Archive for the ‘Hot Topics’ Category

Repeat lead tests are advised for certain children, pregnant women and breastfeeding moms

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

blood-testsToday, the FDA and CDC issued a notice that some lead tests done by Magellan Diagnostics may be incorrect.

The FDA says “certain lead tests manufactured by Magellan Diagnostics may provide inaccurate results for some children and adults in the United States.”

If you have a child age 6 years old or younger, are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your healthcare provider or local health department to determine if retesting is needed.

The dangers of lead

Lead is a metal that comes from the ground, but it can be in air, water and food. You can’t see, smell or taste it. High levels of lead in your body can cause serious health problems for you and your family.

Children younger than 6 years of age can be severely affected by lead. It can cause developmental problems, hearing loss, vomiting, irritability, belly pain and weight loss. Very high levels of lead may even cause death.

Lead poisoning (high levels of lead in your body) can cause serious problems during pregnancy, such as premature birth, miscarriage, and high blood pressure. It can also cause fertility problems, mood disorders, headaches, muscle or joint pain, trouble concentrating, belly pain, anemia and fatigue in adults.

Where is lead?

Most lead comes from paint in older homes. When old paint cracks or peels, it makes dust that has lead in it. The dust may be too small to see. You can breathe in the dust and not know it.

Lead may be found in drinking water, at construction sites, in arts and crafts materials used to make stained glass, lead crystal glassware, and some soil.

For more information on lead poisoning, see our web article and the CDC’s information.

Bottom line

If you have a child age 6 or younger, or you are pregnant or breastfeeding, contact your healthcare provider to determine if a lead test should be repeated.

Have questions? Contact our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

You can find more news on our News Moms Need blog.

 

U.S. study shows fewer babies are dying in their first year of life

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

The death of a baby before his or her first birthday is called infant mortality. A new report released by the CDC shows that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. dropped 15% from 2005 to 2014. In kangaroo-care-242005 the rate was 6.86 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2014, the rate dropped to 5.82 deaths per 1,000 live births.

While the study did not look at the underlying causes of the decline, it did report valuable information:

  • Infant mortality rates declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia. The other 17 states saw no significant changes.
  • Declines were seen in some of the leading causes of infant death including birth defects (11% decline), preterm birth and low birthweight (8% decline), and maternal complications (7% decline).
  • The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) declined by 29%.
  • Infant mortality rates declined for all races, except American Indian or Alaska Natives.
  • Infants born to non-Hispanic black women continue to have an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic white women.

“On the surface, this seems like good news. But it is far from time to celebrate,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer for the March of Dimes. “What is concerning, though, is that the inequities between non-Hispanic blacks and American Indians and the Caucasian population have persisted.” Dr. Jarris adds, “This report highlights the need to strengthen programs that serve low income and at-risk communities, especially those with the highest infant mortality rates.”

The infant mortality rate is one of the indicators that is often used to measure the health and well-being of a nation, because factors affecting the health of entire populations can also impact the mortality rate of infants.

What can you do?

Having a healthy pregnancy may increase the chance of having a healthy baby. Here are some things you can do before and during pregnancy:

Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Is the Zika virus affecting babies in the U.S.?

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

microcephalyShort answer…Yes.

The CDC just released a report that measured the number of brain related birth defects in the U.S. before and after the arrival of Zika. The study focused on data from three areas of the U.S. that track brain related birth defects – Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia – in the year 2013-2014, before Zika arrived in the U.S.

It found that during that time, brain related birth defects occurred in 3 out of 1,000 births (.3%).

A study done looking at 2016 data shows that among women in the US with possible Zika virus infection, similar brain related birth defects were 20 times more common, affecting 60 of 1,000 pregnancies (6%).

This is a huge increase.

Here’s what we know

If a pregnant woman is infected with Zika, the virus can pass to her baby. Zika has been shown to cause a range of birth defects including brain problems, microcephaly, neural tube defects, eye defects and central nervous system problems. Although none of these birth defects are new to the medical field and they can occur for other reasons, it has been clearly established that the Zika virus can cause these serious problems, too.

Babies will require coordinated, long-term care

Babies born with Zika related birth defects will require access to coordinated medical care among a team of specialists. Such care may seem daunting to the parents and even to the medical community as they gather new information about the effects of the virus on a daily basis.

