What happens if a vaccine booster is delayed?

A lot of parents question the timing of vaccines. What happens if a vaccine booster is delayed? Does the series need to be restarted? Is it even worth it if it’s late?

There are so many questions about delayed vaccines…

This is not about a delayed schedule.

Intentionally delaying vaccines, especially during the infant schedule, puts kids at risk for catching a disease.

I always recommend giving vaccines according the standard vaccine schedule. This helps protect our children and our communities.

A bit about insurance…

There also might be insurance issues if vaccines are given out of the standard age range. Details of coverage should be in the fine print of your individual contract with your insurance company and your physician will not know coverage specifics. You should talk to your insurance company to see if there are limitations on vaccine coverage if you are vaccinating outside the standard vaccine schedule.

Most insurance companies cover the infant series until 2 years of age. I recommend getting those done prior to the 2nd birthday if at all possible, not only for the protection of your child, but also potential increased costs to you if your insurance company has age restrictions.

The “kindergarten” vaccines are given between 4 and 6 years of age and then there are “tween/teen” vaccines at 11-12 and 16 years. These also might fall into age restrictions of your insurance company, so talk to an insurance company representative if you have questions on payment.

Life happens, and sometimes there are inadvertent delays in vaccinating.

The typical question I’m asked regarding what happens if a vaccine booster is delayed is along the lines of one of these questions:

“He is due for his kindergarten shots on July 5th, but we’re on vacation then. Is it okay to wait until the end of July?”

or

“Tweeny is getting her first HPV vaccine today, but she has a big out of town tournament the week she is due for the 2nd dose. Can she come later?”

The answer to both questions: yes.

Vaccines are recommended with minimal intervals. If there’s a delay for whatever reason (missed appointments, scheduling conflicts, temporary immune compromise-such as cancer) it’s usually recommended to catch up as soon as possible.

Vaccine series do not need to be restarted if the interval has been longer than recommended. You give the next required dose and make sure successive doses fit minimal intervals and age limitations.

Minimal intervals will be discussed in a future post.

Exceptions to completing the series

There are a few vaccines that should not be given if too much time has passed.

Rotavirus vaccine

Rotavirus vaccine is very specific as to when it can be given.

There are two types of rotavirus vaccine. One is typically given at 2, 4, and 6 months. The other is given at 2 and 4 months. Either is considered acceptable. It is recommended to use the same type to complete the series, but they can be interchanged if needed.

The minimum age for the first dose is 6 weeks and the maximum age for dose #1 is 14 weeks 6 days.

Vaccination should not be started for infants age 15 weeks or older due to safety concerns in older infants. If an infant of 15 weeks 1 day or older has not started the rotavirus vaccine, they should not start it.

The maximum age for the last dose of rotavirus vaccine is 8 months and 0 days. If an older infant has not completed the series, it is not recommended to do a catch up.

Hib vaccine

The Hib vaccine also has different versions and a variable schedule due to vaccine types and combination vaccines. It is either a 3 or 4 dose series. The earliest it can be given is 6 weeks, but it standardly starts at 2 months.

At least one dose is recommended after the first birthday for children under 5 years of age.

It is not recommend to give Hib vaccine after 5 years of age to healthy children. Some high risk people should continue to get the vaccine beyond their 5th birthday.

Pneumococcal vaccine

Again, there are various types of pneumoccal vaccine, but the one routinely given to infants is the PCV13.

The youngest an infant can receive this vaccine is 6 weeks, but it’s typically given at 2, 4, 6 and 12-15 months. If a child misses doses, they should do catch up vaccines at least 28 days apart and at least one dose after the first birthday, unless they are over 5 years of age.

Only children with underlying health risks require catch up doses if they’re over 5 years of age.

Some schools require at least one dose, so children over 5 years who have never had this vaccine may be required to be vaccinated despite the CDC guidelines. While this is safe, it may not be covered by insurance. (Another great reason to stay on the routine schedule as much as possible!)

DTaP and Tdap (D and d = diptheria, T = tetanus, P and p = pertussis/whooping cough)

The DTaP vaccine is typically given at 2, 4, 6 months and then boosters at 15-18 months and 4-6 years of age. If the full series hasn’t been given, it is okay to complete it up until the 7th birthday with the DTaP.

If the child is over age 7, the Tdap should be given instead of the Dtap. These cover the same diseases, but the Dtap has a higher diphtheria component than the Tdap (as indicated by the capital letters).

The Tdap is the booster that is usually given at 11-12 years of age, but can be used as early as 7 years if the Dtap series was not completed or if there is a wound requiring a tetanus booster.

If additional doses are needed after one Tdap, Td boosters can be used to complete the primary series.

Tetanus boosters are recommended every 10 years and with each pregnancy. The Td vaccine is recommended for most of these boosters. Exceptions are that the Tdap  should be used during pregnancy and can be used if the Td is not available.

Polio

In the US, the standard polio vaccine schedule is 4 doses at 2, 4, 6-18 months and 4-6 years.

In other countries it is given soon after birth and there are additional doses. Even if a child has had more than 4 doses, if one was not given after the 4th birthday, an additional dose is needed.

Conversely, if the 3rd dose was given after the 4th birthday and 6 months or more after the previous dose, a 4th dose is not needed.

Typhoid

The typhoid vaccine is not on the standard US vaccine schedule. It’s recommended for many travelers and it might involve at-home compliance, so I decided to include it.

The injectable typhoid vaccine is recommended for 2 years of age and up and can be repeated every 2 years. Talk to your doctor to see where it is available, since they may or may not keep it in stock.

The oral typhoid vaccine is the one that can be complicated. It can be given to children over 6 years of age through adult years. It is boosted every 5 years. Even though it is a vaccine, it is given in pill form by mouth. It should be given on an empty stomach every other day for a total of 4 doses. The pills should be kept in the refrigerator, which can make them hard to remember. Because they are a live virus vaccine, they should not be taken with antibiotics. If antibiotics are required during the week of administration, the vaccine won’t be as effective and doses might need to be repeated. If there are forgotten doses, talk to your physician to be sure the series does not need to be repeated.

So… What happens if a vaccine booster is delayed?

Talk to your pediatrician (or the people where you get your vaccines) to make a plan to catch up on immunizations.

Good news! The CDC has a catch-up schedule that gives a timeline of when to give various vaccines if you’re off the typical schedule.

What happens if a vaccine booster is delayed
Source: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-child-combined-schedule.pdf#page=3

There’s even a cool vaccine scheduler that you can use to estimate what vaccines your child needs.

