Archive for the ‘Baby’ Category

Measles outbreak continues

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Measles picture from the Public Health Image LibraryAre you and your family immunized against measles?

On my way to work today, I heard that the number of measles cases in the United States has continued to rise. At last count, there were 78 cases in 11 states. Most of those cases originated at Disneyland or Disney’s California Adventure theme park. Visitors who went to the parks in December 2014 who were infected with measles spread it to people who were unvaccinated.

What should you do?

If you or your child have not been vaccinated against measles, or if your child is under 12 months old, you need to take precautions. According to the California Department of Public Health: “Any place where large numbers of people congregate and there are a number of international visitors, like airports, shopping malls and tourist attractions, you may be more likely to find measles, which should be considered if you are not vaccinated. It is absolutely safe to visit these places, including the Disneyland Resort, if you are vaccinated.”

The only way to protect against measles is through immunization. The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine protects against the measles disease, as well as the mumps and rubella diseases. Your baby gets the MMR vaccine in two doses: the first between 12 and 15 months, and the second between 4 and 6 years. Adolescents and adults should be up to date on vaccinations. If you are not sure if you have had the vaccine, talk with your health care provider.

Measles and pregnancy

If you are thinking of having a baby, and are not sure if you have been vaccinated, speak with your health care provider. A simple blood test can tell you what vaccines you may need. If you need to get the MMR vaccine, make sure you do so before becoming pregnant. Wait at least 1 month before trying to get pregnant after the shot. If you are already pregnant, get the MMR vaccine after you give birth.

Measles on the rise

Last year, the U.S. had a record number of measles cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states there have been 644 confirmed measles cases reported for 2014 in the United States. This is the highest number of cases since the U.S. declared that measles was eliminated in 2000. Measles is still common in other parts of the world. International travelers may carry it to the U.S. where they can spread the disease to other people who have not been vaccinated.

As many as one in 20 children with measles develop pneumonia. This is the most common cause of death from measles in young children, according to the CDC. For every 1,000 children with measles, one or two will die.  Children under 5 and adults over 20 are at higher risk for getting complications from the measles virus, including hospitalization and death.

Symptoms of measles typically start to appear one to two weeks after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include a runny nose, watery eyes, cough, a high fever and finally a rash. Measles is so contagious that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will most likely get the disease.

Special thanks to the CDC and the Public Health Image Library for permission to use the above photo of a boy’s face after three days with measles rash.

Tracking birth defects helps states help you

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Birth defects on PeriStats by stateDid you know that many states track and monitor birth defects? It is one way for them to better understand birth defects in order to try and prevent them. Today, I welcome guest blogger Melissa Gambatese, MPH, Research Analyst in the Perinatal Data Center here at the March of Dimes. Melissa will introduce you to the world of birth defects surveillance systems. It may sound a bit high tech or like something from a spy movie, but it is really a way for states to monitor birth defects and to hopefully use the information to help combat them and help families.

 

Every 4 ½ minutes a baby is born with a birth defect in the US. Birth defects are generally referred to as abnormalities of structure, function or metabolism (body chemistry) present at birth that result in physical or mental disabilities, or death. While some birth defects are caused by genetic conditions passed from the baby’s parents, the causes of most birth defects remain unknown.

The March of Dimes is committed to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects. One of the ways to prevent birth defects is to better understand which populations are at highest risk for birth defects. This information allows public health professionals, policymakers, and health care providers to implement targeted prevention strategies. It also helps to provide adequate services to people affected by them. States monitor groups of people at risk for birth defects by establishing a surveillance system.

What is a surveillance system?

A surveillance system is a tool used in public health to collect information on a countless number of diseases and conditions. It provides a structure for identifying cases according to a standard definition. It also provides a way to analyze and then communicate surveillance findings to stakeholders, such as health care providers, researchers, and policymakers.

Surveillance systems can be passive, meaning they rely on physicians and medical staff to report cases to the state surveillance team, or active, meaning the state surveillance team reviews vital records, hospital diagnoses, and other data sources to identify cases.

Why do states have birth defects surveillance systems?

States use these systems to monitor trends in birth defects prevalence, or the number of babies born with a birth defect out of all live births born each year. States also use surveillance data to further research on the causes and prevention of birth defects and to link affected families to needed services.

States report surveillance data to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN), an organization of clinical and public health professionals dedicated to maintaining a network of state birth defect surveillance programs. Each year, NBDPN publishes a report containing prevalence data from all states with a birth defects surveillance system.