Enter the Zika Care Connect Network (ZCC)

This new website will launch in April 2017 to help parents and providers coordinate care for babies with complex medical needs due to Zika infection. The ZCC aims to improve access to medical care, which will jump-start early identification and intervention. The goal is to reduce the long-term effects of Zika on children and families by making it easier to locate a network of specialists knowledgeable about services for patients with Zika. The searchable database will feature a Provider Referral Network, patient resource tools, and a HelpLine.

Bottom line

Zika is still here, and it is seriously affecting babies and families. The best line of defense is to protect yourself from infection. Our website has detailed information on how to stay safe.

If you have questions, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Zika virus case believed to be found in Texas

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Aedes aegypti mosquitoHealth officials in South Texas believe they have identified their first locally transmitted case of Zika virus in a woman living in Brownsville.

A locally transmitted case means that the person who got the Zika virus did not get it by traveling to a place where it is commonly found nor did the person have sex with someone who has the virus. She also did not get it through a blood transfusion or in a lab setting. In other words, it was most likely spread by an infected mosquito.

Texas health officials have set up surveillance sites in the Brownsville area where the infected woman lives, to test mosquitoes for possible infection. They are also trying to find out if anyone else in the area has been infected with the virus.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. said “Even though it is late in the mosquito season, mosquitoes can spread Zika in some areas of the country. Texas is doing the right thing by increasing local surveillance and trapping and testing mosquitoes in the Brownsville area.”

The CDC’s press release states: “As of Nov 23, 2016, 4,444 cases of Zika have been reported to CDC in the continental United States and Hawaii; 182 of these were the result of local spread by mosquitoes. These cases include 36 believed to be the result of sexual transmission and one that was the result of a laboratory exposure. This number does not include the current case under investigation in Texas.”

Now that the cold weather has arrived, you may think that the Zika virus is a thing of the past. But, this announcement of a likely locally transmitted case of Zika should be a reminder that Zika is still here, and it is still a threat.

If a woman gets infected with Zika during pregnancy, she can pass it to her baby. It can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, congenital Zika syndrome, and other developmental problems.

Read why Zika is harmful to pregnant women and babies, and what you need to know to keep you and your family safe.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

CDC’s 8 fast facts about Zika if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

microcephalyIf you get infected with Zika during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. Zika infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as microcephaly, and other brain problems. Here’s what the CDC wants you to know:

1. All pregnant women in the United States should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure and signs or symptoms of Zika during each prenatal care visit.

2. The most common symptoms of Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye). Other symptoms could include muscle pain and headache.

3. Zika virus is most commonly spread through mosquito bites.

4. Zika virus may be passed through sex by a person who carries the virus, even if he or she never develops symptoms.

5. For women and men who have been diagnosed with Zika, have symptoms, or have had possible exposure to the Zika virus, CDC recommends that women wait at least 8 weeks before trying to get pregnant, and that men wait at least 6 months before trying to get their partner pregnant.

6. In addition to microcephaly, doctors have found other problems among babies infected with Zika virus before birth, such as missing or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing problems, and impaired growth.

7. Zika also may be linked to miscarriage and stillbirth.

8. Zika virus has been found in breast milk, but there are no reports of babies getting infected with Zika from breastfeeding.

Researchers are collecting data to better understand the extent of the Zika virus’ impact on mothers and their babies.

Share these facts with friends, family, and coworkers. For more information about Zika, please visit cdc.gov/PreventZika or our web article. 

Thanks to the CDC for sharing these facts, so you can protect yourself and your family from Zika.

Photo courtesy of CDC.

Have questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org. 

Study finds parents make medication dosing mistakes

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

medicine syringe for kidsMore than 80 percent of 2,110 parents made dosing mistakes when measuring liquid medicine, a new Pediatrics study reveals. And, the majority of those mistakes were overdoses. The study was in the form of a lab experiment (so no children were harmed). Researchers found  that 4 times more errors occurred when a dosing cup was used instead of an oral syringe.

Manufacturers of liquid medication may have different kinds of cups, droppers, spoons or syringes to use to give your child his medicine. These various kinds of measuring items can be confusing and lead to accidentally using one that wasn’t intended for a particular medication.

What should you do?

  • Always use the oral syringe or dropper that comes with the medication. Do not use a syringe or dropper from a previous medication.
  • Measure calmly, carefully, and exactly.
  • Never use kitchen teaspoons because they are not intended for medication use. Kitchen spoons vary widely and can hold vastly different amounts of liquids.
  • The researchers in this study recommend using oral syringes instead of cups, especially if small doses (eg. for babies) are needed.