Talk to your physician to help decide how to catch your family up on their vaccines.

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Measles Outbreaks: What can you do to protect your family?

Any area can be affected by measles. My county is in the middle of an measles outbreak right now. This is despite relatively high MMR vaccine rates above 95% for at least 1 MMR by 3 years of age. There are a lot of questions about measles outbreaks, so I thought I’d tackle a few. Like most pediatricians, I’ve never seen measles and I hope to not miss it if I do. We all need to be aware of its symptoms so we can recognize it when we see it!

What is measles?

Measles is a viral illness that includes fever, cough, fatigue, red eyes, and a characteristic rash. The rash spreads from head to trunk to lower extremities.

Measles rash PHIL 4497 lores
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMeasles_rash_PHIL_4497_lores.jpg

RougeoleDP
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ARougeoleDP.jpg
Measles is usually a mild or moderately severe illness. It can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death (risk of 2-3 per 1000).

One rare complication of measles infection that occurs many years after the illness appears to resolve is subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE). It is a fatal disease of the central nervous system that usually develops 7–10 years after infection.

 

 

 

Koplik spots, measles 6111 lores
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AKoplik_spots%2C_measles_6111_lores.jpg
Koplik spots are a specific rash seen in the inner cheek. Koplik spots are visible from 1 – 2 days before the measles rash and disappears to 1 – 2 days later. They look like white spots with a blue center on the bright red background of the cheek. They can easily be missed because they are not present for long, but if seen are classic for measles.

What is the timeline of symptoms after exposure?

Measles is highly infectious. It is primarily transmitted by large respiratory droplets in the air, so handwashing doesn’t help prevent exposure.

An area remains at risk for up to 2 hours after a person with measles was there. This is why it is IMPERATIVE that you should not leave your house if you suspect you have measles until you have spoken with the health department or your physician. DO NOT go to a walk in clinic or your doctor’s office unannounced. You will need to make arrangements to meet someone outside and wear a mask into the building. You will be put in a special negative pressure room, which is not available in most clinics.

More than 90% of susceptible people develop measles when they’re exposed.

The average incubation period for measles is 11–12 days. It takes 7–21 days for the rash to show. It is due to this long time for the characteristic rash that susceptible people who were exposed are put in isolation for up to 21 days.

Most people are contagious from about 4 days before they show the rash until 4 days after the rash develops. If a person has measles and the rash resolves, they can leave isolation when cleared by their physician and/or the health department.

What is a measles outbreak?

Measles outbreaks are defined as 3 or more measles cases linked in time and space.

How do outbreaks start?

I know the big question on everyone’s mind during an outbreak is, “Where did it start?”

Often an unimmunized traveler brings the measles virus into the US. Countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific continue to have outbreaks. Travelers who visit those countries can return to the US and share the virus for a few days before symptoms are recognized. Anyone who was in the same area as an infected person for up to 2 hours after that person left the area could be exposed.

In case you’ve heard that vaccines can lead to outbreaks: that’s not the case. Measles shedding from the MMR does not cause disease.

What happens during an outbreak?

Measles Outbreaks: What can you do to protect your family?During an identified outbreak of any reportable infectious disease, the health department directs what to do. They attempt to identify and notify all people who are at risk.

Our current outbreak involves several infants from the same unnamed daycare in addition to people not associated with the daycare. I know many families are worried that their child was at that daycare. Families at that daycare will have been notified by the health department already. The health department will track all known contacts of those families.

Local health departments also will notify the public of known locations of potential contact with the virus. The above linked article lists the known locations that infected people visited during their contagious period.

Why are infants at risk?

Infants are at particular risk because they are not typically vaccinated against measles until 1 year of age.

When the virus is in a setting with infants, such as a daycare, it can easily spread.

Infants under 2 years of age who are infected also tend to have more complications from the disease than older children and adults. This is one of the biggest reasons to not wait until 2 years to start immunizations, as some anti-vaccine groups suggest.

If you think you were exposed to or have symptoms of measles

It is IMPERATIVE that you should not leave your house if you suspect you have measles until you have spoken with the health department or your physician.

DO NOT go to a walk in clinic or your doctor’s office unannounced.

You will need to make arrangements to meet someone outside and wear a mask into the building. You will be put in a special negative pressure room, which is not available in most clinics.

Do not go to the pharmacy to pick up medications. Don’t go to the grocery store for food.

Do not leave your home unless it is to a medical facility that knows you’re coming and is prepared.

(Yes, I know I repeated myself for much of this section, but it’s that important!)

The MMR vaccine can help stop the spread

The MMR vaccine is recommended routinely at 12-15 months and again at 4-6 years of age. Vaccines not only help the vaccinated, but provide herd immunity to those too young to be immunized and to those who are immunocompromised.

Please be sure your family is up to date on all their vaccines. All children over 1 year of age should have at least 1 MMR vaccine. All school aged children and adults should have 2 MMRs. By vaccinating your family, you not only protect them, but also those around you!

Why is a second dose given?

The second dose is used to provide immunity to the approximately 5% of people who did not develop immunity with the first dose. It is not a booster because it doesn’t boost the effect of the first dose.

The second MMR helps some people develop immunity if the first vaccine did not work effectively.

This second dose can be given as early as 28 days after the first.

Why don’t we start the vaccine series earlier?

Many parents worry that we don’t give live virus vaccines to infants because they’re less safe, but that’s not why at all.

Maternal antibodies (fighter cells from mom that got into baby during pregnancy) can inhibit the body from being able to build its own antibodies well against a vaccine.

Maternal antibodies are good because as long as they’re in the baby’s body, they fight off germs and protect the infant! They tend to hang around for the first 6-12 months of life.

If a disease has a low incidence, it is acceptable to let the maternal antibodies do their job for the first year.

By the first birthday most maternal antibodies have left the infant, so a vaccine can be used to build the baby’s immunity.

Sometimes we do vaccinate earlier

If there is a high risk of exposure it is recommended to give the vaccine as early as 6 months in case the maternal antibodies are already too low for infant protection.

Many parts of the world have high measles rates so fit into this recommendation. When infants between 6 and 12 months travel internationally, they should receive one dose of MMR vaccine prior to travel.

Sometimes during US outbreaks it is recommended to vaccinate infants 6-12 months. The local health department helps to determine which infants should be immunized in this situation.

