Posts Tagged ‘infections’

When in doubt, wash your hands

Friday, January 20th, 2017

washing handsNow that winter has arrived, it seems like the temperatures are decreasing and the spread of germs is increasing. In an effort to stay healthy this season I find myself constantly washing my hands and trying to maintain good hygiene. Hygiene refers to activities, such as hand washing, bathing, and brushing your teeth, that help you stay healthy. Maintaining good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of infections.

Why is washing your hands so important?

Women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by doing things to prevent the risk of infection. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but by including small, healthy hygiene activities into your daily routine, you can help prevent the spread of infections.

So how often, is often?

Wash your hands:

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
  • After being around pets or animals
  • After changing diapers or wiping runny noses

Besides washing hands, what else can you do?

Don’t put your child’s food, utensils, cups or pacifiers in your mouth. Children’s saliva or urine may contain cytomegalovirus or CMV, a kind of herpesvirus that women can pass to their baby during pregnancy. CMV can cause problems for some babies, including a birth defect called microcephaly. Be sure to wash your hands every time after touching a child’s bodily fluids.

By making small changes to your hygiene routine, you can help prevent the spread of germs and infections. Have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

 

Prevent to protect: talk to your health care provider

Friday, January 6th, 2017

Pregnant woman talking with doctorJanuary is Birth Defects Prevention month. In the United States, a baby is born with a birth defect every 4 ½ minutes. Some infections before and during pregnancy can have serious consequences, including causing certain birth defects. Talking to your health care provider is an important way that you can help prevent infections and protect you and your baby.

During your preconception checkup or your first prenatal visit, talk to your health care provider about:

How to prevent infections

  • Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when preparing food or caring for young children.
  • Take precautions to protect yourself from animals known to carry diseases and insects that may carry infections, such as Zika.
  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards, and turtles.
  • Do not clean a cat litter box during pregnancy.
  • Avoid travel to Zika-affected areas. Be sure to discuss any travel plans with your provider.
  • When mosquitoes are active, prevent mosquito bites using an EPA-registered bug spray containing one of these ingredients: DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol or IR3535. Wear appropriate clothing (hat, long-sleeved shirt, pants, shoes, & socks).
  • Don’t have sex with a male or female partner who may be infected with Zika virus or who has recently travelled to a Zika-affected area.

Vaccinations before pregnancy

It’s best to be up to date on all your routine adult vaccinations before you get pregnant. These vaccinations are recommended before pregnancy:

  • Flu. Get the flu vaccine once a year before flu season (October through May). There are many different flu viruses, and they’re always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four flu viruses that are likely to make people sick during the upcoming flu season.
  • 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.
  • MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). This vaccine protects you against measles, mumps and rubella (also called German measles). Measles during pregnancy can cause miscarriage. Rubella can cause serious problems during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and birth defects.
  • Varicella. This vaccine protects you from chickenpox, an infection that spreads easily and causes itchy skin, rash and fever. During pregnancy, it can be dangerous for a baby and cause birth defects. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant and haven’t had chickenpox or been vaccinated for it, tell your provider.

Vaccinations during pregnancy

The CDC recommends two vaccinations during pregnancy:

  • Flu shot if you weren’t vaccinated before pregnancy. You can get a flu shot at any time during pregnancy.
  • Pertussis vaccine (Tdap) at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Pertussis (also called whooping cough) is an extremely contagious disease that causes violent coughing and is dangerous for a baby. Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy, to protect their baby.

Remember, preventing infections before and during pregnancy can help to keep you and your baby safe. Speaking with your healthcare provider can help you become as healthy as possible before and during pregnancy.

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

 

Looking for a New Year’s Resolution? We’ve got 9 for you.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

“Your health before and during pregnancy has a direct impact on your baby,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, the March of Dimes medical advisor and co-author of Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. “The good news is that there are many things you can do as a mom-to-be that can protect your own health and help you have a healthy baby.”

Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are pregnant or planning a baby this season, make a New Year’s resolution to be as healthy as possible.

