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The Facts about Flu Shots

 

Seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that everyone six months of age and older get a flu shot for the 2019-2020 season as soon as it is available (which is now).

Influenza is dangerous – much more dangerous than the common cold. It can lead to hospitalization, ICU admission or even death. In the 2018-2019 flu season, 116 kids died. Of those children, 70 percent did not receive that year’s flu vaccine, and 50 percent were healthy before they got the flu. That is why getting the vaccine is so important.

Seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available, if possible by October. However, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial.

What is the difference between a cold and the flu?

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Viruses also cause colds but generally; do not make the patient as ill. Your health care provider may make the diagnosis based on symptoms and exam or can do a flu swab in the nose. Since viruses cause both types of illness, antibiotics won’t help.

How does the flu spread?

The flu spreads through droplets – sneezing, coughing, blowing your nose – and can stay on surfaces for a period of time. If someone with the flu touches a surface and you touch it a short time after them, you could get it. That’s why hand washing and covering your/your child’s mouth when you/they sneeze or cough is so important.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

Many symptoms of the flu are similar to other viruses. You can have fever, chills, sore throat, cough, runny/stuffy nose, headache, stomachache and body aches. The flu is more of a respiratory virus, not so much a vomiting/diarrhea one. Symptoms can last for up to a week. You can also get complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, sinus infections, ear infections, and even blood infections.

My child was tested and has the flu. What now?

The most important thing you can do is keep them comfortable and hydrated. If they don’t want to eat, that is okay – most of us don’t want to eat when we’re sick. However, it is important to stay hydrated. Be sure to push fluids – Pedialyte is a good choice for children and even comes in popsicles. With kids two years and older, ensure they are peeing at least three times in 24 hours. In kids who are two years and younger, ensure they are peeing at least four times in 24 hours.

Why do we have to get a flu shot every season?

The flu viruses are constantly changing to get around our defenses and make us sick. The CDC works year round collecting data to figure out which strains of flu will be most prevalent year to year.

I heard the flu shot does not really work. Why should I get it?

There are many misconceptions about the flu shot. Is it 100% effective at preventing the flu? No. Scientists do their best to create a vaccine each year based on the research they have done on the previous year’s flu strains. Although effectiveness does vary from year to year, the CDC estimates the flu vaccine reduces your risk of getting the flu by 40-60% when the vaccine is well matched to circulating viruses. A bigger point is that the flu vaccine has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of death in children. A study published in Pediatrics in 2017 showed that between 2010 and 2014, the flu vaccine reduced the risk of flu-related death by 51% (half!) among children with other high-risk medical conditions. It also reduced the risk of death in healthy children by 65%.  It is also important to note that if you get the flu shot and still end up getting the flu, symptoms will last for a shorter period and will not be as severe.

Which kids have to get two doses of the flu shot and why?

If it is your child’s first flu season receiving the vaccine and they are nine years old or younger, they will receive two doses of the vaccine four weeks apart. This helps prime their immune system. The first shot shows their body what the flu viruses looks like and the second shot is a reminder to make antibodies that are even more protective.  Once they get two doses of the flu shot their first season, they only need one dose each season after that.

My baby is under six months old. How can I protect them from getting sick?

The best things you can do is have everyone else in the house (or who will be around your baby) vaccinated and practice good hand washing. If you have older kids in the house, teach them about hand washing, sneezing/coughing into their arm, and avoid kissing the baby if they are sick.

My child is healthy. Do they still need the flu shot?

Unfortunately, every year there are healthy kids and adults who die from influenza. Getting a flu shot reduces the risk of your child being hospitalized due to the flu and/or its complications. Additionally, it protects those around them – older adults who have weakened immune systems, people with cancer, and babies who are too young to be vaccinated.

I get sick every time I get the flu shot. Why should I get it?

If you feel crummy after you get a shot that can be a good thing! It means your immune system is up and running, working to create antibodies to protect you in the future. When you get a shot, it triggers an inflammatory response in your body, a very similar type of response that is triggered when you get an infection. It is the same reason kids sometimes get a fever after their childhood immunizations – their immune system is getting to work.

Sometimes you may feel feverish or achy after getting a shot, but it is a small price to pay for how sick you could get the flu. The most common complaint we hear after giving a flu shot is some soreness around the area where the shot was given.

