Spring’s Sting

Oh, Spring. How beautiful you look through the window.

If you suffer from asthma and allergies, you understand what I’m saying. Everyone’s talking about how happy they are that Spring is here, but you are sniffling, sneezing, eyes watering, coughing, trying to breathe, and staying inside.

No matter how much medicine we take, it gets us at some point. Some springs are worse than others, and fall is even worse for us, but so far, spring has sprung and stung. That little twitch in your throat, the little cough starts, the nose starts itching…and you know it’s spring. Oddly enough, the thick yellow pollen that covers my porch and car and everything else isn’t as bad a problem as the aftermath. Right now, the yellow is less and less but my symptoms are kicking up. It makes no sense.

I’m less inclined to go for my walks when it’s like this. I’m less inclined to work in my yard. I don’t want to walk my dog. I don’t want to sit on my porch. And yet I need some vitamin D, right?! I do get jealous of those who don’t have to worry about it. I wish I could just enjoy my spring.

As a parent of an asthma and allergy sufferer, as well as a sufferer myself, I can at the very least understand what my son is going through. He’s already started weight lifting and conditioning for football season and next week, will start spring practice. This year it’s high school ball. Hard to believe it’s already here. He was sick last week with cold/sinus issues, which is never “just a cold” when you have asthma. He thought he could handle weight training and I let him go. When I went to pick him up, they were coming in from the field where they had apparently been running. I panicked. I knew he had trouble because it was a hot day for April and he was already having some breathing issues. I thought they were just going to lift weights so I didn’t worry. I didn’t see him come in from the field. I didn’t see him at all. Kids kept coming out and going to their cars but he was nowhere to be seen.

I was in a bad position. My Mama Bear mode had kicked in. I needed to go and find him, be sure he was ok. What if he needed to go to Urgent Care? I also knew that if he was ok, it would embarrass him to the nth degree because these athletes are young men now and mamas don’t just show up in the weight room. It’s a man’s world up in there. This is no longer the Rec Dept league where I can watch him every minute.

I gave myself 5 more minutes before going in. I assured myself that the coaches would look after him. I assured myself that he would know what to do and would’ve stopped if he needed to. I tried to have faith in him that at 14, he would know when to sit down. I fought my anxiety and fear and anger over my lack of control over the situation.

And then I saw him coming out. He was ok. Not great, but ok. He got in the car and said he made it through the running but had to sit for a while afterwards, which was why he was late coming out. He promised he would sit if he needed to. He didn’t know he would be running that day, either. But he did it. And then was sick the next day and the next and the next. Such is the life of an athlete with asthma in the spring.

I don’t know why it has to be so hard for him. It’s not fair, but we all have our personal battles and this happens to be his. And mine. He’s a fighter, though, and I’m proud of him. He loves sports, most of all football, and wants and needs to be physically active as much as possible. I will support him as long as he wants to play and will do what I can do to take care of him, which seems to be less and less now as he grows up. Luckily, most days are good. But when it’s bad, it’s really bad.

This episode did motivate me to set up a meeting with the coach to be sure we have a plan for him like we did in middle school. Most of his teachers and coaches in the past have been wonderful and cared about his well-being. I’ve also set up an appointment with our asthma doctor. I’ve been fortunate to have so many other adults in his life who help me help him. I have no reason to think high school will be any different. Communication and teamwork really is the key.

So, Spring: I for one have mixed feelings about your arrival. Your flowers are lovely. Your trees, gorgeous. Your sunshine, healing. I’m glad winter’s gone. We will get through this. We always do. At least the scenery is nice and the temperatures pleasant. Soon, we’ll be able to experience it without a window in the way.

Advertisements

Breathing Easier With Supplements

The news story that came out this week about the faux vitamins at Wal Mart, Target, and other stores was a real bummer. While I believe that supplements do have health benefits, I feel that this situation only adds fuel to the skeptics’ fire…not to mention how much I loved saving money by buying store brands, since we spend a small fortune on other medications. Oh well, I guess that strategy’s shot.

If you missed it- http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/03/news/herbal-supplements-walmart-target/

Insurance does not cover these over-the-counter meds but we use quite a bit of them and they add up quickly. Generic prescriptions have helped the bank account tremendously; I was thrilled when a generic Singulair became available, but now I wonder what is in there. I believe that the medicine is in there, because it helps us, but what else is there? I’ve known for many years that brand-name drugs are “cleaner” than their generic forms. In the past, I’ve had prescription medications that I could not take in generic because of side effects, but insurance will only cover the generic. Sigh. It’s a real dilemma. Sometimes it feels like you can’t win. Who am I kidding, with insurance companies, you definitely can’t.

