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Daily Dose

Flu Vaccine

1:30 to read

Even though the temperatures are topping out in the high 90’s around many parts of the country, it is still the time of year that pediatric offices are just receiving their flu vaccines for the 2017-2018 season.  Our office received our first shipments about 10 days ago and we have already started immunizing. This includes “my” precious 6 month old babies - all the way through to my college patients. 

 

There are 2 questions on parents and their kids minds:

 

#1 Is it too early to get a flu vaccine?

#2 Is there “flu-mist” available this year? 

 

I bet you can guess who is asking question #1 and who wants to know about question #2.

 

So here you go:

 

#1  It is NOT too early to start getting your flu vaccine. Once you receive the vaccine it takes several weeks to develop antibody levels and these antibodies have been shown to last throughout the flu season. Flu season is also temperamental….in that it sometimes decides to arrive sooner than is typical- which means you want to be prepared in case of an early influenza season. So, if you are in your pediatrician’s office, go ahead and opt in for the vaccine…and then you save yourself a trip back later in flu season…and in many cases another co-payment!

 

#2  Sorry kids and parents (and doctors too), there is not going to be a nasal mist influenza vaccine again this year.  The studies of the live attenuated influenza vaccine (FluMist) from the 2015-2016 flu season found that FluMist was only 5% effective in children ages 2-17, compared with 60% effectiveness for the inactivated (shot) flu vaccine.  While no one wants tears - pediatricians do want to give a vaccine that has been found to work - which means a shot.

 

Just to clarify…as parents often ask…”if the flu vaccine is not always 92-99% effective like our routine childhood vaccines, why should we get a shot?”.  My short answer, “would you buy a lottery ticket if you had a 60% chance of winning, rather than .000000001% chance?”. If you don’t get a flu vaccine it is guaranteed that you didn’t get any flu protection…I would rather go with the odds of it working (and winning the lottery which I would buy a ticket for with better odds).  We also have data that shows that those children who received flu vaccine had less chance of complications and hospitalization than those who were not vaccinated. 

 

Start scheduling your family's flu vaccine today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

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Fight the Flu

Fight the Flu

Daily Dose

The Best Cold Treatment

1.30 to read

Alright, enough is enough! How could I possible have another cold?  I routinely tell patients with children that it is not unusual for kids to get 8-10 colds a year which seems like once a month from September through April!

If you also think that the average cold lasts anywhere from 7–14 days, then it seems like a child has a cold that lasts most of the year. That is how I am feeling right now.

A cold usually starts off with a little “sniffles” and maybe a sore throat, and you pray that it is just your imagination, and then over several days you  realize that you now feel “yucky”, have more congestion, the sore throat is still there and you are coughing. That is a cold!!!! That is not allergies, nor is it flu. It is that pesky cold virus of which there are an infinitesimal number, and you have succumbed once again. That is my story!

So, with those symptoms AGAIN, and a day in the media research office, I went back to the literature to see if I could find ANYTHING that might lead me to preventing  a cold, curing a cold or making this nasty thing go away any faster. I mean, I am a busy woman and like everyone else, “I really don’t have time for this!” There have been thousands of studies done over the years looking at cold symptoms and their prevention. Studies on Vitamin C from the days of Linus Pauling, to more recent studies for prevention and treatment of upper respiratory infections have really found no benefits to taking vitamin C.

There was one study that showed taking vitamin C might reduce the duration of cold symptoms if taken before a cold begins.  My question is, how do you know that you need to start Vitamin C in anticipation of a cold?  Also, too much vitamin C may cause an upset stomach and diarrhea.

How about Echinacea?  I have been taking Echinacea for years in hopes of “warding off colds”, but the review of the data  showed that Echinacea had no effect in preventing the common cold, studies did show that it might reduce cold symptoms in adults, but studies in children did not produce the same results.  It was also found to increase rashes in those who had eczema (atopy), and allergies to ragweed. I am still taking it, but personally “can’t tell a difference”. You do realize that my opinion alone is not statistically significant. Then there was the whole zinc movement and there are numerous studies that show conflicting results. Some studies did show that those who took 15 mg of zinc daily had a lower mean number of colds and also a shorter duration of cold symptoms.