There is no doubt that having a sick baby or child is very stressful. When our kids are sick, we are worried and probably sleep deprived from being up with them at night. You can reduce the odds of making a medication mistake by using only the syringe or dropper that comes with the medicine bottle, or ask your pharmacist to help you select a syringe. Be sure you understand the label and the markings on the syringe.

Other tips

  • If you are giving a non-prescription medication (such as Tylenol or any over-the-counter medicine), be sure to give the dose that is based on your child’s weight, not his age. If in doubt, ask a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, pharmacist or other healthcare provider.
  • AAP has helpful dosage charts for acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil).
  • Check out the AAP’s video guide on how to measure meds and read about useful medication tips.

FDA bans antibacterial soaps and body washes

Monday, September 12th, 2016

HandwashingFrequent and thorough hand washing is still the best way to ward off germs and to prevent the spread of infections. There is no need to buy antibacterial soaps; regular bar or liquid soap will do the job just fine. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned antibacterial soap products containing certain chemicals.

What makes soap antibacterial?

Antibacterial soaps, also called antimicrobial or antiseptic soaps, contain different ingredients than plain soap. Antibacterial soaps contain one or more of 19 specific active ingredients with the most common ingredients being triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps). These products will have ‘antibacterial’ on the label.

Why the ban?

The FDA asked manufacturers to research and provide evidence that antibacterial soap ingredients, including triclosan and triclocarban, were safe for daily use over a long period of time. The manufacturers failed to prove their safety. Animal studies on triclosan show that this ingredient alters the way some hormones work in the body and raises concerns on its effect on humans. There is also concern that this ingredient contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. There is not enough research to know how triclocarban affects humans.

The FDA’s new rule applies to all consumer antibacterial soaps and body washes that are used with water. Manufacturers have one year to comply with the FDA’s new rule.

The ban does not include hand sanitizers, hand wipes or antibacterial soaps used in health care settings. The FDA says “Health care antiseptics are being evaluated separately from consumer antiseptics because they have different proposed use settings and target populations, and the risks for infection in the different settings varies.” More scientific research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of certain over the counter hand sanitizers.

Babies and bug spray

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

CDC's insect repellent application on kidsYou’ve heard about the Zika virus in certain parts of the United States, Puerto Rico and other countries, such as Brazil. One of the ways to combat Zika is to protect yourself from mosquito bites. Babies and children need protection, too, but certain precautions should be taken.

 

Here are the CDC’s guidelines:

  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old.
  • Do not use products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or para-menthane-diol (PMD) on children under 3 years old.
  • Always follow instructions (on the label) when applying insect repellent to children.
  • Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, and cut or irritated skin.
    • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply to a child’s face.

What about “natural” or non-EPA registered repellants?

We do not know the effectiveness of non-EPA registered insect repellents, including some natural repellents.

  • To protect yourself against diseases like chikungunya, dengue, and Zika, CDC and EPA recommend using an EPA-registered insect repellent.
  • Choosing an EPA-registered repellent ensures the EPA has evaluated the product for effectiveness. The EPA’s search tool can help you find the one that is best for you or your child, depending on different factors.

Other things you can do:

  • You can protect your baby or child from insect bites by dressing him in pants and shirts with long sleeves, shoes and socks.
  • Cover the crib, bassinet or stroller with mosquito netting.
  • Take steps to reduce mosquitoes inside and outside of your home by using screens or staying indoors where there is air conditioning.
  • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, (kiddie) pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers.

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers more tips on using repellents safely.

They also note that the following products are not effective repellents:

  • Wristbands soaked in chemical repellents
  • Garlic or vitamin B1 taken by mouth
  • Ultrasonic devices that give off sound waves designed to keep insects away
  • Bird or bat houses
  • Backyard bug zappers (Insects may actually be attracted to your yard).

 Remember:

  • Always follow the product label instructions.
  • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen first and insect repellent second.
  • Permethrin should not be applied to skin – apply it to your child’s clothing only.

See our article on Zika for more information on how to keep your family safe.

