Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Social Adversity of an Allergic Asthmatic

Yesterday, my husband declared, “we’re going grocery shopping when I get home from work!”  The announcement felt like a threat.  What now, am I afraid to leave the house?  I am.  And I am definitely afraid to go grocery shopping.  In the end, I decided to forgo all dangers and waited in the car while my husband went shopping.

I am not brave enough to step outside my safety bubble.  If I am not careful, I keep getting exposed to dogs!  People bring their pets everywhere these days, especially grocery stores. Growing up I remember businesses had a place to leash up your pet with bowls of fresh water.  I suppose nowadays my husband can leash me up out front.

On a happier note, I can report I’ve been outside my apartment on occasion and I have interacted with people face to face other than my husband.  On the other hand, I planned these outing well in advance and I calculated all potential environmental risks.  So, no, I haven't really been part of life and I have been hiding.  The good news is though that I have been healthy and non-medicated since last year—that is almost three weeks and I am thrilled about it!
But I am also scared!

I don’t want to be sick again!  I want to avoid allergic reactions so that my body can recover from its chronic inflammatory state.  I also fear the pain and helplessness of not breathing.  Now that I feel well, I can’t bare the thought of experiences so much pain and worrying about suffocation.  I don’t want exposure to potential health hazards.  But, I also want to be part of life again.  Oh my!
So, it’s baby steps for me.

Keep moving forward,
♡ Nina

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How to Rid your Home of Asthma Triggers?

While it is important to take precautionary measures to achieve effective allergen control regimes, we must acknowledge that no measure provides absolute protection.  Even with avoidance and precautionary measures, it is often difficult to guard yourself completely from allergens.  As an allergic asthmatic, I'm still convinced that knowledge is not only the best defence but also the best weapon.  Therefore, I need to know what I can do to prevent an asthma attack, but more importantly, I need to know exactly what to do when I'm having an attack and allergens are all around me. 
I'm not a helpless flower, trying to bloom despite pollutants until I suffocate.  I'm a person and I'm capable of changing my environment!  I just need to know how.

For an allergic asthmatic, it is vital to be wary about anywhere you visit because allergens are present in many public places in the community, including the library, grocery stores, restaurants and shops.  Pet allergens of cats and dogs have the added disadvantage of having aerodynamic characteristics.  This means that allergens stay airborne for a long time (up to five months) and land on clothing, skin and hair as they circulate the air.  Passively, your skin and hair, the clothing you wear and the bottom of your shoes transfer allergens into your home.  Even if there is no immediate response to allergens, small traces of allergens can with time and prolonged exposure, trigger a reaction.

In “The Decontamination Action Plan,” I stressed the importance of taking active measures to rid yourself of allergens as soon as you get home.  It is important that you maintain your home as an area in which you can feel safe.

However, since the presence of allergens is not always apparent, I too have been guilty of neglecting my own advice: “Do not collapse in your home, sit or lay down as you will only bring in and spread what makes you sick!”  Sadly, I paid for it with prolonged suffering and spreading allergens throughout my living space.
I should have known better!
I should have showered and changed my clothing.
Why didn’t I?
What made me think I was safe?
Was I overconfident or simply too tired or lazy?  

Now what?  What immediate actions can I take to help myself (apart from taking asthma and allergy medication)?  While I don’t think the following steps can and should replace conventional rescue medications, the immediate elimination of irritants from your environment will speed up the recovery and will prevent further symptoms from the same lingering allergens.

Step 1:  How to decontaminate in an emergency?

Generally, decontamination of any kind is not a pretty process because the person doing it is in the midst of an asthma attack.  Medications, including rescue inhalers will take a few minutes (up to 15-20min) before they take effect and the discomfort and pain might feel too overwhelming to act.  All the while, allergens are on the asthmatic, the air has distributed and spread trace allergens in the home that will continue to trigger an allergic reaction.  The logical conclusion is to clean and eliminate all irritants immediately.  Depending on your situation, you might be able to do your entire home, but if not, you could spot clean a room, close doors and so create a safe zone until you feel better.  
Tip: A small bedroom or a bathroom is the least challenging room to manipulate.  The following advice will help you create a safe zone by eliminating allergens from yourself and your immediate surroundings.  

