I’m Pregnant. Should I Get a Flu Shot?

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone
Posted on September 4th, 2013

Yes! The influenza vaccine is a safe, simple and smart way for pregnant women in Maine to protect themselves and their babies.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child (with the second, this feeling wasn’t quite so intense, as I am sure moms of multiple kids can attest to!), I started thinking twice about almost everything. Is this good for me? Is this good for my baby? I knew that getting my annual influenza (flu) shot has always been an important part of staying healthy. What I didn’t realize was that it’s especially important if you are pregnant during flu season (October to March).

In fact, it’s twice as important.  Here’s what I learned after talking with my OB and some healthcare specialists I work with:

1. Pregnant women are more likely to get sick from the flu. Your body is under a lot of stress right now. Your heart, lungs, and immune system are working much harder to support and protect you and your baby. You can’t fight off infections as well as you used to. And if you get sick, it may take you longer to get well.

Influenza is particularly dangerous for pregnant women because the flu spreads very easily, and because the flu can make it harder to breathe. With lower immunity and increased pressure on your lungs, pregnant women are more likely to get the flu and more likely to develop serious complications like pneumonia as a result. And that’s not all. According to the Mayo Clinic, pregnant women with the flu are at higher risk for miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth.

Pregnant women are also highly likely to pass their infections on to their newborn babies. Maine just had one of the most active flu seasons in recent years. The risk, particularly in Maine, is very real.

2. Infants and babies are more likely to get sick from the flu—and be hospitalized as a result. During the first six months of life, newborn babies will be too young to be vaccinated against the flu. Your baby will be relying on you—and your family and friends—for protection. If you are vaccinated, you aren’t just protecting yourself. You are protecting your new baby from a potentially life-threatening illness.  Research shows that giving pregnant women the flu shot protects both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu.

Infants and babies who fall ill with the flu are hospitalized at very high rates. Infants and babies are also more likely to develop life-threatening complications from the flu. Maine parents were reminded how important flu shots are when a six-year-old girl in Benton died from the flu in 2012.

The best way to prevent influenza from hurting your baby is to get immunized while you are pregnant. You pass your antibodies against the flu on to your baby through the placenta. In a 2011 study, babies whose mothers had a flu shot during pregnancy were nearly 50 percent less likely to be diagnosed with the flu during their first flu season than were babies whose mothers didn’t have a flu shot during pregnancy.

At Vax Maine Kids, we know you want to keep your baby safe. So what should you do?

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a flu shot. The traditional flu shot is made from an inactivated (or dead) virus, and research has shown it is safe for you and your baby. Even if you are afraid of needles, avoid the nasal spray vaccine—it is made from a live virus. (You can learn more about how vaccines are made on our website.) Tell your doctor if you are allergic to eggs.
  • Ask anyone visiting or caring for your new baby if they have had their flu shot. Creating a special safe zone around your baby is called “cocooning”, and it is a wonderful way to protect your baby while he or she develops stronger immunity. To create a safe cocoon for your new baby, ask grandparents, daycare providers and friends if their immunizations are up-to-date. If your new baby has older brothers and sisters, check their immunizations as well.

FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Protecting your new baby before and after birth from influenza, a potentially dangerous disease that hit Maine hard last year.

TALK ABOUT … Whether or not your friends, family and your baby’s caregivers have had their annual flu shot. Explain why this is important to you, and ask anyone helping you care for your baby to also help you keep your baby safe.

Cassandra Cote Grantham is the Program Director for Child Health at MaineHealth and has two children under age 3!

I’m Pregnant. Should I Get the Tdap Vaccine?

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone
Posted on August 2nd, 2013

Yes! The Tdap vaccine is a safe, simple and smart way for pregnant women in Maine to protect themselves and their babies from pertussis (whooping cough), a very serious disease.

