Flu is dangerous for certain people

08
Oct
Posted by Barbara

You’ve all heard it: get your flu shot. It is on our blog, website, and we just finished a twitter chat with the CDC, FDA, AAP, doctors, and other notable tired-toddlerorganizations. Everyone agrees that getting the flu shot is the single best form of protection from flu.

Is it really that important?

Yes. Flu can be life-threatening. Certain groups of people are at higher risk of serious complications from flu:

• 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. See this post to learn which high risk conditions are included.

• Children of any age with neurologic conditions. Some children with neurologic conditions may have trouble with muscle function, lung function or difficulty coughing, swallowing, or clearing fluids from their airways. These problems can make flu symptoms worse. Learn more here.

• Pregnant women. They are at high risk of having serious health complications from flu which include miscarriage, preterm labor, premature birth or having a low-birthweight baby. In some cases, flu during pregnancy can even be deadly. By getting a flu shot during pregnancy, your baby will be protected up until six months of age.

•  Adults older than age 65 (attention grandparents!).

When should you talk to your provider?

According to the CDC, you should seek advice from your provider before getting a flu shot if you are allergic to eggs, have had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), have had a prior severe reaction to the flu shot or to an ingredient in the shot, or are not feeling well.

Bottom line- get your flu shot

Read my post Test your flu knowledge – true or false? to learn the truth about flu.  Knowledge is powerful.

If you have questions, speak with your health care provider or visit flu.gov .
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. 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.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We welcome your input!

Test your flu knowledge – true or false?

07
Oct
Posted by Barbara

got my flu shotYou can catch the flu from the flu shot.

FALSE.  The flu (influenza) shot is made up of inactivated (dead) flu virus. It does not contain any live influenza virus, so you can’t get the flu from the flu shot. Some people report soreness at the injection site while others report a headache, itching, fatigue, aches or fever, but these symptoms should go away within a day or two. The flu lasts much longer.

If you got the flu shot last year, you don’t need to get it again.

FALSE. You need a flu shot every year.  Flu viruses are always changing. Each year’s flu vaccine is made to protect from viruses that are most likely to cause disease that year. A flu shot protects you from three or four different flu types.

You can’t die from flu.

FALSE.  Each year, thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized. Children with special health care needs are especially vulnerable to complications from flu.

Flu can be spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact with someone who has flu.

TRUE. Sneezing and coughing spreads the flu. It is easy to catch flu if you are close to someone who has it.

Children have the highest risk of getting flu.

TRUE.  Anyone can get flu, but the risk of getting flu is highest among children.

The best way to avoid getting flu is to stay home.

FALSE. The best protection from flu and its complications is the flu shot. It protects you from getting it and helps to decrease the spread of flu.

The flu shot is better than the flu nasal spray.

TRUE and FALSE.  Only the flu shot is recommended for pregnant woman and individuals with certain health conditions (such as asthma, etc.).  Some individuals prefer the flu nasal spray (which contains a live but weakened version of the flu), but it is not recommended for pregnant women or certain individuals. Check with your health care provider before deciding if you or your child should get the nasal spray or the shot.

Once you get the flu shot, you are protected from flu immediately.

FALSE. After getting the flu shot, it takes about two weeks to develop protection from flu. Then, the protection lasts several months to a year.

Flu can make some people much sicker than others.

TRUE. Flu can make certain people seriously sick. They include young children, pregnant women, people age 65 and older, people with certain health conditions (eg. heart, lung or kidney disease), and people with a weakened immune system. Flu can be especially dangerous for children with developmental disabilities.

So, how did you do?  Hopefully, you will see that getting a flu shot is very important and you will get yours soon.  I got mine and a purple bandage!

October is here (and so are pumpkin spiced lattes)

06
Oct
Posted by Lauren

pumpkins and autumnPumpkin pie and pumpkin spiced lattes are two of my favorite autumn indulgences. But if you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, here’s what you need to know.

Caffeine during pregnancy

The March of Dimes recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant consume no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day. This is the amount of caffeine in about one 12-ounce cup of coffee. If you are pregnant and craving a pumpkin spiced latte or beverage, you can find a variety of them. Many coffee houses display nutrition facts for their drinks. You can also request this info from their employees or visit their website (if they have one), which makes checking caffeine and sugar easier. At one coffee shop I visited, their pumpkin spiced latte had approximately 75 mg of caffeine in a 12 oz serving, which is fine for pregnant women. But it also contained 38 grams of sugar, which is a lot for one drink.

