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.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

On a Clean Streak!

If it’s too good to be true, it usually isn’t, right? Like every other good cliché, I’ll follow with a few more: “This one is an exception to the rule” and “Try it -- you’ll like it.”

Look, when ActiveIon sent us an Ionator to try prior to accepting their ad in Allergy & Asthma Today magazine, Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics staffers didn’t raise an eyebrow or volunteer to do the testing. We get our fair share of kooky products that never merit ad space, and quite frankly, we thought the ionator was going to be another one of them. I mean, what’s exciting about using an energized water sprayer to clean your kitchen, bathroom and everything in between, and to kill germs? It’s just water, for goodness' sake!

So I took the ionator home to get the testing behind me.

I opened the box, removed the unit (looks cool, sturdy, space-agey) pushed a button to release the plastic water chamber and filled it with tap water. No soap, detergent, bleach, scents, alcohol, fumes or chemicals the names of which I can’t pronounce. Just water.

I snapped the chamber back into place, pointed the nozzle at my clean granite kitchen counters and pulled the trigger. A green light glowed through the water as a fine mist spritzed across the counter. Without fanfare, the water’s molecular structure was changed so that it could adhere to dirt and germs long enough to be wiped away – which I did with my well-worn kitchen dish towel.

Hmm, that was easy enough -- but wait a minute. My kitchen counter was already clean, right? So why wasn’t it as shiny and smooth and soft as the spot I just cleaned? I cleaned another section – same thing! The ionator-cleaned surfaces reflected a perfect mirror image of the overhead kitchen lights, whereas the surfaces cleaned earlier that day reflected the light like the moon on a cloudy night!

OK, game on. If the ionator will do this to the granite, what will it do to my stainless-steel refrigerator – the fingerprint bane of my existence? Spritz, wipe and sparkle. No smears to polish. I took aim at the kitchen sink. I was blinded by the light (couldn’t resist yet another cliché) bouncing off the faucet and how brand new the sink looked -- mind you, without any effort.

Room by room, I put the ionator to the challenge. I was sold. Completely.

Then, last night we had a few neighbors over for dinner. Oh, you should have seen the hubbub in my kitchen last night! It looked like an Activeion ionator infomercial, starting when one of the guests asked what that spray thing was sitting on the counter. I picked it up and said, “My secret weapon. Don’t anyone move.” All eyes turned as I removed and then filled the water reservoir with tap water (I had to prove I was only using tap water), popped it back in the sprayer and pulled the trigger.

I shot a fine spray of ionized water onto the granite countertop, wiped it dry and invited (with flair) my guests to compare the ionator-cleaned spot to an untreated spot. One said, “It’s shinier” and another agreed that light reflecting on the ionator-cleaned spot was sharp and clear but the same light cast a halo on the uncleaned section. Another touched the surface and remarked how smooth it was before picking the ionator up and using it on another section of the countertop.

“Oh! Look, a green light comes on!” someone remarked as she sprayed. By now you’ve probably guessed we're either a very rowdy bunch or in need of a little more excitement in our lives, but the green light gave me a chance to explain that Activeion’s ionator HOM is the greenest way to clean. Not only was my kitchen getting cleaned by the neighbors at the end of our party, but it was getting clean and sterile with just purely ionized WATER from my tap!

It’s easy to store, hold, carry, use. No mess. No drips. No fragrance. No dangerous ozone. No dirty sponges.

Just spray and the stainless-steel sink is spotless. Spray, the refrigerator gook is gone. Spray, stovetop and back wall are grease-free. Spray and wipe away all germs on doorknobs, the phone, the bathroom and and car! The highchair, car seat, crib rails at day care. Every classroom should have one of these!

Best of all, after all that cleaning – my hands were smooth! No irritation from cleaners or from wearing gloves – both of which are a problem for me. I could have sold six ionator HOM units last night! I got up this morning to find my ionator went missing. My husband said a neighbor borrowed it. "What?!" I exclaimed and then went online to buy myself a second one. Technically, the first one was free, and it’s easy to say good things about free products. It’s quite another to... (OK, one more) put your money where your mouth is.

Remember, you are buying the ionizing technology – the active ingredient, water, comes out of your tap. What if you could get rid of the annoying child safety latches and nearly every smelly cleaner under your sink? How much money would you save? Plenty! Try adding it up!

I tend to use vinegar and water, lemon and salt, and vinegar and baking soda to clean most of my house because cleaners choke my airways and eat away at my hands. But compared to the ionator, they're time-consuming.

