Posts Tagged ‘flu’

Antiviral medications for flu during pregnancy

Friday, February 16th, 2018

This year’s flu season has been particularly bad and shows no signs of letting up soon. Health complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, can be serious and even deadly, especially if you’re pregnant or just had a baby. If you think you may have the flu, contact your health care provider right away. Quick treatment with antiviral medications can help prevent serious flu complications.

How do you know if you have the flu?

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Chills
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Feeling very tired
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Vomiting (throwing up) and diarrhea (more common in children)

Fever and most other symptoms can last a week or longer. But some people can be sick from the flu for a long time, including children, people older than 65, pregnant women and women who have recently had a baby.

Why is the flu more dangerous for pregnant women?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy and up to two weeks postpartum because:

  • Pregnancy affects your immune system. During pregnancy your immune system doesn’t respond as effectively to viruses and illnesses. This means you are more likely to catch the flu.
  • Your lungs need more oxygen during pregnancy but your growing belly puts pressure on your lungs, making them work harder in a smaller space. Your heart is working harder as well. This extra stress on your body can make you more likely to get the flu.
  • You’re more likely to have serious complications, like pneumonia.
  • Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to have preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks).

What treatment is available?

If you think you have the flu, your health care provider can prescribe antiviral medication. Antivirals kill infections caused by viruses. They can make your flu milder and help you feel better faster. Antivirals can help prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. For flu, antivirals work best if you take them within 2 days of having symptoms. But they may still be helpful if started later, so make sure you talk to you provider even if you have been sick for more than 2 days.

In the United States, two medicines are approved for preventing or treating the flu in pregnant women and women who recently had a baby. You can only get them with a prescription so talk to your provider about which one is right for you:

  • Oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu®)
  • Zanamivir (brand name Relenza®). This medicine is a powder that you breathe in by mouth. It isn’t recommended for people with breathing problems, like asthma.

Can you still get a flu shot?

YES! It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Everyone 6 months and older should get their flu shot every year. The flu shot is safe to get during pregnancy. If you do get the flu, having had a flu shot may make your illness milder and it can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization.

Take steps to prevent flu

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Flu activity increased again last week and the flu remains widespread throughout the United States. And according to CDC, flu activity is likely to remain elevated for several more weeks. So what can you do? Here are some steps that you can take to prevent the flu:

Get your flu shot!

  • It’s still not too late to get a flu shot. Everyone 6 months and older should get their flu shot every year.
  • CDC recommends that everyone, 6 months and older, get a flu shot, especially people who are at high risk of developing serious complications. This includes:
  • Children younger than 6 months are too young to be vaccinated but are still at high risk of serious flu complications. Make sure that you and anyone else who cares for your baby is vaccinated.
  • A flu shot may make your illness milder if you do get the flu. A flu shot can also reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults.

Prevent the spread of germs.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Throw the tissue away after you’ve used it.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes.
  • If you’re sick, stay home and limit contact with others as much as possible.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that can be contaminated with germs.

Take antivirals if they are prescribed.

  • If you get the flu, antiviral medications can make your flu milder and help you to feel better faster.
  • Antivirals can also help prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.
  • Antivirals work best if you take them within 2 days of having symptoms.
  • If your baby is at high risk for flu, his provider may prescribe an antiviral as soon as he begins to have flu symptoms. All children younger than 5 are at high risk for flu, especially children younger than 2. Children who were born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) or who have chronic health conditions, like asthma or sickle cell disease, also are at high risk.
  • In the U.S, there are two medicines approved for preventing or treating the flu in pregnant women, women who recently had a baby, and children.
    • Oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu®). This can be used in children as young as 2 weeks.
    • Zanamivir (brand name Relenza®). This is approved for individuals older than 5. This medicine is a powder that you breathe in by mouth. It isn’t recommended for people with breathing problems, like asthma.

If you or your baby have any signs or symptoms of the flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, call your health care provider right away. Early treatment can help to prevent serious flu complications.

