Breathe EZ Archives - Active Healthcare

Got Asthma or Allergies? There’s an App for That!


AllergyManager Geared towards helping those suffering with nasal allergies by Read more

The Double Threat of Vaping


Food industry workers at a microwave popcorn factory were Read more

EpiPen® Recall Announced by Mylan N.V.


Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company and Mylan’s manufacturing Read more

Got Asthma or Allergies? There’s an App for That!

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Smartphone apps for both Android and iPhone are not just for shopping and social media. Most are free to download. We’ve blogged about asthma apps before. Here are a few new technology tools to better manage your asthma and allergy symptoms.

Five Free Apps for Asthmatics and Allergy sufferers to Download Now

Pick An App to Manage Your Asthma

AllergyManager

Geared towards helping those suffering with nasal allergies by allowing you to look up daily pollen counts. The app also provides 4-day allergy forecasts and coping tips. You can also use the symptom and severity tracker to report back to your doctor.

Asthma Ally

Pinpoints asthma and allergy triggers by tracking airborne irritants near you including pollen, dust, and the ozone. Allows you to log your daily symptoms before your next doctor’s appointment.

First Aid by American Red Cross

Offers step-by-step instructions on how to best handle an asthma or allergy attack in the form of safety tips and video demonstrations. It’s a good way to stay informed even when symptoms aren’t as bad so you can be prepared ahead of time for when an attack occurs.

WebMD Allergy

A lot of people turn to WebMD when they have symptoms they are unsure about, and now allergy sufferers can carry personalized allergy and weather forecasts with them, as well as tips. With this app, you can track how you feel on a particular day, as well as access an extensive library of articles and videos.

Zyrtec Allergycast

Yes, you may see some advertising for Zyrtec here, but the app also provides your local pollen index for the day and reports on how it might affect you. In addition, you are provided with alerts when the pollen level is high in your specific area, as well as a 10-day forecast so you can plan ahead.

Asthma can flare in any season. More flowers and plants are in bloom in the summer months; which worsen allergy symptoms. We hope that these apps along with your regular treatment regimen will have you enjoying your summer and worrying less about your asthma or allergies.


The Double Threat of Vaping

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment   , , ,

Food industry workers at a microwave popcorn factory were the first to get sick from inhaling the vapors from artificial flavorings. The vapors caused symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath, similar to those of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Popcorn: Tasty Snack; Popcorn Lung: Deadly Disease

Dubbed popcorn lung, this condition (bronchiolitis obliterans) is a serious and irreversible lung disease. The culprit is the chemical diacetyl. When inhaled, it scars the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of one’s airways.

While many major popcorn manufacturers have removed this chemical from their manufacturing process, it still poses a threat. Diacetyl is also an ingredient in the flavorings for e-cigarettes. A Harvard study found that 39 of 51 e-cigarette brands contained the offending ingredient.

With flavors like ‘Cinnatoast Munch,’ ‘Cotton Candy,’ and ‘Kiwi Watermelon,’ teens are drawn to vaping. Not only do teens think vaping looks cool; they justify their new habit by saying it is better than smoking. Some e-cigarette ‘juices’ do not contain nicotine, but there is still a danger from the artificial flavorings.

As we discussed in our March blog vaping is often a method people choose for quitting tobacco, but can be very harmful to asthmatics. Vaping is not safe. Why put yourself at risk to develop ‘popcorn lung’? Don’t forget about the many other chemicals in e-cigarette vapor, like formaldehyde.

If you are a current smoker who desires to quit, there are better and healthier ways to accomplish this. A lot of people have trouble quitting because of an oral fixation. Below are some ideas to use as a substitute for smoking or vaping.

• Chew gum (some even contain nicotine) or eat hard candies.
• Get more exercise as this can reduce stress – which may lead smokers to crave a cigarette.
• Consider the nicotine patch which can curb your urge to smoke or vape.

The American Lung Association has many resources to help you quit smoking – or vaping.

Final Notes

Diacetyl has since been removed from the following brands of microwave popcorn: Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret, and Jolly Time. So, don’t worry. Your favorite snack is safe now.

The FDA is closely monitoring this market and has begun to apply and enforce key provisions of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. This 2009 law gives the FDA authority to regulate the tobacco market and minimize the negative impacts of smoking on America’s youth and families.

Resources

2016 Surgeon General Report detailing the use of e-cigarettes among youth and young adults.

Quitline NC:  1-800-QUIT-NOW or En Espanol at 1-855-Dejelo-Ya


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: How Houseplants Affect Asthma and Air Quality

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are all familiar with the usual suspects that trigger asthma including secondhand smoke, dust mites, mold, pests like cockroaches, and pets. Did you know that your houseplants can affect the air quality in your home and your asthma?