If the maternal antibody levels are still high in the infant, the vaccine won’t work. In this situation the baby should still be protected against the disease from mom’s antibodies. That is why this early vaccine does not “count” toward the two needed after the first birthday.

At some point the maternal antibodies go away, we just don’t know when exactly, so the baby who gets the MMR early needs another dose after his first birthday to be sure he’s making his own antibodies once mom’s go away. This dose after the birthday is the first that “counts” toward the two MMRs that are needed.

The next dose of MMR can be anytime at least 28 days after the first counted dose, but we traditionally give it between 4-6 years with the kindergarten shots.

What if someone who hasn’t been vaccinated is exposed?

measles outbreaks, what can you do to protect your family
Source: http://www.immunize.org/photos/measles-photos.asp

The MMR vaccine may be effective if given within the first 3 days (72 hours) after exposure to measles. This is why the local health department is so aggressive in identifying cases during an outbreak.

Immune globulin (IGIM, a type of immunity that doesn’t require a person to make their own immunity) may be effective for as long as 6 days after exposure. IGIM should be given to all infants younger than 6-12 months who have been exposed to measles. The MMR vaccine can be given instead of IGIM to infants age 6 through 11 months, if it can be given within 72 hours of exposure.

Are boosters of the MMR needed?

are mmr boosters needed
From my practice Facebook page. Note: In this reply I was going off of my experience many years ago. At that time the advice was only 1 additional MMR, but my research for this blog shows otherwise!

Those of us who work in healthcare must have titers checked to verify immunity to many of the vaccine preventable diseases.

Healthcare workers come into contact with sick patients and patients with weak immune systems, so this is one way to help control disease spread.

From Immunize.org:
Adults with no evidence of immunity (defined as documented receipt of 1 dose [2 doses 4 weeks apart if high risk] of live measles virus-containing vaccine, laboratory evidence of immunity or laboratory confirmation of disease, or birth before 1957) should get 1 dose of MMR unless the adult is in a high-risk group. High-risk people need 2 doses and include healthcare personnel, international travelers, students at post-high school educational institutions, people exposed to measles in an outbreak setting, and those previously vaccinated with killed measles vaccine or with an unknown type of measles vaccine during 1963 through 1967.

Most people don’t know their immune status, and it’s not recommended at this time to check it for the general population.

During an outbreak exposed people might be asked to be tested to help identify risk factors and track disease patterns.

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Common risks from shots: real and perceived

Parents want to keep their kids as healthy as possible, but with the overwhelming amount of information found on media these days, it’s hard to know what is safe and what risks really are when it comes to vaccines. What are the common risks from shots?

Nothing we do is without risk.

risks from vaccines
There are many unfounded fears about vaccines. What are the real risks?

The most risky thing most of us do daily is to get in a car and drive somewhere.

We can minimize the risk by wearing a seatbelt and putting our kids in the proper sized car seat, obeying the traffic laws, and adjusting our driving to the road and weather conditions, but there is always the chance of an accident.

For most of us, the risk of an accident is outweighed by the benefits of getting to where you need to go.

 

Some people want you to think we give kids green toxin-laden vaccines from huge syringes (at least if you look at the photos like I show above). But no, vaccines don’t look green, and we don’t inject them like most stock photos show.

Vaccines have risks, but more benefits.

The benefits are many, including preventing early death from infection. The risks are often overblown, but do exist.

What about package inserts?

You might have read somewhere that you should read the package insert of vaccines before allowing your child to get a vaccine, like there’s some big secret everyone’s trying to hide.

No one’s hiding anything. They’re available online.

The problem isn’t hidden information, it’s people mistaking what is written for something that it’s not.

The package insert has a lot of information, but it’s designed for legal reasons, not consumer information sharing.

Some groups who try to warn people about vaccines encourage the reading of package inserts to learn risks of the vaccines.

This can lead to undue fear and confusion because not all problems recorded in the adverse reactions section of the package insert are due to the vaccine.

If someone fell out of a tree and broke his leg after a vaccine and reported it during vaccine trials, “broken leg” could be listed as a reaction. It does not mean that the vaccine broke the leg or caused the broken leg in any way, but it is reported in a way that can make it look like there is a cause and effect relationship.

More realistically, it is common for people to have headaches or congestion, so these types of things get reported for most medicines in their package inserts. It does not mean the medicine caused the headache or congestion, just that people had those symptoms during the study period.

For a more detailed description of package inserts, see Package Inserts – Understanding What They Do (and Don’t) Say.

Common Risks from shots that are known

The risks of all vaccines are similar. Specific risks can be found on the Vaccine Information Sheets, which are designed to educate consumers about risks and benefits.
These risks include:
Pain with injection

This is very subjective.

Most babies cry, but typically as soon as they are cuddled by a parent they quickly calm down.

Toddlers are more prone to longer crying times, but that often starts unrelated to the vaccine and is not solely due to pain. It’s often due to their frustration and/or fear of being in the doctor’s office.

Older kids often will say the pain was less than they feared, but some do complain for several minutes. Moving the arms or legs that were injected can help ease this pain.

You can do many things to help kids tolerate the shots with less pain.

Fever

A mild fever can occur for a day or two after many vaccines.

Most kids do not need any fever reducers for this. The fever reducers might even reduce some of the effectiveness of the vaccine, so are not routinely recommended after vaccines.

If the temperature is over 102F or the child is very fussy with the fever, it is okay to use a fever reducer. These higher fevers are not common after vaccines, but are possible.

Fussiness or feeling mildly ill

Infants can be fussy for a few days and older kids might say they feel tired or have a headache.

Some kids (and adults) will feel like they’re getting sick, but it never evolves into an illness and it stays mild.

Extra sleep would be beneficial, but typically no treatment is needed.

Non-stop crying

While unusual, it is possible that an infant will cry for hours after one or more vaccines.

If this occurs, you can try a pain reliever.

If the crying doesn’t stop, have your child examined to identify if something significant is causing the crying.

Seizure

It is not common to have a seizure after a vaccine, but whenever a child under 5-6 years of age has a fever, it’s possible to have a fever seizure.

Most fever seizures are from viral illnesses, some of which are prevented by vaccines.

Vaccines rarely cause fever seizures, but if the temperature increases rapidly after a vaccine in a susceptible child, it’s possible.

If a child has a fever seizure, it is scary to watch but does not lead to permanent brain damage.

Interestingly, studies show that delaying the MMR past 15 months increases the risk of seizures.