Worried about the flu?

Friday, January 19th, 2018

By now you’ve probably heard that flu activity is widespread throughout the United States. If you’re pregnant or have a baby, here’s some information that may help during this flu season.

Signs and symptoms of the flu

Common signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Cough or sore throat
  • Feeling very tired
  • Fever, chills, or body shakes
  • Headaches
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Not being hungry
  • Vomiting (throwing up) and diarrhea (more common in children)

Fever and most other symptoms can last a week or longer. Some people can be sick from the flu for a long time, including children, people older than 65, pregnant women and women who have recently had a baby.

Treating the flu

If you think you or anyone in your family may have the flu, call your health care provider right away. She may prescribe an antiviral medicine to prevent or treat the flu. Antivirals kill infections caused by viruses. They can make the flu milder and help you feel better faster. Antivirals also can help prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. For flu, antivirals work best if you take them within 2 days of having symptoms.

If you’re pregnant and have a fever, call your provider as soon as possible and take acetaminophen.

If your baby has a fever, ask her provider if you can give her infant’s or children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Protect yourself and others from the flu

When you have the flu, you can spread it to others. Here’s what you can do to help prevent it from spreading:

  • Stay home when sick and limit contact with others.
  • Don’t kiss anyone.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into your arm. Throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before touching anyone. You also can use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Use enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 15 seconds for your hands to dry.
  • Use hot, soapy water or a dishwasher to wash your dishes and utensils.
  • Don’t share your dishes, glasses, utensils or toothbrush.

Is it too late to get a flu shot?

No it’s not too late! You can still get a flu shot. Getting a flu shot is safe for most pregnant women and it can help prevent you from getting the flu. The flu shot may make your symptoms milder and prevent complications if you do get sick. You can get the shot from your health care provider or pharmacies. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find out where you can get the flu vaccine.

What’s the best way to protect against the flu this season?

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Answer: an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against this potentially serious disease. And the good news is that it’s safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy.

Is the vaccine effective at preventing the flu?

Each year the CDC conducts studies to determine how effective the flu vaccine is at protecting against flu illness. It is important to note that the vaccine effectiveness can vary from season to season and depending on who is being vaccinated.

What are the benefits?

  • The flu shot can keep you from getting the flu. And the vaccine can’t cause the flu.
  • It’s safe to get the flu shot any time during pregnancy. But it’s best to get it now because flu season is October through May.
  • Getting vaccinated during pregnancy can also protect your baby after he is born and before he is able to receive his own vaccination.
  • There are different flu viruses and they’re always changing, so each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect you against three of four flu viruses that are likely to make you sick.
  • Getting the vaccine is easy. You can get the shot from your health care provider, and many pharmacies and work places offer it each fall. Use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find out where you can get the flu vaccine.
  • Need more reasons to get your flu shot? We have 10 right here.

Should you get the flu vaccination?

Yes! Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. However there are exceptions. There are some people who cannot get the flu shot and others who should talk to their health care provider before getting the flu shot.

For more information on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, visit here.

It’s time to schedule your flu shot

Friday, September 29th, 2017

The flu is more than just a runny nose and sore throat. It’s a serious disease that can make you very sick. The flu can be especially harmful if you get it during pregnancy or right after you’ve had your baby. Although it is only September, flu season is fast approaching. So now is the time to schedule flu shots for you and your whole family.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Everyone 6 months and older should get an annual flu shot. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop full protection against the flu. Getting the flu vaccine is especially important for children over 6 months, children with special needs, pregnant women and other high-risk groups.

Do you need to get a flu shot every year?

Yes! Flu viruses change every year, so just because you got a flu shot last year, doesn’t mean that you are protected this year. The flu shot is designed to protect against the flu viruses that are predicted to be the most common during the flu season. Also, immunity from vaccination decreases after a year. For these reasons, everyone needs a flu vaccine every year.

Are flu shots safe for pregnant women?