The Good: Many Common Houseplants Improve Indoor Air Quality

houseplants and air qualityPlants are frequently used to mediate the effects of pollution and toxins in our external environment. Our indoor environments can contain toxins such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Two common indoor VOC pollutants are benzene and formaldehyde. Benzene can be found in plastics, fabrics, pesticides, and cigarette smoke. Common household items such as dish detergent, fabric softener, and carpet cleaners all may contain formaldehyde.

VOCs have been linked to asthma and more serious conditions including respiratory illnesses and cancer. Plants act as filters to remove these harmful pollutants via their leaves and roots. In addition, the microorganisms living in the plant’s soil are a big help in neutralizing the air. Air-quality friendly plants include the Peace Lily, Golden Pothos, Red-Edged Dracaena, Snake Plant, and Asparagus Fern.

The Bad: These Houseplants are Indoor Irritants

Your friendly ficus that fills an empty corner has allergens in its sap. Palms, of the male variety, produce excess pollen. Check in with your local nursery to find a ‘female’ palm which is not a pollen offender. English ivy can cause skin irritations. African violets have beautiful flowers, but their leaves are dust catchers.

Don’t forget about cut flowers! If you home includes allergy sufferers, you may want to select flowers that generate less pollen like lilies, iris, roses and zinnias. Try to avoid daisies, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers in your table top bouquets.

Healthy Plants Mean Healthier Air: Avoid the Ugly Reality of Mold and Fungi

Over-watering your plants can lead to the development of a fungus and mold which are known asthma triggers. Remember that plants like ferns can be kept in rooms with higher humidity levels, such as your bathroom to keep them healthy and minimize over-watering.

Additional Resources

NASA Guide to Air-Filtering Houseplants
Houseplant Watering Guide


EpiPen® Recall Announced by Mylan N.V.

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , ,

EpiPen Recall - 2017Meridian Medical Technologies, a Pfizer company and Mylan’s manufacturing partner, has expanded a voluntary recall of select lots of EpiPen (epinephrine injection, USP) and EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine injection, USP) Auto-Injectors to now include additional lots distributed in the U.S. and other markets in consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Lots Effected by Recall

The recall impacts certain lots of the 0.3 mg and 0.15 mg strengths of EpiPen Auto-Injector. None of the recalled lots include the authorized generic for EpiPen Auto-Injector, which is also manufactured by Meridian Medical Technologies.

The manufacturer will be replacing the recalled devices at no cost.

Please visit Mylan’s website to read the Press Release with a list of the impacted lots that were sold in the United States and additional information on how to return effected devices.


Are You Asthma Aware?

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,

Did you know that May is Asthma Awareness Month?

Asthma Awareness MonthSpring is in the air, and as temperatures rise, an asthmatic’s symptoms reach their peak.

This is a perfect time to review some key points about asthma. With May quickly approaching, let’s have a refresher of some Frequently Asked Questions asked by asthmatics and their loved ones.

Question: Should I only take my controller medication if I’m having an attack?

Answer: No, controller medications are used to treat the underlying issue and not an attack. They do not immediately relieve symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, or chest tightness.

Question: Can I exercise and play sports even if I have asthma?

Answer: Yes, exercise is possible with asthma, but consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program or sport.

Question: Can I become addicted to my controller medication?

Answer: No, asthma medications are not considered addictive. With that said, it is important to understand them and to use them properly.

Question: Is it okay if I’m around smoke as long as I am outdoors?

Answer: No, secondhand smoke should always be avoided if you are an asthma sufferer because tobacco smoke is among the most common of asthma triggers.

Question: Does my controller medication stop working the longer I use it?

Answer: No, these medications are designed to work for the long haul and should be taken daily until your doctor suggests otherwise.

Question: Is it normal to use my rescue inhaler at least once per day?

Answer: No, this inhaler is not meant to be used every day, only in the instance of an asthma attack.

Question: Will using inhaled steroids/controller medication stunt my growth?

Answer: No, asthma drugs do not stunt growth, although one recent study did report a temporary stunt in childhood that disappears by adulthood.

To celebrate Asthma Awareness Month, the Triangle Asthma Coalition would like to make you aware of two upcoming events:

  1. 2017 Asthma Fair, May 6th, 9 AM to 12:30 PM, Raleigh, NC – Held at the Andrews Center at Wake Med and hosted by the Triangle Asthma Coalition, this educational event provides patients and their families with information about taking control of their asthma.
  2. 2017 Asthma Summit, May 24th, 8 AM to 4:15 PM, Burlington, NC – Held at St. Mark’s Church and hosted by the Asthma Alliance of North Carolina, the summit’s target audience includes nurses, respiratory therapists, registered environmental health specialists, and health educators.

