Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Allergy-Free Fall Holidays

Fall holidays conjure a cornucopia of delectable visions: homemade pumpkin pie, candy corn, turkey with savory stuffing and glistening cranberry sauce. But indulging in these special-occasion treats can be risky for the 12 million people in the U.S. with food allergies.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) and its allergist members -- doctors who are experts at diagnosing and treating allergies and asthma -- know that food allergies don’t have to get in the way of holiday fun. ACAAI offers the following tips to protect you, your child and holiday guests with food allergies:

1. Tricks and treats: Purchase treats that your child can enjoy safely, and swap them for treats with allergens after trick-or-treating. Send candy your child can consume to school parties or send non-food goodies such as Halloween stickers.

2. Be the class baker: Volunteer to provide the snacks for holiday parties at school to ensure there will be foods available that your child can enjoy.

3. Inform your guests: Let guests know that you or your child have dietary restrictions, and offer to let them bring holiday themed plates, cups or napkins, rather than food.

4. Give your host a heads-up: If you’ll be attending holiday festivities away from home, let your host know about your food allergy. Offer to bring safe foods for you and others to enjoy.

5. Don’t overlook the turkey: Basted or self-basting turkeys can include common allergens such as soy, wheat and dairy. Your safest bet is choosing a turkey labeled “natural,” which by law must be minimally processed and should contain nothing but turkey and perhaps water.

6. Hang on to food labels: If you’re the host of a holiday feast, keep the ingredient labels from the food you’re serving for allergic guests to review before digging in.

7. Carry medications: Always have emergency medications on hand just in case unrecognized food allergens are hiding in holiday treats.

8. Discuss strategies with your allergist: An allergist can help you prepare for the holiday season and suggest allergy avoidance techniques to keep you or your child safe. Your allergist also can help you and your child become “label detectives” so you both know what ingredients to watch out for.

For more information about allergies and asthma, and to find an allergist near you visit http://www.allergyandasthmarelief.org/.

This information was posted by Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA).

Thursday, October 22, 2009

AANMA Inhaler Poster in the New York Times!

What fun to pick up a copy of the New York Times... and there on the front page of Sunday's Metropolitan section, is a photograph of a school nurse and a student... and right there, hanging on her wall, is AANMA’s Inhaler Poster!

The article was about school nurses being on the front lines of H1N1 containment and featured Nurse at P.S. 70 in Long Island, NY. I love that she hung the poster at the student’s eye level. Click here to read the article.

Yeah Nurse Akhtar! And thanks to our sponsors who made it possible for us to develop, produce and distribute the poster:

- The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI)
- AstraZeneca
- ExxonMobil
- Teva
- Children's Hospital Boston
- EMNet
- Center for Pediatric Emergency Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eggs, Flu, Young

Eggsactly thirty years ago, my daughter, Brooke, was diagnosed with food allergies – egg being one of the foods producing dramatic hives and wheezing. Getting the diagnosis wasn’t easy. Oh, the symptoms were quite evident but in those times, food allergies were more or less considered a disease of neurotic moms and there just wasn’t much direction or advice in the medical literature.

So each flu season, I faced a quandary. Flu shots contain trace amounts of egg protein. Should I waltz my daughter to the doctor for a shot that could make her sick -- or risk the ravages of the flu that could mean months of lingering asthma symptoms? The more questions I asked, the more controversy I found… that is, until we consulted with an allergist who, after testing Brooke, said it would be possible to give her the shot in gradual doses over the period of an hour or so. Eureka!

Fast forward thirty years, and parents of children with asthma and egg allergy face the same question, this time with an H1N1 twist. The good news is that H1N1 flu vaccine is prepared in the same manner as the seasonal flu vaccine.

Here’s a primer of sorts if your child has confirmed or suspected egg allergies and has asthma. You can also find more information from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI)

1) Consult with an allergist.

2) Tell the allergist about symptoms that your child experienced when eating or touching eggs – raw (found in lemon meringue pie, for example), cooked, in baked goods, etc.

3) Mention any history of life-threatening egg allergy symptoms such as difficulty breathing, throat swelling, wheezing or fainting. These usually indicate the need for additional testing before administering the H1N1 vaccine.

4) The allergist will use skin prick testing: a small droplet of egg protein and another droplet of the H1N1 vaccine are placed on the skin. A tiny prick is made underneath each droplet.

Negative test results indicate that no allergic reaction occurred during the first phase of testing. In the second phase, the allergist will inject a small droplet of the diluted vaccine into the skin.