Any child who has a first time seizure should be evaluated for potential causes and treatments.

Pain, tenderness and swelling
vaccine side effect redness
This is my arm 2 days after a Tdap. The area was swollen, warm and red. The redness has irregular borders, looking lacy in appearance, which is common in shot reactions. I didn’t need any pain relievers. The muscle was sore from the tetanus, but the redness wasn’t uncomfortable.

Some vaccines, such as DTaP and Tdap, are more prone to swelling and redness than others.

The most swelling tends to happen after several doses of these vaccines, such as with kindergarteners, tweens, or adults.

My son’s arm was so swollen after kindergarten shots that he couldn’t fit into some of his shirts with narrow sleeves, but it was a normal shot reaction.

With a shot reaction the inflammation begins a few hours after vaccination, peaks 24 to 48 hours afterward and resolves within one week.

Tenderness is usually at its worst during the first few hours and resolves as the reaction enlarges.

The amount of swelling and redness is more significant than pain or tenderness with a classical vaccine reaction.

Infection of the injection site

Very rarely the area can become infected (cellulitis) but this is exceedingly rare now that most childhood vaccines come in single dose syringes.

Cellulitis can evolve rapidly — often within 12 to 24 hours.

Diagnosis is based on the symptoms of redness, pain, swelling and warmth, usually with fever and ill appearance.

Most redness and swelling is a normal shot reaction and not a sign of infection. If your child seems ill along with a painful red and swollen area where the vaccine was injected, it might be wise to have your doctor take a look at it.

Risk vs Benefit

The risks above must be weighed against the benefits of vaccinating.

In my family, we vaccinate against all recommended vaccine preventable diseases by following the standard schedule.

I advise that most people do the same. There are those who cannot receive vaccines due to age or health status, and they depend on us all to vaccinate.



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The flu shot doesn’t work

I’ve seen a few kids this season who have influenza despite the fact that they had the vaccine. When the family hears that the flu test is positive (or that symptoms are consistent with influenza and testing isn’t done), they often say they won’t do the flu shot again because it didn’t work.

flu shot ineffectiveHow do they know it isn’t working?

Influenza can be deadly.

Most of the kids I’ve seen with flu who have had the shot aren’t that sick. Yes, they have a fever and cough. They aren’t well.

But they’re not in the hospital.

They’re not dying.

They tend to get better faster than those who have unvaccinated influenza.

Some kids still get very sick with influenza despite the vaccine.

That’s why there’s surveillance to see how it’s working.

When FluMist was determined to not be effective, it was removed from the market.

Studies are underway to make a new type of flu vaccine that should be more effective.

We know the shot isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

Maybe if you weren’t vaccinated you’d be a lot sicker.

Maybe you were exposed to another strain of flu and didn’t get sick at all.

I think it’s still worth it to get vaccinated each year (until they come up with a vaccine that lasts several seasons).

If everyone who’s eligible gets vaccinated against the flu, herd immunity kicks in and it doesn’t spread as easily. Historically only around 40% of people are vaccinated each year against influenza. We know that to get herd immunity we need much higher numbers.

Shot fears…

If your kids are scared of shots, check out Vaccines Don’t Have to Hurt As Much As Some Fear.

Don’t rely on Tamiflu to treat flu symptoms once you’ve gotten sick.

Tamiflu really isn’t that great of a treatment. It hasn’t been shown to decrease hospitalization or complication rates. It shortens the course by about a day. It has side effects and can be expensive. During flu outbreaks it can be hard to find.

Prevention’s the best medicine.

Learn 12 TIMELY TIPS FOR COLD AND FLU VIRUS PREVENTION.

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It’s not the flu!

I was at the gym today and an otherwise great instructor who seems to know a lot about health was sharing incorrect information about the flu with the class of about 40 people. She said that she had received several texts from other instructors asking her to cover their classes because they were vomiting. Then she went on to say that many at first thought it was food poisoning, but it’s spreading like illness, so it’s the flu, not food poisoning. She made a big deal that the flu is here. Is vomiting from the flu?

She’s only partially right.

Yes…

There’s a stomach bug going around.

It’s not food poisoning.

Influenza is in town.

But this extreme vomiting is not “the flu”

vomiting from the flu
Vomiting can be associated with influenza, but is not the main symptom.

The flu causes predominantly fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches for many days. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but those aren’t usually the predominant symptoms. And the flu doesn’t cause just a few hours of extreme vomiting like we’re seeing these days.

Why do I care if people call this stomach bug “flu”?

Runny nose is one of the symptoms of influenza.

The biggest reason I care is that it leads people to make other incorrect assumptions and to get the wrong treatments.

I hear all the time that people had the flu the year they got a flu shot, so they don’t want to get it anymore.

When probed about their illness, it’s usually not consistent with the flu. It was either a cold and cough or a stomach virus.

If they think a common cold or vomiting is from the flu, they’re mistaken.

They need to know that this isn’t the flu.
Cough is one of the most common symptoms of influenza, along with fever, sore throat, and body aches.

Common colds and vomiting are not prevented with the flu shot.

The flu shot has nothing to do with protecting against most cases of vomiting and diarrhea or most upper respiratory tract infections.

Of course there are people who got the flu shot (or FluMist when it was available) who did come down with the flu. They had a positive flu test and symptoms were consistent with the flu. But if they get influenza after the vaccine they tend to have milder symptoms. They tend to not end up in the hospital or dead if they’ve had the vaccine. Yes, even healthy young people can end up very sick from influenza. They can even die. (The FluMist didn’t protect well and was removed from the market due to this.)

We forget about all the times people did get the vaccine and they didn’t catch the flu even with likely exposure. Lack of disease is easy to fail to acknowledge.

We know the flu vaccine is imperfect. But if the majority of people get vaccinated, we can slow the rate of spread and protect us all against influenza most effectively.

We don’t have great treatments for influenza, so vaccinating and using other precautions is important!

7 Vitamin K Myths Busted

Social media has allowed the sharing of misinformation about many things, especially medically related things. When the specifics of something are unknown to a person, pretty much anything that’s said can sound reasonable, so people believe what they hear. This happens with many things, such as vaccine risks, chelation, and vitamin K. I want to tackle 7 Vitamin K Myths.

Refusing Vitamin K

I am especially frustrated when parents refuse to give their newborns vitamin K after birth. Since 1961, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended giving every newborn a single shot of vitamin K given at birth. This is a life saving treatment to prevent bleeding.

Life saving.

