Archive for the ‘Hot Topics’ Category

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.

 

Avoid mercury in skin care products

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

rubbing-nosesMost pregnant women know to avoid mercury from certain fish as it could harm a developing baby. But did you know that some skin care products contain mercury? Mercury may be found in skin creams, lotions and certain soaps. It is also found in some skin-lightening creams made outside of the U.S.

According to the FDA, “Some people – including pregnant women, nursing babies and young children – are especially vulnerable to mercury toxicity…Babies may be particularly sensitive to the harm mercury can cause to their developing brains and nervous systems. Newborns who nurse are vulnerable because mercury is passed into breast milk.”

FDA senior medical advisor Arthur Simone, M.D. says “Your family might breathe mercury vapors released from these products. Your children might touch washcloths or towels that are contaminated with mercury. It could be as simple as touching someone’s cheek or face.”

How do you know if your product contains mercury?

Check the list of ingredients, and do not use the product if any of these words are listed: “mercurous chloride,” “calomel,” “mercuric,” “mercurio,” or “mercury.”

The FDA further warns that if there is no product label or list of ingredients, do not use it. They say “Federal law requires that ingredients be listed on the label of any cosmetic or nonprescription drug, so do not use a product that doesn’t have a label.”

Why is mercury dangerous?

Mercury is a metal which can damage many parts of your body, including your lungs, kidneys and nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves). It also can cause hearing and vision problems. How serious the damage is depends on how much mercury you’re exposed to. Babies exposed to mercury in the womb can have brain damage and hearing and vision problems.

Where else is mercury found?

You can be exposed to mercury through your skin (lotions or creams), the air (by breathing it) and eating or drinking food or water that contains mercury. See our article for more details about where mercury may be found and ways to stay safe.

Have questions? Text or email our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Why should men care about Zika?

Monday, July 25th, 2016

couple with laptopWe have received a number of questions at AskUs@marchofdimes.org asking why men need to be concerned about Zika.

The quick answer is because Zika can be sexually transmitted.

Zika infection usually stays in your blood for a few days to a week, but it has been found in an infected man’s semen more than 3 months after symptoms started. Semen contains sperm, which is what fertilizes an egg to get a woman pregnant. We don’t know how long Zika stays in a woman’s vaginal fluid or genital tract. If a man is infected with Zika and has sex with a pregnant woman, he can pass the virus to her and then it is possible for her to pass it to her unborn baby.

How can a man prevent a Zika infection?

  • Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Men whose partners may be pregnant or trying to conceive, should avoid travel to a Zika-affected area unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Prevent mosquito bites. If a man does travel to a Zika-affected area, he should avoid mosquito bites during the trip. Continue to use insect repellant for at least 3 weeks after return, to help prevent Zika from spreading to others.
  • Use a condom. When he returns from his trip, it is important to use a condom every time he has sex to prevent passing Zika to his partner. The length of time that you should use condoms depends on your personal situation and concerns. Talk to your provider.

What if a man thinks he may have been infected with Zika?

  • Recognize the symptoms. Illness usually begin 2 to 7 days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. You can be sick with Zika for several days to a week. Signs and symptoms include:
    • Headache
    • Fever (You may or may not have a fever if you have Zika.)
    • Joint or muscle pain
    • Pink eye (also called conjunctivitis) or pain behind the eyes
    • Rash
    • Throwing up
  • Most people who have Zika don’t feel sick or have symptoms. If you think you may have Zika, talk to your health care provider. You can find out if you have Zika with a blood or urine test.
  • If you have Zika, or THINK you may have Zika, be careful not to infect your partner. Use condoms.

What can you do if you’re planning to get pregnant?

  • If a man has been tested for and has Zika, wait at least 6 months after his first sign or symptom of Zika before trying to get pregnant.
  • If a woman has been tested for and has Zika, wait at least 8 weeks from her first sign or symptom before trying to get pregnant.
  • 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.

The CDC recommends that you wait this long to be sure you and your partner aren’t infected with Zika when you try to get pregnant.

See our article for more details about the Zika virus, including how to stay safe.

Have questions? Send them to our Health Education Specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Updated 8/18/16

Best Pregnancy Blog award – Yay!

Monday, July 18th, 2016

Healthline 2016 AwardAll of us at News Moms Need try to give our readers scientifically valid information in an easy-to-understand manner. We share pregnancy and baby tips that you can rely on as being backed by research.

