Wintry weather is here and with that comes the extra threat of the flu. Dr. Sue helps you choose which vaccine is best for your little one.
Getting your kids vaccinated is a great way to fight the flu, but you can also keep their immune system strong with what they eat. Dr. Sue explains with the Kid's Doctor.
Flu frenzy is rampant right now since flu has started earlier than usual in some states. The good news is there are new, powerful vaccines to help prevent your family from getting sick!
While the flu epidemic seems to be making the most news these days, I'm actually seeing RSV (respiratory synctial virus) causing some serious illness among my patients.
After another long day in the office with tons of wheezing and coughing and tow babies sent to the intensive care unit, I decided to take a look at the national RSV statistics. Guess what, most of the country is still in the throes of RSV season (Florida is lucky as their rates are on the decline). So I know that most of my pediatric colleagues across the country are dealing with RSV (respiratory synctial virus) and we are still several weeks away from declining viral rates and the end of the RSV season.
I am seeing many parents who are fearful of RSV because their child's day care or school have sent home notices letting them know that there are cases of RSV. I am still confused by the need to send out notices which may only scare parents.
At this time of year, RSV is virtually everywhere. RSV is a virus that occurs every fall, winter and often into early spring. It causes cold symptoms for most of us, and most of the population (both child and adult) can never name the virus that caused their terrible runny nose and cough.
By the time a child is 2 years old the majority of them (upwards of 90%) have had at least one RSV infection. Again, most parents never need to know the name of the virus that is causing their child to have that terrible cough and runny nose. It is just another bad cold!
But, with that being said there are children, especially those under the age of 2 who will have more problems with RSV. In some cases, especially in young infants, the virus will cause not only a runny nose, congestion and coughing, but wheezing as well, and in a few, respiratory distress. It is in those cases that we name that tune and test to confirm that the baby has RSV.
Our office does not routinely test every child
Flu Frenzy is rampant in Dallas and across the country. It is a very busy flu season and it did start earlier than usual in the southern part of the country. Texas has been hit especially hard. I started seeing flu cases in my office at the end of October.
But, with that being said, if you look at flu statistics over the past few years, January and February are typically the peaks of the flu season. I know that these are usually the busiest months in the office and it seems like there is not a child who doesn't have a cough or cold and many have a fever lasting a few days. Don't panic!
We have been lucky for several years to have had a light flu season, so this year's flu season does seem worse. Fortunately, the majority of children we are seeing with flu symptoms are handling the virus very well (like many childhood viruses) and actually do not appear to be too sick.
The children I am seeing are running 2-4 days of fever, many as high as 102 or 103 degrees, which is not unusual with the flu. They have coughs, congestion and scratchy throats and the older kids are complaining of feeling achy as well. But they are also still drinking fluids, appear well hydrated, and when their temps come down with the help of acetaminophen or ibuprofen, they play, watch a movie, or even run around our waiting room. With a practice of 13 pediatricians we have literally seen hundreds of kids with the flu (both types A and B) but we have not had to hospitalize anyone!
Parents always want to watch their children for respiratory distress or for prolonged fever, but most of the children may be treated symptomatically. Remember fever is your friend, and higher temps do not necessar
I don't think germiest is really a word, but you get the point. It's a place where germs are most likely to hang out for a long time. Since everyone is trying to avoid getting the flu or a cold, it's good to know the most popular public places you're likely find bacteria and viruses.
ABC News recently looked into this topic and after testing different locations made a list of 7 public places where cold and flu causing germs, along with E. coli bacteria are quite prevalent.
I hadn't thought about it before, but these things are seldom (if ever) cleaned after being passed around from person to person. Since cold and flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 18 hours, you can imagine what your family might be holding in their hands while contemplating a meal. It's a good idea to wash your hands (or use a hand sanitizer) after you're finished with the menu. Also, never place the menu on your plate or under your silverware.