I heard the flu nasal spray is back again this year. Can we do that instead of the flu shot?

Yes – as long as your child does not have a history of asthma/wheezing/respiratory problems and is two years or older. Last year, we still recommended the injections over the nasal vaccine since it was the first year back on the market after being removed in the 2017-2018 season. Based on data from the 2018-2019 season, the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends either the injection or the mist.

If you have more questions, please talk to your child’s pediatrician. Remember, it takes about two weeks for your body to build up an antibody response, so the earlier you get the  vaccine, the better.

To schedule an appointment call 888-227-3762.  

Ensure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep This Summer

It’s almost summer time, school is soon out of session, and your child will gain a lot of extra free time. This is a cycle parents will go through for a number of years, so it’s important to make the most of that time for both you and your child. While being active during the day can certainly help children, having a sufficient amount of sleep each night is equally as important. Is your child getting enough sleep?

Continue reading “Ensure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep This Summer”

Talking to your Doctor about your Child’s Development

Concerned about your child’s development?

It is important that you talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about how your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, or moves. http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/symptoms/

Check out these #tips from the #CDC on how to make the most of your doctor visit. 

If you need a pediatrician we can help. Visit: https://pmaonline.com/specialties-services/pediatrics/

Choosing the Right Backpack for Your Child

As your child progresses in school, their backpacks get heavier and heavier. Once your child enters middle school, they have to carry everything from textbooks to notebooks to sports supplies. But can a heavy backpack pose serious health risks for your child? Here are just a few health issues that come with children carrying a heavy backpack: Continue reading “Choosing the Right Backpack for Your Child”

National Poison Prevention Week

Half of all reported poisonings occur in children under age 6. 

Written by Jennifer Dean Durning, CPNP Pentucket Medical Pediatrics

National Poison Prevention Week is a good time to review safety information regarding substances that can be harmful if they are used in the wrong way or by the wrong person.  Poisons include common consumer products that are safe if used according to the directions on the label, but can be dangerous if used incorrectly.  Common sources of poisonings that affect children are medications, household cleaners, alcohol, cosmetics, and plants. Continue reading “National Poison Prevention Week”

Parenting in an age of personal devices

For decades parents have worried about the amount of time their children spend in front of electronic media. 

Many of today’s parents grew up in the 1980’s and 90’s, when their parents worried about a per-child average of 3 hours a day spent watching network and cable TV. 

Many of those kids have become parents to children growing up in a world of wireless media and limitless bandwidth. New channels of connectivity are literally reshaping our children, socially and developmentally and physically. The average total screen time for children today is an astonishing 7 hours per day, and of course there are many more types of screens. 

From a health standpoint, there are significant concerns about children’s use of handhelds, whether these are smartphones or tablets. 

Clinical concerns include: 

Posture

A human head weighs about 12 pounds, and when standing up straight, it puts that amount of stress on the spine. But as we look down, the strain increases, to as much as 60 pounds as the chin nears the chest, which is the most common posture of texting and iPad use.

Repetitive Stress Injury

Holding a phone and tapping out words puts unnatural stress on the tendons and muscles of the thumb and forearm.  Our powerful thumbs evolved for gripping – to put it simply, they are like the bottom half of a pair of pliers. They were never intended for hunting and pecking at tiny letters. Hours of daily texting can lead to tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and other debilitating problems. 

Accidents

Another real physical risk involving mobile media is accidents. More than 3,000 teens die each year in crashes caused by texting while driving. (By comparison, roughly approximately 2,700 teens are killed in drunk driving accidents.) More than 50 percent of teens admit to texting while driving.

Pedestrian injuries related to cell phones ranged from falling off walkways or bridges to walking in front of moving traffic. The study found that in 2010, 1,500 pedestrians were treated in emergency departments for cell-phone related incidents, as opposed to a mere 559 in 2004.

The attractions of mobile devices are an undeniable challenge to parents who want to limit their children’s screen time, yet there are strategies that can be employed to counter their attraction. 

Enabling and Encouraging Immersive Experiences

You can make a positive impact in your child’s relationship with devices by encouraging them to join in on activities that are engaging and exciting.

