Friday, March 11, 2011

Grandma Diaries: Hawaii They Go

While my son Dan and daughter-in-law Kristin vacationed in Hawaii for 10 days, I served Grandma Duty to my two youngest grandsons, JD (3 years) and Trey (19 months). It was my first time totally in charge of two little ones since my own were that age. Friends said, “Oh, Nancy, it’ll all come back,” meaning all those instincts and parenting skills. “Just like riding a bike,” said another friend. “Some things you never forget.”

I found both were right and wrong! Basic principles of parenting remain the same but the tools and tactics are all new and exciting. And my youngest grandson had RSV shortly after he was born and takes asthma medication to keep symptoms under control. I kept track of our adventures and bloopers in what I call the GrandmaDiaries. Here are a few excerpts:

Ear Plugs
Ear plugs. How do you get ear plugs to stay in Trey’s ears during bathtime? Kristin showed me how before they left. It looked easy enough. She said we can’t let any water get in his ears because he just had tubes put in. But these little red silicone custom-fit thingie disks just fall out the moment Trey starts wiggling around. After two tries, I gave up. Opted for a quick shallow bath instead.

Too late. Didn’t realize Trey is a fish. Hope I didn’t wreck his ears. I snatched him out of the tub, dried him off and got him ready for bed. Meanwhile, JD entertained himself in the water park formerly known as a bathroom.

Nasal Steroid
How do you get a 19-month-old to sniff nasal corticosteroid spray? Mercy me. They didn’t have nasal sprays for babies when my kids were little. Trey sees the spray coming and turns his grimaced face away. What to do, what to do?

Trey’s nose is a cruddy mess that backs up into his sinuses and ears if he doesn’t get this medicine. Think, Grandma. Think. I reached back into the cobwebbed, rusted-shut drawers of my mind and remembered babies learn from watching other babies. Mimicking was part of the great success behind “Baby Breaths,” the video that shows babies laughing, playing, sleeping and using holding chambers and nebulizers. Babies watched the video and suddenly cooperated with treatments. Would it work with Trey?

JD, Trey and I sat at the table with a bedtime snack. Trey eyed the nasal spray in my right hand and shook his head. I slowly lifted the spray bottle to my nose and pretended to spray it. Then I made a silly face. He laughed. So I did it again each time with a sillier expression and had both boys giggling so hard that Trey never balked when I slipped the nasal spray tip into one of his nostrils and sprayed. He laughed! OMG! Will he do it again? YES! YESSS!

Trey Hates Bubble Gum
Kristin warned that Trey hates taking his bubble-gum-flavored chewable tiny pill. Before she left, I took on the challenge to get the pill into this kid every single night.

But it’s not working. I’d rather give him liquid medicine, but there is none. Kristin said he rejects liquid as bad as pills, but with the pill there’s no mess if he spits it out. What am I to know?
But it’s Day 6 and I found the little stinker has been spitting the pills out behind the kitchen garbage pail. Oh no.

Bedtime Stories
Both boys love snuggling and reading with me on the couch after bathtime. It’s that magical time when JD chatters about the calendar -- yes, he loves knowing the month, day of the week and date and talking about what he’s going to do tomorrow. Trey’s little toes wiggle as JD jabbers and rotates his hands. I read a page and we talk. I think how fast these moments pass. It’s the little things that light up their eyes. My heart swells; these boys are medicine to my spirit. I’m a lucky Grandma. I’m a lucky mom.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Grunge era

Call me an indoor air quality freak. I won’t be offended – quite the opposite! I’ve just learned that we are absolutely a product of our environment: the one we breathe, eat and sleep with every single day. Just as I can’t expect my car to run well on dirty sticky gas, I can’t expect my body to perform at its best if I continually expose it to and ingest things I shouldn’t.

My husband is a heating and air conditioning contractor so our indoor air equipment is finely tuned to provide breathe-healthy air all year round. We maintain biohazard-free indoor air humidity between 37 and 50 percent depending on the outdoor air temperature and other factors.