Vitamin K works to help our blood clot. Insufficient levels can lead to bleeding in the brain or other vital organs. Vitamin K deficiency bleeding or VKDB, can occur any time in the first 6 months of life. There are three types of VKDB, based on the age of the baby when the bleeding problems start: early, classical and late. Unfortunately there are usually no warning signs that a baby will have significant bleeding, so when the bleeding happens, it’s too late to do anything about it. Why parents don’t want to give this preventative life saving treatment is usually based on incorrect information.

This is a matter of a fairly low risk of bleeding if you don’t give vitamin K: 250-1700 per 100,000 within the first week, and 4-7 per 100,000 between 2 and 12 weeks. You might notice that the number is variable – it’s hard to study since the large majority of babies have gotten vitamin K over the years and the risk is low even without vitamin K. However, when there is bleeding it has significant consequences: lifelong disability or death. And we also know that there’s very low risk from the vitamin K and it works very well to prevent bleeding. So why take the chance of not giving it?

Conspiracy Theories, Misunderstandings, and Science

This is not a governmental conspiracy to somehow kill children. It’s a world wide attempt to help children survive and thrive.

The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines:

All newborns should be given 1 mg of vitamin K intramuscularly [IM] after birth [after the first hour during which the infant should be in skin-to-skin contact with the mother and breastfeeding should be initiated]. (Strong recommendation, moderate quality evidence)

Science is hard to understand

Most people look at scientific information and can’t make heads or tails of what it means.

Photo Source: Hemorrhagic Disease of the Newborn

That coupled with the fact that things we read that make us react emotionally (such as fear that something will harm our child) makes us remember and associate with the information that created the emotion, whether it is right or wrong. This can lead parents to make dangerous decisions for their children while trying to do the right thing.

Myth Busting

I’m going to attempt to de-bunk the most common concerns I’ve heard because the best way to combat misinformation is to help explain the facts as we know them.

1. If every baby’s born with too little vitamin K, that’s the way we’re supposed to be.

Babies are born with very little vitamin K in their body. If they don’t get it with a shot, they need to either eat it or make it. Breast milk has very little vitamin K and babies won’t be eating leafy greens for quite awhile. Formula does have it, but it takes several days for vitamin K to rise to protective levels with formula and the highest risk of bleeding is during that first week of life. (Of course if you’re using this argument because you want babies to be all natural, you probably won’t be giving formula at this point.)

Bacteria help us make vitamin K, but babies aren’t colonized at birth with these gut bacteria.

Just because they’re born that way doesn’t mean they’re supposed to stay that way. Inside the mother the baby is in a very different situation. They don’t breathe air. A fetus doesn’t eat. They don’t have gut bacteria. Their heart has a bypass tract to avoid pumping blood to the lungs. This all works well in utero, but must change once they leave the womb. Change takes time, and during this time they are at risk. Why not minimize the risk if we know a safe way to do it?

2. The package insert has a big warning at the top that it can kill.

There are many reasons why we should not use the package insert of a medicine or vaccine to make healthcare decisions. These have been discussed before so I won’t go into all the details but please see these great blogs on how to read and use package inserts:

It is true that there is a black box warning on the top of the vitamin K package insert. This has scared some parents from wanting to get the vitamin K shot for their newborn.

Screen Shot from Package Insert 

Reactions to IV (intravenous) vitamin K are much more common than IM (intramuscular) injections. The difference is anything given by IV goes directly into the bloodstream and back to the heart. But we don’t give vitamin K by IV to newborns.

IM injections go into the muscle, allowing very slow absorption of the medicine. This not only decreases reactions to the injected vitamin, but also helps the level of vitamin K stay elevated for a prolonged time after a single injection.

I only found one report of a newborn with a significant reaction to vitamin K. The authors of the paper did note that IM vitamin K has been given for many years to babies all over the world without significant reactions and could not explain why the one infant had such a significant reaction.

Since we must always look at risk vs benefit, the very, very low risk of a serious reaction from receiving vitamin K IM is preferable to the benefit of the prevention of VKDB.

Another great resource on this topic is Dr. Vincent Iannelli’s That Black Box Warning on Vitamin K Shots.

3. Vitamin K causes cancer.

Many years ago there was a small study that suggested vitamin K led to childhood cancers. This issue has been extensively studied since then and no link has been found.

Vitamin K does not cause cancer.

Rates of cancer have not increased in the years since vitamin K has been given to the large majority of newborns worldwide. This is reported in the Vitamin K Ad Hoc Task Force of the American Academy of Pediatrics report Controversies Concerning Vitamin K and the Newborn.

4. Bleeding from vitamin K deficiency is rare or mild.

In the US bleeding from vitamin K deficiency is rare because most babies get the vitamin K shot soon after birth. In countries where vitamin K is not used routinely, bleeding is not rare at all. Some communities of the US where vitamin K is being refused by parents are seeing an increase in newborn bleeding.

Early VKDB occurs within 24 hours of birth and is almost exclusively seen in infants of mothers taking drugs which inhibit vitamin K. These drugs include anticonvulsants, anti-tuberculosis drugs, some antibiotics (cephalosporins) and blood thinners to prevent clots. Early VKDB is typically severe bleeding in the brain or gut.

Classic VKDB typically occurs during the first week of life. The incidence of classic VKDB ranges from 0.25-1.7 cases per 100 births.

Late onset VKDB occurs between 2 and 12 weeks usually, but is possible up to 6 months after birth. Late VKDB has fallen from 4.4-7.2 cases per 100,000 births to 1.4-6.4 cases per 100,000 births in reports from Asia and Europe after routine prophylaxis was started.

One out of five babies with VKDB dies.

Of the infants who have late VKDB, about half have bleeding into their brains, which can lead to permanent brain damage if they survive. Others bleed in their stomach or intestines, or other vital organs. Many need blood transfusions or surgeries to help correct the problems from the bleeding.

5. It’s just as good to use oral vitamin K.

Early onset VKDB is prevented well with the oral vitamin K in countries that have oral vitamin K available, but late onset VKDB is an issue.

Children with liver or gall bladder problems will not absorb oral vitamin K well. These problems might be undiagnosed early in life, putting these kids at risk for VKDB if they are on an oral vitamin K regimen.

Getting the oral form isn’t easy

There is no liquid form of vitamin K that is proven to be effective for babies in the US.

That is a huge issue.

