Posts Tagged ‘pneumonia’

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.

What is a respiratory therapist?

Monday, October 30th, 2017

If your baby is in the NICU, you know that there are a lot of people caring for her and helping her to get stronger each day. One of those NICU team members may be a respiratory therapist. A respiratory therapist (or RT) cares for babies with breathing problems.

When your baby first arrives in the NICU, a respiratory therapist evaluates her breathing. The RT looks to see if your baby is breathing too fast, if the breaths are shallow, or if she’s struggling to breathe. Then, together with the rest of the NICU team, the RT develops a treatment plan to help care for your baby.

Here are some common conditions that a respiratory therapist may see in the NICU:

Breathing problems: Premature babies often have breathing problems because their lungs are not fully developed. Full-term babies also can develop breathing problems due to complications of labor and delivery, birth defects and infections.

Apnea: Premature babies sometimes do not breathe regularly. A baby may take a long breath, then a short one, then pause for 5 to 10 seconds before starting to breathe normally. This is called periodic breathing. Apnea is when a baby stops breathing for more than 15 seconds. Apnea may be accompanied by a slow heart rate called bradycardia. Babies in the NICU are constantly monitored for apnea and bradycardia (often called “A’s and B’s”).

Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS): Babies born before 34 weeks of pregnancy often develop RDS. Babies with RDS do not have enough surfactant, which keeps the small air sacs in the lungs from collapsing.

Pneumonia: This lung infection is common in premature and other sick newborns. A baby’s doctors may suspect pneumonia if the baby has difficulty breathing, if her rate of breathing changes, or if the baby has an increased number of apnea episodes.

Many babies who need treatment for breathing problems benefit from respiratory therapy. In fact, neonatal respiratory therapy has become its own medical sub-specialty. A neonatal-pediatric RT is trained to use complex medical equipment to care for the smallest babies with mild to severe breathing challenges. They visit their patients daily or as often as needed and are an important part of your baby’s NICU team.

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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.

It’s RSV season

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

This is just a reminder that it’s RSV season and you’ll want to keep your eyes open for symptoms. Most kids get respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) by the age of two (it’s incredibly contagious) and while it’s usually not too serious for a healthy baby, it can be quite threatening to a premature infant and scary for a parent.

RSV usually causes mild cold-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever) that go away on their own in about 10 days to two weeks. Most babies with RSV do not become seriously ill, but a few become very sick. RSV is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under the age of one. They may need to be treated in the hospital with oxygen. In some cases, the baby will need bronchodilators (drugs that help open up breathing tubes) and antiviral drugs. Click on this link to read more about symptoms and when to call your baby’s doctor.

If your baby was born prematurely (too early), or has lung or heart disease, talk to your health care provider about ways to help prevent RSV. Babies who are at highest risk from RSV (including babies born at or before 32 weeks of pregnancy) may benefit from medication that helps prevent the infection. This medication is called palivizumab (Synagis). It is given in monthly injections during the fall and winter months.

You can help protect your baby from RSV by:
• Keeping him away from people who are sneezing or coughing
• Making sure everyone who touches the baby has clean hands
• Keeping your baby away from crowds of people
• Not allowing anyone to smoke near your baby
For more information, visit RSV Protection.

Note: The March of Dimes does not endorse specific brands or products.

Back to school? Vaccinate!

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Are your older kids getting ready to go to school? Are you shopping for their clothes and book bags? Don’t forget their vaccinations, too.

Immunizations are responsible for eliminating polio and smallpox in the United States, and they have seriously reduced the number of deaths from chickenpox. However, infectious diseases like viral hepatitis, influenza, and tuberculosis (TB) remain a major cause of illness, disability, and death.

Despite progress, approximately 42,000 adults and 300 children in the United States die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the US Dept. of Health & Human Services. Communities with pockets of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated populations are at increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2008, measles that were brought in from other countries resulted in 140 reported cases here — nearly a 3-fold increase over the previous year. The appearance of new or replacement strains of vaccine-preventable disease can result in a major increase in serious illnesses and death.