For more information about the events, please visit the events page of the Triangle Asthma Coalition website.

Happy Asthma Awareness Month to all!

 


Vaping is Smoking, Too

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , ,

It’s no secret that tobacco is one of the most common asthma triggers. Tobacco smoke irritates the airways and causes your lungs to produce more mucus. In addition, it weakens the tiny hairs called cilia that sweep away mucus and other irritants that settle in your airways.

Quitting smoking is an excellent method of combating asthma, but you aren’t out of the woods yet. Another important risk factor to consider is secondhand smoke. It is especially harmful for children. If you are an asthmatic, tell your family and friends how tobacco smoke affects you. Have them smoke outside and far away from the doorway, if possible. Encourage them to quit for their own health, not just yours.

Vaping is Not Risk Free

Since it is common knowledge that tobacco smoke is very bad for one’s health, many nicotine addicts turn to electronic cigarettes and “vaping.” It gives many a false sense of security and the mindset of “at least I’m not smoking actual cigarettes.” Vaping is harmful, too, but in a different way. The vapor released by e-cigarettes contains formaldehyde, another asthma trigger. So, while people are on the right track with quitting tobacco, they need to know that vaping is not risk-free and may worsen their asthma symptoms. Vaping is a developing trend among teens because there are a number of flavors offered, some even tasting like candy and adult beverages.

Another thing to avoid is secondhand vapor. Since electronic cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon, many businesses and workplaces do not have policies in place to keep employees and patrons from “vaping” indoors. In the same way you would tell your family and friends not to smoke around you, you should also ask them to vape elsewhere.

E-Cigarettes Pose Similar Risks

A recent National Jewish Health study links the liquid in e-cigarettes to an increase in respiratory infections. During the study, a test was performed on young, healthy non-smokers and it discovered that e-cigarette use damaged the cells in the airways that defend against harmful inhalants, such as viruses. “The cells showed a strong pro-inflammatory response within minutes and the risk of viral infection in those cells rose significantly,” said Hong Wei Chu, MD, who led the study.

If you are an asthmatic or have one in your life, remember to avoid both smoking and vaping for a healthier future.


When Valentine’s Day is Bittersweet

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , , ,

Valentine's candy heartsMost people are aware of the most common asthma triggers which are referred to as the 3 Ps: pets, pollen, and pollution. Recent studies have brought a new one to light – sugar. The reason? Sugar causes inflammation of the airways. I bet you didn’t know that a little sugar could cause such a reaction.

In 2008, Dr. Sonja Kiersten, a researcher from the Nestle Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, began to make this discovery. Dr. Kiersten and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania used mice to perform their research by feeding them sugar water. This experiment produced the following results.

  • The mice’s airways became inflamed, which made them more prone to developing asthma.
  • The mice fed the sugar water had airways that were twice as reactive as those that drank plain water.
  • The mice became addicted to the sugar water and wanted more.

Limiting your sugar intake is beneficial to everyone, as sugar can affect your body in a variety of ways including:

  • It can lead to an over-active pancreas, which can cause inflammation in various parts of the body. The pancreas is a small organ, so it can only take so much before it starts releasing hormones that affect your sugar levels.  It also produces insulin.  When you feed it with refined sugar like that in a can of soda, for example, your pancreas goes into overdrive and produces too much insulin. This will, in turn, inflame air passages.
  • Excess sugar leads to weight gain. Obesity aggravates asthma, as it does with many other chronic illnesses.

In addition to sugar, dairy can also worsen an asthmatic’s symptoms.  Many doctors tell their asthma patients to try to eliminate dairy from their diets because of the mucus milk and cheese produce, which clogs the airways and constricts air passages.  Even coffee can be harmful.  It is definitely important for asthmatics to stay hydrated and water is the best way for them to do so.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, here are some ideas on how you and your family can celebrate this popular holiday with minimal impact:

  • Have your child take Valentines to school with small toys attached instead (ex: a balloon).
  • Do a Valentine’s Day craft.
  • Make a special, heart-shaped breakfast using cookie cutters.
  • Take him/her out on a “date” not involving food such as a movie, walk, game night, etc.


Five Flu Myths Debunked Just in Time for Flu Season

Lisa Feierstein Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Men's Health, Women's Health 1 , ,

flu vaccineJanuary is the height of flu season, and if you haven’t been vaccinated, it’s not too late to do so.

Influenza or “the flu,” as it more commonly known. This respiratory virus that can be fatal and causes severe symptoms including high fever, shaking chills, headache, body aches, cough, and tiredness.  If you haven’t ever contracted it, consider yourself lucky.