Just to be very clear, this was my experience not a paid endorsement or “certification” (be wary of these) by any measure. Activeion’s ionator doesn’t need to buy anyone’s seal of approval but yours. It works as advertised or you get your money back. And yes, they pay to advertise in Allergy & Asthma Today magazine! Thank you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Shopping for School Supplies with Asthma

I was searching Aisle 3A for plastic pellets to recharge the ongoing rock-tumbler summer science project at our house when I heard it.

My radar zeroed in on a sound coming from Aisle 2B: a wheezing child “chop-talking” to his dad. You know, “chop-talking” – that staccato sharp sentence phrasig where you get out a few words, take a shallow breath and speed through the next couple of words in the hopes that you can get it all out before being whisked away to another aisle – which is exactly what happened. They rounded the corner of 3A and my heart sank.

The boy was all of probably 5 years old, purple shadows half mooned under his eyes. Face dusky white, his mouth curled into an “o” before heaving a single sharp cough. “You OK, buddy?” his dad asked as they continued on to Aisle 4 looking for items on the “back-to-school” list he carried in his hand. “Yeah,” the boy coughed.

I wanted to say, “No, Dad, he’s not OK -- he’s only one or two triggering events away from death’s door!”

But I didn’t. It would have come out all wrong, and why should he listen to me anyway? I could be some crazy woman for all he knows. What if his son has never been diagnosed with asthma? What if he was afraid to leave his son with a sitter while he did the shopping? I thought of the phone call we’d just received from a mom whose 11-year-old son recently died of an asthma attack, and of the words of so many who've lost loved ones to asthma: by the time it looks serious, it’s too late. I started to speak and stopped. I left the store.

I have more than 30 years of experience with asthma. I’m not a doctor or nurse, but I can pick out a child or baby with asthma symptoms a mile away. But this dad only had the experience of his son and whatever the medical care provider had time to impart. He doesn’t know any better. As I unlocked the car door and slid into the driver’s seat, I thought, "Maybe he would appreciate my help."

If only I'd known where he was parked -- I could have slid my business card under the windshield wiper. Instead, I turned the key and backed out of my space, still unable to clear the stoic face of this boy from my mind.

Children who wheeze from the time they're infants or toddlers tend to become that way -- stoic -- as they grow older. They have to be; otherwise, they miss out on too much in life. While parents are trying to discern what’s normal and not (we get this question every day), they're also deciding whether the symptoms warrant another day off from work, another visit to the doctor or paying a babysitter to come to the house. It’s not as if they can keep their children tied down. Families have no idea that they're becoming conditioned to accept a certain degree of asthma symptoms as acceptable or tolerable even when they're dangerously not!

It happens so innocently. We hear it all the time: "Well, he’s just a happy wheezer. Always has been.” “He gets a cold if the wind blows the wrong way.” “She’s been worse. She’ll be OK.” “She’s a tough one, that’s for sure.”

By the time a child is ready for school, they’ve become accustomed to asthma, too! They’ve never known another way. Just like kids who don’t know there are leaves on a tree until they get glasses, kids with asthma often have no idea what it means to take a full deep breath until they’ve done it. Repeatedly. For long periods of time.

Part of preparing kids for school is making certain they start out the year healthy and armed with a written asthma action plan. Teach them when and how to ask for help. They need to know the names of the medications they use and when to use them. This is not optional.

Asthma is serious stuff: 10 children and adults die of asthma every single day! Many more miss school and sit on the sidelines, get picked last for team sports and bullied when they can’t keep up. This is the real world, folks. The stuff we as parents and grandparents don’t see.

And it’s also the stuff we can do something about -- just like teaching them not to take candy from strangers or showing them repeatedly how to cross the street safely until they can do it on their own. When our kids have asthma, our job is to help them breathe well and be all that they were born to be. No child was born to feel breathless, cough, wheeze, be congested, any more than they were born to play in traffic every day.

Check out these back-to-school resources for parents and kids:
-Is your child ready to self-administer asthma or anaphylaxis medication at school, if you live in a state that allows it? Ask your child these questions for starters.

-When is it OK for your child to go to school -- and when is it time to stay home?

-Some children have life-threatening food allergies. As a parent, how can you make sure that your child is safe during lunchtime at school?

-Student-athletes with asthma can thrive on the playing field as long as they're careful. Here are some tips.

Back-to-school tips to share or questions about your student with asthma or allergies? E-mail us at!