Thursday, February 18, 2010

AANMA Shoeboxes for Haiti

Chances are there’s an empty shoebox in your closet. You could stow receipts in it, store art supplies for the kids, stash emergency cash or stuff it with old cell phones -- but no use would be more important than filling it with love and sending it to Haiti’s earthquake-fragmented families.

Each survivor has an unfathomable story. We cannot comprehend how they and the volunteers and caregivers are coping – we’ve never walked a day in their shoes.

But your empty shoebox collecting dust can fill a heart with hope and smiles. Packed with crayons, stickers, granola bars, pocket-sized rain ponchos, duct tape, batteries, beads, thread and fabric, bandages, soap, small toys or bubbles or anything else you place inside will transform a life.

As you gather treasures to place inside, envision the face of the person you would like to receive it. A mom? An elderly man? A baby girl or boy? A student? A volunteer? A physician or nurse? Draw a picture or write a note directly on the inside of the shoebox lid. On the outside, clearly write, “AANMA SHOEBOXES FOR HAITI” and the designee(s) such as “for a new mother,” “for a boy/girl.” You get the idea.

By the time you tape the lid shut and drop it in the mail, you’ll have had so much fun, you’ll probably go shoe shopping just so you can fill more boxes!

-Here’s how to ship your shoebox to Haiti securely:
Make sure that the lid is taped securely onto the box. You can simply write the address onto the shoebox or a label placed on the shoebox, or you can put the shoebox in a separate box from the post office. You can buy boxes at the post office or order them from

-Here’s the address:

AANMA Shoeboxes for Haiti, C/O Caleb Lucien,Hosean International
3170 Airmans Drive, Unit 1076 HIM
Fort Pierce, FL 34946

-To pay for shipping from the U.S. to Haiti, it’s helpful if you also send a check for $1.75/pound to the same address but in a separate envelope (the check could get lost if it’s shipped with the box).

(HIM is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in the U.S. and a recognized NGO in Haiti. For more information:

This project does not specifically address AANMA’s mission to eliminate asthma- and allergy-related suffering and death—but it has everything to do with helping people in dire need.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mr. Whiskers Feels Your Pain, Simba

Mr. Whiskers, a disgruntled feline who grudgingly acquiesces to bathtime for the sake of his family's respiratory health (with no shortage of growls and hisses), was a hit among readers when his column recently appeared in the Holiday Issue of Allergy & Asthma Today magazine. AAT reader Brenda Cruse has a cat who can relate--and she sends us the following tale.
Also be sure to check out my recent post featuring photos of my daughter-in-law, Kristin, administering a cat bath with a sensitivity that even Mr. Whiskers might admire. (Click here to read the post.)

Here's Brenda's cat-washing story:

"I have asthma, and our cat Simba is my constant irritator. He takes a nap on my pillow, and I spend the night coughing, wheezing and puffing albuterol. We've made lots of other comfy spots for him to rest, but he does seem to enjoy our bed!

We've found that if Simba gets a bath every two to three weeks, my symptoms are much better. My husband is usually the bather. Simba is a LARGE cat. He's about 25 pounds of well-fed, spoiled kitty-with-an-attitude.

One day last summer, I had asked hubby to give Sim his bath. He choose to do this while I was out somewhere. I came home and parked my car in front of the house, as I usually do. I hear this terrible screaming noise coming from a cat. I thought I had hit the neighbor's cat, it was so terrible and painful! I jumped out, got on my knees and started looking for an injured kitty. No kitty anywhere.

I hear more painful screams from a cat. I go in the house and start looking for my cats to make sure they're all OK. Devil Cat and KC are in the front window, Simba is nowhere around.

I go upstairs, still hearing screams from a cat. I see the bathroom door is closed--and I hear curses coming from my husband. I open the door to find Simba in the tub with my husband just about lying on him to keep him in the tub. The shower is running and the screams and curses are getting louder. The cat is doing his best to get out of the tub, and my husband is doing his best to keep cat in the tub. Curses are flying, claws are out and kitty is not happy.

At this point I'm laughing like a loon and my husband is screaming to close the door. I pull the door to close it--and clean kitty shoots out of the tub straight into the litter box and proceeds to lie down and roll! Simba has no idea what's coming next. Another bath! We pick him up and attempt to put him back in the tub for Round Two. It takes both of us to keep the cat contained and claws away from our skin. The painful screaming from the cat resumes, the curses resume and bath day has just gotten funnier. Trying to get clumping litter off a long-haired cat who's already fighting mad is not an easy task!"

We loved this story and some of the other “cat bath tales” we’ve received. However, we noticed a theme: When it comes to our beloved pets, some of us can be pushovers to a fault. Here are some tips for behavior modification – for pets and the humans who love them:

First, if your cat has made himself at home on your pillow -- donate your pillow to your kitty. Put it on a chair next to your bed. Buy yourself a new pillow, slip on dustmite-proof encasings for the pillow and your mattress, and when you make up your bed each morning, put your pillow in the closet and don’t bring it back out until you climb into bed. Little by little, inch the chair with your old/pet’s new pillow closer and closer to the door. Eventually, move the pillow outside your door and make your bedroom a cat-free zone. (PureZone has options for allergen-proofing your sleep space.)

