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Daily Dose

Anti-Vaccine Movement

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It seems that the “anti-vaccine” movement is still alive and well and has been a hot topic on Twitter and Facebook again. Unfortunately, much of what I have read on these sites seems to be inaccurate and based on a lot of emotion and very little science.  But, emotional posts can be quite persuasive, especially to a new parent who wants to do EVERYTHING for their new child.  I would think that would include protecting them from deadly diseases that have NOT been totally eradicated.

One of the first things you learn during your early medical school days is the mantra that doctors should “first do no harm”.  I have continued my daily pediatric practice with that in mind.....so how could I not vaccinate my precious patients?  Vaccines have been well studied ( and continue to be studied) and absolutely DO protect children (and adults) from numerous diseases....including polio, bacterial meningitis, whooping cough and measles.  Vaccines are also safe.....how many different studies does it take to assure parents of this? 

Choosing to not vaccinate your child unfortunately can “cause harm”.  Do parents not realize that we are all exposed to diseases unknowingly?   I know that there isn’t a parent out there that would purposely expose their child to a disease....especially one that could cause death. But with that being said, the bacteria ( h. flu and pneumococcus) that cause meningitis are often harbored in a person’s nose and are just a sneeze away from an unprotected baby.  When I used to do spinal taps on a regular basis on very ill children, some of whom indeed had bacterial meningitis, every parent would ask, “how did my child get this?”  The answer at that time was, “we don’t know where they were exposed”.  Not a very good answer to give parent’s of a critically ill child, some of whom would die. 

Since the vaccines against meningitis have been released I have not seen a case of H.flu or Pneumococcal meningitis in my practice. I can’t remember the last time I did a spinal tap.  Those are memories I don’t need to experience again.  My office was also involved in the studies for the HIB meningitis vaccine and I saw first hand how labor intensive and difficult vaccine studies are. There were a lot of parents at that time that allowed us to stick their infants for blood samples on (many times, on a regular basis) to prove that the vaccine provided antibody and protection for their baby.  Thank you to all of those parents!

So.... I continue to be alarmed that there are parents (often clustered in certain areas) that want to deny their child vaccines.  I wonder what their baby would say, if they had the chance to choose to get vaccinated. Unfortunately, they don’t.

Daily Dose

Diagnosing Celiac Disease

How do you diagnose celiac disease. I received an email via our iPhone App from a mother who was concerned because her 2 year old son had skinny arms and legs, but a “big tummy” and she thought this might be a symptom of celiac disease.  Most toddlers have “big tummies” even if they are skinny kids as their abdominal musculature (future 6 pack) is not developed.

I often have questions from concerned parents whose children are growing perfectly normally, but their “belly sticks out”.  This is often a comment made about little girls (gender specific concerns already!) and I tell the parents that there are not many toddlers that don’t have protuberant little tummies. If you go to the pool in the next several months, check out the baby pool,  as this is not a good age to wear a bikini or “speedo” with that big tummy pushing down the bottoms,   save that look for later on. Now, what do you typically look for in  child who you suspect might have celiac disease?  Celiac disease typically causes failure to thrive in young children. I know this well,  as I got this question wrong on my oral boards many years ago, and have spent the last 20 years making sure never to miss a case. (maybe I should leave that little tidbit out?) At any rate, you see symptoms like persistent diarrhea, weight loss or failure to gain weight, a large protuberant abdomen, and a lack of appetite (no, being a picky eater does not count).   Because celiac disease is an auto-immune disease where the body responds abnormally to a protein (gluten) found in foods like wheat,  rye, barley and many other prepared foods, it differs from a food allergy.  A food allergy typically causes symptoms like hives, wheezing or vomiting. The first step in testing for possible celiac disease will be a blood test on your child.  This will show if there are elevated levels of antibodies, called tissue-trans-glutaminase (tTG), in the blood. If a child has high levels of these antibodies (tTG), then a biopsy of the small intestine may be taken to confirm the diagnosis. A small bowel biopsy is done while a child is sedated, through an endoscope, and actually takes a small piece of the lining of the intestine to see if the villi are flattened and damaged.  The gluten in the diet of a child with celiac disease causes these changes to the intestine, and once gluten is removed from the diet the villi will return to normal and normal absorption of food will take place. If a child is confirmed to have celiac disease (which is as lifelong problem) they have to remain on a gluten free diet, which means restricting many foods and drinks.  A gluten free diet, while seemingly difficult to adhere to at first, will allow the child to grow and develop normally and your child will typically have more energy and feel better in general.  After being on a gluten free diet another blood test may be done to confirm that the tTG level has come down. With the advent of more gluten free products it has become easier for parents and children to follow a gluten free diet. There are many websites that help teach a family to read labels (similar to those with a food allergy) and to also provide resources for recipes or products that are gluten free. Although I continue to look for a patient with celiac disease, I have yet to diagnose one, and remember to consider the diagnosis in any child who is having “failure to thrive”. That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow! Send Dr. Sue your question now!

Daily Dose

Vaccine Offers More Coverage Against Pneumococcal Disease

New Prevnar vaccine offers more coverage against pneumococcal diseaseThe FDA recently approved Prevnar 13 (PCV13) which is a “broader” spectrum vaccine than the currently used Prevnar 7 (PCV7).  Prevnar is a vaccine that is routinely administered at 2, 4, 6 and 12-15 months of age.

PCV7 was first approved in the U.S. in 2000 for the prevention of pneumococcal meningitis, pneumonia, and bacterial blood infections. The Prevnar 7 vaccine covered 7 different serotypes (strains) of S. pneumonia, a bacteria that also often causes otitis media (ear infections) in children. Since the introduction of PCV7 there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of invasive pneumococcal diseases seen in children,  as well as a reduction in the incidence of ear infections caused by the S. pneumonia bacteria that are due to serotypes in the vaccine. The new PCV13 now covers an additional 6 serotypes of the bacteria which should provide even more coverage and protection against pneumococcal disease, and therefore even better protection for young children.  For many parents this will be a “non” event as the doses of PCV7 that had been used until March  are now being returned to the drug company and are being routinely replaced with PCV13 . PCV13 will ultimately replace PCV7 in the routine immunization schedule throughout the country.  The side effect profile is no different for the vaccines. The new recommendations for PCV13 are important for those that have children who are between 12 – 15 months of age, and who have finished the 4 dose PCV7 series.  For those children, it is now recommended that those over 15 months and up to 6 years of age, receive a 5th dose of Prevnar, but with the newer PCV13. This will provide some immunity to the 6 additional serotypes in the newer vaccine and give these young children broader protection against invasive pneumococcal disease. So the next time you see your pediatrician and you have a child over the age of 1 but under the age of 6, ask your doctor about getting a 5th dose of Prevnar, with PCV13.   I f you have an infant, I would ask your pediatrician’s office if they have started using PCV13 for routine vaccination.  The continued science involved in developing better and more protective vaccines is one more step toward preventing serious childhood illnesses. That's your daily dose.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue right now!

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