YES! All women who are pregnant should get a flu shot. It is safe to get the flu shot during pregnancy and it will protect you and your baby from serious health problems during and after pregnancy. However, remember that if you’re pregnant, the flu mist is not safe to use during pregnancy.

Why is the flu so harmful during pregnancy?

The flu can be dangerous during pregnancy because:

  • Pregnancy affects your immune system. During pregnancy your immune system doesn’t respond as effectively to viruses and illnesses. This means you are more likely to catch the flu.
  • You are more likely to have serious complications. Health complications from the flu, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, can be very serious and even deadly.
  • Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely to have preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks).

Will getting a flu shot protect your baby?

Getting the flu shot during pregnancy helps to protect your baby from the flu after he’s born. If you get the flu shot during pregnancy, you pass on your immunity to your baby. Some studies have shown that vaccinating a pregnant woman can give her baby antibodies to protect against flu for several months after birth. You baby should get his own flu vaccine at 6 months.

Where can you get a flu shot?

You can get the vaccine from your health care provider. Many pharmacies and work places also offer it each fall. You can use the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find where the flu vaccine is available in your area.

The flu shot is the best way to protect you and your baby from the flu. You can learn more at flu.gov.

Have any questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

See how your state is doing on childhood vaccination rates

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

baby vaccinationYou know that vaccines are very important. They protect your baby from serious childhood illnesses. Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of disease and saved millions of lives.

However, immunization rates across the United States vary. In order to show how vaccination rates differ among individual states, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed an interactive digital map that shows state immunization rates for vaccine-preventable diseases, including:

  • Flu: The best way to protect your baby from the flu is to make sure he gets a flu shot each year before flu season (October through May). Even though your baby’s more likely to get the flu during flu season, he can get it any time of year. The flu shot contains a vaccine that helps prevent your baby from getting the flu. Children older than 6 months can get the flu shot. Your baby gets two flu shots in his first year life. He then gets one shot each year after.
  • Varicella: This vaccine protects your child from chickenpox, an infection that spreads easily and causes itchy skin, rash and fever.
  • Diptheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP): Diptheria causes a thick covering in the back of the throat and can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and even death. Tetanus (lockjaw) is a serious disease that causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. And pertussis (also called whooping cough) is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that is dangerous for a baby.
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR): This vaccine protects your baby against measles, mumps and rubella (also called German measles). Measles is a disease that’s easily spread and may cause rash, cough and fever. Mumps may cause fever, headache and swollen glands. Rubella causes mild flu-like symptoms and a skin rash.
  • HPV (human papillomavirus): This vaccine protects against the infection that causes genital warts. The infection also may lead to cervical cancer. The CDC recommends that women up to age 26 get the HPV vaccine.

According to the AAP, “The map also highlights recent outbreaks of disease that have occurred in communities where pockets of low-immunization rates left the population vulnerable. While immunization rates have remained steady or increased for many vaccines over the past decade, recent studies show that unvaccinated children are often geographically clustered in communities. These pockets of under-immunization are at higher risk of disease and have been the source of disease outbreaks, as seen with the 2014 measles outbreak in California.”

Vaccines don’t just protect the person who receives them, but they also protect more vulnerable populations, such as infants and children who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

Check out the map to find out what the childhood vaccination rate is in your state and how it compares to others. And remember to make sure that you and your children are up to date on all your vaccinations!

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

Looking for a reason to get a flu shot? Here are 10 good ones.

Monday, December 5th, 2016

DoctorPregnant_zps3ac96800Many myths abound about whether a flu shot is important. Here are 10 facts that should convince you that a flu shot is good for you and your family:

