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Daily Dose

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

1:30 to read

I am back on my soap box about what is a newsworthy announcement…..especially as it pertains to viral infections. While I know that day care centers and pre-schools are “keen” on posting notices or sending emails to parents about the latest virus to be found at school, I am still baffled as to the necessity to do this and alarm parents. Aren’t there HIPPA violations or something?  Knowing that a child in school has been diagnosed with  “hand-foot-mouth" disease (HFMD) does not seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Pediatricians are used to seeing HFMD, sometimes daily, and yes it does seem that these viral illnesses cluster at different times of the year. But, with that being said, does it really do any one any good, and does it maybe actually “worry” already anxious parents about possible exposure. Are we forgetting that children are exposed to these pesky viral infections all of the time…and that in most cases they are fairly minor, inconvenient and cause several days of fever and generally not feeling well.  End of story.

But now HFMD has made the national news….as there have been 22 cases of HFMD diagnosed at Florida State University…..which has an enrollment of over 41,000 students!!!  Statistically speaking, that is not a significant “attack” rate….and this news is being reported on all of the networks.  While I realize that adolescents and young adults are less likely to acquire HFMD and they may feel worse than a toddler who in most cases seems to “power through”  with fever reducing medication, popsicles and ice cream, is this really a national news story?  

HFMD is caused by an enterovirus (Coxsackie A16) and typically causes several days of fever and not feeing well followed by small ulcers and blisters that may occur in the throat (painful) as well as on the hands and feet. (younger children seem to often get a rash on their buttocks too).  HFMD may be spread in a variety of ways including direct contact with saliva or fluid from the blisters that may occur on the hands and feet, from fecal contamination, and also when a person coughs or sneezes in close proximity. The virus may also live on surfaces that we touch and then touch our eyes, nose or mouth and cause infection.  As I always say, “good hand washing” and keeping yourself home when sick is the best way to prevent the spread of a virus. While I believe in good sanitation and clean public spaces is it really necessary to “wipe down” classrooms, dorms, cafeterias and even toys in school due to several cases of HFMD. Do you have to do this all day long?  HFMD is not a bacterial disease like meningitis and does not have life threatening consequences.  There will be another viral infection  (or 2 or 3 or 4)  soon to follow and one of these will be influenza.

So, rather than talking about HFMD and mass “cleaning efforts” I think we should focus on another way to prevent illness. VACCINATIONS!  We do know that vaccines work to prevent disease and despite the science behind that, there are still those that “opt out” of vaccines, and this includes getting a flu vaccine.  I wonder if there are students at FSU who have opted out of vaccines and if so how many….maybe more than 22/41,000?  At the same time, how many of those students will opt “in” and get a flu vaccine? That is the bigger story ….get vaccinated for flu now…so we don’t have another even bigger “outbreak”.   I know there will be more than 22 students who get the flu at FSU and will that make the news?  It is the same thing for schools everywhere…lets put up signs about flu vaccines and keep those numbers down.I hope the news reports this.

 

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Fight the Flu

Fight the Flu

Daily Dose

Do Essential Oils Boost Immune System?

1.30 to read

Although it is still hot and officially summer, soon everyone will be heading back to school  and coughs and colds (and eventually flu, another topic) will be just around the corner. I had a patient ask me about the use of essential oils. Her 2 1/2 year old daughter is heading to preschool for the first time and she “had heard from her friends that essential oils help a child’s immunity during cold season”.

Unfortunately, there is very little data at all to confirm that statement. I only wish that rubbing a bit of lavender oil on would help prevent the common cold. While it may smell great and be relaxing....there is no data that I can find to show that there is any reproducible science to the claims that essential oils boost the immune system.  

While I was researching I found many sites stating that “eucalyptus oil is an anti-viral” and “peppermint oil is an anti-pyretic (fever reducer)”.  Tea tree oil is touted as being “both anti -bacterial and anti-fungal” (I don’t know of other drugs that can claim both!).  But, I just don’t see any data to support all of this. 