Here are five flu myths you might have heard about the flu that we will clear up for you.

Myth: You can catch the flu from the vaccine

Fact:  This is false

The vaccine contains a dead virus and cannot transmit infection. If you get sick around the time you got it, you were probably already going to get sick from exposure to the virus by an infected person.  In addition, it takes about two weeks for your body to build up the antibodies needed to fight the flu.

Myth: Vomiting and diarrhea are symptoms of Influenza.

Fact:  Influenza is strictly a respiratory illness.

Stomach flu or gastroenteritis is a completely different and separate virus. With stomach flu, you would experience vomiting and/or diarrhea in addition to stomach pain.

Myth:The vaccine is the only ammunition you need to fight the flu.

Fact:  In addition to the vaccine, you should wash your hands frequently, cough into your elbow, and drink lots of fluids.

Also, as with any illness, you will want to disinfect your surfaces such as phones, doorknobs, light switches, and remotes, as the germs can stay alive for up to 72 hours.

Myth: Young, healthy individuals cannot catch the flu.

Fact: Young and healthy individuals can catch the flu.

This group has a greater ability to fight complications of the flu, but it can still have an impact.  The 2014 flu season was particularly hard on this group of individuals.  Then, 61% of those hospitalized with influenza-like illnesses were adults aged 18-64.  In addition to reducing complications brought on by the flu, patients who are vaccinated also reduce the likelihood of transmission of the virus.

Myth: The flu vaccine causes Bell’s palsy.

Fact: No evidence has been found to support this.

One study from the Institute of Medicine reports that vaccines cause very few health problems.  “The findings should be reassuring to parents that few health problems are clearly connected to immunizations, and these effects occur relatively rarely.  The flu vaccine does not aggravate asthma, and the flu vaccine doesn’t cause Bell’s palsy,” explains Ellen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University.

Everyone, male or female, young or old, healthy or sick, will benefit from receiving a flu vaccine.  Get yours today!


It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Asthma Season

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment   ,

The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but not so much for asthma sufferers. While in the midst of the flurry of activity the season brings, it can be hard for asthmatics to enjoy themselves, especially when away from home.

Here are some things that you can do to make your holiday travel and festivities more enjoyable!

Before Your Trip

airplane

First, if you know you are going to be traveling anywhere this holiday season, make an appointment as soon as possible with your doctor. This will give you the opportunity to update medications, obtain new prescriptions, and get necessary information you need for your specific asthma case to help you in your travels.

  • Ask your doctor to provide you with a copy of your personal medical records to carry with you.
  • Refill as many prescriptions as you can that you think you could potentially use up while away from home a few days before your trip.

Packing Tips

car

  • When packing your bags, remember there are some critical things to leave out of your checked baggage such as your inhaler and medical record.
  • For your remaining medications, use a re-sealable plastic bag with all of the prescription labels visible so that you can move quickly through the security checkpoint at the airport.
  • Packing a pillowcase (and a pillow and mattress pad if you have the space) from home will help eliminate the possibility of inhaling dander from the pillowcases at your destination that could bring on an attack.
  • Tell a fellow traveler that you have asthma and how they can help you if you begin to have an attack. Make sure they know where to find your inhaler in your carry-on.

 

At Your Destination

  • If you will be staying in a hotel, be sure to request a non-smoking room. Look for pet-free hotels.
  • Before you go, search for the nearest emergency room or urgent care to your destination.


Asthma and Obesity: The Chicken or the Egg?

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,

eggsOver the last two decades, asthma and obesity have reached epidemic proportions. Obesity is a common comorbidity to asthma and it is commonly thought that obesity precedes the asthma symptoms. Now, the question has been raised about whether it is the other way around. Does obesity follow on the heels of asthma or is it asthma that raises the likelihood of becoming overweight?

Understanding this relationship could help doctors better give their professional recommendations in obese versus non-obese asthmatic patients.For instance, not automatically stepping up controller medication in overweight patients who report needing to use rescue medication often. Additionally, it may be that obese patients may be able to step down their level of controller medication. Their symptoms may respond better with non-asthma related interventions.

Recent Research Highlights the Asthma Obesity Connection

In a recent study, aged 10-17 years children – both a higher and lower body mass index (BMI) – with a physician’s diagnosis of persistent asthma were monitored to assess asthma control, symptoms, and quality of life. The patients underwent methacholine challenge testing – a test to evaluate lung function and reactivity. Additionally, the patients experienced measurement of exhaled nitric oxide values – a test done to help evaluate whether their asthma (and inflammation) is under control.