Do all states have a surveillance system?

The majority of US states (37 states and Puerto Rico) have a type of birth defects surveillance system.

Where can you find your state’s birth defects data?

Prevalence estimates reported by NBDPN for select states and birth defects are now available on PeriStats, the March of Dimes’ free statistical website. It contains the latest maternal and infant health-related data for the US.

Are birth defects preventable?

There is still so much we need to learn about preventing birth defects, but there are things that a woman can do before and during pregnancy to increase her chances of having a healthy baby. For example, it is known that maternal smoking causes a range of serious birth defects including heart defects, missing/deformed limbs, clubfoot, gastrointestinal disorders, and facial disorders (such as cleft lip/palate).

It is also known that folic acid taken before and early in pregnancy can help prevent certain defects of the brain and spine. Read this post to learn more ways to help prevent birth defects.

March of Dimes grantees are pursuing a variety of approaches aimed at preventing and improving treatment for many birth defects. Read about our research here.

 

 

Preparing your home for your preemie

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Preemie going homeWe often receive questions about “preemie-proofing” from parents who are preparing for their preemie’s homecoming. You may have waited a long time for this day, but bringing your baby home, and leaving his team of doctors and nurses behind can be overwhelming for many parents. Here are some tips to help ease the transition:

Before your baby comes home:

• Speak with the NICU staff at your baby’s hospital. They are very knowledgeable about what your baby may need when going home.

• If you clean your home before your baby’s arrival, (or if you want to brighten up your preemie’s nursery by painting it) do so before he comes home. This way you can avoid any strong smells that may linger.

• Clean your house of dust and germs. Vacuum and dust often, take out the garbage and keep your kitchen and bathroom clean. Also, tell your baby’s health care provider if you have any pets. Pet hair can track in dirt and dust.

• If your baby needs oxygen, carefully observe the cleaning requirements, particularly for the humidifier, and understand the safety recommendations.

Once your baby is home:

• Your baby should not be exposed to smoke, aerosol sprays or paint fumes. These irritants can cause wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

• Maintain a smoke-free household. Post signs around your house if you need to so family and friends are aware of your smoke-free home.

• The guidelines for cleaning and storing bottles, nipples, pacifiers, breast pump equipment and milk or formula are the same for preemies as term babies.

• If your baby is on an apnea monitor, be sure you can hear the alarm from every room in your house.

• Wash hands after blowing your nose, diapering your baby or handling raw food. Don’t let adults or children who are sick, have a fever or who may have been exposed to illness, near your baby.

Visit our website here for more great resources for parents after they bring their baby home from the NICU.

What do you remember being helpful when you brought your preemie home? What tips would you recommend to new parents?

Breastfeeding and returning to work

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Lactation room small photoMy girlfriend just returned to work last week after having her baby. I went to visit her yesterday to catch up and see how things were going. While she was glad to be back at work, she was stressing about how she was going to be able to continue breastfeeding. As a Certified Lactation Counselor, I happily told her that breastfeeding after returning to work can be a challenge, but it can be done successfully. Here are some tips to make things a little easier:

Before you return to work

• Talk to your employer and let them know what you need to continue breastfeeding. Employers with more than 50 employees are required to give you reasonable time and a private space (that is not a bathroom) for pumping when you go back to work. If there are less than 50 employees, your employer may still be willing to work with you to enable time and space for pumping breast milk.  It is best to familiarize yourself with the federal and state laws as they pertain to your company, and your specific job (exempt or non-exempt). Here are creative solutions to help you and your employer find ways for you to continue breastfeeding. You can search by industry to find the best solution.  Nursing moms who get support from their employer miss less work and are more productive and loyal to their company.

• Whether you have insurance through the ACA (Affordable Care Act) or private insurance, take the time to learn about your coverage. Here is a great tip sheet from the American Academy of Pediatrics that explains the federal guidelines, the differences in health plans and how it affects breastfeeding. This is a must read! Scroll down to the end for a helpful diagram.

• Start back to work on a Wednesday or Thursday. Consider working a few hours a day at the beginning. Having a shorter work week will allow you to get used to your new schedule and figure out your pumping, milk storage and new daycare routine.

• Get a breast pump. If you need help deciding if you should buy or rent one, read our blog. In many cases, breast pumps are covered through your insurance plan, so be sure to inquire. Proper cleaning of the pump is a must; follow the manufacturer’s directions.