Pertussis (otherwise known as whooping cough) is spread very easily and causes severe periods of coughing. It can take months to recover from pertussis, and the disease can lead to cracked ribs from coughing or pneumonia. You and most of the people you know were probably vaccinated against pertussis as children. But as we get older, our immunity to pertussis gets weaker, making it easier for us to get it again.

Pertussis outbreaks are on the rise in Maine. Now more than ever, children over age 11, adults, and seniors need to boost their immunity with the Tdap vaccine. If you are pregnant, it is very important for you and the people around you to get vaccinated against pertussis with the Tdap vaccine.

In fact, it’s twice as important:

1. Pregnant women are more likely to get sick from pertussis. Your body is under a lot of stress right now. Your heart, lungs and immune system are working much harder to support and protect you and your baby. You can’t fight off infections as well as you used to. And if you get sick, it may take you longer to get well.

Pertussis is particularly dangerous for pregnant women because pertussis is spread very easily, and because pertussis can make it much harder to breathe. With lower immunity and higher pressure on their lungs, pregnant women are more likely to get pertussis and more likely to develop serious problems as a result.

2. Infants and babies are more likely to get sick from pertussis—and be hospitalized as a result. During the first six months of life, your newborn baby will be too young to be vaccinated against pertussis. Your baby will be relying on you—and your family and friends—for protection. If you are vaccinated, you aren’t just protecting yourself. You are protecting your new baby from a potentially life-threatening illness that is becoming increasingly common in Maine.

Women are highly likely to pass their infections on to their newborn babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 30-40% of infants with pertussis caught the disease from their mothers.

Infants and babies who fall ill with pertussis are hospitalized at very high rates. In fact, the CDC reports that more than half of infants with pertussis must be hospitalized. 20% of these babies develop pneumonia, and yes, even today, some of these babies die. The best way to prevent pertussis from hurting your baby is to get immunized while you are pregnant.

Just one dose of Tdap vaccine during your pregnancy prevents you from infecting your baby during and after delivery. And if you breastfeed your new baby, you can pass your own pertussis antibodies on to your baby as well.

At Vax Maine Kids, we know you want to keep your baby safe. So what should you do?

  • Ask your doctor for a Tdap vaccine every time you are pregnant. The very best time for you to be vaccinated is between weeks 27 and 36 of any pregnancy you have since this allows you to pass your antibodies against pertussis on to your baby through your placenta.  But, the most important thing is that you get immunized either before, or right after, your baby is born. The Tdap vaccine has been given to pregnant women all over the world since the 1960s, and has never been shown to harm them, or their babies. The vaccine is safe for you and for your baby.  Breastfeeding will only help protect your baby more since you will continue to share your antibodies through breast milk.
  • Ask anyone visiting or caring for your new baby if they have had their flu shot or Tdap vaccine. Creating a special safe zone around your baby is called “cocooning”, and it is a very good way to protect your baby before he or she can be immunized against pertussis at 2 months old.  Even after their first vaccination, babies are still at risk, so “cocooning” helps keep them safe while they develop stronger immunity to pertussis, which happens around 12-18 months.

Ask grandparents, daycare providers and friends if their immunizations are up-to-date. The CDC recommends Tdap boosters for all adults over the age 19, especially if they will soon be around a new baby. If your new baby will have older brothers and sisters, double-check their immunizations as well. Children between the ages of 11 and 18 years need the Tdap vaccine, even if they were vaccinated as babies.

FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Protecting your new baby before and after birth from pertussis,  a very contagious and dangerous disease that is on the rise in Maine.

TALK ABOUT … Whether or not your friends, family, and your baby’s caregivers have had Tdap vaccines. Explain why this is important to you, and ask anyone helping you care for your baby to also help you keep your baby safe by getting vaccinated.

 

Great News: No Need to Worry About “Too Many Vaccines Too Soon”

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone
Posted on July 15th, 2013

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s comprehensive research study proves giving children multiple vaccines before age two does not cause autism.

