Posts Tagged ‘flu’

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.

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

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.

This year, get your child a flu shot, not the nasal mist

Friday, July 8th, 2016

pediatrician and babyWhile many parents (and kids) prefer the nasal mist flu vaccine, evidence shows that the flu shot is the best way to protect your child from the flu this year.

Why should my child get the flu shot instead of the nasal mist?

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is a panel of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They looked at data from 2013 through 2016 and found that the nasal spray was less effective than the flu shot.

The flu nasal spray contains a live but weakened version of the flu virus. Typically, vaccines containing weakened viruses are more effective and cause a stronger immune response than vaccines with dead viruses (such as the flu shot). Initial data suggested that this was the case with the nasal spray. In 2014, the ACIP actually recommended the nasal spray over the flu shot for children.

However, during the 2015-2016 flu season, the nasal flu vaccine’s protection rate was only 3 percent. This means that no protective benefit could be measured. Its effectiveness in the previous two flu seasons was also low. In contrast, the flu shot was 63 percent effective among children aged 2 to 17 during the 2015-2016 flu season.

Get vaccinated against the flu every year

There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against the three or four flu viruses expected to make people sick during the upcoming flu season. Protection from the vaccine only lasts about a year, so it’s important to get vaccinated every year.

While many parents (and kids) prefer the nasal mist, evidence shows that the flu shot is the best way to protect your child from the flu this year. The traditional flu shot is effective. Both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine each year. It’s especially important for children younger than 5 to get the vaccine because they’re more likely to have serious health problems caused by the flu.

The flu shot is important for pregnant women too

Pregnant women or women planning to get pregnant also need their flu shot every year (the flu nasal spray was never recommended for use during pregnancy). If you get sick with the flu during pregnancy, you’re more likely than other adults to have serious complications. The best way to protect yourself is to get the flu shot each year before flu season, which runs from about October through May. Even though you’re more likely to get the flu during flu season, you can get it any time of year.

The ACIP recommendation must be reviewed and approved by the CDC director before it becomes policy.

Questions? 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.

A flu shot during pregnancy can protect you and your baby

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

CDC- pregnant women and flu vaccineIn recognition of CDC’s National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), March of Dimes is participating in a blog relay with a “Focus on the Family” theme for NIVW. Each day, one of CDC’s Digital Ambassadors will leverage the holiday season to encourage their readers to focus on protecting the family. You can follow the NIVW conversation on Twitter using hashtag #NIVW2015.

Did you know that getting the flu shot during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby?

The flu is a serious disease – it can be harmful, especially to pregnant women. Pregnant women who get the flu are more likely than women who don’t get it to have problems such as preterm labor and premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Fever caused by flu early in pregnancy can lead to birth defects and other problems in your baby.

When you are pregnant, your body lowers its defenses to germs. This happens so that your body accepts your growing baby. However, with a lowered immune system, you become more likely to get sick from viruses like the flu.

What should you do?

If you are pregnant, get a flu shot (not the flu mist). CDC says it’s safe to get during any stage of pregnancy. A flu shot protects you and your baby from serious health problems during and AFTER pregnancy.

How will it help your baby?

Getting the flu shot during pregnancy helps to protect your baby from flu even after he is born. As a mother, 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 six months after birth. This means that your baby is protected until he is old enough to receive his own vaccination, at 6 months of age.

Watch this video to learn about flu symptoms and how pregnant women can stay healthy.  If you have questions, talk to your prenatal health care provider or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Remember: CDC says an annual flu vaccination is the best protection against flu. Get your flu vaccine and encourage others to do the same by sharing your flu vaccination selfies on social media using the #VaxWithMe hashtag! Be sure to stop by the other NIVW relay participants’ blogs to learn about the benefits of flu vaccination– tomorrow’s post will be hosted by A Place for Mom and Healtheo360.

Clean hands stop germs

Monday, October 19th, 2015

One of the easiest ways to stay healthy is to…(drumroll please)…wash your hands. It’s quick and easy. Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song to yourself while you lather your hands with soap.

Wash your hands before and after activities surrounding food, toilet use, wound or cut treatment, pet care, garbage and diaper handling and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.This week is International Infection Prevention Week. Hand washing can help you avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.

The March of Dimes is now on Vine – check out our fun videos!