Other studies did not find a statistical significance for either reducing the number of colds or decreasing symptoms. I have tried all sorts of zinc preparations over the years (even when it was such a hot item I had to order lozenges off of QVC-should I admit that?) and besides tasting horribly I think my cold lasted the same number of days.  Another study of one (not significant), and most would say that the data is still inconclusive.

The hottest new topic is vitamin D.  A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in early 2009, analyzed information on vitamin D levels in adult and adolescents.  The results showed that those people with the lowest vitamin D levels (less than 10 ng/ml) were 36% more likely to report having upper respiratory infections that those with higher vitamin D levels (above 30 ng/ml).

Vitamin D is also important for bone and general health, so it is a good idea to be making sure that you are getting adequate vitamin D. The AAP increased the recommended daily intake of vitamin D to 400 IU. I am currently taking a vitamin D supplement in hopes of boosting my immunity as well as keeping my bones healthy.

If you have any ideas or PROVEN remedies, potions, concoctions please send them my way. In the meantime, I continue to drink lots of herbal tea, take hot showers and baths to help the congestion, go to bed earlier than usual, suck on my honey throat lozenges and pray. I also wash  my hands incessantly and even resorted to wearing a mask over the last several days in hopes of warding off germs. My patients think I am playing dress up!

That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow (cough)! 

Daily Dose

Airborne & Your Kids

1.45 to read

It’s cold & flu season and I have already been receiving emails from parents asking what works/doesn’t work.  I reviewed a recent note from a well-meaning dad asking if he could give his 3 year old son Airborne to help “offset colds”. 

I myself have just recovered from my first cold of the “season” and have looked high and low for ANYTHING that might prevent or treat the common cold. As I tell my own patients on a daily basis, if I had the “magic pill” I would certainly not only manufacture it to distribute to everyone, but I would also be getting ready to accept Nobel Prize in medicine for solving the mystery of preventing the common cold!!  Airborne is NOT the magic potion and I see no reason to use it period.

I recently did an extensive review of complementary and alternative medicine for the common cold (selfishly trying to cure myself) and once again came up empty handed for any proven remedies. There are still a lot of ongoing studies (someone will win the Nobel Prize one day), but nothing so far has really proven to be the panacea.

Many people “swear” by Airborne.  I am just not sure what they are thinking it does. If you read their website it states, “there are scientific studies that the ingredients in Airborne have been shown to support the immune system”. I can’t find those studies anywhere. 

In 2008 a class action suit against Airborne resulted in a $23 million dollar fine for “misleading consumers and making false claims”, when Airborne claimed to “ward off colds”. They have now changed their advertising to the wording, “boosting the immune system” which also seems like deceptive advertising to me. Regardless, they continue to make millions (despite that huge fine).  My mother even called to say she thought she might take some before flying to visit at Thanksgiving asking, “did I think that would help her from getting sick?” OMG!

The ingredients in Airborne include Zinc, ginger, Echinacea, vitamins, minerals, and herbs.  This is what I commonly call “hocus pocus”.  Many of the ingredients in Airborne have been studied for use during a cold, without a lot of success.  Zinc is still being studied with varying outcomes, but there are still no definitive guidelines on using Zinc for a cold. Stay tuned for more as more studies are completed.

In the meantime, the answer to the email is NO; I would not give a 3 year old Airborne. What I would do is make sure that your child is getting nutritious meals, adequate sleep and that they learn to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough (hand hygiene). I would put the money you would spend on Airborne in their piggy bank for future college expenses.   I would also make sure to get your child their Flu vaccine. We do have data that vaccines work!

That’s’ your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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Daily Dose

Fight The Flu

1:30 to read

It is National Influenza Immunization Week, and I am hopeful that most everyone reading this has already had their flu vaccine….but if not, it is NOT too late! Just like the after Thanksgiving sales being extended…..your opportunity to be vaccinated has not passed!  Lucky for you, there are still vaccines available. If you act quickly there may be some places having a two for one sale, a coupon for shopping after getting vaccinate or even free vaccines…no excuses, everyone in the family ( over 6 months) may be vaccinated.