Now, Maine parents can feel even better about immunizing their children to keep them safe. A brand-new, strict and long-term study just published in the American Journal of Pediatrics proves that children are not more likely to develop autism if they are immunized on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended schedule. The results are great news for parents: protecting children as quickly as possible against as many diseases as possible does not cause autism. While every other study on vaccines and autism has shown exactly same thing, this study is the largest and longest look at how the number of vaccines children receive and when they receive before age 2 and when they receive them affects autism rates.

This study looked carefully and thoughtfully at:

  • How many vaccines children receive before age two affects autism rates,
  • How many vaccines children might receive in one day affects autism rates, and
  • How individual vaccines like the Tdap vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough) and different ingredients in vaccines, like thimerosal affect autism rates. 

But no matter what research the study authors did or reviewed, the conclusions were the same: there is not a connection between vaccines and autism.

This is a study Maine parents can trust. Parents worried that their child might be getting “too many vaccines too soon” don’t need to worry anymore.

Doctors do recommend more vaccines than they used to when we were kids. After all, there are more ways to protect children from dangerous diseases now. Parents do not need to turn to alternative vaccination schedules to keep their children safe.  By following the CDC’s recommended schedule, parents can protect their children from dangerous diseases at the times they need it most and not be worried that they are putting their child at risk for autism and other conditions. 

FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Another medical study showing that vaccinating your children on time does not increase their chances of developing autism.

TALK ABOUT … New research proving that parents do not need to worry about “too many vaccines too soon” and use alternative or delayed vaccination schedules. Why would you delay protecting your child from dangerous diseases?

Getting Your Kids Ready to Go Back to School

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone
Posted on July 5th, 2013

It might not seem like it, but July is the perfect time to schedule your child’s wellness visit or school physical.

Is July too early to think about getting ready for school? In Maine, it sometimes feels like summer has only just begun! But even though your child’s backpack is full of sandals, sunscreen and sand today, you’ll be packing it with notebooks and a lunch in just a few weeks.

Try not to pack too much back-to-school preparation into the last few days of summer vacation. Maine doctors and nurses recommend scheduling your child’s wellness visit or school physical now, before the back-to-school rush really begins. Most Maine elementary, middle and high schools will begin classes on or around the end of August. But new student orientations and sports practices may begin a week or two earlier—and if you are sending a teen off to college, they may need to be on campus even earlier.

Doctor’s offices struggle to fit in families who need physicals or immunization and other health records before the start of a new sports season or the new school year. If you call and schedule your child’s visit now, you can avoid disappointment, frustration and stress for everyone involved. You will be able to cross an important item off your list and get back to enjoying your summer vacation.

Have you noticed any ongoing health issues in your child over the summer? If you have concerns about migraine headaches, tummy pain or other significant issues, don’t wait for a wellness check or school physical to bring them up with your child’s doctor.  Schedule a separate visit so you can spend time discussing them.

Before your child’s school physical or wellness visit:

FEEL GOOD ABOUT … Making sure your child is able to play school sports and enjoy school safely from the time the first bell rings.

TALK ABOUT … Scheduling wellness checks and school physicals with your friends, to help them beat the rush, too!

Keep Your Kids Safe and Healthy This Summer

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Email this to someone
Posted on June 4th, 2013

Mainers wait a long time for summer, and we know how make the most of it. As the weather warms up, schools let out, summer camps start and vacations get underway. Whether you and your family spend this summer in the woods, on the water or in your own backyard, here are Vax Maine Kids top three summer safety tips:

