Winter Activities for Maine Families

Posted on December 17th, 2015

The winter solstice arrives this Tuesday, December 22, signaling the official start of winter. While it has been unseasonably warm so far this season, Maine families know that snow, ice and colder weather are surely on the way. It may take a bit more effort to stay healthy and active during the winter months, but it’s worth it. Our favorite wintertime activities strengthen children’s fitness levels, boost their immunity and brighten their moods. They’re also a lot of fun!

Thanks to greenhouses, cold frames, root cellars and the hardy ingenuity of Maine farmers, your family can eat delicious and healthy local produce, eggs, milk, meats and cheeses, homemade preserves, honey and baked goods throughout the long, dark winter months.

Winter Farmer’s Markets have sprung up all over our state. If your family enjoys visiting your local farmer’s market in warmer weather, chances are that market moves into a cozy indoor location during the winter. The Maine Federation of Farmer’s Markets (MFFA) Winter Markets 2015-2016 guide lets you browse markets by county.

Winter community supported agriculture (CSA) shares deliver boxes of winter goodness at regular intervals, right from your favorite local farm. The Maine Organic Farmer’s and Grower’s Association (MOFGA) maintains a list of Maine farms offering winter CSA shares. Continue reading

Comfort Recipes to Nourish the Whole Family

Posted on November 20th, 2015

As we inch closer to winter and the temperatures get colder, it can be more challenging to stay healthy. Influenza season has begun (have you had your flu shot?), the sound of coughs and sneezes can be heard everywhere, the outdoor exercisers are few and far between, and the farmer’s markets with colorful fruits and vegetables are ending. And let’s not forget that the holidays are approaching, which often means celebrating with food – heavy, rich food and lots of it! Luckily our guest blogger, Corinne Cook, is here to share some healthy recipes to nourish and comfort you and your family during the colder months. Happy, healthy holidays from all of us at VaxMaineKids!

By Corinne Cook, MSM, RD, LD

Healthy foods that are not only nutritious but are also comforting are especially important this time of year. So when the family is all gathered around the dinner table celebrating the spirit of the seasons, it is nice to remember that the foods we love to indulge in can be healthy too. These foods can range from warm roasted vegetables to flavorful whole grain salads to sweet treats we all know and love. Today we are going to explore the many delicious recipe options we can all enjoy as tasty additions to our holiday meals. We will also review some food safety tips to help you and your guests avoid illness.

Healthy Recipes to Try
Carrot-Ginger Soup is a warming and welcoming comfort on a cold autumn or winter day. This sweet and savory, smooth and silky soup is filled with antioxidants, vitamins A,C, and K, B vitamins, as well as minerals such as potassium and manganese, antioxidants, and fiber. This soup makes a delicious and nutritious starter or side dish to any holiday meal. It also makes a great main dish – try pairing it with a salad!

Hearty and seasonal staples such as butternut squash, celery root, potatoes and parsnips all combined with herbs and seasonings make Roasted Root Vegetables a scrumptious accompaniment to a meat or other main event. This delectable side dish is packed with vitamins A and C, B vitamins, minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium, as well as fiber.

Fresh kale, fennel, red onion and beets gently blended with tart and sweet cranberries alongside hearty quinoa are all combined with a sweet and tangy maple dressing, which make this Quinoa Salad come alive with flavor. This delightful side salad is packed with protein, vitamins A, C, and K, minerals such as iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, powerful antioxidants, as well as fiber. Try serving cold for a refreshing crunch, or serve warm alongside your favorite main dish.

Apple and Berry Granola Crisp combines fresh berries and crunchy apples with all natural honey. It is topped with low fat/low sodium granola streusel for a deliciously sweet and healthy dessert loaded with vitamins A, C, E, and K, minerals such as potassium, manganese, and iron, as well as antioxidants and fiber. Baking this dish will also fill your home with a lovely aroma.
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Reinforcing Our Efforts to Keep Maine Immunization Rates on the Rise

Posted on October 9th, 2015

The state of Maine received a great deal of attention recently following the release of results from the 2014 National Immunization Survey (NIS) by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These data indicate a notable rise in our toddler immunization rates, placing us among the states with the highest childhood immunization coverage estimates. Additional CDC data show a reduction in Maine’s kindergarten vaccine exemption rates in the 2014-15 school year. Although we are optimistic, we and our partners must continue to advocate for policies and activities proven to increase childhood immunization coverage. Kudos to Maine’s healthcare providers, public health partners, insurers, parents, and, most importantly, our blissfully unaware children who contributed to this great accomplishment!