All kidding aside, this is an important time to remind people that it is not too late to get your flu vaccine and as of the first week of December there has not been a significant amount of flu in the country. But with that being said, influenza typically circulates December thru February but some years flu may even last into April or May.  But one thing is sure, flu is coming!!

No one is immune from the flu and the best protection is to get a flu vaccine!!  I hear people tell me, “they have never had the flu before so why should I get a vaccine?”, or “ I got sick after I had the flu vaccine, so I am not getting it again”.   Both of those are myths and are just a few of the anecdotes that I hear from patients and their families.

It is recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months receive a flu vaccine as it is the best protection against getting sick from the flu, and by vaccinating everyone we are also protecting those infants under 6 months that cannot yet get a flu vaccine.  Infants have a higher incidence of complications from the flu ( as do children with asthma and other underlying health issues ), and those precious babies born during the late summer and into the winter depend on the community to help keep them healthy. This is especially important for infants and children in day care, as influenza is a respiratory virus that is spread when someone in close proximity has coughed or sneezed. So, check to make sure that everyone in your daycare center is vaccinated, including the parents.

Statistics show that flu vaccination activity drops off after the end of November, but it is never too late to get the vaccine.  Remember,  it does take about two weeks to develop immunity after being vaccinated.  People also tell me, “I think I have already had the flu this year”, but even if you have, you have not had all of the strains of influenza that are in the vaccine and yes…you could get sick again. This years flu vaccine is available as a trivalent vaccine (which contains 2 type A, flu and 1flu B) and a quadrivalent vaccine ( with 2 type A and 2 B strains), and either vaccine is fine….get whatever your doctor, health department, pharmacy, grocery store, or employer has.  Most children over the age of 2 years may also take the live attenuated intranasal flu vaccine ( because how many kids want a shot -right?) and it is a quadrivalent vaccine.

So now is the time to run…not walk to get your flu vaccine!!  Don’t delay, put it on the top of the holiday “to do list”.

Daily Dose

Colds & Suctioning Your Child's Nose

1:30 to read

I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but we are in the throes of cold and flu season and unfortunately there are a few more months of this.  As every parent knows, colds (aka upper respiratory infections) are “age neutral”. 

In other words, there is not an age group that is immune to getting a cold and for every age child (and adult for that matter), the symptoms are the same. Congested nostrils, scratchy sore throat, cough, and just plain old feeling “yucky”. When an infant gets a stuffy nose, whether it is from “normal” newborn congestion, or from a cold, they often have a difficult time eating as an infant is a nose breather.  When they are nursing and their nose is “stopped  up”, they cannot breath or even eat, so it is sometimes necessary to clear their nasal passage to allow them to “suck” on the bottle or breast. 

Of course it is self evident that an infant cannot blow their nose, or rub or pick their nose so they must either be fortunate enough to sneeze those” boogers” out or have another means to clear the nose.  This is typically accomplished by using that wonderful “bulb syringe”. In our area they are called “blue bulb syringes” and every baby leaves the hospital with one tucked into their discharge pack.  As a new parent the blue bulb syringe looked daunting as the tip of the syringe appeared to be bigger than the baby’s nose.  But, if you have ever watched a seasoned nurse suck out a newborn’s nose, they can somehow manage to get the entire tip inside a baby’s nose. For the rest of us the tip just seemed to get inside the nostril and despite my best efforts at suctioning nothing came out. Once a nurse showed me the right “technique” I got to be a pretty good “suctioner”.  With the addition of a little nasal saline, which you can buy in pre made spray bottles, or which may be made at home with table salt and warm water, the suctioning gets a little easier as the nose drops helped to suction the mucous.