• You will need somewhere to keep your breast milk cold. Make sure you have a small cooler with ice packs to bring to work if there’s no refrigerator, or a bag to keep in the fridge. Have labels handy to mark your bottles with the date you expressed the milk.  Learn guidelines for storing and thawing breast milk, here.

Once you have returned to work

• Express milk during the times you would normally feed your baby.
• Keep breast pads handy in case your breasts leak.
• Pump more on the weekends to increase your milk supply.
• Take care of yourself: get as much rest as you can, eat healthy foods and stay hydrated.

Keep talking with your employer about your schedule and what is or is not working for you.  Share the online resource above, and let them know you’d like to continue working together to make a plan that benefits you both.

Going back to work after having a baby can be a difficult transition for many women. Visit our website to learn tips on how to plan for and manage the transition.

Birth Defects: What have we learned?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Birth defects prevention month CDC guest postSpecial thanks to Coleen Boyle, PhD, MSHyg, Director, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for today’s guest post.

Each January, in recognition of National Birth Defects Prevention Month, we at CDC strive to increase awareness about birth defects and reflect upon all that we have learned so far.  We know what causes some birth defects, such as Down syndrome and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, for many birth defects, the causes are unknown.

The good news is that, through research, we’ve learned a lot about what might increase or decrease the risk for birth defects. For example, we know that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. Taking certain medications, having uncontrolled diabetes, and smoking cigarettes are all things that can increase the risk for birth defects. We also know that getting enough folic acid, a B vitamin, starting at least one month before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy lowers the risk of having a baby with a major birth defect of the brain or spine.

Each of these research findings represents a building block, a step toward healthy birth outcomes. Understanding the potential causes of birth defects can lead to recommendations and policies to help prevent them. A great example of this is the research on folic acid, which led to the recommendation that all women who can become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This important research also contributed to the evidence needed to add folic acid to foods such as enriched breads, pastas, rice and cereals.

These building blocks start to form our foundation for understanding birth defects and help us identify what we still need to study in the future. While we have a learned a lot, much work remains. We at CDC continue to study the causes of birth defects, look for ways to prevent them, and work to improve the lives of people living with these conditions and their families.

To learn more about birth defects research, we invite you to join us at 1PM EST on January 20, 2015 for CDC’s live webcast titled “Understanding the Causes of Major Birth Defects: Steps to Prevention.” Experts in birth defects research will present an overview of current and historical efforts to understand the causes of major birth defects. They will also discuss the challenges in turning research findings into effective prevention. For more information on the upcoming session, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/cdcgrandrounds/.

This year, we encourage you to become an active participant in National Birth Defects Prevention Month.  Post facts about birth defects marked by the hashtag #1in33 on social media or share your story and how birth defects affect you and your family. Join us in a nationwide effort to raise awareness of birth defects, their causes and their impact.

 

 

Antiviral medications and the flu

Monday, January 12th, 2015

mom and babyAntiviral medications have the ability to lessen flu symptoms, shorten the duration of the illness, and prevent serious complications.

As you may have already heard, this year’s flu season is being described by the CDC as “severe.” We are only about half-way through flu season and there have already been 26 pediatric deaths. The main strain of flu this year is H3N2, which unfortunately is a nastier flu virus than the other viruses. It typically leads to more hospitalizations and deaths than other strains of the flu.

The CDC is now recommending that doctors prescribe antiviral medications to high-risk patients suspected of having the flu even before the diagnosis is confirmed.

People at high-risk include:
• Children younger than 5 years of age and especially kids younger than 2 years old
• Children of any age with long-term health conditions including developmental disabilities
• Children of any age with neurologic conditions.
• Pregnant women 
• Individuals over the age of 65

How do antiviral medications help?

Antiviral medications work because they help to prevent the flu virus from multiplying in your body. These medications should be started as soon as possible after signs of illness develop —ideally within 48 hours. The most common flu symptoms include fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, coughing, congestion, runny nose, and sore throat. Children may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.

There is almost no age at which someone is too young for antiviral medications. There are two antiviral drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating the flu in children. One of these can be used in children as young as two weeks old, while the other can be used to treat those 7 years and older.

Dr. Frieden of the CDC says “Antiviral flu medicines are underutilized. If you get them early, they could keep you out of the hospital and might even save your life.”

And believe it or not, it is not too late to get your flu shot. Although this year’s vaccine is not a good match for the H3N2 strain causing most of the illness this year (about 2/3rd of the H3N2 viruses are different than what is in the vaccine), it may still offer some protection, especially against the other strains of flu.

