Thursday, January 17, 2013

Asthma & How It Relates to Food Allergies

I have had so many parents ask me about asthma with their food allergic little ones lately. 

I grew up with asthma.  I remember standing at the living room window and watching all of friends play in the neighborhood, but I was not allowed to go outside and play because the cold weather would trigger a severe attack.  I remember having to carry my nebulizer to school daily during these times.  I still laugh at the memory of one of my friends thinking my nebulizer was actually a little cage for bringing my pet hamster to school- no, I did not have a hamster- my mom said it would cause my asthma to get worse... as an adult I think that was a great excuse!  But I digress...

Asthma is an inflammatory disease that impacts the airways.  During an asthma attack the muscles in the bronchial tubes constrict because of the muscle spasms in the airway.  An interesting tid bit of information is that boys seem to have asthma more often than girls in childhood.  In early adulthood those numbers seem to even out.  But during middle age, more women have asthma than men.

So how is asthma related to food allergies?  The important thing for every parent to understand is that early anaphylaxis and asthma appear similar.  It is vital to remember that if in doubt use your epi pen and call for emergency assistance.

Please let me tell you, my little Bee has had a very severe reaction that still haunts my thoughts to this day.  Later on, I was told by our Allergist and ENT that it was a reaction I should have used an epi pen.  I was told that the worst that would have happened is that he would have a little guy running around with an extra buzzing of energy.  He followed up with "You will never regret giving your son epinepherine, but you could live with the regret of not giving it to him for the rest of your life."  This statement felt like he had punched me in the stomach- and has allowed me to push past the fear of the epi pen. 

Yet another relation, and one that I do not like to acknowledge, is that uncontrolled asthma can truly be fatal during an anaphylatic reaction.  Most fatal anaphylactic reactions are in people with uncotrolled asthma.  It is vital that you do all you can to get your children's asthma under control- period.

Uncontrollable asthma MAY be indicative of an allergy or intolerance that has bit been recognized.  Please understand the following information is my opinion, not fact!!!   Please, also always communicate with your pediatricians and medical team on what will be best for you and your child.  When it comes to children and their health it is not possible to make a blanket statement that covers all children... each child's health needs are just as different as their personalities.

 My oldest's asthma is much better than it was just a year ago, but asthma is still a huge disability for him that honestly stops him from doing far too much.  He engages in many activities, but we often will pay the price later.  As a mommy, with absolutely no medical degree, I am trying to convince my sweet husband to try three months with no dairy and no gluten to see if our wheezing little guy is any better.  My husband is not on board- yet.  Our oldest is a gluten eating machine!!!  He is our picky eater!  His foods consist of bananas, pancakes, breads, Sunbutter & crackers, and PIZZA, throw in a McDonald's burger once a week and you have HIS menu choices.  See the trend in almost everything?  Yup, gluten.  He will eat (and does every week with a slight power struggle) green beans, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.  He will eat carrots and cucumbers raw.  He likes beef and chicken.... ok. He would prefer being a "carb-atarian"- one who eats only carbs.  So, my Honey is a little resistant to take on such a long-term power struggle.  If the asthma gets any worse, we will be giving this a shot out of desperation.  The thought process behind this is that he did test positive to dairy until just this year when he "outgrew it". Some M.D.s do not beleive that people actually "outgrow" an allergy fully (that is a whole other topic!). Also, my husband is lactose intolerant, I am dairy intolerant, and our littlest buzzing bee is allergic to dairy.  Another thought in this seemingly drastic measure, is that I have celiac disease so he has a good change of either having celiac disease or gluten intolerance too.  His baby brother also has celiac disease.  Yes, we are trying to get bloodwork to confirm.  Actually, we have tried 4 times to get bloodwork.  He was stuck twice- no blood.  The other two times, he was so sick we needed to reschedule.  We are still working towards getting that done.  Until then, he is at least doing well at present time.

So, our little ones will grow up with some of the memories I swore when I was a little one looking sullenly out the window that I would never do to my children.  Sometimes, we have to miss play dates.  There are friends' homes that we will not enter because they have cats.  Often, our little Bee misses his preschool due to illness.  Thankfully, we homeschool our oldest for this and other health reasons.  He would be missing so much school this year! 

But, all is not lost!  Yes, the vision of a small child looking longingly at her or his friends from a window is so pitiful.  But, picture this going on at home: hot teas with lemon and honey, a warm blanket, parents on either side of you snuggled up playing a board game or having a movie night.  Lots of hot showers that loosen your lungs, can also become a warm waterfall on a deserted island with just a little imagination.  Nights that you cannot sleep, mommy or daddy will sleep on the couch in the upright position all night, with you gently prompt up in the crook of their arm.  Feet and chest rubs... even if it is with menthol smelling rubs.  And, when we are feeling better, but the weather is still not right for our lungs- we can ride our scooters in the house.... compliments of parent's guilt.  So, later in life, our little ones will realize their even trade off. 

On a positive note, parents of children with chronic illnesses, asthma, and constant threats of allergic reactions are usually adoring parents that appreciate the miracle of the children they love and know to cherish every moment with them.  I promise they too will look back on the love from you and not regret one moment of the times they could not be outside.  They will remember the LOVE.

Our dragon trainer's infamous rash from the steroids in the asthma medication when sing the mask on his nebulizer.  Our simple solution?  No mask, "big boy mouthpiece" and washing of his face after each treatment.

Snuggling while we were all so sick at Christmas time.

Daddy trying to comfort his tired little Bee while sick.

More snuggling while we were sick

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