  1. Keep your babies, kids and teens safe in the sun. Your children need extra protection from the sun whenever they are outdoors, not just at the beach or in the pool. A few bad sunburns in childhood and adolescence greatly increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life.
    • Vax Maine Kids recommends using sunscreen every single day for Maine babies (6 months and older), kids and teens. Look for waterproof sunscreens with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (will say broad spectrum on the label). Apply sunscreen liberally, 30 minutes before heading outside if possible.  Don’t forget ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet! We recommend putting your kids in sun hats and sunglasses, and wearing sun-protective swimwear like rash guards.  Also, avoid exposing babies to the sun during peak hours – usually 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Reapply sunscreen every two hours or if your child goes swimming or is sweating a lot.
    • For babies younger than 6 months, do your best to keep them out of direct sunlight.  Dress them in lightweight long sleeves and pants, a hat with a brim and sunglasses.  If these types of clothing and shade aren’t available to you, put sunscreen only on small areas of babies’ exposed skin, such as the face.  Avoid areas that babies might suck on such as fingers!
    • Maine parents should talk to their teens about sun safety as well. Recently, the Maine legislature tried to ban teens from using tanning beds, but the governor vetoed the bill because he wanted Maine parents to make decisions for their kids. So get involved in your teen’s choices about tanning. Tanning beds are very dangerous, and produce radiation ten to fifteen times higher than the midday sun. Research shows that teens using tanning beds increase their risk of skin cancer by 75%. Vax Maine Kids strongly recommends keeping your teens away from the dangers of tanning beds.
  2. Keep your babies, kids and teens safe in or on the water. Tourists come from all over the world to enjoy Maine’s beaches, lakes and rivers. Almost all of us will spend some part of our summer swimming, wading or watching the waves. But drowning remains the leading cause of injury death in children younger than four, so water safety is a very important part of summer safety.
    • Teach your kids to swim. When your kids are swimming, make sure they are supervised by you, other parents you trust, or lifeguards. If you see signs posted closing a beach or restricting swimming, don’t let your kids go in the water. And if you own a pool, make sure it is fenced on all four sides to keep curious kids out.
    • If you are lucky enough to spend time on a boat this summer, make sure your kids always wear a properly-fitted life jacket at all times. Boat accidents are still too common in Maine, and have a very high rate of death—in 2009, over 70% of people in a boating accident did not survive. 90% of the people who died were not wearing a life jacket.  Stay aware on the water — don’t drink, or otherwise reduce your ability to help your child in an emergency.
    • Vax Maine Kids also wants you to remember that certain diseases are easily spread in the water. Make sure your children take regular bathroom breaks during swim sessions. Change diapers in the bathroom, not by the side of the pool. If your child has diarrhea, don’t let them swim until they are well. And remind your children the water is for playing, and not for drinking.
  3. Keep your babies, kids and teens safe while they play. After a long winter and a soggy spring, it’s great to be able to spend so much time outdoors. Your kids can’t wait to get to the playground, ride their bikes and scooters, hike in the woods or play their favorite sports.
    • Young children are at a higher risk of heat-related illnesses, so keep your kids cool. Make sure everyone drinks plenty of liquids while they play. Dress in lightweight, breathable clothing. Listen to air quality warnings and restrict outdoor times during heat waves. Know the signs of heat exhaustion, and keep an eye on active kids. Never, ever leave your children in a parked car, even if the windows are open.
    • Emergency departments see a lot more playground injuries during the warmer months. Choose playgrounds that are well-kept, with sand or wood chips under playground equipment. If your kids ride bikes, scooters or skateboards, make sure they always wear a helmet. For sports activities, dress them in the right protective gear—helmets, cups, pads, and shin guards. And be aware of the signs of a concussion and get treatment immediately if you suspect your child has one.
    • Teens may spend more time with their friends during the summer. As your teen is given more independence, keep the lines of communication open and make, and enforce, clear rules and boundaries. Know where your teens are going, with whom, and when they will return. Make sure your teen is dating safely, driving safely and not drinking or using drugs. And make sure you spend time together as a family.

FEEL GOOD ABOUT … How taking a few extra steps can keep your kids safe and healthy this summer.

TALK ABOUT … Making sure your kids use sunscreen and swim and play safely whether they are with you, with friends, on a play date or at a summer camp.