Some families will order vitamin K online, but it’s not guaranteed to be safe or even what it claims to be. This is an unregulated industry. It is possible to use the vitamin K solution that is typically given intramuscularly by mouth, but this requires a prescription and the taste is questionable, so baby might not take the full dose.

It would be an off-label use so physicians might not feel comfortable writing a prescription. The other issue that might worry physicians is with compliance in remembering to give the oral vitamin K as directed, since most studies include babies with late onset bleeding who had missed doses.

Vitamin K in food

Most of us get vitamin K from gut bacteria and eating leafy green vegetables.

Newborns don’t have the gut bacteria established yet so they won’t make any vitamin K themselves. They may get vitamin K through their diet, but breastmilk is very low in vitamin K. Unless baby is getting formula, they will not get enough vitamin K without a supplement.

It is possible for mothers who breastfeed to increase their vitamin K intake to increase the amount in breast milk, but not to sufficient levels to protect the baby without additional vitamin K.

What do other countries do?

Many countries that have used an oral vitamin K protocol, such as Denmark and Holland, have changed to an intramuscular regimen because the oral vitamin K that was previously used became no longer available.

There are various oral vitamin K dosing strategies that can be reviewed in the linked abstract.

  •  Australia and Germany: 3 oral doses of 1 mg vitamin K are less effective than a single IM vitamin K dose. (In 1994 Australia changed to a single IM dose and their rate went to zero after the change.)
  • Netherlands: A 1mg oral dose after birth followed by a daily oral dose of 25 mcg vitamin K1 may be as effective as parenteral vitamin K prophylaxis.
  • Sweden: (a later study) 2 mg of mixed micellar VK given orally at birth, 4 days, and 1 month has a failure rate of one case of early and four cases of late VKDB out of 458,184 babies. Of the failures, 4 had an undiagnosed liver issue, one baby’s parents forgot the last dose.
Oral Vitamin K vs injectable (IM) Vitamin K

When vitamin K is given IM, the chance of late VKDB is near zero.

Oral vitamin K simply doesn’t prevent both early and late bleeding as well. This is especially true if there is an unknown malabsorption disorder, regardless of which dosing regimen is used.

6. My baby’s birth was not traumatic, so he doesn’t need the vitamin K.

Birth trauma can certainly lead to bleeding, but the absence of trauma does not exclude it.

Late vitamin K deficient bleeding (VKDB) cannot be explained by any birth traumas since they can occur months later.

7. We’re delaying cord clamping to help prevent anemia and bleeding. Isn’t that enough?

Delayed cord clamping can have benefits, but decreasing the risk of bleeding is not one of them.

There is very little vitamin K in the placenta or newborn. Delaying the cord clamping cannot allow more vitamin K into the baby.

Still not convinced?

Read stories about babies whose parents chose to not give vitamin K:

For More Information:

Evidence on: The Vitamin K Shot in Newborns (Evidenced Based Birth)

Traveling with Kids

Many families travel when school’s out of session, which over the winter holiday season and spring break means traveling when illness is abound. I get a lot of questions this time of year about how to safely travel with kids. Traveling with kids can increase the level of difficulty, but it can be done safely and still be enjoyable!

Sleep disturbances

Sleep deprivation can make everyone miserable, especially kids (and their parents). Make sure your kids are well rested prior to travel and try to keep them on a healthy sleep schedule during your trip.
  • Bring favorite comfort items, such as a stuffed animal or blankie, to help kids relax for sleep. If possible, travel with your own pillows.
  • If you’re staying at a hotel, ask for a quiet room, such as one away from the pool and the elevator.
  • Be sure to verify that there will be safe sleeping areas for every child, especially infants, before you travel.
  • Try to keep kids on their regular sleep schedule. It’s tempting to stay up late to enjoy the most of the vacation, but in reality that will only serve to make little monsters of your children if they’re sleep deprived.
  • If your kids nap well in the car, plan on doing long stretches on the road during nap time. If kids don’t sleep well in the car, be sure to plan to be at your hotel (or wherever you’re staying) at sleep times so they can stay in their usual routine.
  • Some families leave on long trips at the child’s bedtime to let them sleep through the drive. Just be sure the driver is well rested to make it a safe trip!
  • If you’re changing time zones significantly, plan ahead. Jet lag can be worse when traveling east than when going west. Jet lag is more than just being tired from a change in sleep routine, it also involves changes to the eating schedule. Kids will often wake when they’re used to eating because the body is hungry at that time. Try to feed everyone right before they go to sleep to try to prevent this. Breastfed infants might have a harder time adjusting because mother’s milk production is also off schedule.
  • Tired, sick, and hungry all make for bad moods, so try to stay on track on all accounts. Sunlight helps regulate our circadian rhythm, so try to get everyone up and outside in the morning to help reset their inner clocks. Keep everyone active during the day so they are tired at the new night-time.

Keeping track of littles

  • Toddlers and young kids love to run and roam. Be sure that they are always within sight. Use strollers if they’ll stay in them.
  • Consider toddler leashes. I know they seem awful at first thought, but they work and kids often love them! I never needed one for my first – he was attached to parents at the hip and never wandered. My second was fast. And fearless. She would run between people in crowds and it was impossible to keep up with her without pushing people out of the way. She hated holding hands. She always figured out ways to climb out of strollers – and once had a nasty bruise on her forehead when she fell face down climbing out as I pushed the stroller. She loved the leash. It had a cute monkey backpack. She loved the freedom of being able to wander around and I loved that she couldn’t get too far.
  • Parents have a number of ways to put phone numbers on their kids in case they get separated. Some simply put in on a piece of paper and trust that it will stay in a pocket until it’s needed. Others write it in sharpie inside a piece of clothing or even on a child’s arm. You can have jewelry engraved with name and phone number, much like a medical alert bracelet. Just look at Etsy or Pinterest and you’ll come up with ideas!
  • It’s a great idea to take pictures of everyone each morning in case someone gets separated from the group. Not only will you have a current picture for authorities to see what they look like, but you will also know what they were wearing at the time they were lost.
  • If you want more, I wrote a whole blog on keeping kids from wandering.