If your child still shows no signs, symptoms or skin reaction, your child can get the full dose of H1N1 vaccine but then must wait a full 30 minutes at the allergist’s office before leaving. That way, if your child shows symptoms such as hives, flushing or shortness of breath, the allergist and nursing staff are prepared to recognize and treat it.

A word of caution: A negative skin test to egg-based H1N1 vaccine does not mean you or your child no longer has egg allergies! So don’t go home and think you can serve up scrambled eggs or stop reading food labels!

OK, so what happens if the test result was positive, i.e. show that your child is allergic to the vaccine?

“If the test result is positive and the person is at high risk of complications from the flu because of pre-exising respiratory or heart disease, the vaccine still may be given using desensitization procedure,” said Sami Bahna, MD, PhD, president-elect of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), and professor of pediatrics and Medicine and Chief of Allergy and Immunology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport. “This is compatible with the 2009 Policy of the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

The vaccine would be administered under the skin in gradually increasing doses at 15 to 20 minutes until the total dose is given. Dr. Bahna cautions that the procedure should be done by an experienced physician in a medical facility where measures are readily available for treating any potential reaction. The allergist is well trained and qualified for that.

A final note: FluMist vaccine is not approved for use in kids or adults with asthma, or for those with members of the immediate family who have asthma. The antiviral Relenza is known to provoke coughing and wheezing in patients with asthma. Tamiflu is a reasonable alternative but it must be used in the early stages of the flu.

And the last word: ACAAI states that even though most cases of H1N1 are mild, many of the children who have died were ones who had asthma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released updated data showing that the most prevalent underlying illness among patients hospitalized with H1N1 was asthma (26 percent of all adults hospitalized with H1N1 had asthma). In most cases, it appears that symptoms begin to improve and then the child’s symptoms rapidly decline. Contact your allergist now to discuss specific actions to take should your child or someone in your family develop seasonal flu or H1N1 symptoms. By all means, get both flu vaccines in a medical-care setting where reactions, if they occur, can be monitored.

Kids and adults with asthma are at high risk of complications and death from seasonal or H1N1 flu. You can find more information on AANMA's website.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

In the mail at last! New issue of Allergy & Asthma Today magazine

AANMA is jumping for joy!! Allergy & Asthma Today magazine is in the mail! I feel a little like Neville (Steve Martin) in “The Jerk,” delirious upon receiving his copy of the Yellow Pages phone book at his front door. Why? Oh, my! Well…

Not only is this issue one of my top favorites, it almost didn’t get printed! This summer, our six-year-old servers collapsed and self-destructed - including our antiquated backup system. We lost EVERYTHING. Yup. Everything. Sparing you the gory details, we were able to piece things back together thanks to some very creative people at OSSI and our diligent staff. But it took time and working blind while continuing to provide members services as if nothing had ever happened.

The sleepless nights… If things hadn’t come together when they did, we wouldn’t have been able to share Juanita Rembert’s cover story, "Juanita’s Determined: Six Generations of Asthma Stop Here," and her mission to spare other urban Chicago families the same fate as her 21-year-old granddaughter, Tamika, who died of asthma while pregnant with her second child, leaving a two-year-old son with severe asthma and a grieving family with aching hearts. Learn more about the campaign “STOP ASTHMA DEATHS NOW” and how you can get involved.

Also featured is The AANMA Challenge: Planning to Win. It’s your blueprint (a.k.a. customizable written asthma action plan) to getting and keeping asthma symptoms under control. It’s a MUST-HAVE for every adult and child with asthma. Planning to Win was published with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and contains all the important details that generic asthma action plans leave out. Written by AANMA’s staff and medical advisory board, Planning to Win is for real people who are serious about shutting the door to asthma and moving on with their lives.

I am so glad we got this issue published because John Walsh, Co-Founder of the COPD Foundation, shares his inspiring story of how he and his identical twin brother learned they both had Alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency, a genetic disorder that leads to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders (COPD). Not all that wheezes or causes shortness of breath is asthma, even when symptoms may be very similar. Few people write or talk about it better than John.

If this issue of Allergy & Asthma Today had not gone to print, we’d be hard-pressed to tell the full story of Asthma Awareness Day Capitol Hill 2009: We’re on a mission…to STOP ASTHMA DEATHS NOW! We’re asking members of Congress to fix federal and state health policies – currently, some of these policies deny Medicaid patients adequate care and access to allergists and other specialists and medications consistent with NIH Asthma Guidelines. With healthcare reform debates in full swing, we need your willingness and financial support to make sure that no matter what happens in this process, people with asthma, allergies and related conditions do not suffer.