Respiratory infectious diseases, like the flu and pneumonia, continue to be leading causes of pediatric hospitalization and outpatient visits in the United States. On average, the flu leads to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year. The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic caused an estimated 270,000 hospitalizations and 12,270 deaths in less than a year.

A major goal of Healthy People 2020 is to protect Americans against infectious diseases by increasing immunization in communities nationwide. This can only be achieved if we all pay attention and keep up with our vaccinations throughout our lives. So, while you’re picking up your child’s papers, pencils and snow parkas, be sure to remember to get his vaccinations, too. And don’t forget to bring along his brothers and sisters!

Returning to RSV season

Friday, October 8th, 2010

We’re entering into RSV season again.  Most kids get respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) by the age of two (it’s incredibly contagious) and while it’s usually not too serious for a healthy baby, it can be quite threatening to a premature infant and scary for a parent.

In many kids, RSV causes mild cold-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever) that go away on their own in about 10 days to two weeks. But it’s also the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in tikes under a year old.  You can read more about RSV and prevention in our previous post.

Because it’s so contagious, many parents of premature babies keep their children out of public circulation throughout the season. That means out of the grocery store, day care, church, shopping malls… That can be really tough on parents.  For those of you with premature babies or with children with compromised (weakened) immune systems due to a medical condition, how do you deal with the isolation?  What tips do you have for new parents who are facing their first RSV season?

Hib vaccine for babies: Don’t miss a dose

Friday, March 20th, 2009

babyIt’s important for babies to get three doses of the vaccine Hib. On March 18, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory reminding us about this.

Hib stands for Haemophilus influenzae Type B, a type of bacteria. Hib can cause pneumonia and meningitis (a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord). Meningitis can lead to brain damage and even death.

FYI: Hib is not what causes the disease we call the flu. It’s a different bug altogether.

The CDC has learned that five young children in Minnesota got Hib. One of them died. None of the children had received the recommended three doses of the vaccine. Three of the children had not received a single dose.

So check with your child’s health care provider today, and find out if your baby is up-to-date on his Hib vaccine.

The March of Dimes has an article on immunizations for your baby. CDC has more on Hib.

RSV – Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV),  usually causes mild cold-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, fever) that go away on their own in about 10 days to two weeks.  It’s very contagious and most children get it by the age of two.  RSV can develop into a serious condition, however, and is the leading cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under the age of one and in many older adults.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) states that “Premature infants, children less than 2 years of age with congenital heart or chronic lung disease, and children with compromised (weakened) immune systems due to a medical condition or medical treatment are at highest risk for severe disease. Adults with compromised immune systems and those 65 and older are also at increased risk of severe disease.”

We’re in the season for RSV infection (in the U.S. usually October to April) so it’s wise to take precautions to help prevent it.  The main thing to do is wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, don’t share cups or spoons and forks with others, and people with cold symptoms should not kiss others.

The CDC has good information about RSV symptoms and prevention as does the RSV Protection website.  Take some time to review it, especially if you have anyone in your family who falls into the higher risk category.

Children most vulnerable to secondhand smoke

Friday, December 19th, 2008

Nearly half of all children in the United States are exposed to secondhand smoke each week, according to a new survey by three prominent institutions.  Even though we have come a long way in reducing second hand smoke over the past decade, the Social Climate Survey of Tobacco found that 4 out of every 10 children are exposed to secondhand smoke each week.

We have the power to make changes that protect our children and it certainly is within our children’s best interests to eliminate secondhand smoke exposure.  Babies who are exposed to smoke suffer from more lower-respiratory illnesses (such as bronchitis and pneumonia) and ear infections than do other babies. Babies who are exposed to their parents’ smoke after birth also may face an increased risk of asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). And the danger starts even before a child is born.  Studies suggest that babies of women who are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke during pregnancy may have reduced growth and may be more likely to be born with low birthweight.  Pregnant women should avoid exposure to other people’s smoke.

Various studies have concluded that secondhand smoke is just as dangerous as cigarette smoking.   If you’re a smoker, visit this site and try making quitting your New Year’s resolution.