The bottom line:

• This year is a severe flu season, especially for those who are considered high-risk for complications.
• The CDC is urging doctors to prescribe antiviral medications for high risk patients when flu is suspected, even before the diagnosis is confirmed.
• If your baby or child has flu-like symptoms, contact your pediatrician right away and ask if antiviral medications may be appropriate.
• It is still not too late to get your flu shot.

Traveling this winter? Be prepared

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

winter blizzardThe holidays are upon us and I’m spending them with friends and family near and far, well, mostly far. I’m starting to plan for my upcoming trip and today I realized the pressure in my tires was low. Thankfully I keep a tire pump in my car so I was able to put air in my tires and be on my way. It’s important to make sure you and your family are ready to hit the roads this holiday season and to be prepared for all kinds of winter weather. Here are some tips to help get you on your way safely.

Prepare your car

• Service the radiator
• Check your antifreeze level
• Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
• Check the tire pressure or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.
• Try to maintain a full tank of gas to avoid ice in the tank and long fuel lines.

Keep a winter emergency kit in your car that contains:

• Blankets
• Food and water
• Tire pump, booster cables, map, a bag of sand or cat litter for traction
• Flashlight
• Phone charger
• Snow shovel, brush and ice scraper
• Extra baby items, such as diapers, wipes, food, toys and extra clothing

If you are pregnant

• It is important to stay hydrated and have healthy snacks on hand in case you get hungry. Traveling during wintertime can cause unexpected delays, so keep extra water and snacks in your car  to help you make it through any traffic holdup.

If you have little ones

• Before you head out, make sure you strap your little one in his car seat properly. Buckle up and follow our guide to make sure your child is safe and secure.

Check the weather forecast and stay in touch

• Check the weather forecast before your travel so you can dress appropriately. Knowing the temperature and wind chill can help you and your little one avoid hypothermia, frostbite and wind chill. If a storm is coming, try to minimize your travel.
• If you do have to drive somewhere, let someone know when you leave your house and when you expect to arrive. Bridges and overpasses ice over first, so try to stay on main roads and avoid shortcuts.

Whether you are traveling near or far this winter, being prepared will help you travel and arrive safely.

Spending holidays in the NICU

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Parents in NICU If your baby is currently in the NICU, this may not be how you envisioned spending your holidays. The realization that your baby is not home for Hanukkah, Christmas or the start of the New Year can be a real jolt. But, with a little creativity, an open mind and a willingness to adapt, you can still make your holidays bright. Here’s how:

• Although no two NICUs are exactly alike, many will allow you to decorate your baby’s bed space (but ask first). You may be able to attach pictures or tiny holiday decorations on the side of the incubator or warmer bed.

• Engage your other children if you have them. You can take a photo of them and pin it up on the side of your baby’s bed (if allowed). Likewise, take a photo of your baby and bring it to your child or children at home to decorate. They can make a Christmas ornament out of it and hang it on the tree or draw a picture around it and set it up next to the menorah. This way, your littlest one is always present at your home in a physical way.

• If your baby is healthy enough, see if you can put him in a special holiday outfit. A snowman, Santa or elf onesie would be adorable! (But be sure to check with the head nurse or doctor first.)

• Depending on the health of your baby and NICU rules, perhaps Dad can pose as Santa and take a photo with your baby. (Be sure the Santa outfit is squeaky clean please!)

• Place a tiny “Charlie Brown” tree, menorah or other symbolic decoration on the windowsill or counter next to your baby.

• If appropriate, see if you can play soft holiday music when visiting your baby. Humming or singing to your baby may be soothing to him and in this way you can introduce him to his first Christmas Carol or Hanukkah song.

• Make a clay impression of your baby’s foot as a keepsake. There are kits that you can buy that are easy to prepare. Or, if you have a creative streak in you, you can make the “dough” yourself. Search the internet for recipes.

• Enjoy your New Year’s toast together as a family in the NICU with your baby, even if you do it well before midnight to accommodate bedtimes of your other children.

Spending your holidays at the NICU is not something you planned on. But, hopefully, the New Year will be one of improved health, weight gain for your preemie, and a soon-to-be united family at home.

 

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and Disabilities – How to get help for your child. While on News Moms Need, select “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. You can also view a Table of Contents of prior posts.