Questions? Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

The Zika virus: What we know and what we don’t

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

We know that…

  • Zika infection during pregnancy can be passed to your baby. It can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain problems. Also, Zika may be linked to miscarriage and stillbirth, hearing and vision problems, and joint issues.
  • the Zika virus is spread mostly through the bite of an infected mosquito, but it also can be spread by having sex with someone who is infected, and possibly through blood transfusions. Zika can be spread through laboratory exposure in a health care setting, too.
  • the mosquitoes that live in many parts of the U.S. are capable of spreading the virus if they become infected. They become infected by biting someone who has the virus. At this time, in the continental United States, mosquitoes are spreading the virus in only one area of Florida.
  • infected mosquitoes spread the virus by biting people. Roughly 4 out of 5 people who get the Zika virus don’t have any signs or symptoms and aren’t aware that they have the virus.
  • by applying bug spray/lotion for 3 weeks after you return from a Zika-affected area, or if you were diagnosed with Zika, you will help prevent the spread of Zika to others.

 We don’t know…

  • how often Zika causes microcephaly or birth defects when a baby is exposed to the virus in the womb.
  • if or when mosquitoes in other areas of the U.S. may become infected with Zika and consequently start spreading the virus.
  • when a vaccine will be available.

Here’s what you can do

The March of Dimes #ZAPzika campaign provides essential information on Zika protection that everyone should follow and share:

  1. Use spray, keep mosquitoes away: make sure it’s EPA registered, and contains at least one of mosquito_3Dthe following ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or IR3535, which are safe to use during pregnancy. Don’t use products that contain oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children younger than 3 years. When applying, always follow the product label directions;  do not put bug spray/lotion under your clothes, and put sunscreen on first (then bug spray/lotion over sunscreen). Find a repellant that is right for you.
  1. Say you will, embrace the chill: use air conditioning and window screens if possible. Repair holes on screens.
  1. If it’s wet, it’s a threat: remove still water. Mosquitoes can breed in tiny amounts of water. To prevent water from pooling and becoming mosquito breeding grounds, the CDC says “Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out items that hold water, such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpots, or trash containers.”
  1. Get protected, not infected: wear clothes to prevent bites, such as long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, socks, shoes, and a hat. If you or your partner may be infected with Zika, use a barrier method (like a condom) every time you have sex or don’t have sex at all.
  1. If you suspect, then connect: call your health care provider if you are at risk of infection, or if you think you may have the Zika virus.

If you are thinking about getting pregnant, CDC guidelines suggest waiting at least 6 months from the first sign or symptom if a male partner was diagnosed with the virus, and waiting at least 8 weeks from the first sign or symptom if a woman tested positive for Zika.

If you or your partner may have Zika but neither of you have signs or symptoms and neither of you has been tested, wait at least 8 weeks from when you think you may have been exposed to Zika before trying to get pregnant. Keep in mind that research is ongoing to confirm these waiting times.

If you have questions about Zika, please see our article at marchofdimes.org/zika or send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

How I Got the Zika Virus and How You Can Too: Protecting Yourself and Your Family

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Aedes aegypti mosquitoToday’s guest post is written by Bethany Kotlar, MPH, of Mother To Baby -Georgia. Her personal experience with the Zika virus is important to share with others.

As a teratology information specialist, I counsel women and their families on medications, chemicals, herbal remedies, and illnesses that could harm developing babies. So as the Zika Virus, a viral infection that can cause severe birth defects including microcephaly (a condition where a baby’s head is much smaller than expected, and may indicate a baby’s brain has not developed properly during pregnancy), spread from the Polynesian Islands, to South America, to the Caribbean, I made sure to educate myself on everything we know about the virus, reading article after article and keeping up to date on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s) recommendations to avoid infection, knowing that eventually I would need this information to counsel a pregnant woman or her family. I never imagined I would use this information to try to prevent becoming infected myself, and that I would fail.

One week in February I opened an email from my in-laws with the subject “30th Birthday Plan.” My husband’s 30th was a few weeks away, and I was excited to see what they had planned. As I read the email detailing a week-long sailing trip in the Caribbean I felt blessed, and honestly a little scared. I rushed to the CDC’s page on Zika to look up whether the islands we were visiting had outbreaks. Sure enough-16 Caribbean islands, including the two we were visiting, had Zika outbreaks. At first I didn’t want to go, which set off an intense inner debate racked with guilt. “How could I say no to a surprise trip for my husband, especially one planned and paid for by my in-laws?” I thought, and in the next second, “But what if I get Zika? I work with pregnant women, I can’t expose them!” Finally, my Dad stepped in. “You’re too adventurous to let Zika scare you away from a vacation.” he said. “Fine,” I thought, “I’ll go, but I’m going to be careful.”