So I am thankful – yes, giddy - that the magazine is out! I am delighted our sponsors and advertisers have been patient: The American College of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, PURE Allergy Friendly Rooms for Your Next Hotel Stay, AeroChamber Plus Holding Chamber (Forest Pharmaceuticals / Lupin Pharmaceuticals and Monaghan Medical), OcuFresh Eye Wash (at your local pharmacy without a prescription), Allergy Zone’s NIOSH N95 Disposable Respiratory with Exhalation Valve (not just for flu protection – you can actually breathe while mowing the lawn and wearing one of these), NIOX MINO, The Childhood Asthma Control Test by GlaxoSmithKline and our Asthma Awareness Day Capitol Hill sponsors: The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; ExxonMobil; TEVA; Schering-Plough; Genentech; Novartis; Aerocrine; and ImmunoCAP.

It’s incredibly wonderful to have everything back up and running, and even better knowing that through the process, good friends were by our side.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Catching Z-z-z-z-z's

Are your child’s nighttime asthma symptoms robbing you of precious sleep? Leaving you bleary-eyed and dozing in traffic the next day while your little one has made a miraculous and energetic recovery by morning? It’s a common occurrence leaving parents perplexed. You wonder, Did last night’s horrific coughing, gagging and wheezing really happen, and was it as serious as it seemed? The answer to both questions is most likely "Yes." And it’s possible to put an end to all of it.
The culprits for nighttime symptoms due to post-nasal drip resulting from nasal allergies could be airborne allergens circulating around your room. But which ones? Allergy testing can reveal the sources - but getting rid of them is another story. Get help with AANMA’s Indoor AIRepair kit, which you can download for free.

Another tip to try (30 days free) is PureZone; a HEPA air-purifying system that creates a sleep zone of purely filtered air. When I first saw the prototype of the product, I was skeptical that it could possibly work. Kids with asthma and allergies tend to toss and turn all night. So James, another skeptic who works with AANMA tried the unit to see if it would affect his son’s allergies and nighttime symptoms. After one night, he called and said it was the first night that his son had slept through without tearing off the sheets and blanket from tossing and turning and coughing.

It’s really a rather ingenious feat of engineering: a quiet fan tucked next to the mattress draws air from within the room through a soft HEPA filter tunnel into a washable pillow case covering your own pillow. When turned on, the white noise tunes out the rest of the world and the pillow case billows like a cloud.

You don’t feel air blowing on you – at least, I didn’t – but you notice that the air you breathe is, well, nice. Better still, significant research shows that patients who have allergy symptoms and asthma that worsen at night reported dramatic improvement in symptoms when using the product.

By way of disclosure, PureZone has not paid for this blog mention. AANMA makes no endorsements or claims about this or any product we write about. We hope you enjoy learning more about your options - let us know what you think!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Danish research: children born today are likely to live to the ripe old age of 100!

The question, in light of these findings: How well will our children with asthma fare throughout the next 90 years? How well will their lungs carry oxygen to their developing and subsequently aging hearts and brains? Will they have lung capacity sufficient to take walks and enjoy time with their great-grandchildren?

Is this good or bad news? The answer resides in the quality of one’s health and happiness, and in how well the planet is holding up then. The news about our children's expected longevity is all the more reason to protect and maintain healthy asthma-free airways in our children with asthma and allergic conditions today.

So much has changed in asthma care over the last two and a half decades since AANMA began in 1985. We now have a better understanding of the science, novel noninvasive diagnostic and monitoring tools as well as more effective and targeted medications with fewer unwanted side effects.

With a written asthma action plan - a strategy for overcoming, not coping with, symptoms - there is no reason we cannot usher our children born today into adulthood with healthy airways. Then, it will be up to them to use what we have taught them to stay healthy and active for 82 additional years!

Yes, it’s an awesome responsibility - but you’ve got help. AANMA has developed a new section of our website dedicated to families - PRECIOUS Breathers. The site is made possible through an AstraZeneca sponsorship (thank you!), and every word is written and produced by AANMA.

Not only will you find tried-and-true practical advice and create new friendships with families just like yours, you can ask questions through the Parent Support Center staffed by Carol Jones, RN AE-C. She knows your challenges - she spent the last “more than a couple of decades” working with families as an asthma and allergy nurse and is a certified asthma educator. She’s also experienced that whole family asthma boot camp thing with her husband, children and herself!

Check us out. You’ll be glad you did.