Intriguingly, overweight children were less responsive to the methacholine challenge test. They required nearly four times the dose of methacholine before the lungs were responsive. Overweight children also had lower nitric oxide values, meaning inflammation in the lungs were still a problem.

However, there were no differences in regard to reported wheeze, chest tightness, or nocturnal symptoms between overweight and lean children. These findings are a distinction from previous research, which has mostly focused wheeze as a symptom most commonly associated with just obese children.

This study’s findings support exploring non-asthma related interventions before raising levels of controller medications in overweight asthma patients. These results also support the plan that overweight asthmatic patients may need different treatment plans to control their asthma appropriately.

Whether it is the reduced lung capacity and activity level due to asthma that causes obesity, or excess weight that induces the development of asthma, it is clear that these two issues have a linked relationship. However, further research into differences in obese patients with asthma will be needed to best assess optimal therapy and prevention.


Puppies Reduce a Child’s Risk for Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health 1 , ,

puppies

The benefits of having a canine companion to come home to are numerous. New research states that lowering a child’s asthma risk is yet another reason to add to that list. Having a dog has been shown to reduce a child’s risk for asthma. It can also reduce levels of stress and depression, increase one’s physical shape, and enhance social skills.

A recent Swedish asthma study included more than one million children. Those with dogs in the home within the infant’s first year of life had a 15% lower rate of asthma.

Researchers say that their findings indicate that having a dog in the house may affect their child’s microbiome. Each individual’s inner bacterial environment of the gut is influenced by the food we consume and the air we breathe. Examinations are being made into whether there is a specific strain of bacteria that lessens the likelihood of asthma that is transmitted from dog to child.

Pets like Puppies = More time Outdoors

It is also worth noting that children living in households with dogs almost certainly spend more time outdoors and exercising more frequently. Both of these factors lower a child’s probability of developing asthma.

Interestingly enough, researchers have also explored data relating to children who grew up on farms. These children were exposed to farm animals such as cows, sheep, or horses. Findings show that these farm children had a 25% lower risk for an asthma diagnosis than those who did not grow up on a farm.

While these discoveries are not enough to definitively prove that puppies prevent asthma, they absolutely suggest that it isn’t necessary to rehome family pets for fear of their children developing respiratory problems by being around dogs.

Tove Fall, a coordinator of the study and assistant professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, stated, “It might be due to a single factor or more likely, a combination of several factors related to dog ownership lifestyle or dog owner’s attitudes, such as kids’ exposure to household dirt and pet dust, time spent outdoors or being physically active.”

All I’m hearing is a scientific reason for parents to give in and give their children a puppy!


The Sunshine Vitamin

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment   ,

pregnant-blog picWhat if all it took was a little sunshine to lower your baby’s risk for asthma? In a recent study, researchers have observed that women with more vitamin D in their second trimester lowered their babies’ risk for asthma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 12 in the U.S. suffers from asthma. “Our health system spends billions and billions treating asthma, and there’s lots and lots of opportunity costs,” said David Slusky, assistant professor of economics at the University of Kansas. “Pain and suffering, loss of productivity and premature death — asthma has all of those.”

The University of Kansas has found that as little as 10 minutes a day in the sun during the second trimester of pregnancy could reduce a child’s risk for asthma later in life. Sunlight is where Americans get more than 90 percent of our vitamin D. David Slusky and colleagues Nils Wernerfelt of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Richard Zeckhauser of Harvard’s Kennedy School examined the medical hypothesis using an economist’s tools, such as survey and health data.

Looking at hospital discharges and where asthmatics were born, they were able to pinpoint times mothers would have been in their second trimesters. Concerned about the sunlight being systematically different in separate parts of the country, researchers focused on relative variations. In other words, instead of looking at sunny versus non-sunny areas, they concentrated on differences of the level of sunlight at a particular place at a particular time of year. For example, people born in Georgia in July of 1978 received a different exposure to sunlight in utero than did their fellow Georgians born a year later.
Medical literature emphasizes our need for the “sunshine vitamin” and recommends at least 10 minutes a day to us all. Of course, if you’re going to be in the sun for longer periods of time, wear sunscreen.

“Skin cancer is a very serious disease, and I don’t want to minimize it, but at some point that extra minute you spend inside is costing you more vitamin D than it’s helping you not get skin cancer,” Slusky said.

Prenatal vitamins may include vitamin D already, but medical professionals pointed out that mothers may not be absorbing the full benefit from them. Anything that can help minimize the likelihood of asthma is worth doing, especially something as pleasant as spending some time in the sun.

Besides, sunshine is free!


Obesity Raises the Risk of Asthma in Women

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment   ,
Photo by Shutterstock.

Photo by Shutterstock.