Portrait of happy diligent pupil looking at her classmate at lesson

According to the 2014 NIS, an estimated 85% (± 5%) of Maine’s children between the ages of 19 and 35 months were up-to-date on a combined series of 7 recommended vaccines that protect against 11 diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, varicella (chickenpox), Haemophilus influenzae B (Hib), and pneumococcal disease. This is a significant increase from Maine’s estimated rates in 2012 (73%) and 2013 (71%), and it is significantly higher than the 2014 national rate (72%) and the 2014 rates of 30 other states. Additionally, the NIS results indicate that Maine’s estimated coverage for individual childhood vaccines is high, with statistically significant increases for ≥1 dose of hepatitis A vaccine from 2012 (70%) to 2014 (84%) and for ≥3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine from 2013 (85%) to 2014 (94%).

This trend is supported by a CDC assessment that shows a reduction in kindergarten exemptions from school required vaccines in Maine from 5.5% in the 2013-2014 school year to 4.4% in the 2014-2015 school year. Current Maine law requires kindergarteners to be immunized against pertussis, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, polio and varicella before they start school. However, the law includes a provision allowing parents to request vaccine exemptions for their children for any, or all, of the required vaccines due to philosophical, religious or medical reasons.

These data are encouraging because increased childhood immunization coverage means better protection for the whole community. When a high enough percentage of a population is immune to a disease, everyone in the population is protected against the disease, even those who cannot be vaccinated – this is known as “herd” immunity,” or community immunity. The population can be a school, a town, a county, or even the whole state. When the threshold for herd immunity is reached, the chance of cases or outbreaks of the disease occurring in the population is decreased. Continue reading

The Importance of Being on Time: Why the Vaccine Schedule Benefits Young Children

Posted on August 26th, 2015

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week’s focus is on giving children “a healthy start” through immunization. Right from birth, children are at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases that can result in severe consequences. Thankfully, vaccines are available to help protect babies when they are most vulnerable and offer protection throughout childhood and into adulthood. Now, we have more protection than ever for young children, with immunizations against 14 serious diseases! These vaccines work best when given according to the recommended schedules for ages 0-6 years and 7-18 years. Our guest blogger, Dr. Lynne Tetreault, is here to share her perspective as a Maine pediatrician on this important topic.


By Lynne Tetreault, MD

Happy almost back to school time! Like many parents this time of year, you may be trying to squeeze in the last few days of summer while making sure that your kids have what they need for school. You may also be preparing to return to a normal daily routine. Helping children adjust to the school schedule can prepare them for a successful year. But the school schedule isn’t the only one to think about – the immunization schedule is another important tool to help children thrive. Even if you have children who are too young for school, now is a great time to check their immunization record to be sure they up-to-date on their vaccines and that they get their next vaccines on time.

The Power of Vaccines

Childhood vaccines are important because they help prevent 14 serious and life-threatening diseases by the age of 2. I’ve heard people say that vaccine-preventable diseases are rare and that they aren’t very serious, but as a pediatrician, I can assure you that this simply isn’t true. Although we do see fewer cases of illness and death due to vaccine-preventable diseases than we have in the past (thanks to vaccines!), these diseases are still a threat. In 2014 there were 23 outbreaks of measles in the U.S. affecting 668 people from 27 states. This year, there have already been over 150 reported measles cases, most among people who were not vaccinated or who were unaware of their vaccination status. Outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) have also occurred in U.S. over the past few years, resulting in hundreds of infant deaths. In Maine, there have already been over 200 cases of pertussis this year, most in school-age children. Additionally, there were several reported outbreaks of chickenpox (varicella) in Maine schools at the beginning of the year. These are not mild diseases – they can be dangerous. For example, before the chickenpox vaccine, 100 kids (60 of whom were previously healthy kids) a year would die from chickenpox in this country – that’s 100 too many. Thankfully, I haven’t seen a patient die from strep meningitis in 17 years due to the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. If we stop vaccinating, or if the trend of rejecting the vaccine schedule continues, pediatricians like me will most certainly begin seeing more unnecessary illness, severe complications resulting in hospitalizations, and deaths again.