2. Lemon Wedges.
Keeping with the restaurant theme, lemon wedges appear to be another place where very nasty germs like to gather. In a study published in the Journal of Environmental Health, nearly 70% of the lemon wedges perched on the rims of restaurant glasses contain disease-causing microbes. Researchers analyzed drinks from 21 different restaurants and found 25 different microorganisms lingering on the lemons they secured. Some of the most common microorganisms were E. coli and other fecal bacteria. I can see how that would happen since I never see a server wash his or her hands before reaching into a shared bowl of pre-sliced fruit and putting one in my water or tea.
3. Condiment Dispensers.
While we're still sitting at the restaurant table, take a look at the condiment dispensers. These are shared by people day after day and refilled by hands that may not have been washed for hours. Seldom do restaurants (although I'm sure there are some) regularly
Those of us who opted for flu vaccine earlier this fall are hopefully already protected and it looks like this years vaccine is a good match for the 3 types of flu that are already circulating.
The flu vaccine contains 3 different types of flu strains, 2 Flu A, and 1 Flu B. We are seeing both types of flu right now, as is a great deal of the southern United States as well as the Midwest. Last week, the CDC reported flu in 49 out of 50 states
For those of you who haven't been immunized yet, GET THE VACCINE NOW! Call your pediatrician, local pharmacy or health department, as the vaccine is not readily available.
If you have been fortunate enough and not have had to visit your pediatrician since the fall (good healthy kids!), you may not have had the opportunity to be reminded to get the vaccine. In fact, the last patient of the day yesterday was a 10 year old boy with classic flu symptoms: sudden onset of fever, chills, cough, scratchy throat and body aches. His mother thought that she had been in and had gotten the vaccine but when I looked it was LAST fall and the time had just escaped her. Not uncommon when you have healthy children who only see their pediatrician once a year.
Even if you have been unlucky enough to already have had the flu, which really knocks you down for at least 5-7 days, you should go get the vaccine once you are over the acute illness. Believe it or not, you could actually contract one of the other strains of flu that will continue into the flu season. Some might say that it can't happen, but it does!
Lastly, if you do get the flu keep your child home from day care or school and all of their other activities. Flu is very contagious, and going to school just spreads the virus to others. This is also true for parents, who need to stay home from work with the flu as well.
Keep washing those hands! We have a long winter ahea
The flu season is off to an early and dangerous start. ;Southern and southwestern states, in particular, are reporting large numbers of people with the flu in ER rooms and doctor's offices seeking relief. Many doctors have said that they began seeing patients with the flu or flu-like symptoms as early as Thanksgiving and a few even said they saw patients in September. That's far ahead of the normal beginning of the flu season in December and January. Typically, the flu just makes people very sick for a week or two, but it can also be deadly for the very young, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. However, even people who are otherwise healthy can suffer a fatal bout with the virus. Max Schwolert , a 17-year-old athletic boy in Flower Mound, Texas, died over the holidays from a staph infection that developed after he became ill with the flu. The heartbreaking death of the popular teen has prompted many of his friends and community to get their flu shot. Even though the flu season is currently active, it's not too late to get a flu shot. Understand, some people still get the flu even when they've been vaccinated- but they usually have less severe symptoms. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is saying that this flu season is stronger than usual and is expected to continue to get worse. Anyone over the age of 6 months can and should receive the flu vaccine. Besides your pediatrician or doctor's office, there are other locations that are providing flu shots such as local pharmacies, clinics and health departments. As more and more people decide to get vaccinated, supplies of the vaccine could start being in short supply so don't delay. Other steps you can take to help prevent getting or spreading the flu are: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid touchin
While I have been working over the holidays I have not been the most popular doctor around town. With that being said I need to explain.
As everyone knows the Christmas holidays fall right at the beginning of the winter SICK SEASON. The pediatricians office never really stops and if anything it gets busier as families are trying to get out of town, or are trying to get well in time for holiday activities which may include big family plans which may include out of town guests. This is a perfect storm to spread germs as well as families fly around the country and gather together.