I look for coupons and use them whenever possible. My wonderful pharmacists at Target often find coupons for me, which I think is so kind. Always do an internet search before you shop for the brand names. I have found them for Advair, Culturelle, Nasonex, and Flonase. I’m sure there are more out there — which ones have you found?

We take or have taken probiotics, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin C. We have been told by our doctor when to take which ones and why they will help us, except for vitamin C, which I added because of overwhelmingly positive anecdotal evidence. Ask your doctor if these supplements might be right for your athlete. 

Probiotics

So much research shows that wellness rests within the gut. Our good bacteria has been destroyed by processed diets and food additives, so we need to replace that good bacteria to help our immune systems. This medicine helps with digestion, as well. I can’t say enough good things about these wonder pills. We use Culturelle because they have no gluten or dairy. Anything that will help keep my athlete from getting sick is good stuff to me. A simple cold for an asthma sufferer is not simple at all. It can keep him out of school, out of practices and games, and turn into bronchitis quickly. Check with your doctor to see if these might be helpful to your athlete.

More info — http://www.livingwithasthma.net/asthma-and-probiotics-whats-the-real-story/

Magnesium

My athlete has taken this in pill form, as well as in Epsom salt baths. This remedy helps with…well, just about everything. Magnesium helps inflammation, whether it be sore muscles or inflamed airways. After an intense football practice or game, nothing feels better for my athlete than taking an Epsom salt bath. It is super cheap, you can find it at any drugstore, and I pour in a little Aveeno bubble bath to make it smell nice but not too strong…we’re trying to help the asthma, not trigger it! The pill form works well, too, if you don’t have time for a bath. Check with your doctor to see if this would help your athlete.

More info — http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/asthma

Vitamin D

Apparently, many of us are now deficient in vitamin D because we don’t go outside enough. That’s pretty sad, isn’t it? This supplement is especially helpful during the winter, when the sun isn’t out as much and we stay in to avoid the cold. Among many other things, vitamin D also helps with inflammation. Check with your doctor to see if this supplement would help your athlete.

More info — http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Vitamin C

This last one I have adopted as part of our winter routine. My husband is on airplanes a lot and has found Airborne/EmergenC to be somewhat effective in helping him stay well. It may not keep you from catching a cold, but it can help lessen the severity and the duration. I recently found Airborne gummies, which taste delicious and you can take up to 3 times a day. The past couple of weeks, my husband and I (and most people I know!) have both been sick with throat infections and cold and sinus problems. I started taking the gummies when I got sick with a second round and so far, I have not had to go back to the doctor or had to get back on antibiotics. My son caught it last week, started the gummies immediately, twice a day, and over the weekend, got better and never had to go to the doctor. Can I prove it was the gummies? No. But it’s can’t hurt, as long as we follow the dosage requirements, so I’ll keep doing it.

More info — http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002404.htm

What supplements does your athlete take? What have you tried that hasn’t worked? I quit taking the Magnesium pills daily because I couldn’t tell a difference, but I swear by those Epsom salt baths. You will feel so good afterwards. I hope this information helps you with your athlete; as noted ad nauseum above, please check with your doctor before starting any new supplements. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv. I am, however, a mom and a writer with mad internet research skills, and I’m not afraid to use them to help my athlete beat asthma.

Play hard, work hard, and stay well!

20130513153505_i_love_sports_blanc

Trial and Error

Asthma requires a great deal of patience. It is not an exact science.

The learning curve is steep and parents have to learn to research on their own in order to educate themselves on how to best handle their child’s illness. Working with medical professionals is crucial but parents must also learn to advocate for their children as they battle a chronic illness that has many variables.

I was diagnosed with asthma a few years before my son. The only good thing about having asthma myself was that I was ahead of the game, knowledge-wise. I knew what we were dealing with, I knew how it felt when he couldn’t catch a good breath, and I knew how important it was for him to take his meds every day. I always had an emergency inhaler in my bag for myself, so I always had it for him, too.

However, his asthma and my asthma were not the same. I had a lot left to learn. After allergy testing, we discovered at the age of 12 that he had food allergies. Suddenly, we were thrust into the world of wheat-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free…we went cold turkey on all of his allergens (wheat, tree nuts, beef, and lettuce), as I was terrified that food was making him sicker. We even tried dairy free, since dairy causes inflammation. It took hours at the grocery store just to find food he could eat. I was having to cook everything, since we were very limited on restaurants and prepared foods that were both gluten-free and tree nut-free.

We did what they told us to do. We even ate super disgusting gluten-free, dairy-free pizza. Only once. We tried soy milk and rice milk, and soy cheese, which is truly the most horrible concoction. We spent an obscene amount of money, because these specialty foods cost an arm and a leg, which is honestly adding insult to injury. Not only are you sick, but you have to destroy your budget, too! But when they tell you to do this, you do it, because it’s your kid, and even though he had never had an obvious reaction to any of these foods in 12 years, you want your kid to be well and you will do whatever it takes.