Airplane issues

  • The great news is that air travel is much safer from an infection standpoint than it used to be. Newer airplanes have HEPA filters that make a complete air change approximately 15 to 30 times per hour, or once every 2-4 minutes. The filters are said to remove 99.9% of bacteria, fungi and larger viruses. These germs can live on surfaces though, so I still recommend using common sense and bringing along a small hand sanitizer bottle and disinfectant wipes to use as needed. Wipe down arm rests, tray tables, seat pockets, windows, and other surfaces your kids will touch. After they touch unclean items sanitize their hands. Interestingly, sitting in an aisle seat is considered more dangerous, since people touch those seats during boarding and when going to the restroom, so if you’re seated in the aisle pay attention to when surfaces need to be re-sanitized. Sitting next to a sick person increases your risk, so if there is an option to move if the person seated next to you is ill appearing, ask to be moved.
  • Most adults who have flown have experienced ear pain due to pressure changes when flying. Anyone with a cold, ear infection or congestion from allergies is more at risk of ear pain, so pre-medicating with a pain reliever (such as acetaminophen) might help. If you have allergies be sure to get control of them before air travel. The best allergy treatment is usually a nasal corticosteroid.
  • It has often been recommended to offer infants something to suck on (bottle, breast or a pacifier) during take off and landing to help with ear pressure. Start early in the landing – the higher you are, the more the pressure will change. Older toddlers and kids can be offered a drink since swallowing can help. Ask them to hold their nose closed and try to blow air out through the closed nostrils followed by a big yawn. If your kids can safely chew gum (usually only recommended for those over 4 years of age) you can allow them to chew during take off and landing.
  • Airplane cabin noise levels can range anywhere from 60 – 100 dB and tend to be louder during takeoff. (I’ve written about Hearing Loss from noise previously to help you understand what that means.) Use cotton balls or small earplugs to help decrease the exposure, especially if your kids are sensitive to loud noises.
  • The Car Seat Lady has a great page on knowing your rights when flying with kids.

Cruise ship issues

  • Learn about cruise-specific opportunities for kids of various ages. Many will offer age-specific child care, “clubs” or areas to allow safe opportunities for everyone to hang out with people of their own age group. Cruises offer the opportunity for adventurous kids to be independent and separate from parents at times, allowing each to have a separate-yet-together vacation. Travel with another family with kids the same ages as yours so your child knows a friendly face, especially if siblings are in a different age group for the cruises “clubs”.
  • Talk to kids about safety issues on the ship and make sure they follow your rules. They should always stay where they are supposed to be and not wander around. There’s safety in numbers, so have them use a buddy system and stick with their buddy. Find out how you can get a hold of them and they can get a hold of you during the cruise.
  • Of course sunscreen is a must. Reapply often!
  • Be sure kids are properly supervised near water. That means an adult who is responsible for watching the kids should not be under the influence of alcohol, shouldn’t read a book, or have other distractions.

Car seats (for planes, trains and automobiles)

  • I know it’s tempting to save money and not get a seat for your child under 2 years of age on a plane, but it is recommended that all children are seated in a proper child safety restraint system (CRS). It must be approved for flight, but then you can then use the seat for land travel.
  • I always recommend age and size appropriate car seats or boosters when traveling, even if you’re in a country that does not require them. Allowing kids to ride without a proper seat will probably lead to problems getting them back in their safe seat when they get back home. Besides, we use car seats and booster seats to protect our kids, not just to satisfy the law.
  • So… my section header was meant to be cute. Trains don’t have seatbelts, so car seats won’t work. But they are a safe way to travel. Car Seat for the Littles has a great explanation on Travel by Train.

Motion sickness

When should pregnant women and new babies avoid travel by air?

  • A surprising number of families either must travel (due to a job transfer, death in the family, out of state adoption, or other important occasion) or choose to travel during pregnancy or with young infants.
  • Newborns need constant attention, which can be difficult if the seatbelt sign is on and needed items are in the overhead bin. New parents are already sleep deprived and sleeping on planes isn’t easy. New moms might still have swollen feet and need to keep their feet up, which is difficult in flight. Newborns are at high risk of infection and the close contact with other travelers can be a concern. And traveling is hard on everyone. But the good news is that overall young infants tend to travel well.
  • It is advisable to not travel after 36 weeks of pregnancy because of concerns of preterm labor. Pregnant women should talk with their OB about travel plans.
  • Some airlines allow term babies as young as 48 hours of age to fly, but others require infants to be two weeks – so check with your airline if you’ll be traveling in the first days of your newborn’s life. There is no standard guideline, but my preference would be to wait until term babies are over 2 weeks of age due to heart circulation changes that occur the first two weeks. Waiting until after 6 weeks allows for newborns to get the first set of vaccines (other than the Hepatitis B vaccine) prior to flight would be even better. Infants ideally have their own seat so they can be placed in a car seat that is FAA approved.
  • Babies born before 36 weeks and those with special health issues should get clearance from their physicians before traveling.
  • Overall traveling with an infant is not as difficult as many parents fear. Toddlers are another story… they don’t like to sit still for any amount of time and flights make that difficult. They also touch everything and put fingers in their mouth, so they are more likely to get exposed to germs.

Illness prevention

Who wants to be sick on vacation? No one. It’s easy to get exposed anywhere during the cold and flu season, so protect yourself and your family.
  • Teach kids (and remind yourself) to not touch faces – your own or others. Our eyes, nose, and mouth are the portals of entry and exit for germs.
  • Wash hands before and after eating, after blowing your nose, before and after touching eyes/nose/mouth, before and after putting in contacts, after toileting or changing a diaper, and when they’re obviously soiled.
  • Cover sneezes and coughs with your elbow unless you’re cradling an infant in your arms. Infants have their head and face in your elbow, so you should use your hands to cover, then wash your hands well.

 

Make sure all family members are up to date on vaccines.

 

Keep records

Take pictures of your passport, vaccine record, medicines, insurance cards, and other important items to use if the originals are lost. Store the images so you have access to them from any computer in addition to your phone in case your phone is lost.

Have everyone, including young children, carry a form of identification that includes emergency contact information.

Create a medical history form that includes the following information for every member of your family that is travelling. Save a copy so you can easily find it on any computer in case of emergency.

  • your name, address, and phone number
  • emergency contact name(s) and phone number(s)
  • immunization record
  • your doctor’s name, address, and office and emergency phone numbers
  • the name, address, and phone number of your health insurance carrier, including your policy number
  • a list of any known health problems or recent illnesses
  • a list of current medications and supplements you are taking and pharmacy name and phone number
  • a list of allergies to medications, food, insects, and animals
  • a prescription for glasses or contact lenses

Enjoy!

Last, but not least: Enjoy your vacation!
Be flexible.

Don’t overschedule. Your kids will remember the experience, so make moments count – don’t worry if you don’t accomplish all there is to do!