While working over the holidays, I have found myself having to be the bad guy by recommending that families cancel their airline flights and trips to see the grandparents or for others to cancel their vacations to far away destinations. All of these cancelled plans were due to children in the family who were too sick to travel. The majority of these patients have one of the numerous viral upper respiratory infections that are currently TNTC (too numerous to count).
I am seeing children with rhinovirus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), meta -pneumovirus and the first few influenza cases of the season. These viruses may sometimes cause children to wheeze and some of the sicker children may even be hospitalized.
In most of these cases, children may be treated at home with rest, lots of fluids and some children may need nebulizer treatments to help their breathing. For those in the hospital the treatment is the same although the hospitalized children typically need oxygen. The rest of the treatment is really about letting the virus run its course, and that is really frustrating, as there is not a doctor around who can tell you what a virus is going to do.
Since you can never tell when and if a child's breathing will deteriorate, I had to recommend that several families cancel their trips. What if you are in the middle of
Alright, enough is enough! How could I possible have another cold? I routinely tell patients with children that it is not unusual for kids to get 8-10 colds a year which seems like once a month from September through April!
If you also think that the average cold lasts anywhere from 7- 14 days, then it seems like a child has a cold that lasts most of the year. That is how I am feeling right now.
A cold usually starts off with a little sniffles and maybe a sore throat, and you pray that it is just your imagination, and then over several days you realize that you now feel yucky, have more congestion, the sore throat is still there and you are coughing. That is a cold!!!! That is not allergies, nor is it flu. It is that pesky cold virus of which there are an infinitesimal number, and you have succumbed once again. That is my story!
So, with those symptoms AGAIN, and a day in the media research office, I went back to the literature to see if I could find ANYTHING that might lead me to preventing a cold, curing a cold or making this nasty thing go away any faster. I mean, I am a busy woman and like everyone else,I really don't have time for this! There have been thousands of studies done over the years looking at cold symptoms and their prevention. Studies on Vitamin C from the days of Linus Pauling, to more recent studies for prevention and treatment of upper respiratory infections have really found no benefits to taking vitamin C.
There was one study that showed taking vitamin C might reduce the duration of cold symptoms if taken before a cold begins. My question is, how do you know that you need to start Vitamin C in anticipation of a cold? Also, too much vitamin C may cause an upset stomach and diarrhea.
How about Echinacea? I have been taking Echinacea for years in hopes of warding off colds, but the review of the data showed that Echinacea had no effect in preventing the common cold, studie
I hear it just about everywhere I go. People telling me that either they've just got over a bad cold or their child has. Most parents I know pick up a cold from their child who brings it home after catching it from another child at school. That's how these things go, you have it, I have it, we all have it. And yes, I just got over a bad cold.
One of the ways you can help your child recover a little faster from a cold is to make sure he or she has plenty of fluids. Fluids can prevent dehydration and thin mucus, helping to unclog a stuffy nose.
What fluids will help? Good choices are:
- Water. Water is the easiest fluid to offer a sick child. Bottled or tap water is fine.
- Fruit juices. Fruit juice is also a good choice when your child isn't feeling well, but remember that some juices can be too acidic on an upset tummy and a little harsh on a sore throat. It's probably best to hold off on citric juices like orange and pineapple till your little one is well. Apple or grape juice may be more soothing. If your child is dehydrated, get an oral rehydration solution like Pedialyte or Infalyte instead. Fruit juice doesn't have the right mix of sugar and salts to treat dehydration.
- Decaffeinated tea. Tea is a good choice when your child has a sore throat. A warm cup of tea with a little honey is comforting to a sore throat and can help ease coughing. If you add honey make sure that your child is over 1 year old.
- Milk. Many people believe that milk can sour the stomach when youre sick. Not true. Milk does not cause a sour stomach or mucus build-up. In fact, the protein, calories, and fat in milk can help keep up your sick child's strength.