Researchers have identified obesity as a health risk for asthma, but a new study revealed that the level of risk differs for men and women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study in March that looked at the prevalence of asthma from 2011-2014 among adults based on weight. The rate of asthma in adults with obesity is 11 percent compared to 7 percent of adults in the normal weight range. In women with obesity, asthma prevalence was 15 percent–nearly twice that of normal-weight women.

The study revealed very different findings for men–there wasn’t a significant increase in asthma prevalence in obese men versus men in the normal weight range. For children, asthma prevalence is greater in boys than girls but the prevalence of the condition switches when they hit puberty. Researchers don’t know the specific reason for the difference in asthma prevalence among men and women, but it could be related to fat distribution and/or hormonal differences. More research is also needed to determine if weight loss could reduce asthma rates.


How to Plan for Camping with Asthma and Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ 1 , , ,
Camping: Photo by Ben Duchac, Unsplash.

Photo by Ben Duchac, Unsplash.

Camping isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s one of those time-honored American traditions that everyone should try at least once. It’s an opportunity to enjoy fresh air, hike in beautiful surroundings, and take a refreshing break from pervasive technology. Experienced campers understand the importance of packing proper gear, plenty of food and water, and making plans in case of an emergency. For individuals with asthma and allergies, it’s especially important to be well prepared before embarking on a camping trip.

If you have asthma and/or allergies, here are some tips on how to prepare for a camping trip that’s both fun and safe:

  • Update Your Asthma Management Plan: Your asthma management/action plan should be updated annually with your doctor, or more frequently if you have severe asthma. This plan will outline how to handle emergencies like an asthma attack or allergic reaction. As you pack for your camping trip, double check that you have all your medication with you.
  • Make an Emergency Plan with Travel Partners: Talk to those joining you on your camping trip about what to do in the event of an emergency—whether it is an injury, allergic reaction, or asthma attack. Share emergency contact information, familiarize yourselves with the location of the nearest hospital, and pack a first aid kit. If you have an epinephrine auto-injector to treat anaphylaxis, make sure your travel companions are familiar with how to administer the medicine in the event you should need their assistance. Epiniephrine should be kept at room temperature, so if you carry one, try to take frequent breaks in shaded areas or indoors if possible.
  • Make a Meal Plan: If you have food allergies, carry a list of foods that you’re allergic to and share that with your travel partners. Talk to your companions about how to plan for meals that don’t conflict with your list. Pack plenty of healthy, non-allergenic snacks to keep your energy up during long hikes.
  • Steer Clear of the Campfire: If you have asthma, smoke from campfires can be irritating to your airways and can even trigger an asthma attack. Sit a safe distance away from the campfire; you may have to swap seats if the wind changes and smoke blows in your direction.

A little planning will go a long way in making your camping trip not only safe but also fun and memorable.

Sources:

Camping Safe with Allergies & Asthma, by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, by Food Allergy Research & Education


What Ozone Forecast Season Means for Air Quality

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,
Ozone: Photo from Pexels.

Photo from Pexels.

Spring snuck up on me this year–not that I’m complaining! It doesn’t seem that long ago that the news was monopolized by winter weather warnings and threats of snowstorms. I’m more than happy to put those snow boots away and slip into my favorite summer sandals! The advent of warmer weather also means we’re heading into ozone forecast season which is when ground-level ozone, created by pollution from sources like cars and smokestacks, is at its highest.

High amounts of ground-level ozone can worsen asthma symptoms, so it’s key for asthmatics to check the forecast daily, which is posted to our Asthma Therapy page. Ozone forecast season stretches from April 1 to October 31 in North Carolina and serves as a reminder to check the forecast before heading outdoors.

Ozone Levels and Air Quality Forecasts

The forecast is color coded to indicate air quality and the potential health implications:

  • Good: Code Green
  • Moderate: Code Yellow – Dangerous to those with extreme asthma
  • Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups: Code Orange
  • Unhealthy For Most Everyone:Code Red
  • Very Unhealthy: Code Purple – The whole population is at risk; this is an emergency condition.

 

The air quality forecast is published each day at 3pm to help you plan your outdoor activities for the following day. In addition to accessing the forecast on our website, you can also sign up for email, phone, or mobile app alerts via the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website.

Ozone forecast season isn’t just a reminder to monitor air quality; it can also inspire us to take steps to improving air quality. Cleaner air means fewer high ozone days, healthier lungs, and more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. One step you can take to improve air quality is to choose sustainable transportation for your daily commute to work. Rethink your commute by carpooling, vanpooling, biking to work, working from home, or taking the bus. Many local transit agencies offer financial incentives for switching over to a sustainable mode of transportation – like GoTriangle’s GoSmart program. Choosing alternative transportation can also help you save money on gas and vehicle maintenance. It’s been several years since our last code red ozone day and I hope this ozone forecast season proves to be a healthy and safe one!