  1. Flu can be life threatening. Children younger than 5, and especially kids younger than 2 are at a higher risk of complications from flu.
  2. Children of any age with long term health conditions, including developmental disabilities, are at a higher risk of serious problems from flu.
  3. Children with neurologic conditions, and kids who have trouble with lung function, difficulty coughing, swallowing or clearing their airways can have serious complications from flu.
  4. Pregnant women can have consequences from flu that include miscarriage, preterm labor, premature birth or giving birth to a baby with a low birthweight. It’s safe to get a flu shot any time during pregnancy.
  5. Babies can’t get their own flu shot until they are at least 6 months of age. This is another reason why women should get a flu shot during pregnancy. The protection will pass to the baby when she is born.
  6. Since babies are at risk until they’re vaccinated, protect them by making sure the people around them are vaccinated – all caretakers, family members and relatives.
  7. Adults older than age 65 (grandparents!) can suffer serious consequences from the flu.
  8. You don’t get the flu from the flu shot. It is made up of inactivated (dead) flu virus. You may experience soreness at the injection site, have a headache, aches or a fever but these symptoms should go away within a day or two. The flu lasts much longer and is more severe.
  9. Aside from barricading yourself in a room all winter long (?!) the best way to protect yourself from flu is to get vaccinated.
  10. This year, the flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating viruses. There are also different options available, including one for people with egg allergies. Your healthcare provider can advise you.

So, what are you waiting for? Go get protected!

Here’s more info about people at high risk of developing flu-related complications and answers to frequently asked questions can be found here.

Two vaccines that every grandparent needs

Monday, October 24th, 2016

grandma and babyInfants are at risk of serious complications from both whooping cough and the flu. Grandparents, caregivers, and anyone who is going to be in contact with your baby should be up to date on their vaccinations for these two illnesses.

Flu

With rare exception, the CDC recommends that ALL people, 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. Flu viruses change every year, so just because you got a flu shot last year, doesn’t mean that you are protected this year. The flu shot is designed to protect against the flu viruses that are predicted to be the most common during the flu season. Also, immunity from vaccination decreases after a year. This is why everyone needs a flu vaccine every season.

It is especially important that people who will be around children younger than 6 months get the flu shot. Children under 6 months cannot get the flu vaccine and they have the highest risk for being hospitalized from flu compared to children of other ages. When your baby is 6 months old, she can get her own flu vaccine.

Whooping cough

Whooping cough (or pertussis) is a very contagious disease that can be deadly for babies. It is spread from person to person, usually by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others. In most cases of whooping cough, someone in the baby’s family is the source of infection. It is possible for an adult to have whooping cough and not even know it.

Whooping cough can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening complications in babies, especially within the first 6 months of life. Many babies with whooping cough don’t cough at all. They stop breathing and turn blue. About half of babies who get whooping cough end up in the hospital.

Your baby can’t get her first whooping cough vaccine until she is 2 months old. And while most adults were vaccinated as children, or they may have even had whooping cough, protection unfortunately wears off over time. That is why it is especially important for pregnant women, dads, and ANYONE else who will be in close contact with your baby, including grandparents, to make sure that their whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine is current.

Cocooning your baby

Grandparents and other visitors to your newborn should get the Tdap and flu vaccines at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. This strategy of surrounding babies with people who are protected against a disease, such as whooping cough, is called “cocooning.” A single Tdap shot is recommended for any adult (19 or older) who plan on having contact with your baby. If they already received their Tdap vaccine as an adult, they do not need to be vaccinated again. (However, pregnant women need to be vaccinated with Tdap during each pregnancy.)  And of course, everyone older than 6 months, should get their flu shot before spending time with your baby.

REMEMBER: Making sure that the people who will be in close contact with your baby are immunized is NOT a substitute for staying up to date with the childhood vaccination schedule. But it will help to your baby somewhat protected until she is old enough to get her own vaccines.

Do adults really need vaccines?

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Doctor with pregnant woman during check-upJennifer and Will hope to start a family later this year. Do either of them need vaccines before trying to conceive?

Sophia is pregnant with her second child. She remembers getting a couple of vaccines when she was pregnant with her first child. Does she need to get them again?

Lorraine and Bob just became grandparents and hope to do a lot of babysitting. Do they need any vaccines before being with their granddaughter?

The answers to all of the above? YES!