Keep in mind, during pregnancy, caffeine passes through the placenta and reaches your baby. For more information on caffeine and pregnancy, visit our website.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin and roasted pumpkin seeds are safe and nutritious to eat during pregnancy, not to mention delicious. Pumpkin seeds contain nutrients such as protein, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, iron and potassium. To learn different ways to prepare pumpkin seeds visit our blog post. Pumpkin and canned pumpkin puree are low calorie, nutritious foods. Pumpkin itself is a good source of fiber, iron, potassium and vitamin A and C. So if you decide to skip the pumpkin spiced latte, you can still enjoy other pumpkin treats.

If you have any questions about what foods or beverages are safe to consume during pregnancy, email us at askus@marchofdimes.org.

March of Dimes’ researchers hard at work

03
Oct
Posted by Sara

research_birthdefectsresearch_rdax_50Did you know that in 2014, the March of Dimes invested about $25 million in research to defeat premature birth and other health problems? Scientific research has been a main focus of the March of Dimes since it was founded 75 years ago. March of Dimes-funded researchers created the first safe and effective vaccines for epidemic polio, and we haven’t stopped trying to improve the health of all babies since then.

The March of Dimes has pioneered genetic research, promoted the B vitamin folic acid to prevent birth defects, fought for lifesaving newborn screening tests– and so much more. Here are some recent examples of our work:

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) causes birth defects in 8,000 babies each year. Pregnant women can pass the virus on to their baby before or during birth. The March of Dimes is funding research on protecting against CMV in women of childbearing age, thereby protecting babies.
  • Novel gene therapy: Scientists have long been seeking to develop gene therapy. However, they have run into a number of obstacles. A recent March of Dimes grantee is attempting to find a new way around these obstacles. He is using a novel form of gene therapy called “gene editing.” Instead of replacing the faulty gene, this new technology attempts to find and fix the mutation (change) in the gene.

In 2003, the March of Dimes launched the Prematurity Campaign to help families have full-term, healthy babies. We now have two Prematurity Research Centers –Stanford University and the Ohio Collaborative. These transdicsiplinary centers recognize that preterm birth is a complex disorder with many contributing factors. At both centers, scientists are coming together to examine the problem of preterm birth from many angles. Some highlights of ongoing research include:

  • Progesterone signaling in pregnancy maintenance and preterm birth: Progesterone is a key pregnancy hormone. It is thought to play a role in preventing contractions until term, but we don’t know how it does this. Progesterone treatment is one of the few available treatments to help prevent repeat singleton preterm delivery in women who have already had a premature birth. However, we do not know why progesterone treatment works in some women but not others. A better understanding of the exact role progesterone plays in maintaining pregnancy may lead to new ways to prevent or treat preterm labor.
  • Microbiome and preterm birth: The microbiome refers to the bacteria and other microbes that live inside our bodies. Recent genetic technologies (DNA sequencing) have identified many new organisms, most of which don’t harm our health. Scientists are analyzing changes in the microbiome in samples from term and preterm pregnancies. The goal is to find out if specific microbes or changes in the microbiome may contribute to premature birth. This information could lead to better ways to predict and prevent premature birth.

The March of Dimes expects to open two additional Prematurity Research Centers in the near future.  You can read more about our infant health, birth defects, and prematurity research on our website.  The March of Dimes continues to do all it can to give every baby a healthy start in life.

 

BRACE yourself – The ShareUnion message

01
Oct
Posted by Barbara

BRACE yourself poseBRACE yourself for your new normal. This is the acronym that keynote speaker Kevin Bracy imparted to dozens of women at the 10th annual ShareUnion in Phoenix, Arizona. ShareUnion (SU) is the annual gathering of members of Share Your Story, the online community of the March of Dimes, where parents reach out and support one another. This year’s theme was “Finding your new normal.”