The word essential refers to the essence of the plant the oil is derived from, rather than being “essential” to your health. While in most cases essential oils (which are highly concentrated) used as aromatherapy are not harmful for adults, it may be a different story in children, especially those under the age of 6. While labels may say  “natural” it may not always mean safe.  Many oils are poisonous if ingested and there have been reports of accidental overdoses in children with several different oils. In one report tea tree oil and lavender oil applied topically have been shown to cause breast enlargement in boys.  Oil of eucalyptus and peppermint are high in menthol and cineole.  These substances may cause children to become drowsy have decreased respirations.  While there are articles stating that the use of menthol (Vicks) on a child’s feet may be helpful during a cold for reducing a cough, do not use this if child is young enough to put their feet in their mouths. 

I must say that I sometime use a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the shower when I have a cold as I think it smells great and seems to help “open up” my head. Whether this is in “my mind” or a response from my olfactory centers which sends calming messages to respiratory center is not clear. But, I am not ingesting it or using it topically. 

 

 

Daily Dose

Protecting Your New Bundle of Joy

When I see newborns in my office this fall I am already thinking into the winter season ahead.

As I see new parents in my office this fall, bringing in that most precious newborn for their first pediatric visit, I am already thinking into the winter season ahead. Infants born during fall and winter are exposed to more upper respiratory viruses and flu in their first six months of life. Infants under six months of age are at more risk of complications from viruses like RSV and flu. Unfortunately, infants under six months cannot receive flu vaccine.

But a recent study showed that mothers who received a flu vaccine during pregnancy reduced influenza illness in their newborns. That study is important in reminding pregnant mothers of the importance of receiving flu vaccine during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, in my practice, I do not see this information being given to pregnant mothers while they are in for their OB visits. It is also important that new parents are vaccinated against whooping cough with a newer vaccine which is given to adults called a TDaP. If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant this winter discuss these vaccines with your obstetrician. If they do not have the vaccines in their office, your local health department has them. The best way to protect that new bundle of joy is by immunizing those around them. This would also apply to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Spread the word about flu vaccine and TDaP and not the germs. That's your daily dose, we'll chat tomorrow!

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.

Your Child

AAP Supports Flu Shots Instead of Nose Spray for Children

1:30

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that health care providers should not use the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) in the upcoming 2016-’17 flu season due to poor effectiveness. The LAIV is the nasal spray version of the annual flu vaccine.

Instead, the AAP recommends health care providers use the inactivated vaccine given by injection for flu prevention in children.

Academy leaders say they support the interim recommendation released this week, by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

“We agree with ACIP’s decision today to recommend health care providers and parents use only the inactivated vaccine for this influenza season,” said AAP President Benard Dreyer, M.D., FAAP.

Health officials reported Wednesday that the spray performed dismally for the third straight year, while the traditional flu shot — the one that stings — worked reasonably well this winter.

“We could find no evidence (the spray) was effective,” said Dr. Joseph Bresee, a flu expert at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The AAP recommends children ages 6 months and older be immunized against influenza every year. Previously, the CDC and AAP had recommended either form of flu vaccine – the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) that is given by injection and is approved for all patients older than 6 months, or LAIV which is given by intranasal spray and is approved for healthy patients ages 2 through 49 years.

However, the new data presented to the ACIP showed that currently only IIV provides protection against flu. The ACIP assessed data from the past three influenza seasons and cited evidence of poor effectiveness of LAIV during this time period.

Two years ago, experts suggested health care providers use AstraZeneca’s FluMist nasal spray to protect children against the flu. This week, a federal advisory committee on immunization withdrew its endorsement of the vaccine.

“We do understand this change will be difficult for pediatric practices who were planning to give the intranasal spray to their patients, and to patients who prefer that route of administration,” said AAP CEO/Executive Director Karen Remley, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., FAAP. “However the science is compelling that the inactivated vaccine is the best way to protect children from what can be an unpredictable and dangerous virus. The AAP will be working with CDC and vaccine manufacturers to make sure pediatricians and families have access to appropriate vaccines, and to help pediatricians who have already ordered intranasal vaccines.”

During the winter that just ended, flu shots were nearly 50 percent effective against the flu strain that made most people sick. But FluMist didn’t work at all, CDC researchers said, citing preliminary results from a study of about 2,300 U.S. children.