Feel free to ask questions. Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Deck the halls…carefully

Monday, December 15th, 2014

holiday lightbulbsTis the season. Whether you are going to rock around your Christmas tree with bright lights and shiny ornaments, light up a menorah, or get ready for a festive New Year’s party, it is important to remember how to keep it safe for you and your family.

Every December, at this time, my family and I bring out the storage bucket filled with coils of holiday lights. This year we went through each of our many coils to check for broken or burned out bulbs and frayed wires. The last thing you want is to be half way up the tree with your strand of lights and realize a bulb has been shattered. Or worse, to have a defective strand of lights on your tree which could pose a risk of fire.

Here are some tips to decorate safely

Lights

Check your new and old holiday lights to make sure they are in good condition. If you see any broken bulbs, cracked sockets, frayed wires or loose connections, discard those strands. Use no more than three sets of lights per extension cord. Remember to turn off all of your holiday lights when you go to bed or leave your house as they can short out and start a fire.

Christmas trees and wreaths

Some trees and wreaths contain small mold spores that may trigger allergy and asthma symptoms and are irritating to the nose and throat. If your child is prone to allergies or asthma, you may want to purchase a fire resistant artificial tree to use during the holidays.

“Real” trees can dry out quickly causing needles to fall off easily. Not only does this make a mess on your floor, but it is also a fire hazard. Try to buy as fresh a tree as possible, and check your tree every day to make sure it always has enough water.

Trimmings

Decorate your tree with your child in mind. Ornaments are not only sharp and breakable, they can be a choking hazard. Put all of your fragile, small ornaments and decorations that look tempting to a toddler or young child towards the top of the tree to keep them out of reach. If you decorate with artificial snow sprays, they can irritate little lungs if inhaled. To avoid this, make sure you read all labels and directions on how to properly use the snow.

Plants

Holiday plants spice up any room, but keep them out of reach from your small children and pets. Plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe berries, holly and Jerusalem cherry can be poisonous if chewed or eaten.

Candles

Although lit candles are warm and welcoming, they are a fire hazard and dangerous for children to be around. Instead, consider purchasing battery operated candles. They look and flicker like “real” flames! You can even find ones with timers so that they turn on and off by themselves. But if you do use “real” candles, remember to keep matches and lighters in a safe place away from your little ones, and keep lit candles away from your Christmas tree.

Batteries

Check all the batteries in electronic holiday toys or ornaments to make sure they are secure and hidden. Button batteries are a choking hazard if they get into a curious toddler’s hands.

Take a couple of seconds before you start decking your halls to read all instructions and warning labels on products. With just a few extra moments of care, you and your family can decorate safely, and enjoy the holidays.

If you have any questions, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.

Wind chill, hypothermia and frostbite, oh my

Monday, December 8th, 2014

snowstorm1Outdoor activities during this season can help you and your family beat the winter blues. The days are getting colder and the sun is going down earlier, but if you’re busy having fun, you may hardly notice. Last week I talked about keeping you and your baby warm during the winter. But even if you and your little one are bundled, things like wind chill, hypothermia or frostbite can still happen.

Wind Chill

• Wind chill is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop.
• Always be aware of what the wind temperature is before you or your children go outside. If you are unaware of the wind chill, it could be only a matter of time before frostbite and hypothermia set in.

Frostbite

• Frostbite is when the skin and outer tissues of the body have become frozen. This can happen on fingers, toes, ears and nose. They may appear pale, gray and blistered. Your child may complain that his/her skin burns or has become numb.
• Frostbite can happen quickly. The risk is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among those not dressed properly for extremely cold temperature.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say a victim is usually unaware of frostbite until someone else points it out because the frozen tissues are numb.
• If frostbite occurs, bring your child inside and place the frostbitten part in warm (not hot) water or apply warm washcloths to the area. Call your child’s health care provider if numbness continues for more than a few minutes.

Hypothermia

• Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. This can happen when your child is playing outside in extremely cold weather, if his clothing gets wet or if he is not dressed appropriately for the weather.
• Hypothermia is most likely to occur at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit) if you become chilled from rain, sweat or submerged in cold water.
• Signs of hypothermia include shivering, becoming lethargic or clumsy and slurring speech. Infants will become bright red, have cold skin and very low energy.
• If you notice any of these signs in your child, contact his health care provider immediately or call 911. Take your child indoors, remove any wet clothing and wrap him in blankets or warm clothes until help arrives.

With a little knowledge and some advance preparation, you and your child will enjoy the cold, winter season without any problems. Click here for more information on how to stay warm and safe this winter.