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Grown-Ups Need Shots, Too!

Posted on August 19th, 2015

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week is dedicated to immunizations for adults, and though we usually focus on immunizations for children here at VaxMaineKids, we’d like to take a moment to remind you that “vaccines aren’t just for kids.” Older adults and adults with certain medical conditions or weakened immune systems are more at risk of illness, complications, and death from vaccine-preventable diseases. Healthy adults need vaccines too, to make sure they stay healthy. As we get older, immunity that we’ve acquired through previous vaccines may begin to wear off and we may need booster doses. Some vaccines are also recommended for travel or for specific jobs. And of course, when adults are vaccinated, the whole community benefits. To help us learn more about the vaccines that are recommended for adults, we are featuring a blog by Dr. Neil Korsen. You can also take this quiz (link to: ) and talk with your healthcare provider to find out what immunizations you might need.


This article also appeared on MaineHealth’s Learning Resource Center Blog which consistently shares reliable health information to the people of Maine in an effort to educate them about various health resources and services that are available throughout the state.

By Neil Korsen, MD
Medical Adviser, MaineHealth

Just because you are a grown-up, that doesn’t mean you are done having shots. August is Vaccination Awareness Month, a perfect time to be aware of what is recommended for you.

The following recommendations are for all adults. Some shots you only need to get once to catch up, and others are needed more than once, and should be a regular part of taking care of your health. There are special recommendations for people who have some health conditions – we will talk about those later.

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Protect Your Baby from Whooping Cough

Posted on August 11th, 2015

By Dr. Erin Dawson-Chalat

Ishutterstock_115541380t’s National Immunization Awareness Month! This week’s theme is “Protect yourself and pass protection on to your baby.” Although there are some vaccines that women shouldn’t get while they are pregnant, several vaccines are safe in pregnancy and are even recommended. Diseases like influenza and whooping cough can be very serious for infants, and getting the flu while you’re pregnant can lead to complications for you. Getting vaccinated against flu and whooping cough is one of the best ways to protect mom and baby. Of course, it’s also important to be sure you are up-to-date on other vaccines before becoming pregnant. To learn more about vaccines that you may need before, during, and after pregnancy, take a look at this chart.   Because whooping cough continues to cause outbreaks in Maine and nationally, our guest blogger, Dr. Erin Dawson-Chalat is here to help us spread the word about preventing additional cases in newborns.  

A newborn baby is exciting, and friends and family can’t wait to welcome the newest addition. It is such a special time for everyone, but it is important to remember that all those visitors can bring harmful germs with them. To keep your baby healthy, you should take every opportunity to protect them from diseases that can spread easily and quickly. That includes making sure that everyone who touches the baby washes their hands first and that those who are sick wait to visit until they are well. One of the most dangerous illnesses that a baby can get is whooping cough, or pertussis, which is easily spread from children and adults to infants through coughing and sneezing. Continue reading

Preteens and Teens: Ensure their Healthy Future with Vaccines

Posted on August 6th, 2015

Adapted from the National Public Health Information Coalition

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month!  This week, August 2-8, the focus is on vaccines for preteens and teens.  It can be easy to forget that adolescents need vaccines too, especially when they’re busy with activities and they have fewer visits to see their healthcare providers than babies and young children. But it’s important to be sure they are protected because they are at greater risk for serious and potentially life-threatening diseases like meningitis, septicemia (blood infection), and the cancers caused by HPV infection.  Plus, the protection provided by some of the childhood vaccines (such as the vaccine to protect against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria) begins to wear off, so preteens need a booster dose. Being vaccinated not only helps protect adolescents from getting these diseases; it also helps stop the spread of these diseases to others in their family, classroom and community. This is especially important to help protect babies too young to be fully vaccinated, people age 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer, heart disease or other health conditions.