  • Team sports
  • Martial arts 
  • Yoga
  • Dance
  • Phone-free walks and bicycling
  • Artistic pursuits
  • Music lessons
  • Painting
  • Theater
  • Community based resources
  • Boys & Girls clubs
  • Social service opportunities

Additionally, most mobile devices have options for that will set time limits on session length. These controls are usually found in the “settings” area of the device. 

Finally, engaging children in face-to-face conversation or games is a means of both building child-parent bonds and creating device-free time. Keep in mind that as adults we are far from immune from the distractions of our phones and iPads. 

Leading by example is one of the best ways to ensure that our kids will develop media habits that are reasonable and balanced.

If you have any questions or concerns relating to these issues, speak with your doctor or pediatrician

Communicating well with your child.

Conversations with your children are one of the most important ways you can keep them safe, resilient and loved. They can also be one of parenting’s most long-lasting satisfactions. 

Real communication is easiest to establish when families are young, yet there are paths to openness that can be explored during any phase of family life. 

Conversation tends to flow freely during ‘normal’ occasions, for example: 

  • At the dinner table. 

The benefits of families sitting down to eat together have been proven in study after study, as a means to build lifelong bonds, as well as social skills.  

  • In the car.

Parental driving duties offer an opening for conversation.

Cell phones are a potential flashpoint, in cars and elsewhere. 
Lead by example: tell them, firmly, that you are turning your cell phone off and they must do the same.  This is particularly appropriate in the car, but cell-free time can be judiciously scheduled. 

For example, at the dinner table, have everyone put their cell phones (muted) in a basket. Whoever uses their phone does the dishes. 

  • At bedtime.

Opportunities to converse can also arise from other activities:

  • Working on a puzzle together.
  • Listening to a favorite song of theirs (and one you liked when you were their age.)  
  • Sharing a poem.

Here are a few pointers:

  • True conversation takes place between equals. 
  • Listen hard and with respect. 
  • Engage your kids with leading, open-ended questions.  
  • Address them by name.  
    “Meghan – what was the best part of practice for you?”
    “Tony, what did Mrs. Summers have to say about her trip?” 
    “Where would you like to go if we could go anywhere Brian? “
  • Avoid offering solutions or supplying answers.
  • When it’s your turn to talk, repeat a bit of what they’ve said and extend it with a leading question:
    “So, how do you think this will turn out? “
  • Speak infrequently, and be mindful of your tone of voice. 
  • Be patient, especially during silence. 
  • Avoid suggestive phrases that begin with “you should.”  
  • Be thoughtful about topics, observant about your kids’ interests and concerns, and wait for the best time to raise them.
  • Time your topics for the right moments. 

At some point, every child needs someone to turn to, and it is then that a well-established line of communication can literally be a lifesaver. It’s much harder to establish a rapport in the midst of a crisis. 

If you have any questions or a specific concerns consider speaking with your child’s pediatrician

Talking with your kids about prescription drug abuse: Earlier is Better

Every day, teens are bombarded with conflicting messages about drug use that may leave them feeling confused and unsure of whom to ask for information. With 7.4% of teens reporting abuse of prescription drugs in the past year and 22.6% of 12th graders reporting using marijuana in the past month, it’s crucial to reach teens, and pre-teens, with the facts. 

 

Did you know…

  • that 1 in 4 teens report they have taken a prescription medicine that was not prescribed to them?
  • 66% of teens who report abusing prescription medicines are getting them from friends or family members?
  • prescription medicines are now the most commonly abused drugs in kids 12-13 yr old?
  • after marijuana, prescription and over-the-counter medications (like cough medicines!)  account for the most commonly abused drugs in teens?

 

Find out more from these websites: 

teens.drugabuse.gov and medicineabuseproject.org to learn how to talk to your kids about drug use—and how important it is to make good choices!  

We Are Here For You

Screening:
If you or someone you know are experiencing COVID symptoms (CDC symptom checker) call your clinician to set up a telehealth (phone or video) screening to determine next steps. Should testing and/or treatment be needed, resources are available through our Respiratory Illness Clinic.

Testing:

Treatment:
Our Riverwalk ExpressCare is the only center that is seeing respiratory symptoms.  All of our other sites are “COVID free”. Please call our staff and they can point you to the right place to get the treatment you need.