Posts Tagged ‘antiviral medications’

It’s not too late to get a flu shot

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

flu shot pregnant womenYou may think that flu season is almost over, but that is not the case. Flu activity is still increasing across the country and it is expected to continue for several weeks.

According to the CDC, the timing of the annual flu season is very unpredictable. Flu viruses can be detected year-round, however, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May. In the United States, flu activity most commonly peaks between December and March. You can check out the flu activity in your state on this interactive map from the CDC.

It is not too late to get a flu shot, if you haven’t gotten one already. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. The flu shot is safe for pregnant women and most children but if you or your baby has had a reaction in the past, or is allergic to eggs, make sure you talk to your provider. And if you are pregnant, you can get the flu shot at any time during pregnancy. A flu shot during pregnancy can help protect your baby for several months after birth as well.

A flu shot remains the most effective way to prevent the flu. And this season’s flu vaccines are reducing the risk of illness by almost half. Anyone who has not yet gotten a flu shot this year should get one as soon as possible.

If you do get the flu, the CDC also recommends quick treatment with antiviral medications, especially for people who are very sick or people who are at high risk of flu complications, including pregnant women. For flu, antivirals work best if you take them within 2 days of getting sick. Quick treatment with antiviral medicine can help prevent serious flu complications. You will need a prescription for an antiviral medication so call or visit your health care provider right away if you think you may have the flu.

Flu season is not over, so make sure you are taking the appropriate precautions to help you and your family avoid the flu this year.

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

Flu season update

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

woman with fluFlu activity is increasing across the US. A flu shot is still the best way to protect yourself from the flu and it’s not too late to get one. But if you do get the flu, antiviral medications can lessen symptoms, shorten the duration of the illness, and prevent serious complications.

Who should get antiviral medications?

According to the CDC, antiviral drugs should be used early to treat hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness, and people who are at higher risk for flu complications based on their age or underlying medical conditions. Other people also may be treated with antiviral drugs by their doctor. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.

People at high-risk for flu complications 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 and women up to 2 weeks postpartum
  • 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.

Are antiviral medications safe for pregnant women and young children?

Antiviral medications are safe for pregnant women to use and can prevent serious complications, such as pneumonia. If you are pregnant and get the flu, talk to your provider right away and find out which antiviral medicine is best for you.

Children can take antiviral medications as well. Both the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend antiviral medication to treat the flu in children 2 weeks of age and older. Again, talk to your child’s health care provider if you think he has the flu.

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

Shingles, pregnancy and kids – know the facts

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

Many pregnant women have written to us expressing concern about being exposed to a family member who has shingles. Usually it is their parent or grandparent, or another older adult who has the virus. However, did you know that children can get shingles, too?

When my daughter was in fourth grade, she came home from school with a tiny rash on her back about the size of a quarter, complaining of pain and exhaustion. I had never seen a rash like that before; it was a little clump of tiny bumps. Sure enough, her pediatrician diagnosed it as shingles. I was shocked, as I never associated shingles with kids. Although it isn’t common, it does happen, and the risk of getting singles increases with age. My daughter had a mild case, and after about 2 weeks she was on the mend. She was lucky – it can be very painful and last longer.

What causes shingles?

Shingles (formally known as Herpes Zoster) is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only someone who has had chickenpox – or, rarely, has gotten the chickenpox vaccine – can get shingles, according to the CDC. The chickenpox virus stays in your body and can re-appear at a later date, often many years later. When it reappears, it does not return as chickenpox – it comes back as shingles.

How common is shingles?

My daughter had chickenpox (the disease) when she was four years old. At that time, the vaccine was not yet available. It is far less common to develop shingles if your child has had the chickenpox vaccine. By vaccinating your child against chickenpox you will decrease her chances of getting shingles later in life.

At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles. Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older. It also occurs more in people whose immune systems are weakened because of a disease such as cancer, or drugs such as steroids or chemotherapy.

Can you catch shingles from someone who has shingles?

No, you can’t catch shingles from another person who has shingles. However, a person who has never had chickenpox (or the chickenpox vaccine) could get chickenpox from someone with shingles. However, this is not very common. Shingles is not spread through the air and infection can only occur after direct contact with the rash when it is in the blister-phase. A person with shingles is not contagious before the blisters appear or after they scab over.

If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant…

• First, get a blood test to find out if you’re immune to chickenpox. If you’re not immune, you can get a vaccine. It’s best to wait 1 month after the vaccine before getting pregnant.

• If you’re already pregnant, don’t get the vaccine until after you give birth. In the meantime, avoid contact with anyone who has chickenpox or shingles.

• If you’re not immune to chickenpox and you come into contact with someone who has it, tell your provider right away. Your provider can treat you with medicine that has chickenpox antibodies. It’s important to get treatment within 4 days after you’ve come into contact with chickenpox to help prevent the infection or make it less serious.

• Tell your provider if you come in contact with a person who has shingles. Your provider may want to treat you with an antiviral medication.

What does all this mean for your child?

• If you think your child may have shingles, contact her health care provider. Prompt treatment may shorten the duration and keep pain to a minimum.

• Get your child the chickenpox vaccine to protect her against chickenpox, and so that she has a far less chance of getting shingles in the future.

Learn more about shingles exposure and chickenpox during pregnancy.

 

If you have questions, send them to AskUs@machofdimes.org.

View other posts in the series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

 

 

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.

Shingles exposure during pregnancy

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

pregnant-womanEvery so often we get a question from a pregnant woman who is concerned because someone in her family (usually a parent or in-law) has shingles. She is worried that she may be at-risk to develop this as well. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox– the varicella zoster virus (VZV). Once you have had chickenpox, this virus continues to live dormant, inside your body. Sometimes, under conditions of stress or when the immune system is weakened, the virus can be reactivated. When this happens the virus does not cause chickenpox but shingles.

Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles. Anyone who has had chickenpox may develop shingles, including pregnant women and even children. But about half of all cases actually occur among people 60 years old or older. There is now a vaccine available for people over age 60 to prevent shingles.

The varicella zoster virus can only be spread by an affected person to someone who has NOT had chickenpox. If this happens, the exposed person will develop chickenpox—not shingles.  Once you have had chickenpox, antibodies are in your system and you cannot get it again, but you will have the potential to develop shingles.

You cannot catch shingles from someone who has shingles. You can, however, catch chickenpox from someone who has shingles. If you are not immune to the varicella zoster virus and you are exposed to someone who has shingles there is a very small chance that you could develop chickenpox. Shingles is not spread through the air and infection can only occur after direct contact with the rash when it is in the blister-phase. A person with shingles is not contagious before the blisters appear or after they scab over.

If you have been exposed to someone with shingles, and you have not had chickenpox or the vaccine, make sure you talk to your health care provider. Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox and the risk of a person with shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered.

Remember, if you have had chickenpox, it is possible to develop shingles during pregnancy. If you do develop shingles, make sure you contact your health care provider right away. The most common symptom is a painful rash on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7–10 days and clear up within 2–4 weeks. There is often pain, itching, or tingling in the area where the rash will develop.

Shingles can be quite painful but treatments with antiviral medications are available. These can lessen the severity and reduce the discomforts. And, for women who do develop shingles during pregnancy, the prognosis is good.

Did you know that children can get shingles, too? See our post on shingles, pregnancy and children for more info.