Now, I have become a firm believer that there is a place for suctioning a baby’s nose, but once a child is over about 6 months of age they KNOW  what you are getting ready to do. I am convinced that a 6 month baby with a cold sees the “blue bulb syringe” approaching their face and their eyes become dilated in fear of being suctioned!!  Then they begin to wail, and I know that when I cry I just make more mucous and the more I cry the more I make. So a baby with an already stuffy nose gets even more congested and “snotty” and the bulb syringe is only on an approach to their nose. It also takes at least two people to suction out a 6 – 12 month old baby’s nose as they can now purposely move away , and hit out to you to keep you away from their face and nose. It is like they are saying, “ I am not going to give in to the bulb syringe” without a fight! I swore I would not have a child with a “green runny nose” that was not suctioned.

As most parents know, don’t swear about anything, or you will be forever breaking unreasonable promises to yourself!  I think bulb suctioning is best for young infant’s and once they start to cry and put up a fight I would use other methods to help clear those congested noses.  Go back to the age old sitting in a bathroom which has been steamed up with hot water from a the shower. Or try a cool mist humidifier with some vapor rub in the mist (aroma therapy).  Those noses will ultimately run and the Kleenex will come out for perpetual wiping. Unfortunately, it takes most children many years before they learn to blow their nose, but what an accomplishment that is!!!  An important milestone for sure.

That's your daily dose for today. We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question or comment to Dr. Sue!

Daily Dose

Changes in Flu Immunizations for Children

Flu season is fast approaching and that means it is time to get your flu vaccine. Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics expanded the recommendation for flu vaccination to include all children ages six months to 18 years.

The previous recommended age group was 6 months to 5 years. "Children under nine years of age who have never received a flu vaccine need to have two doses of vaccine separated by at least four weeks, and all other children receive a single dose," says pediatrician Dr. Sue Hubbard. That means the time is now for you to call and schedule a flu shot with your doctor and your child's pediatrician. Many offices block off certain times during the day in which they have "flu shot clinics." According to Dr. William Schaffner, president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases there is an ample supply of the flu vaccine this year. He encourages people to start taking it now as there is no reason to wait. "There are two options for children older than two: the injectable flu vaccine or the live attenuated flumist intranasal vaccine. There are some restrictions to intranasal vaccine (children with asthma, immuno-suppressed children) but for many children the idea of sniffing a vaccine is far better than a SHOT. The upside of the nasal vaccine is also that it seems to be more effective," says Dr. Hubbard. "Either way, start thinking about getting on your doctors schedule to get vaccinated before the winter and influenza hits." Dr. Hubbard also recommends that you teach your child to practice good hand and cough hygiene to help prevent the spread of germs. More Information: The American Academy of Pediatrics More Information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Daily Dose

Let's Talk Flu Vaccines

2.00 to read

It's hard to believe, but fall virus season is just around the corner and the time is now to start thinking about the upcoming flu season. Some areas of the country continue to experience 100+ degrees which makes it hard to believe it’s time to talk about flu! Not the actual virus (just yet) but flu vaccines!  Flu vaccines are being shipped and should be in your doctor’s office at any time. We received ours last week and have already started giving vaccines to patients.

As in previous years, all people aged six months and older need to be vaccinated. This year’s vaccine contains three strains of influenza virus and they are identical to last year’s vaccine strains. Even though the vaccines are identical, it does not mean that you can skip the flu vaccine this year.  Sorry! Because the protection from the flu wanes over the year, it is necessary to get re-vaccinated every year. Why? You just don’t know how much antibody you have left! For children who are six months to age eight years of age, AND who have NEVER been vaccinated, the recommendation continues to be that they should receive two doses of vaccine which are given at least four weeks apart. If your child received at least one dose of flu vaccine in 2010-2011, they will only need one dose of the 2011-2012 vaccine. The recommendation for pregnant women to be vaccinated also continues. There has been some good recent data that babies who were born to mothers who had received flu vaccine had a 45-48% LESS chance of being hospitalized with the flu than babies born to unvaccinated mothers. So, the take home message is that your baby, even in utero, is getting antibody protection from the mother. We have known this about other diseases and now there is evidence of influenza protection too. Time to think/pray/chant for cooler weather, which means that “flu viruses” will be happy to return from vacation….start getting your vaccine now! That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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When should you get your flu shot?

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