So when the ophthalmologist told me I could ease my chronic dry-eye symptoms by raising indoor air humidity higher, I balked. You can’t do that without introducing mold and encouraging a dust-mite population explosion! I walked out of her office with eye-drop prescriptions and a reluctant agreement to at least try using a small humidifier in our bedroom.

Kicking and screaming, I did it. Okay, so that means we change the sheets twice a week instead of once. No biggie – there are no rugs in there and the room is rather Spartan otherwise. We like the clean, clutter-free look and feel. Everything seemed shipshape at first. So imagine my surprise when we returned from a short vacation to find that our bedroom smelled funky.

The nose knows
My husband has learned to trust my sniffer. Walked into a house one time and detected a gas leak that was so dangerous that everyone inside evacuated and a special team had to deal with it. Other people in the house didn’t notice a problem. Another example: I kept smelling moth balls and garbage in one room in our house but only on sunny and windy days. Two home inspectors and 22 cut holes in our drywall later and with still no answers, I stood outside my neighbor’s house and caught wind of the familiar odor. Turns out he’d been throwing mothballs into a utility hole next to his garbage bin in a little hideaway spot that shares a wall with our garage. When we put a light inside, we could see a space from the utility hole leading to the firewall between our homes. Sealed the hole and solved the problem.

But in the case of the mysterious funky-bedroom smell, I was at a loss. For 24 hours I searched. The laundry room and bathroom drains were clean. And the odor was strongest in our bedroom with no other source of water… than the table-top humidifier.

Culprit: the bottom part of the tank
No, I thought. It couldn’t be that – it’s brand new! I retraced our steps – I remembered hearing John fill it with tap water shortly after we got home from our vacation. I had made a mental note to pick up more distilled water at the grocery store, and I did the next day. When I removed the water tank to fill it with fresh water, that’s when I saw it: grunge in the bottom part of the tank. Grunge that collected while we were out of town. Grunge that multiplied happily in the portion of the tank BEFORE it goes through the sanitizer and mist. Grunge in the part of the unit you don’t see unless you go looking for it. GRUNGE that STINKS! AGH!!!

Worse, that kind of grunge is all too happy to take up residence in my asthma-prone airways. Funky water can cause pneumonia, bronchitis and other respiratory nightmares. It’s not likely we’ll ever forget to empty the water tank and the bottom part of the humidifier when we leave home ever again!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Nancy Gets a Flu Shot ...

How did it get this late in the year without getting a flu shot? I write about flu shots, read research, ask all my friends if they got their flu shots but here I am on December 10, 2010, finally getting around to mine! Okay, so I have somewhat of an excuse. Because I have asthma, I’m not eligible for those grocery or drug store “drop-by” shot programs. I have to make an appointment with my doc which is no problem except that I haven’t been home much lately…so when there was an opening this morning, I grabbed it!

No lines. No fees. No problems. It’s not too late to get your flu shot. Some research suggests that getting a flu shot may just help the immune system fight those bugs that tend to activate asthma symptoms. Shot appointments are pretty easy to get and supplies are plentiful unlike years past. No excuses!

Read AANMA's latest Flu Tips story:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Enter the breathe-easy sleep zone

We admit it. We were skeptical at first. When we first heard about the PureZone Personal Air Filtration System , some of us thought it sounded like a gimmick. A machine that blows HEPA filtered air out your pillow case?!!? Wouldn’t it be noisy? Wouldn’t it be cold? Wouldn’t it be WEIRD?

But you know what? Some things you just have to experience. First our ad rep, James, put it on his son’s bed – and Trevor, who has asthma and sleeps fitfully every night, slept quietly all night long, without tossing and turning and throwing all his covers off!

Then Cathy, an AANMA member in Texas, tried it and wrote:

“I used to never feel rested because I have trouble breathing at night – my husband says I make noises in my sleep that don’t sound human! He has to sleep on the other side of the house to get a good night’s sleep. All of this changed the first night I used my HEPA filter pillow. When I woke up, my nose was clear, and I could take a deep breath with my mouth closed for the first time in years. I felt well-rested – I had forgotten what it feels like to be well-rested! After a month of using my pillow each night, I feel like a new person.”

Letter after letter of praise came in.