We also did allergy shots. He got a rash soon after, and the doctor was adamant that it wasn’t the shots. It didn’t go away, and on my own, I took him off the shots and the rash went away. I found a new doctor. I quit blindly following advice.

Around this time, I went to an allergist for my asthma. He enlightened me on allergy testing and how there are different methods (I had the intra-dermal kind after the skin test didn’t reveal anything. My son only had the skin test.) He mentioned that it was rare for a 12 year old to have food allergies, and that sometimes environmental allergies can present as food allergies, i.e. tree allergy = tree nut allergy, grass allergy = wheat allergy. I felt so defeated and so furious. All of that time, energy, and money I spent on his diet and the testing, when it may have been for nothing. He suggested I have my son tested again. Since we were still paying for the old test, as well as my current test, I said no. It cost me $800 out-of-pocket to be tested. And we have “good insurance.” He would have to wait.

I felt like an idiot, or worse, like I’d been had. I also felt very confused. I have a Master’s degree but couldn’t weed through all of the conflicting information. I had read books upon books, articles upon articles, joined Facebook groups…but because asthma and allergies are so inexact, I couldn’t say for sure that my previous doctor had done anything wrong, but I certainly suspect that they weren’t great.

Instead of racking up more medical bills, I found a new doctor who believed in taking traditional medicines along with alternative medicines (Epsom salt baths, supplements, Probiotics.) I decided to change our diet to more healthy, whole foods, less processed, more organic, less GMO, and more fruits and veggies. I cooked more and ate out less. We do still cut down on gluten and dairy during football season when my son’s allergies are at their worst, but otherwise, he eats a mostly (he is a teenager) healthy diet without going to the extreme.

Live and learn. Try and try again. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So many trite expressions come to mind in regards to our roller coaster ride with asthma. I carry the epi-pen we got during allergy shots because I am still paranoid that he will have some reaction someday. It’s probably expired but it gives me an irrational sense of security. I also carry Benadryl in case he has a reaction. In the back of my mind, I still worry about those tests from 2 years ago. For now, we are doing our best and what makes sense to us.

This is just our experience. Food allergies are real and horribly dangerous and life-threatening to many children. We are fortunate that we have not had scary reactions to foods. My heart goes out to families that have to deal with real food allergies. But I’ve wondered how many people have been diagnosed with food allergies but have never had reactions. I wonder how other families handled this situation, and hopefully, they did better than we did.

My kid says sometimes, “remember when Mom made us eat all that weird food and we had that nasty pizza?” Like it was a “kooky phase” Mom went through, like when she was into knitting, or when she wore ugly Christmas sweaters back in the day. Ugh, parenting a kid battling asthma is never boring and often thankless but with patience, perseverance, education, and advocacy, we will get through it.

Daily Antihistamines and Fatigue

What daily antihistamine works best for you or your athlete?

I’ve learned that everyone has a favorite or a least favorite. I’ve been advised by my doctor to switch it up if you’re on one year-round. I use Allegra during problem times (spring and fall) and have used either Claritin or Zyrtec during summer and winter. I don’t feel like Claritin does that much and Zyrtec definitely makes me more tired, but it works. Allegra seems to be the most effective and least fatigue-inducing.

Fatigue is definitely a side effect of allergies and asthma. The days before I notice having breathing issues, I get so tired — to-my-bones kind of tired. I hate being tired, especially when I’m trying to be sporty. It’s more than just end-of-the-day tired. It’s all encompassing and you just want to go to sleep. That’s usually how I know I”m about to have breathing issues. So to use a daily antihistamine that adds to the tired is not good for me.

The best bet is to be sure you and your athlete are getting to bed at a decent time. That is often easier said than done, with sports practices, games, and homework contributing to many late nights. Sometimes I schedule in some down time on the weekends, which can be challenging, but we all need to chill out and let our bodies and minds have a break. Drinking lots of water helps keep your airways clear and helps detox the body, which also will help to maintain energy levels. I am not a huge fan of drinking water, especially in cold weather, so I have started drinking a mixture of 1 part Gatorade to 3 parts water. I don’t like straight Gatorade and don’t want all of the calories, but just that little bit of flavor helps me drink more water and less caffeine during the day. Your athlete might like that mixture as well…I really think I should market it! I’m a Georgia Bulldog so I wouldn’t call it Gator Water…maybe Gator Hater Water? 🙂 Whatever you call it and whoever you root for, it’s delicious, hydrating, and healthy.

Here’s to staying hydrated this winter and fighting that medicine-related fatigue! Stay tough, athletes! Spring is not that far away…