Here are Dr. Dolan’s 9 New Year’s Resolutions for moms-to-be:

  1. Take a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid, even if you’re not trying to become pregnant. Getting enoughmultivitamin folate or folic acid before pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine. It’s a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, some foods are fortified with folic acid, including enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, and pasta, and certain corn masa products such as tortilla chips and tacos. Be sure to check package labels.
  2. Be up-to-date with your vaccinations (shots). Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations you should receive before or during pregnancy.
  3. Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, raw or runny eggs, unpasteurized (raw) juice or dairy products, raw sprouts — or products made with them.
  4. Handle food safely. Be sure to wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before they come into contact with other foods.
  5. Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods; after being around or touching pets and other animals; and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
  6. Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
  7. Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, including mosquitos. Find out more at ZAPzika.org.
  8. Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles during pregnancy.
  9. Let someone else clean the cat litter box!

Besides taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid to prevent birth defects of the brain and spine, women can take the above steps to avoid infections that can hurt them and their babies during pregnancy. Foodborne illnesses, viruses, and parasites can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems.

January is Birth Defects Prevention Month – the perfect time to learn what you can do to have a healthy pregnancy. We’ll have posts every week on different birth defects topics. So, be sure to be on the look-out for more info!

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

 

Pneumonia and preemies

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

BabyOnChest-Pneumonia is an infection in the lung(s) which can make it hard to breathe. Premature infants are more prone to developing infections due to their immature immune systems. They were born before they could acquire their mother’s antibodies to fight off infection, which are usually transferred in the third trimester. In addition, due to prematurity, their lungs are not fully formed, making it easier to develop infections such as pneumonia.

Causes and treatments

Pneumonia can have different causes: viral, bacterial or even fungal. It can be hard for doctors to diagnose pneumonia, as it can look like other common preemie disorders, (eg. Respiratory Distress Syndrome). In addition, it may take some time for blood, urine or other lab tests to confirm the diagnosis. Therefore, as soon as pneumonia is suspected, most babies will receive an antibiotic that can fight a broad spectrum of bacteria to help combat the infection. Once the tests confirm the type of infection, the medication may be altered.

Your baby may also receive oxygen to help him breathe easier, or he may be placed on a ventilator. Keeping your baby well hydrated and nourished are also top priorities – his body needs nutrients to fight the infection. With all of this treatment, your baby’s lungs can begin to repair themselves.

Can pneumonia be prevented?

A premature baby may develop different infections for the reasons noted above. But the spread of infections can be avoided through the use of proper hygiene. Visitors who come to the NICU should be free from illness (colds, sore throats, coughs). All visitors should wash hands thoroughly or use foam disinfectant before seeing or touching your baby.

Some infections can spread through the air. Having visitors wear a face mask that covers the nose and mouth can provide an added layer of protection for your baby. NICU staff follows strict protocols regarding hand washing and keeping equipment squeaky clean. They are aware of how to prevent the spread of germs.

The good news

Most babies respond well to medications and recover without lasting issues.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org

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!

How vaccines work

Friday, July 31st, 2015

niam-logoVaccines protect you from diseases that can cause severe illness and even death. Vaccines work with your body’s immune system to help it recognize and fight these infections.

Usually when you are exposed to viruses or bacteria they cause infections that make you sick. To fight this infection, your immune system produces antibodies. These are special disease-fighting cells that attack the virus, destroy it, and make you better. In many cases, once you have made antibodies against a virus, you are then immune to the infection that it causes. This means that you cannot get sick from the same infection. For instance, if you had chickenpox as a child, you are immune to it later in life because your body has produced antibodies against the varicella virus (the virus that causes chickenpox). If you are exposed to the virus again, your antibodies recognize it and destroy it before it makes you sick.

Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to certain diseases. A vaccine uses a small piece of the virus or bacteria that causes the infection. Usually this virus is greatly weakened or it is killed. But it looks enough like the live virus to make your body react and make antibodies to attack the virus in the vaccine. This allows you to become immune to the disease without having to get sick first. For example, after you get the chickenpox vaccine, you will develop antibodies against the varicella virus, but you will not get chickenpox first. This factsheet from the CDC explains the body’s immune response to disease and how vaccines work in much more detail.