Will you have the same response? We don’t know, but clinical studies show that the PureZone eliminates virtually all airborne particles in your breathing zone all night long.

We were so impressed we invited them to put the PureZone in our online store. For a free trial or a $50 discount, enter the code AAT50. And PureZone donates a portion of each sale to AANMA!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Breathe at School: It’s the Law in 50 States – Almost!

First day of school – it’s a rite of passage for kids and their parents. The tearful goodbyes and clawing at the school bus door -- well, it’s not always the children. One mom wrote this morning that she keeps feeling misplaced or like she forgot to pack or do something. “But it’s not Jimmie’s inhaler and auto-injectable epinephrine!”

Jimmie has asthma and food allergies. This summer, Jimmie's mom taught him how to cross the street safely, what to do if his clothes catch on fire and how to call 911 if he sees an emergency. She also made sure he could use his inhaler and auto-injectable epinephrine correctly if she wasn’t around.

“He knows the names of his medications and when to take them,” she said, “but do I feel he’s 100 percent ready to make every decision on his own? Not yet but he’s learning. The school nurse and his teachers know that he’s learning, too. They don’t expect him to get it right every time. I’m so fortunate that my kids go to a school where the staff is supportive.”

BREATHE: There Ought to Be a Law
Students with asthma can carry inhalers in all 50 states, and 46 have laws protecting students' rights to carry and self-administer auto-injectable epinephrine. Students with anaphylaxis need state laws in: New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin -- contact Sandra Fusco-Walker, AANMA's Director of Advocacy, at to get involved today.

Learn more about asthma and anaphylaxis medications at school.

Nancy Sander
President and Founder
Allergy & Asthma Network
Mothers of Asthmatics

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jovante Woods made national headlines…

…but not in a way he and his family would have expected. The 16-year-old football player and son of Ickey Woods, a former Cincinnati Bengals player, died of asthma last week. We posted the story on Facebook and have been following the many news stories. I as reading one in Black Voices on Sports by Boyce Watkins, PhD. At the end, he added thoughtful commentary:

"The death of Elbert Jovante Woods makes me wonder just how safe our young men and women are when playing high school sports. I can remember competing in track and field, where it was common for athletes to vomit after practice, become short of breath and even work out to the point of nearly collapsing. Most of us defined this stress to simply be a part of getting into shape, but I've always wondered whether most coaches are equipped to know when a hard workout has become a health hazard.

How do we know the difference between a kid who's simply whining about a tough practice vs. one who is actually experiencing serious physical problems? I honestly don't know the answer to this question, but it is certainly something to think about."

Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics is concerned, too. It’s not that we think people intend to reject good safety measures (they don’t) but primarily because asthma is an insidious and deceptive disease in which early perception, recognition and response are critically important and easy to miss.

Most asthma deaths can be traced to preventable causes (yes, causes, plural -- as in, more than one, otherwise known as a perfect storm). For example, was Jovante’s inhaler empty? Few people ask this question and even fewer know that inhalers run out of medication before they run out of the propellant. So the inhaler doesn’t feel empty when, in reality, it is. That's why our organization successfully lobbied the FDA to advise manufacturers to place dose counters on metered-dose inhalers; this technology is currently being phased in.

Another mistake comes with being young and invincible and thinking that you haven't pushed yourself hard enough unless you're breathless or throwing up on the football practice field. These long-held stoic but faulty beliefs put our young athletes at risk of fatal respiratory, cardiac and neurologic events.

Each fatal asthma attack can teach all of us something if we pause and honestly explore what went into that perfect storm that brewed silently hours, days and even weeks before. Easily said and terrifying to do -- which is exactly why it doesn’t often happen. While it may have been one event that pushed Jovante over the edge, it was not just one event that got him there. This is true for anyone who dies of asthma.

AANMA is on a mission to eliminate asthma death and suffering, and to ensure that every child and adult receives asthma care consistent with National Institutes of Health Asthma Guidelines. AANMA’s Great American Asthma Challenge asks every person to do their part. It’s easier than you think to bring our nation to zero asthma deaths and improve quality of life along the way! All it takes is one person, family and community at a time taking simple steps together.