1)  Try to locate the source?  If you find it, clean it or remove it from your room.  It is best to seal any questionable items into a plastic trash bag and close it tightly until you're ready to deal with them.  Allergens could linger on the clothing you wore, shoes, a handbag, backpack, or any item you recently brought into your home.

2)  Open windows to let in fresh air.  In addition, air filtration with an air purifier is beneficial.

3)  Wash and/or change your bedding and linen.  Everything besides the mattress itself should be laundered:  Sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, bedspread, blankets, bed skirt, mattress covers, etc.  If necessary, bag all fabrics into a sealable plastic trash bag until you feel well enough to clean them.

4)  Remove all soft surface items from the room, including stuffed animals, decorative pillows and laundry that’s not been put away.  Again, bagging is a great option to contain allergens and remove them from your room.

5)  Finally, shower, wash your hair and put on freshly laundered clothing.  I also recommend brushing your teeth and using a nasal spray.

Step 2:  How to thoroughly decontaminate your surroundings?

6)   The first step is to open windows to create airflow.

7)   Dust and clean all surfaces.  Try to avoid harsh chemical cleansers and use hot soapy water instead.  Also, when in doubt, ditch the vacuum cleaner and mop floors instead, wear a mask while cleaning or ask someone else to clean for you.

8)   Wash and clean all fabrics in your home.  Well, everything that’s lying out and met allergens because there is no need to pull everything you own out of your dresser and closet.  If you are unable to wash an item and it is small enough, the dryer can burn allergens off within a few minutes. 

9)   The next step is to mist large fabric furniture or soft surfaces like drapes, sofa pillows and carpets with cleaner containing Ammonia (Windex) or with allergen reducer (Febreze Allergen Reducer) to help reduce airborne allergens.  An unpopular piece of advice from me:  Try to scrutinize all large soft items in your home that are inconvenient or impossible to machine wash and consider if you could do without them for the sake of your health.  Unfortunately, these pieces are reservoirs of allergens and a major management problem.

10) When everything is clean, make sure you shower and put on freshly laundered clothes.

Disclaimer:  I'm not an expert or professional!  My advice comes from a good place and is based on my own experience as a severely allergic asthmatic.  I'm hoping my writing can suggest reasonable solutions to anyone that may need it and maybe bring awareness to those interested in the topic.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Decontamination Action Plan

The following steps to decontaminate ones surroundings are for individuals with severe allergic asthma; however, it might also be useful for anyone with an allergy.  Now, I understand there there is a flood of information online that informs the reader of ways to reduce indoor allergens at home.  Most articles take a mitigating approach that offer suggestions to reduce pet allergens suitable for individuals living with or wanting to live with a pet.  Sadly, that makes these articles inadequately useful for myself and anyone with severe or life-threatening allergies.  

Mary Oliver.I'm an asthmatic and severely allergic to dogs.  This means that any lengths of time spend around dogs or being in enclosed areas in which dogs have previously been will result in an asthma attack.  Articles that suggest I don't let the family dog sleep at the foot of my bed are of no use to someone like me.

The following recommendations are based on my experiences, it is for when aeroallergen avoidance measures fail and I'm exposed to allergens.  

How to help yourself?

  1. Go home!  Seriously, go home when breathing issues start.  No matter what the situation, please don’t hesitate to leave when you have to.  Do not compromise your health and do not medicate yourself just to make a social situation happen.  Furthermore, do not try to tough it out until you can't hide or take your symptoms any longer.
  2. When you get home, strip out of your clothing immediately, no matter how exhausted or unwell you feel.  Do not sit or lay down in your home, as this will only spread the allergens.  Decontaminating your entire living space is much more difficult to do in the midst of an asthma attack.  I will talk about that in part 2 (How to Rid Your Home of Asthma Triggers).  
  3. Immediately contain all contaminates.  Machine-wash all your clothing (and wipe down your shoes and accessories).  Alternatively, you can stuff your garments into a plastic trash bag and close it tightly until you're ready to deal with them.  It's best to keep the bag of contaminants outside or in a room you won't use (with the door closed).
  4. Finally, shower and thoroughly clean your body and hair.
These precautions sound a bit obsessive but they do help to alleviate my symptoms faster and sometimes, if I'm lucky, they can stop an asthma attack before it gets started. 
StayHealthy♡  Nina