There are two main types of vaccines: weakened, live virus or inactivated, killed virus.

Vaccines that use weakened, live viruses include measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, flu mist, and chickenpox (varicella). Natural viruses reproduce thousands of times when they infect an individual. But weakened viruses can only reproduce about 20 times. This is not enough to make you sick, so they can’t cause disease. But even a few copies of the virus will cause your immune system to react and to make antibodies against the disease. The advantage of live, weakened vaccines is that typically you only need one or two doses (or shots) to provide immunity. However, live, weakened vaccines cannot be given to people with immune systems that don’t work as well as they should, because even such a small amount of virus could make them sick.

Vaccines that use inactivated or killed viruses include polio, hepatitis A, and the flu shot. The inactivated virus cannot reproduce and therefore cannot cause disease. But the immune system still makes antibodies to protect you against disease. The advantages of inactivated viruses are that the vaccine cannot cause the disease at all, and the vaccine can be given to people with weakened immune systems. The limitation of this method is that several doses of the vaccine are required before you are immune to the disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness month. It is important for people of all ages to protect their health with vaccines. In the upcoming weeks, we will be posting more information about vaccines for women who are thinking about getting pregnant, pregnant women, and babies.

Questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Milk is milk…right? Wrong.

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

milkHomogenized? Pasteurized? Are they the same thing?

Recently, an expectant Mom wrote to us asking if it is okay that she drinks homogenized milk. While homogenized milk is fine to drink when you are pregnant, the more important question is whether the milk is pasteurized. So, then, it begs the question…what’s the difference between the two?

Milk naturally contains fat. It is normal for the fat and the milk to separate – they don’t naturally remain blended. Homogenization is a process that keeps the fat and the milk together (not separated). Otherwise, when you would drink a glass of milk, it would have to be stirred first or you would drink lumps of fat (not too appetizing!). Homogenization is a process where the two parts are able to mix together and stay together.

Pasteurization, on the other hand, is the process where milk (or any other dairy product or even juice) is heated to a point where bacteria are killed. This is very important for pregnant women.  It kills the bacteria that could cause a number of infections and potentially harm your baby.  Non-pasteurized foods/juice/milk may cause listeriosis, which can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.  You can read more about it on our website and in another blog post

Now, if you live on a farm or have access to fresh cow’s milk, it will not be homogenized or pasteurized. There is a debate as to whether or not this milk is safe for pregnant women to drink because the argument is that if the cow is healthy and is not fed any antibiotics or hormones, then the milk will be safe to drink. Although this argument seems sound, one would have to be absolutely sure that the cow is absolutely healthy.  If you don’t have a crystal ball, how would you know this?  It is logical to avoid it all together and simply take the safe route – drink pasteurized milk.  

One more thing…there is pasteurized, flash pasteurized and ultra pasteurized.  Are they the same?  Well, the result is the same (killing bacteria and making it safe to eat or drink), but the method of getting there is slightly different (supposedly). In flash or ultra pasteurized, the heating is done even faster – in a ‘flash”- with the goal to preserve even more taste and freshness of the product than with ordinary pasteurization. Whether or not this happens, we can’t really say. We can say that any of these pasteurization methods are fine. You might want to read the fact sheet that the American Dietetic Association endorses called Debunking Dairy Food Myths  (just scroll down to click on the PDF).

So, now you can go ahead and drink your juice and milk with confidence. But just remember, if it’s not pasteurized, don’t drink it.

Updated December 2015.

9 questions to ask your provider before you get pregnant

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

There are things you can do, before you get pregnant, to help give your baby a better chance of a healthy and full-term birth. See your health care provider before pregnancy and ask about the following topics.

What do I need to know about…

1. Diabetes, high blood pressure, infections or other health problems?
2. Medicines or home remedies?
3. Taking a multivitamin pill with folic acid in it each day?
4. Getting to a healthy weight before pregnancy?
5. Smoking, drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs?
6. Unsafe chemicals or other things I should stay away from at home or at work?
7. Taking care of myself and lowering my stress?
8. How long to wait between pregnancies?
9. My family history, including premature birth?