AANMA and the newly formed Congressional Asthma and Allergy Caucus will meet to examine life-and-death asthma issues and ways to ensure that all children and adults with asthma know what to expect and how to obtain appropriate care and written strategies that work for each everyone.

In addition, we recently developed and conducted Express Seminars on Exercise-Induced Bronchospasm for School Nurses at the National Association of School Nurses annual conference, sponsored by Teva Respiratory. In coming weeks, a highlights video and resource materials will be posted on AANMA's YouTube channel.

We're also forming a coalition of school nurses, coaches, parents, physicians, teachers and school administrators to define evidence-based best practices for recognizing and treating serious respiratory issues relative to sports- and school-based exercise programs.

Finally, a shout-out to Chris Draft, Anthony Armstrong and Adam Carriker of the Washington Redskins! All three have asthma, and Anthony caught and carried the first touchdown of the season! Yes, I know it's "only" the preseason, but for diehard fans like me, the season is ON! Winning over asthma is very much like winning a football game: You have got to know where the goal is and have an executable plan that's going to get you there. No one does it alone - it takes a team.

Dr. Watkins, thank you for asking the right question. Now let’s look for the right answers. Jovante's death is not in vain if we learn something from it. May God grant peace to those who love Jovante, and may their hearts be filled with fond memories that never fade.

Nancy Sander
President and Founder
Allergy & Asthma Network
Mothers of Asthmatics

Monday, August 16, 2010

Get out of his way! (... and meet 3 Redskins with asthma!)

Anthony Armstrong went over the line this time -- and scored the first winning touchdown for the Washington Redskins this season. Yes, I know it was “only” a preseason game, but it was awesome!
OK, I’m a diehard Washington Redskins fan from way back before Joe Theisman broke his leg on live television. But few fans know that awesome Anthony has asthma! In fact, three Redskins have asthma and aren’t afraid to admit it.

Like Anthony, Chris Draft (linebacker) and Adam Carriker (defensive end) think it’s better to get tough with asthma than to try to tough it out. They each have their own treatment plan.

“It’s not about what you have (asthma), but what you do about it," Chris said in a recent interview with AANMA. "On the football field, performance is all that matters. Nothing else. There are no excuses. You have to take care of your body so it will take care of you out there.” Chris established the Chris Draft Family Foundation and the Asthma Team (TM) to encourage young people with asthma to get an asthma action plan that works for them and then to live by it.

There are times when all three players have been caught short of breath on the football field. They tell their stories in an exclusive interview with AANMA in Allergy & Asthma Today magazine, due in mailboxes next week!

What? You don’t get Allergy & Asthma Today magazine? You must not be a member of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics! Joining is easy online (or by phone, 800.878.4403) and supports AANMA’s mission to eliminate asthma and allergy death and suffering through education, advocacy and outreach.

Once you join AANMA, you’ll never be alone. There’s tens of thousands of us dealing with asthma and allergies! You’ll get our e-mail news updates, notices of events and new services, The MA Report e-newsletter, and of course, Allergy & Asthma Today magazine for one year! You can pick up the phone and call Nurse Carol Jones or send her an e-mail. You can join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t waste another moment. Join AANMA today! And as soon as you get the fall Allergy & Asthma Today in the mail, open it to page , and read "Get Tough on Asthma." Once you're finished, make three copies. Give one to the local high school or college football coach. Give another to the school nurse and the third to the principle at your child’s school.

Now, where did I put those Washington Redskins M&M’s?

Would you like to meet Chris, Anthony and Adam? Here’s your chance:

Chris Draft has teamed up with Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics to invite kids with asthma (and their families) to visit Redskins Park this Wednesday or Thursday morning, August 18 and 19, and find out how the pros Tackle Asthma!

To sign up, contact AANMA before 4 p.m.Tuesday, August 17. Space is limited; selected families will be notified by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Send your name, address, phone number and how many family members will be with you to or call 800.878.4403 (8 a.m.-4 p.m. ET).
Visitors will be invited to watch the Redskins practice from the VIP tent, then talk afterward with Chris Draft and teammates Anthony Armstrong (wide receiver) and Adam Carriker (defensive end), who also have asthma.