Local Honey Won’t Provide Sweet Relief from Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about home remedies. I’ve read about eating coconut for stomach troubles, using milk of magnesia as deodorant, and I’ve noticed a movement growing surrounding the purported benefits of essential oils. One home remedy I hear about the most is the potential benefit of eating local honey to treat seasonal allergies caused by plant pollen.

The theory behind using local honey as an allergy treatment is that bees collect local pollen to make honey, so by eating local honey, you expose yourself to a little bit of what you’re allergic to desensitize yourself to it—this is called “immunotherapy.” Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy—patients are exposed to larger and larger doses of an allergen to build up immunity to it.

Immunotherapy: Local Honey contains Local Pollen

On the surface, the theory behind using honey as immunotherapy seems like a sound one, but there’s no way to determine exactly which plants the bees are collecting pollen from to make the honey. Allergy shots target specific allergens, but eating local honey is a bit like rolling the dice. Bees also prefer collecting pollen from flowers but most allergies generate from the pollen of grasses, trees and weeds, not flowering plants. The honey that bees produce is from local pollen, but not necessarily from sources that cause common allergies and not in any targeted way like an allergy shot. A 2002 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology showed that eating local honey didn’t improve allergy symptoms. Study participants that ate local honey didn’t fare any better than participants eating processed honey or taking a placebo.

There’s also a slight risk in consuming local honey that’s unprocessed—it can contain bacteria, mold, pollen and even bee parts that in rare cases, can cause an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, this home remedy doesn’t hold up, but the good news is that honey is still a great way to add a touch of sweetness to my afternoon cup of tea!

Additional Resources on Spring Allergies

Want to test your knowledge on other spring allergy myths? Check out this post, “Fact or Fiction? Spring Allergy Myths Debunked.”


Credit-Card Sized Inhaler Fits in Your Wallet

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment  
Image courtesy of Bloom.

Image courtesy of Bloom.

I bet I’m not alone in the constant battle to limit the amount of stuff I carry around during the day. With oversized purses in fashion, it’s easy to want to fill up the space in my bag with everything but the kitchen sink. There are so many essentials—medication, hand sanitizer, tissues, lip balm, mints—that add up to a very heavy bag. It’s hard to determine which items I could probably do without. I mean, they’re called essentials for a reason, right? Fortunately, some essentials are getting smaller. The Bloom inhaler—a thin, credit-card sized inhaler for asthmatics—is currently under development. The Bloom inhaler fits neatly into the credit card slot in a wallet, which makes it easy to carry, and simple to access.

How it Works

Users load medication from their typical inhaler canister into the Bloom cartridge that holds up to six doses of medication. Bloom is leak-proof and pressing the device’s trigger dispenses a precise dosage. Medication from any HFA inhaler can be used in Bloom and the device can be refilled over and over. Bloom doesn’t use a mouthpiece, but instead uses the “Open Mouth Technique” which the company likens to “using a breath spray.”

Bloom mist

Image courtesy of Bloom.

The Bloom inhaler creators expect the FDA to approve the device by November 2016, but interested customers can reserve one of the inhalers ahead of time by going to the company’s website. Each Bloom device will cost $40. If this device is approved, it could free up some room in my bag for other essentials…not that I need a reason to make my purse any heavier than it already is!

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What Climate Change Means for Allergy Season

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

One unique and popular way to usher in spring in the Triangle area is by attending a movie on the lawn at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Thousands turn out with picnic baskets in tow to enjoy a favorite snack while watching a film under the stars. That’s one of the best parts about spring—the ability to enjoy the outdoors in the deliciously warm weather. Whether it’s at a movie on the lawn, a walk on the greenway, or a game of Frisbee in the park, outdoor activities rule. One aspect of spring that I could do without though is the sneezing and the itchy, watery eyes caused by seasonal allergies.

Climate Change Can Effect Vegetation and Pollution

If you feel like your allergies have gotten worse in recent years, you’re not alone. Many scientists believe that there’s a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies since plants have started blooming earlier in the season and continue releasing pollen longer. Scientific research suggests that one very common allergen—ragweed—has increased due to higher temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide. A warmer climate also means higher ozone levels. Ground-level ozone caused by pollution can exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially during the ozone forecast season that runs from April through October.

