Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wishing for some magic during flu season

My children were happily chattering tonight as they enjoyed their dessert, homemade dairy-free ice cream with my really easy version of magic shell (melted Enjoy Life chocolate chips). But I couldn't fall under the chocolate spell.

We were indulging in the ice cream dessert at my daughter's request to help ease some of the misery she is feeling with the flu and an ear infection. I was thrilled to see that the treat did make her smile for a bit. But my worries needed more than chocolate this time. Not only do I wish that I could wave a magic wand to make my little girl feel better, but also I'm concerned about my son's health. Today he's fine, but I'm just hanging on waiting to see what path this illness will take us.

Joseph has asthma, in addition to multiple, life-threatening food allergies. A cold is never just a cold for him and the flu is certainly nothing to take lightly. Flu-related complications cause about 36,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI), and people with asthma are at a higher risk for those complications. Everyone in our house, except Joseph (because of his egg allergy), gets a flu shot each year to try to shield Joseph's exposure to the virus. Joseph already takes a full slate of daily maintenance medications for his asthma and environmental allergies, and he also receives weekly immunotherapy shots to help combat his environmental allergies. But when he gets any type of respiratory illness, we immediately increase his asthma medication. Because it is likely that he will catch any illness his sister has, we also ramp up his treatment when she is sick. So when I came home today with Tamiflu for both children, Joseph knew he would also be joining his sister for breathing treatments tonight. As the nebulizers hummed, I hoped the medication would do the trick for both of them.

In the fall of 2009, all four of us contracted swine flu. As soon as my husband came home sick, we followed our usual procedure of increasing Joseph's asthma treatments as a precaution. But, as expected, he too came down with the virus. He, however, couldn't kick it without a trip to the emergency room for oral steroids to help him breathe. It took a long time, but his lungs returned to his normal breathing capacity. Then, a year ago this week, he started a pattern I hope we can avoid this year. Respiratory illnesses and environmental allergies plagued him during the beginning of February, March and April 2010. Each time we followed his asthma plan for illness, but two of those times he still ended up in the emergency room with breathing trouble serious enough to warrant oral steroids. While we were dealing with those illnesses, his doctors again modified his maintenance medications and recommended immunotherapy shots to help with his environmental allergies, thus hopefully decreasing his asthma symptoms when those allergies trigger breathing difficulties.

So tonight, I anxiously pray and wait to see if maybe this time Joseph's body can respond to preventative treatment and fight off the germs that come his way. As I soothe my sick daughter, I'm also waiting for her fever to break and hoping breathing difficulties won't plague her. I've never been good at waiting. I would much prefer a little anti-flu magic.

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