Are there fluids your child should avoid? Caffeinated drinks never good
American's are in the beginning stages of the typical cold and flu season that usually peaks around February. Once a family member or friend brings the flu virus or a cold into your house, it's difficult to stop it from spreading. With colds often comes missed school, work, scheduled activities and sleep - a chain reaction we'd all like to avoid.
Cold viruses grow mainly in the nose where they can multiply and be easily spread by sneezing or touching the nose and then touching just about anything else.
You know it's probably coming so, what's a parent to do? There are several steps you can take to minimize the spreading of viruses.
1. Get a yearly flu vaccine. Everyone in the family, except for children under 6 months old, should be vaccinated. The flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season. The vaccine can protect you from getting sick from these three viruses or it can make your illness milder if you get a different flu virus.
2. Hand washing. One of the most effective ways to prevent colds from spreading is for every family member to wash their hands often and correctly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch.
A quick rinse isn't going to remove a virus from your hands. Hands need to be scrubbed for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. When you can't wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer. Keep a bottle, or sanitizer wipes in your car and purse.
3. Keep household surfaces clean. Doorknobs, light switches, computer keyboards, remote controls, countertops, anything that is touched my multiple people will shelter viruses. Wipe these surfaces often with soap and water or a disinfectant solution.
4. Throw away used tissues. Used tissues can contami
Everyone knows by now that smoking is bad for your health, but there are people who will still argue that second-hand tobacco smoke isn't harmful to those to have to inhale it. If you're an adult you can choose to leave a smoky environment. However, if you're a child you're pretty much at the mercy of the smoking adults in the household. If you're a child with the flu, all that smoke could be making you even sicker.
Children who have been hospitalized with the flu, and come from homes where they've been exposed to second-hand smoke, are more likely to need intensive care and a longer stay before they are released according to a small new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics.
Researchers analyzed more 100 children hospitalized with flu in the state of New York. They found that those exposed to second-hand smoke were five times more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit and required a 70 percent longer stay in the hospital, compared to the kids not exposed to smoke.
"People are being a bit complacent and thinking that because they don't see smoking as often that it's not a problem anymore," said Dr. Karen Wilson, of Children's Hospital Colorado, in Aurora, who led the study. "But we still need to be vigilant about protecting kids from second-hand smoke."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that passive smoking can have a huge impact on children. According to the CDC, second-hand smoke causes ear infections, breathing problems, and lung infections in children and leads to hospitalization of up to 15,000 kids-under the age of 18 months-every year.
The study is the first of its kind to look at the effect of second-hand smoke on kids with influenza.
Wilson and her team looked at hospital records for 117 kids admitted for influenza to a New York hospital between 2002 and 2009.
Second-hand smoke exposure was reported on the charts of 40 percent of the kids - slightly lowe
Believe it or it not, even with temperatures hovering in the 90's across the country, it is time to start thinking about getting flu vaccines. You heard it here first!
Our office and many other doctors offices across the country are opening up their first shipments of flu vaccine and I have already immunized some children and adolescents. I am also happy that I have vaccine to give my college aged students as they get ready to depart for dorm life and close quarters. In my own experience I often hear them tell me, I am just too busy to get my vaccine, which is not an acceptable excuse, so better to immunize them before they even leave for college.
Interestingly as well, I just finished reading an article in JAMA that looked at using text messaging as a way of reminding parents that it is time to immunize their children against flu. The study was conducted during the 2010-2011 flu season in which 5 weekly text messages were sent to parents to remind them of the importance of giving flu vaccine to their children. The results showed that by the end of the influenza season there was an approximately 4% increase in vaccination rates in the group that received text messages as compared to the control group. The impact in this study was greater for younger children than for adolescents. (same as I see in my own practice).
This study may be of value as more people use cell phones than land line home phones, and physicians and medical institutions need to look at new forms of communication to reach out to patients. Other forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter may also play a role in increasing immunization rates and overall health care. Even a small increase in immunization rates, as in this study, may impact more people than thought due to herd immunity associated with vaccinating.
So, I think I will use all of the social media I have available to get out the message to get your flu