I was careful. Despite the gentle teasing from my in-laws, I insisted on sleeping indoors with the windows closed, even though it was more comfortable outside. I wore bug spray with 30% DEET when I thought mosquitos would be out. I got three or so bites at dinner one night, and three more at the end of our trip. As we headed home I mentally patted myself on the back; “Only six bites,” I thought, “pretty sure I didn’t get Zika!” I was so sure that three days after our trip when I developed a head-to-toe rash I was certain it was an allergic reaction, but after three doses of Benadryl did nothing, I googled Zika-related rashes. Dead ringer. Symptoms of the Zika Virus include rash, joint and muscle pain, red eye, fever, and headache, and boy did I have them. I rushed in to see an infectious disease doctor, who came to the same conclusion. “My money’s on Zika,” he said. Suddenly everyone wanted a piece of me; my blood was sent to the county board of health, Emory’s lab, and a lab in Washington for testing.

A call from the county board of health confirmed what my aching joints hinted at: I tested positive. My first thought was to thank my lucky stars that I have access to safe, reliable birth control. My second was to start worrying about those around me. I had brunch with a pregnant friend before I had symptoms-could I have given her Zika? Thankfully, the answer is no (more on that below)! I was amazed at how a short vacation and six bites could give me Zika. I thought about all the people going to the Caribbean for vacation. How many of them are pregnant or could become pregnant while traveling? Would they wear bug spray? Would they recognize the symptoms? How many are men who could get Zika and then unknowingly transmit it to their sexual partner? How many people are walking around not knowing they were infected? I called my friend and begged her to wear insect repellant for the rest of her pregnancy.

As of July 27, 2016, 1,658 cases of Zika, including 433 pregnant women have been confirmed in the continental United States; 4 cases of local transmission have been reported in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida. There are likely far more cases since most people don’t have symptoms, so never get tested. Zika is mostly spread through mosquito bites, but can also be spread through sex, blood transfusions, or from a mother to baby during pregnancy. We don’t know how long the incubation period (the time between when you get infected and when you see symptoms) is, but it is likely a few days to weeks. For most people the virus stays in the blood for about a week, but some people still have the virus in their bodies for as long as two months. Currently, the only Zika outbreak in the continental United States is in a small area of Dade County, Florida, however, the mosquitoes that can carry Zika are found in some areas of the US, making a Zika outbreak in the U.S. very possible. You can follow these steps to protect yourself:

1.  If you are pregnant or could be pregnant (planning a pregnancy or not using birth control), don’t travel to a country with an active Zika outbreak. You can find a list of current outbreaks here.

2.  If your partner has traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and you are pregnant, use condoms correctly every time you have sex for the rest of your pregnancy. Why, you might ask? Because Zika can stay in semen longer than in blood, but we don’t know exactly how long it stays there. To be as safe as possible, the CDC recommends using condoms for 6 months.

3.  If your partner has traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and has symptoms of Zika (rash, fever, headache, joint pain, and conjunctivitis) use condoms correctly whenever you have sex and avoid pregnancy for at least six months. If he does not have symptoms, use condoms and avoid pregnancy for at least two months.

4.  If you have traveled to a country with an active Zika outbreak and you are not pregnant, avoid pregnancy for at least two months. The Zika virus can also be transmitted from a woman to her sexual partner. Because of this, use condoms and/or a dental dam when you have sex for two months. Do not share sex toys.

5.  If you are currently pregnant, avoid mosquito bites as much as possible by wearing bug spray outdoors (bug spray with at least 30% DEET is preferable; for information on the safety of DEET during pregnancy, see here), wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, closing windows or using windows with screens, and removing any standing water from around your house. Two things to remember: the mosquitos that spread Zika are daytime biters and like to be indoors, and they can breed in pools as small as a bottle-cap.

MTB-headshot_BethanyKotlarIf you have questions about the Zika virus or you have been infected or exposed and want free up-to-date information about what this could mean for a current or future pregnancy, you can contact a MotherToBaby expert by phone at (866) 626-6847, by text at (855) 999-3525, or by live chat or email by visiting www.mothertobaby.org.

Bethany

You can also send your questions to the March of Dimes at AskUs@marchofdimes.org and view our web article on Zika. Thanks again to Bethany for sharing her story.

Note: since the writing of this blog post, more cases of Zika have been reported in Florida. The CDC website has updated, detailed information.