The well-known motivational speaker inspired the women who face daily struggles associated with prematurity, infant loss, or raising a child with a developmental delay or disability. The speaker himself is no stranger to loss or the long term effects of prematurity. He and his wife, Jessica, have a 13 year old son who was born at 28 weeks gestation and suffers from significant challenges. Nine years ago, the Bracys lost a son who was born at just 22 weeks gestation. They also have a 21 year old daughter who is healthy. The Bracys embody the mission of the March of Dimes. Jessica has been a Share Your Story member for years, and sent her positive vibes to the group via her husband.

Bracy’s messages are universal, but they are best embraced by anyone who is faced with a constant struggle. His first message, BRACE yourself, (while crossing your arms over your chest with your hands in fists) is meant to help lift you up when you are feeling overwhelmed.

BRACE yourself stands for:

B – Be good to yourself – Be kind to yourself.
R – Regroup and refocus when you need to, especially when your life seems to be getting out of control.
A – Attitude – Always be attitude conscience. Let the “inner you be expressed by the outer you.”
C – Cause centered – Focus on the important people and things in your life.
E – Embrace change. Don’t fight it. Adapting will make your life better.

Accept, adapt and embrace your new normal. Don’t “go through” your challenges, “grow through them” Bracy says. For many SU moms, this advice resonated as they face the daily struggles of caring for a child with special needs as well as themselves and their families.

Mouth over mind – Bracy’s 2nd message

“When the mind goes negative, the mouth goes positive” Bracy explained. He recounted that the great fighter Muhammad Ali would talk out loud to himself before a fight. Ali would say he was the best and he was going to win. He spoke out loud to himself because he believed that his mind could talk his body into greatness. Bracy recommended that when your mind starts thinking of negative scenarios, quickly talk out loud, positively, and it will change the direction of your thoughts. Your mind can’t be negative if you are talking positively. By speaking out loud, you switch off your negative thoughts. Bracy then proved his point through a group exercise. Powerful stuff.

For families affected by prematurity, infant loss, disabilities or birth defects, Bracy’s messages were uplifting and inspiring. “Win the day, one day at a time” he concluded. Judging by the standing ovation he received, everyone became a winner that day.

 

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. 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.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We welcome your input!

Today is World Heart Day

29
Sep
Posted by Lauren

World Heart DayThis year the World Heart Federation is focusing on creating heart-healthy environments for you and your family. World Heart Day raises awareness of maintaining a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and tobacco use, and increasing physical activity.

World Heart Day is a good time to think about one of the most common birth defects – congenital heart defects. It affects 1 in 100 babies every year. These heart defects can affect the heart’s structure, how it works, or both.

Heart defects develop in the early weeks of pregnancy when the heart is forming. Severe congenital heart defects are usually diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth. Less severe heart defects often aren’t diagnosed until children are older.

What can you do?

We’re not sure what causes most heart defects, but things that may play a role include diabetes and obesity (being very overweight).

If you are trying to become pregnant or you are currently pregnant:

• Do not smoke

• Do not drink alcohol

• Talk to your provider about any medicine you take, including prescription and over-the-counter medicine, herbal products and supplements

• Maintain a healthy diet and exercise 30 minutes a day if you can

• Go to all your prenatal visits

After birth your baby may be tested for critical congenital heart defects (CCHD) as part of newborn screening before he leaves the hospital. All states require newborn screening, but not all require screening for CCHD. You can ask your provider if your state tests for CCHD or click here to see what your state covers.

After birth, signs and symptoms of heart defects can include:

• Fast breathing

• Gray or blue skin coloring

• Fatigue (feeling tired all of the time)

• Slow weight gain

• Swollen belly, legs or puffiness around the eyes

• Trouble breathing while feeding

• Sweating, especially while feeding

• Abnormal heart murmur (extra or abnormal sounds heard during a heartbeat)

If you see any of these signs, call your baby’s health care provider right away. For more information about congenital heart defects visit our website.

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

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Saturday is Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

26
Sep
Posted by Sara

pillsEvery year hundreds of thousands of children take a trip to the hospital because they have taken medications they have found in their house and are way too easy for them to get their hands on. Often, old prescriptions are sitting around, forgotten, and these pose a risk to children who may find and ingest them.

Saturday, September 27th is National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. This effort, organized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing expired, unused, or unwanted prescription drugs.

Last April, Americans turned in 390 tons (over 780,000 pounds) of prescription drugs.  When those results are combined with what was collected in its eight previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 4.1 million pounds—more than 2,100 tons—of pills.