Yet many scientists are also hopeful that the pendulum may soon start to swing the other way on climate change. There’s been a lot of buzz in the media recently about the Paris climate change agreement. Many are hopeful that stronger environmental goals will combat global warming. This climate change deal in combination with the Clean Power Plan, which President Barack Obama announced in August 2015, could also be beneficial in reducing the impact of seasonal allergies on asthma sufferers. The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to reduce power plant emissions by 32% by 2030 which could reduce as many as 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.

Allergy Season Tips

It’s of course going to take some time for these climate change plans to go into effect, but asthmatics can take some immediate steps to lessen the blow of seasonal allergies. If you have asthma, make sure you have an up-to-date asthma management plan that you’ve developed with your doctor. This plan should outline which medications to take on a regular basis and what to do in the event of an asthma attack. You can also use one of these five free apps, like EPA’s AIRNOW and Allery Alert, to track air quality and allergy forecasts so you can better prepare for days with high ozone levels and peak pollen counts.


Asthmatics with Occasional Migraines at Greater Risk of Developing Chronic Migraines

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Asthmatics and Chronic Migraines

Nearly 12% of Americans experience migraines.

For those that experience migraines, these intense headaches can vary from an annoyance to a major disruption in daily living. That head-pounding, throbbing feeling can be followed by nausea and even vomiting. The painful effects of a migraine can last for a few hours or even a few days. The causes of these debilitating headaches are as unique as the individuals that they affect. Common triggers include hormonal changes; temperature and barometric pressure changes; bright light, loud noises or potent smells; stress and certain food additives. New research shows that some asthmatics are also at a higher risk of experiencing chronic migraines.

Researchers tracked the migraine patterns of 4,500 Americans for a year; each study participant started with less than 15 migraines a month. A year after the study began, researchers found that 5% of study participants with asthma had developed chronic migraines (15 or more migraines a month). In comparison, only 2.5% of individuals without asthma developed chronic migraines. Those with asthma were twice as likely to develop chronic migraines. On a national scale, nearly 12% of Americans experience migraines and 1% have chronic migraines. The study was published in November 2015 in the journal Headache.

“If you have asthma along with episodic or occasional migraine, then your headaches are more likely to evolve into a more disabling form known as chronic migraine,” explains Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine in UC’s Division of General Internal Medicine, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute and lead author in the study.

Migraine Symptom Management

By improving management of their symptoms, asthmatics can also reduce migraine symptoms since the two conditions often go hand in hand. Both conditions are linked to inflammation in airways or blood vessels–asthmatics experience inflammation in the airways, and migraine sufferers experience inflammation and widening and narrowing of blood vessels. Also, the same inflammatory chemicals that are activated during an asthma attack are activated during a migraine. Some medications used to treat asthma can trigger migraine symptoms and visa versa, but doctors can work with patients to identify alternative medications that won’t exacerbate symptoms.


EPA Implements Cleaner Diesel Bus Program to Improve Air Quality for Students

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,
The EPA will provide $7 million to update diesel buses.

The EPA will provide $7 million to update diesel buses.

It seems like I get stuck behind a smelly car at least once a week during my commute. I feel trapped in my own car, breathing in smelly exhaust fumes. It always seems difficult getting away from those cars—I can’t seem to change lanes fast enough. Pollution from exhaust is more than just an annoyance—it has a big impact on our respiratory health. Diesel-powered school buses are linked to increasing rates of children missing school and experiencing reduced lung function. In response to this growing health concern, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking strides to reduce the number of high-polluting vehicles that are out on the road.

Rebates Available to Update Aging School Buses

In an effort to reduce school children’s exposure to diesel emissions, the EPA will provide $7 million in rebates to replace or retrofit 400 diesel school buses of model years 2006 and older. The rebates will be available to 85 school bus fleets in 35 states. Many older buses pre-date EPA standards that have made newer diesel engines over 90% cleaner. The EPA has required stricter emissions standards on diesel vehicles purchased after 2006.

“Schools and other organizations that install clean diesel technology are doing more than just saving money–they’re creating cleaner, healthier air for children and all community residents,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, in a press release issued by the EPA on Dec. 11, 2015. “This program continues to help thousands of children breathe easier and lead safer lives year after year.”

Diesel Exhaust: A Potent Pollutant

Diesel pollution is high up on the list as one of most prevalent sources of toxic air pollution in the U.S. It’s not only linked to respiratory problems like asthma attacks, but also to heart attacks, cancer and strokes. Diesel pollution increases the risk of cancer over seven times more than the combined risk of the other 181 air toxics that the EPA tracks, according to the Clean Air Task Force.

Switching to cleaner diesel buses can greatly benefit children with asthma. A University of Michigan and University of Washington joint study released in 2015 showed that switching to ultra low sulfur diesel reduced a marker for lung inflammation by more than 16% for all the children in the study, and by 20-31% for children with asthma.


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