So, when Healthline named News Moms Need as one of The 15 Best Pregnancy Blogs in 2016, we were delighted. Thank you Healthline!

We aim to keep our readers informed about the latest and greatest topics: getting pregnant, protecting yourself from Zika, dealing with pregnancy complications and premature birth, becoming a new mom and breastfeeding, caring for a child with special needs or birth defects, and coping with loss.

If there are topics you’d like to hear more about, please let us know. We love hearing from you! You can reach us on the blog or contact us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Thank you to Healthline for the honor, and thank you to our readers for your continued support.

 

CDC says: First female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus infection reported in NYC

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Important news from the CDC today:  “The New York City report of female-to-male sexual transmission of Zika virus infection is the first documented case of sexual transmission of Zika from a woman to her sex partner and adds to the growing body of knowledge about the sexual transmission of Zika. All previously reported cases of sexually transmitted Zika virus infection have been spread from men to their sex partners.

CDC recommends that all pregnant women who have a sex partner who has traveled to or resides in an area with Zika use barrier methods every time they have sex or they should not have sex during the pregnancy. Although no cases of woman-to-woman Zika transmission have been reported, these recommendations now also apply to female sex partners of pregnant women.

CDC is currently updating recommendations for sexually active people in which the couple is not pregnant or concerned about pregnancy and for people who want to reduce personal risk of Zika infection through sex.”

You can see the CDC’s announcement here.

In our article, you can learn how to protect yourself from the Zika virus.

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

 

The lowdown on insect repellants

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Zika - bug sprayProtecting yourself from mosquito bites is key in avoiding exposure to the Zika virus. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Use an insect repellant (bug spray or lotion) that is EPA registered.
  • Products containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol and IR3535, are safe to use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • If you use a product containing DEET, make sure it has at least 20% DEET, and always follow the instructions on the product label.
  • Most bug sprays and lotions are safe to use on babies 2 months and older. However, DO NOT USE PRODUCTS THAT CONTAIN OIL OF LEMON EUCALPTUS OR PARA-MENTHANE-DIOL ON CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 3 YEARS OF AGE.
  • Do not put bug spray or lotion on under clothing.
  • If you are using sunscreen, too, put it on first, before you use bug spray or lotion.

If you have recently traveled to a Zika-affected area, use bug spray or lotion for 3 weeks after you get back. This way, if you are bitten by a mosquito, it will not become infected with the Zika virus and spread it to other people.

Learn ways to #ZAPzika in our article: how to stay safe, how it can affect a baby during pregnancy, and what to do if you think you may have been exposed.

Have questions?  Send them to our health education specialists at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Speak up — Tell Congress no vacation until they pass Zika funding!

Monday, July 11th, 2016

CongressToday, we welcome guest blogger Cynthia Pellegrini, Senior Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs at the March of Dimes. She has worked in Congress and advocacy organizations for 23 years.

 

I’ve been working in and with the U.S. Congress for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this.

Everyone in Congress recognizes the threat posed by the Zika virus. No one wants to see babies born with microcephaly – cases of small, underdeveloped heads and brains – or other birth defects. There is broad consensus that Zika is a real issue and must be addressed head-on.

And yet, Congress has managed to entangled itself in partisan politics so thoroughly that they are about to leave until after Labor Day without doing anything at all on Zika virus.

Back in February, the President sent a request to Congress for emergency funding to combat Zika. It’s not unusual for emergency funding to be requested when a major issue comes up unexpectedly in the middle of a fiscal year. Emergency funding is needed because all the other government funds are already allocated to other purposes, and there’s limited flexibility to move those funds around.

But this time, Congress reacted slowly. Over six weeks passed without any activity at all. Even once Congress did start to work on Zika virus, movement was slow and difficult. The House and Senate passed very different versions of a Zika package, and then had to spend weeks working out the differences. Memorial Day came and went, and the July Fourth.

Now there are only 4 days remaining before the scheduled Congressional recess and the political conventions. And there’s no sign of any break in the stalemate.

Please sign this petition and tell Congress that there’s nothing more important than the health of pregnant women and babies.

No pregnant women should have to worry every day that a single mosquito bite may change her child’s life forever. Congress shouldn’t leave for the summer until they have done their sworn duty to protect the American people. It’s wrong, it shouldn’t be tolerated and we need everyone – including you and all your friends! — to join together to tell them so.