Experts were particularly worried that FluMist hasn’t protected against H1N1, a type of flu that often causes more deaths and hospitalizations among children and young adults.

For now, health officials say that returning to the flu shot, instead of using the nasal spray, is the best option for preventing or minimizing the effects of the flu in children.

Story sources: http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/06/22/InfluenzaVaccine062216

Mike Stobbe, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/ouch-flu-spray-fails-again-flu-shots-work-better/2016/06/22/33e94216-38b5-11e6-af02-1df55f0c77ff_story.html

Daily Dose

National Flu Immunization Week

This week is National Influenza Immunization week, so I thought it would be a good time to remind everyone about the need to continue to get vaccinated for both seasonal and H1N1 flu.

We were all fortunate that flu did not “rear its angry head” over the holidays (flu is currently widespread in only several states) and therefore it seems that many people have become “complacent” (verbiage from CDC) about getting vaccinated. The one thing that we doctors know for sure is that flu comes every winter, so we don’t think 2010 will be any different. The difference will be whether it is H1N1 having another resurgence, or will it be seasonal influenza or both? Seeing that none of us has that proverbial crystal ball, I would continue to recommend vaccinations against both. It seems there are many people who wanted to be vaccinated against H1N1 (swine flu) while there was a vaccine shortage, and the lines were long and there were restrictions being placed on who could get vaccinated. Now there is a plethora of vaccine and it is available for all comers. Suddenly, interest wanes, just like the Zhu Zhu pet after the holidays. It is especially important that infants and children continue to be vaccinated as well as the adolescent and young adult population. As you can recall from previous posts, this population seems to have a higher than expected rate of complications and deaths than has been seen with seasonal flu. There have even been recent reports of more pediatric deaths from H1N1, despite the fact that the disease seems to be waning for now. As I continue to see infants who have turned six months of age for their routine check-ups I am giving them their first doses of both seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccine. I am also reminding parents that they will need to bring their infants back in four weeks to receive their second doses. My hope is that we will have plenty of vaccine available to continue to immunize into early spring. The H1N1 vaccine availability does not seem to be problematic at this point, but the seasonal flu vaccine used for children between six months and two years is in short supply. In any event, one dose of vaccine is preferable to none. I have been telling the parents to call us in month and come in and we will give their children second doses of what we have available. Remember too that all children under the age of 10 require two doses of H1N1 vaccine; so many children should be due to get their second doses of vaccine if they were vaccinated in the fall. Take advantage of the availability of H1N1 vaccine and get you and your family vaccinated. The vaccine is the same whether you get it at your doctor’s office, at the health department or at your local pharmacy or grocery store. The continued post marketing surveillance has not shown any problem with side effects or safety related to the H1N1 vaccine. The more people that are vaccinated the better chance we have of preventing widespread disease. Pick up the phone and call your pediatrician this week! That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

Daily Dose

Plenty of Colds Going Around

1.30 to read

I have been looking at the data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and it looks like flu season has made an early exit from many parts of the country. That would be a welcome blessing. But cold season is still in full swing and so many of the parents I am seeing in the office continue to say, “it just seems impossible that my child can have this many colds in one year!”.  If you have a child between the ages of 6 months and 3 years of age, and they go to school, you are probably one of these parents.

The first several winters that you child starts day care or pre-school are pretty tough....not only in terms of “being away from your child”, but also for the number of viral illnesses they get. Many a parent has called me “CRAZY” when I tell them that it is not unusual at all for your child to get 7-10 viral infections during the first fall/winter season that their child is around other children. In fact, I know that there have been several families over the years that changed pediatricians just because the parent felt certain that their child had an “immune problem” due to their frequent coughs and colds. True problems with immunity do exist in pediatrics but they don’t typically present with recurrent coughs and colds, but rather with far more serious illnesses.  Thankfully these are rare.

Parents with younger children know their pediatrician far better than they really want to during those first several years. That is another reason that you want to find a pediatrician that is not only close to your house but that you really get along with!

So with all of that being said, hang in there for about another 6-8 weeks and the winter viral season truly will be exiting and children (and their parents) will all start to be healthier for the rest of spring.  I promise once your youngest child reaches 3 years of age your visits to the pediatrician during the winter months become less and less frequent.

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

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