Second, having to use albuterol every night is not a good sign at all. According to national asthma guidelines, this falls into the category of high risk of death or other serious encounter and long-term damage to your airways. Have you talked to your allergist about immunotherapy (allergy shots) or other medications that can help?

Third, try washing your bedding two and three times a week in an allergen-neutralizing laundry detergent such as those from Ecology Works. No special washing machine or dryer needed. And consider using a HEPA vacuum cleaner. I’ve had my Miele for 12 years and it works as great as the first day I bought it. In the same period of time, most people spend more than I did on multiple vacuums.

Listen, it’s been a while since we surveyed our entire readership population, but the last time we did, more than 50 percent of AANMA members fessed up to being hopelessly in love with their pets. The good news is there are things you can do that may give you the best of all worlds. Check out the Indoor AIRepair kit developed by AANMA with EPA for tips on making the air in your home more breathable .

Stay warm!

(By way of disclosure, any companies featured above did not and were not asked to pay for mention on this blog. AANMA does not endorse products, and if we mention them on this blog, it is purely informational.)

Nancy Sander
President and founder
Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)
2751 Prosperity Ave. Suite 150
Fairfax, VA 22031

Monday, February 1, 2010

How Precious Is Your Little Wheezer?

I can’t help but show you this picture of my wonderful daughter-in-law, Kristin, giving a nebulizer treatment to my youngest grandson, Trey. A month ago he was diagnosed with bronchiolitis while I was visiting them in Sugar Hill, Ga., for Christmas, and the poor little guy is still wheezing.

He’s was only four months old months old when all this started (see my post from Jan. 4 for the whole story), so when the doctor prescribed nebulizer treatments, we had to find a place in town to buy the nebulizer in a hurry. Not impressed with the compressor options available or the nebulizer set-up (medicine cup, mask and tubing) that came with it. The machine is noisy, and more medication streamed into the air than into his little airways.

Being the grandma that I am, I ordered Monaghan AeroEclipse®II Breath Activated Nebulizers and baby masks sent to their house (the nebulizer is the part that the medicine goes into; click here to read an AANMA article for parents of very young children about using nebulizers). What a difference! No more escaping mist, and Dan and Kristin love that they can see that the baby is actually getting the medication, thanks to a little green ball on the cap of the medication cup that moves down when the baby is inhaling-- and as soon as the baby stops inhaling, it pops back up.

That little green ball does more than just reassure grandparents like me and parents like Dan and Kristin. It’s the mechanism that allows the flow of medication only during inhalation.

Trey is five months old now, but he’s officially one of AANMA’s PRECIOUS Breathers! While he hasn’t been diagnosed with asthma as yet, with our family history, Dan and Kristin are taking no chances. They already had him blood tested (Immunocap) for allergens they knew were already in the home (a cat, a dog, dust mites, etc.)--and so far, so good.

Trey’s pediatrician is treating both the bronchospasm (with a nebulized bronchodilator) and airway inflammation (with a nebulized corticosteroid) in hopes of staving off the development of long-term symptoms. Trey was too young to get an H1N1 flu shot, but the rest of the family got theirs when the vaccines first came out.

What does all this have to do with AANMA’s PRECIOUS Breathers program? PRECIOUS Breathers is a growing group of families of babies, toddlers and preschoolers who, like Trey, wheeze, cough and exhibit other symptoms of asthma but may or may not yet have a diagnosis. It’s important to treat symptoms and use as many preventive options as possible to give these little ones a great start. And that’s what PRECIOUS Breathers is all about.

Babies grow at an amazing rate, and their little brains, muscles and organs need plenty of clean air to grow to the fullest potential. You would never allow someone to place a plastic bag over your child’s face for even a moment. While that example may seem drastic, that’s what asthma and other respiratory conditions do during those coughing and gagging and wheezing episodes--they restrict breathing!

PRECIOUS Breathers is for parents--even those who think they're asthma and allergy experts because of personal history. My son, Dan, grew up with exercise- and virally induced asthma, and his sister Brooke’s asthma was very severe. But his perspective as a parent is very different, and he’s now reading AANMA’s website, our magazine, Allergy & Asthma Today, and all our e-mail updates and blogs with new appreciation. Kristin, a physician’s assistant, recently remarked, “Why didn’t they teach us this stuff when I was in medical training!”

The nuances of raising wee ones who may or may not have asthma can be perplexing, and that’s why we created PRECIOUS Breathers; start-up funding was made possible in 2009 by AstraZeneca.

Sign up for PRECIOUS Breathers today and we’ll send you a little PRECIOUS Breathers iron-on logo! Put it on a onesie or a toddler T-shirt. Tell us your story. Send us a picture and we’ll post it (first name and age only) on AANMA’s PRECIOUS Breathers web page!

Be part of the first generation of parents utilizing never-before-available resources to minimize the progression of asthma.

By way of disclosure, Monaghan Medical, AeroEclipse II, Immunocap (Phadia) did not and were not asked to pay for mention in this blog. Start-up funding for PRECIOUS Breathers was provided during 2009 but is now an unfunded project supported by your donations and AANMA membership fees. Thank you!

Nancy Sander
President and founder
Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)
2751 Prosperity Ave. Suite 150
Fairfax, VA 22031