This event will be held throughout the country from 10am-2pm. You can locate a collection site near you here.

Good-bye NICHCY. Hello CPIR.

24
Sep
Posted by Barbara

waving goodbye or helloLike most people, I am resistant to change. Once I get used to something, I am irked when it is re-arranged or changed, or worse, eliminated. But, today I am writing about a change that made me unhappy at first, but in the end, I feel good about.

In many of my blog posts, I have directed parents to NICHCY (the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities), where hundreds of helpful articles on early intervention, special education, disabilities and the law can be found in an easy to read format. The bad news is that in less than one week, NICHCY’s website will be closed. The good news is that most of the information has been moved to CPIR – the Center for Parent Information and Resources. Thankfully, the valuable information that NICHCY has created over the years will still be accessible on the CPIR site.

I recommend that you go directly to the CPIR page, Quick Find/NICHCY Resources, which links you directly to a roadmap of NICHCY’s topics. You can also access information through their alphabetical listing.

NICHCY’s specialty was helping parents access and navigate the early intervention and special education systems. They have important information on creating an IFSP and IEP. They also offer information on the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) which is the law ensuring that children with delays or disabilities receive a free, appropriate education. You will also find fact sheets on specific disabilities as well as materials in Spanish.

So, as sad as I am to see NICHCY go, I am thrilled that this information is not lost, and it will continue to be kept current by the good folks at CPIR. This is the kind of change that I can bear quite easily.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. 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.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org. We welcome your input!

Health and safety while at work

22
Sep
Posted by Lauren

Pregnant woman at workWorking during pregnancy may have some challenges. It can be difficult to stay safe and comfortable at the workplace, manage your pregnancy symptoms all while tackling your work schedule and duties. Lots of women work long hours at physically demanding jobs. Others may be very sedentary, working at a desk looking at a computer screen for most of the day.  Here are some tips to help make your day safer and easier.

If you work on a computer or sit at a desk for most of the day, comfort is key. To avoid wrist and hand discomforts, neck and shoulder pains, backaches and eye strains, follow these tips:

• Take short breaks often and walk around your office or building.

• Adjust your chair, keyboard and other office equipment to be more comfortable.

• Use a small pillow or cushion for lower back support.

• Keep your feet elevated by using a footrest.

• Be sure to use the correct hand and arm positions for typing.

• Use a non-reflective glass screen cover on your computer monitor.

• Adjust the computer monitor for brightness and contrast to a setting that is comfortable for your eyes.

If you need to lift something, follow these tips:

• Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

• Bend at your knees, but keep your back straight and rear end tucked in.

• Use your arms and legs. Lift with your arms (not back) and push up with your legs.

• When possible, lower the weight of the item (for example, break up the contents of one box into two or three smaller boxes).

Standing for long periods of time can also be cause for concern. That’s because blood can collect in your legs, which may lead to dizziness, fatigue and back pain. When standing:

• Place one foot on a small foot rest or box.

• Switch feet on the foot rest often throughout the day.

• Wear comfortable shoes.

It’s important that the work environment around you is safe for you and baby. If you have concerns, speak with your health care provider and your supervisor at work.

Learn more ways to stay safe at work.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Click here to read more News Moms Need blog posts on: pregnancy, pre-pregnancy, infant and child care, help for your child with delays or disabilities, and other hot topics.

Seat check Saturday is Sept. 20

19
Sep
Posted by Sara

car-seat-2September 20 is National Seat Check Saturday. Certified technicians will perform car seat checks and installations at sites throughout the country. There will be car seat inspection sites throughout the country with trained and certified technicians performing car seat checks and installations.

Installing a car seat correctly may be one of the most frustrating aspects of parenthood. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of patience. And then, just as you are getting the hang of it, they outgrow one seat and have to move on to another! Of course, it is very important that your child travel in a car seat that is appropriate for her age, weight, and height and that it is installed in your car correctly. Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children 1 to 13 years old. Many times deaths and injuries can be prevented by proper use of car seats, boosters, and seat belts.

Seat Check Saturday will give you the opportunity to get your car seat installed and inspected by trained technicians. Most inspections sites are free but do require an appointment. You can find a site near you here.

You can also take a look at this car seat check list to make sure your seat is installed correctly. And if you have had a premature baby, take the time to read these special tips.