What Vaccines do Preteen and Teens Need?
There are four vaccines recommended for all preteens at ages 11 to 12. Teens may also need a booster dose of one of the shots or get any shots they may have missed. You can use any health care visit, including sports or camp physicals, checkups or some sick visits, to get the shots your kids need. The vaccines recommended for preteen and teen girls and boys are:

  • Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against four types of meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is caused by bacteria and is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis – a serious infection around the brain and spinal cord – in teens and young adults.
  • HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of HPV that most commonly cause cancer. HPV can cause future cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and cancers of the penis in men. In both women and men, HPV also causes mouth/throat (oropharyngeal) cancer, anal cancer and genital warts.
  • Tdap vaccine, which is a booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Pertussis (whooping cough) can keep kids out of school and activities for weeks. It can also be spread to babies who are too young to be vaccinated, and this disease can be very dangerous and sometimes deadly for babies.
  • Influenza (flu) vaccine, because even healthy kids can get the flu, and it can be serious. All kids, including your preteens and teens, should get the flu vaccine every year. Parents should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and to help protect their children.

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Hello, Summer!

Posted on July 20th, 2015

Winters in Maine are long and snowy but summers come and go in the blink of an eye – it doesn’t seem fair! When the sun is shining it’s hard to keep your kids indoors: Vax Maine Kids is here to refresh your memory on a few essentials of summer safety, so you don’t have to think twice before sending your kids out to play!

Swimming and Boating Safety
Did you know that drowning is the #1 cause of accidental injury and death among children? (AAP)

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children over the age of four years should take swimming lessons before participating in any water activity. It is important to remember that even if your child has completed swimming lessons, there is still a risk of drowning; infants and toddlers should remain within an arm’s length of a responsible adult while in the water.

Ocean and Lake Safety

      • Children who do not know how to swim very well should wear an appropriate life jacket for their age, weight and height when they are in and around water; Maine law requires children age 10 and under to wear a life jacket at all times on moving boats (ferries are an exception).
      • Feet first! Never allow your child to dive head first into the water – you never know what they could be diving into.
      • Pay close attention to children in the water – waves can unexpectedly knock them over.
      • Check swimming areas for ocean life such as water plants and animals that could be dangerous to swimmers.
      • Have your child wear water shoes to protect their feet from rocks, trash or broken glass.
      • Follow basic boating safety tips, including keeping hands and feet inside the boat at all times, not swimming near the propeller, or while it is moving, not running on the boat and not drinking alcohol while driving the boat.
      • A good list of these tips can be found on the SafeKids Worldwide website.

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      Back to School… Let’s Get Ready!

      Posted on July 1st, 2015

      Sending Your Child Back to School
      BacktoSchoolBlog-July12015From Kindergarten to preparing for college, the transition from home and summer vacation to full-time school can be overwhelming for any family. A doctor’s visit can help your family feel more prepared for the excitement and challenges that lay ahead.

      With summer just starting you’re probably thinking there’s no need to schedule a doctor’s appointment for another month, but appointments fill up fast come August. Beat the rush by scheduling your child’s appointment now.

      No matter what age your children are, Vax Maine Kids wants you to know that one of the best ways to ensure a healthy school year is to stay up-to-date on your child’s well-child visits and immunizations. Immunizations protect your child from serious preventable diseases and keep the people around you healthy, including peers, family, friends, and community members.

      If you think your children are behind on their immunizations check out the Catch-Up Immunization Scheduler and discuss options with your healthcare provider. We have also included specific details and tips for each age group below. Continue reading

      Electronic Cigarettes: Help or Harm?

      Posted on June 17th, 2015

      by Fred Wolff, LADC, TTS-C

      This article also appeared on MaineHealth’s Learning Resource Center Blog which consistently shares reliable health information to the people of Maine in an effort to educate them about various health resources and services that are available throughout the state.

      Girl holding traditional and electronic cigarette

      It is now common knowledge that never starting or quitting smoking is the best thing we can do for our health. The smoke from a cigarette contains thousands of poisonous chemicals, over 40 of which are known to cause cancer. Smoking causes diseases ranging from diabetes, lung and heart problems to lesser known conditions such as macular degeneration (causing blindness).

      Just when we seem to wrap our heads around these simple truths, something comes along to make things confusing again. By now, many of you have either seen or heard about electronic cigarettes (“e-cigarettes”), sometimes also called vapor cigarettes … but what should we think of these? Continue reading