Children are not the only ones who need vaccines. Adults need them, too. As you can see from the above scenarios, vaccines are necessary before, during and after pregnancy.

Before pregnancy

Make sure your vaccinations are current so that they protect you and your baby during pregnancy. Then, ask your provider how long you need to wait before you try to get pregnant.

Are you up to date on your MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine?  This one is important because rubella is a contagious disease that can be very dangerous if you get it while you are pregnant.  In fact, it can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects. The best protection against rubella is the MMR vaccine, but you need it before you get pregnant.  Then, you should avoid trying to get pregnant for at least four weeks after getting the vaccine.

During pregnancy

When you get vaccines, you aren’t just protecting yourself—you are giving your baby some early protection too. CDC recommends you get a whooping cough and flu vaccine during each pregnancy to help protect yourself and your baby.

  • Whooping cough (or Tdap) vaccine – Get this at 27 – 36 weeks of pregnancy. You need to get the Tdap vaccine in each and every pregnancy. This ensures that you pass your protection on to your baby, which will help keep him safe until he is able to get his own pertussis vaccination at 2 months of age.
  • Flu – A flu shot during pregnancy protects you from serious complications and protects your baby for up to 6 months after birth. You need a flu shot every year, as the flu strain changes year to year.

After pregnancy

Although getting vaccines during pregnancy is very important, you also need to think about those individuals who will be near your baby.

At the very least, fathers, grandparents, caregivers and anyone who is going to be in contact with your baby should be immunized against pertussis (whooping cough) and flu. They should get the Tdap and flu vaccines at least 2 weeks before meeting your baby. This strategy of surrounding babies with people who are protected against a disease such as whooping cough is called “cocooning.”

However, cocooning might not be enough to prevent your baby from getting sick. This is because cocooning does not provide any direct protection (antibodies) to your baby, and it can be difficult to make sure everyone who is around your baby has gotten their whooping cough vaccine. Therefore, it is even more important that you get your vaccines while you are pregnant.

A baby is not able to start getting most of his vaccines until he is at least two months old. For example, aside from the Hepatitis B vaccine that is given to your baby in the hospital, the first of 5 doses of the DTap (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis) vaccine is given at 2 months of age. The flu vaccine is not given until 6 months, and the MMR, varicella (chickenpox), and hepatitis A vaccines are not given until 12 months.

If you haven’t received all your vaccinations before or during pregnancy, talk to your provider after giving birth to see about getting caught up to protect yourself and your baby.

What are “boosters?”

Even if you got all of your vaccinations during your life, some vaccines need “boosters” because they wear off over time. Talk with your health care provider to see whether you need them. With a little preparation and forethought, you and your baby will be protected against diseases that could be dangerous or even deadly.

Test your knowledge

Take the CDC’s Vaccines and Pregnancy Quiz for a fun way to learn what vaccines you need before and during pregnancy. It is quick and easy, and you’ll learn something whether you get the answers right or wrong.  No judgment! And check out their new Pregnancy and Vaccination page.

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

Flu protection for your baby for the first 8 weeks

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

2014d037_0986A new study shows that not only will getting a flu shot during pregnancy protect yourself and your newborn against the flu after delivery, it will protect her for up to 2 months after birth.

Researchers looked at over 1,000 infants born to women who received a flu shot during their pregnancy to assess how well the vaccine worked. They found that the vaccine was most effective during the first eight weeks after birth at a rate of 85.6 percent.

Infants are at higher risk for getting the flu. Because the flu vaccine isn’t recommended for newborns, getting the vaccine during your pregnancy is the best way to protect your little one until she can receive her own vaccine at six months of age.

If you get the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications. And if your baby gets the flu after birth, it can make her seriously sick. But the flu vaccine is not recommended for babies under 6 months of age. Therefore, the best way to protect your baby after birth is to get a flu shot during pregnancy.

Have an older baby or child? Be sure to read our blog post that talks about getting your child a flu shot (not the nasal mist) this year.

Have questions? Our health education specialists are here to answer them. Text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.