter to speak with a WestJet gate agent about my allergies and asthma.

I was greeted by another smile and VERY understanding WestJet employee. She checked our flight and confirmed that there would be one small pet on board, but it would be at the back of the plane, so far from us in aisle 8. I smiled and thanked her for the info. I asked if she wouldn’t mind looking into our connecting flight from Toronto to Montreal and she assured me she was already looking into it to see if there were pets on board that one. I was told that as of yet, there were no pets on that flight. As our seats were in the back of the plane, she asked if we would mind here moving us to aisle 3, mentioning that they try to book the passengers with pets at the back of the plane in the last few rows. I thanked her and gave her Mike’s boarding pass and she moved both of us! I then asked if we could pre-board so we could clean the seats, arm rests and tables and she confirmed we could do so without a problem and even asked if we needed any cleaning supplies to do so! I was extremely pleased to have yet another great conversation with WestJet personnel.

We pre-boarded with the others and I spoke to the flight attendant that greeted us upon boarding the plane. I said “Hi, my name is Erika, I am the passenger with the severe allergy to peanuts and nuts. I will be wearing a mask and will have my 2 Epi-pens and my inhaler in the seat pocket in front of me” they asked me if it would be ok for them to make an announcement to all passengers on the flight and I expressed gratitude for them offering to do so. We went to our seats, cleaned all the surfaces and I put on my mask. I was ready to fly!

Once the plane was full, the flight attendants made their safety speech and in a separate message, they mentioned that there was a passenger aboard who had a severe allergy to peanuts and nuts and asked that passengers refrained from eating nuts on the flight for “her” safety. More points for West Jet! And I was surprised to hear the same recorded message in French! Under the mask I was smiling. 🙂 They also spoke one on one with the passengers in the rows next to me to confirm they understood the severity, and checked on me throughout the duration of the flight.

We arrived in Toronto with only a few minutes to spare before our next plane would take off, literally 5 minutes. In this case, pre-boarding was NOT an option as we were one of the last ones to board. When we got to the gate, the West Jet employee scanned my boarding pass and said, “we were looking for you and wanted to ask whether your allergy was only to peanuts or if it was all nuts”. I confirmed it was all nuts and she told me to simply identify myself to the flight attendant when we boarded the plane, that they were already aware of my situation. I gave a similar intro to the flight attendant as I had on the previous flight and they were extremely understanding and confirmed they would make an announcement in both languages. They made an announcement and we had a second safe and relaxing flight!

We arrived in Montreal, I took the mask off and was good to go. Every flight I have had with WestJet has been memorable (in a good way) and I choose WestJet whenever I can because they get it. They are amazing! All West Jet personnel I have ever dealt with have been keen to please and make me feel confident and safe while travelling. If you are looking for a relaxing trip in the sky, where you are not panicked about people eating nuts right next to you, I HIGHLY recommend WestJet! And you are also bound to get a few good chuckles as the flight attendants tend to make some good jokes! 🙂