Take a look at some of the Holiday Health Hazards that come up at vacation times from Dr Christina at PMPediatrics so you can prevent accidents along the way.

Take pictures, but don’t make the vacation about the pictures. Try to stay off your phone and enjoy the moments!

10 Reasons Not To Get the Flu Vaccine, Reconsidered: Fight Flu!

Influenza is not a just a bad cold. People sick with the flu can suffer from fevers, cough, sore throat and body aches. If you want to prevent this and more complications, don’t brush off getting the flu vaccine. There are many reasons to get the flu vaccine.

Complications of flu

Flu can lead to complications, many of them severe, and death.

Complications include pneumonia, ear infections, and sinus infections.

Since 2010, influenza has resulted in between 9.2 and 35.6 million illnesses, between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths each year. 

There’s good news though. There’s a vaccine to help prevent the flu.

Reasons to get the flu vaccine

There are many reasons people don’t get the flu vaccine, but many of those reasons deserve a second thought.

1. The flu vaccine doesn’t work.

While it’s true that the vaccine has variable efficacy, it’s important to get the vaccine each year. The more people vaccinated, the less likely the flu will spread through a community. Take a look at this really cool representation of how herd immunity works. How it was developed is described on IFLS.

No one claims that the vaccines against influenza work perfectly. The influenza virus can mutate by shifting and drifting.

Until there’s a universal flu vaccine, we must rely on experts to look at the viral patterns and predict the strains that will be most predominant in the upcoming season and make a vaccine against those strains.

Despite not working 100% of the time, the flu vaccine has been shown to lessen the severity of illness and decrease hospitalizations and deaths.

Even if there’s not a perfect match, it can still help those who are vaccinated have a lesser illness.

That’s worth something.

2. I got the flu from the vaccine.

The influenza vaccine that is currently available cannot cause the flu. Only live virus vaccines can lead to forms of the disease.

The vaccines available in the US this season are either an inactivated or a recombinant vaccine. These do not cause flu symptoms. The vaccines cannot mutate to cause symptoms. They simply don’t work that way.

There are many reasons you could have gotten sick after a flu vaccine that were not due to the vaccine.
  1. You were exposed to influenza before the vaccine had time to take effect and protect.
  2. You  caught a strain of influenza that wasn’t covered in the vaccine.
  3. You caught one of a number of other viruses that cause flu – like illness.
  4. The vaccine did cover the type of virus you have but your body didn’t make the proper protection from the vaccine so you were still susceptible.

In each of these scenarios, you still would have gotten sick if you hadn’t had the vaccine, but if you recently had the vaccine it’s easy to understand the concern that the vaccine caused the illness.

The FluMist is a live virus vaccine, so it could cause mild symptoms of influenza viruses, but it is not recommended for use in the US this year.

3. I can prevent the flu by being healthy.

It is important to eat right, exercise, get the proper amount of sleep, and wash hands. All of these things help keep us healthy, but they don’t prevent the flu reliably.

We cannot boost our immune system with megadoses of vitamins. (Vaccines are the best way to boost our immune system.)

Organic and non-GMO

Organic and non-GMO foods don’t offer any benefit to our immune system over other healthy foods.

If these things did as some claim, people generations ago would have been healthier since they ate locally grown organic foods, got plenty of fresh air, and exercised more in their day to day life than we do these days.

Instead of being healthier, they were much more likely to die from infections. The risk of death between the first and 20th birthday had decreased from over 3 in 100 children in 1900, to less than 2 in 1000 children today.

One of the major causes of death historically (and still today) is from influenza, but it has been shown that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of death. Why not help your body prepare for flu season with the vaccine?

4. Flu vaccines shouldn’t be used during pregnancy — they’ve never been tested and can lead to miscarriage.

Pregnancy is considered a high risk condition for severe complications of influenza disease and the vaccine can help prevent those complications.

It is recommended that all pregnant women get vaccinated against influenza. If a pregnant mother gets the vaccine, it not only helps to prevent complications during pregnancy, but it also helps prevent influenza in newborns since they can’t be vaccinated until 6 months of age.

There are some who assert that since the package inserts state the vaccines have not been studied in pregnancy that they aren’t safe, but in the next breath they say that they aren’t safe because a study showed a high rate of miscarriage after the vaccine.

The first part of the argument is one of the many ways the package insert is misused.

Package Inserts – no big secret, but don’t misuse them

Discussions about using package inserts properly are found at The Logic of Science, another at The Logic of ScienceSkeptical RaptorHarpocrates Speaks, and even this analogy of Package Insert Airline to vaccine package inserts.

Think about it… you can’t argue that it’s never been studied and then quote a study. It’s been studied.

A lot.

The Vaccine Safety Datalink is a huge database designed to document adverse events associated with vaccination, allowing researchers access to a large amount of data.

The flu vaccine has been safely given to pregnant women for over 50 years.

Despite a recent small study suggesting a potential risk of miscarriage, the flu vaccine has been studied extensively around the globe and found to be not only safe but effective at decreasing the risk of influenza disease during pregnancy and beyond.

5. I have a chronic illness and don’t want to get sick from the shot.

People with chronic illnesses (including diabetes, heart conditions, and asthma) are more at risk from serious illness from influenza disease.

The influenza vaccine can prevent hospitalizations and death among those with chronic diseases. People with chronic diseases should be vaccinated, as should those around them to protect with herd immunity.

The flu shot cannot make anyone sick, even those who are immunocompromised.

You do not need to avoid being around someone who is sick or immunocompromised if you’ve recently been vaccinated.

6. If I get the flu I’ll just take medicine to feel better.

There is no medicine that makes people with influenza feel better reliably.

There is no medicine that decreases the spread of influenza to friends and family of those infected.

We can take fever reducers and pain relievers, but they don’t treat the underlying virus.

They suppress our immune system so we don’t make as much inflammation against the virus, which decreases the symptoms and our body’s natural defenses.

Cough and cold medicines simply don’t work well.

As for antiviral medicines, I have written about Tamiflu and why I rarely recommend it.

Megadoses of vitamin C or other vitamins, homeopathic treatments, essential oils, and other at home treatments have not been shown to significantly help.

It is important if you get sick, you should limit contact with others. This means missed school and work for at least several days with influenza. Prevention with the vaccine simply is better than trying to treat the symptoms.

7. I don’t like shots. (Or my child doesn’t like shots.)

I’m a pediatrician. Most of my younger patients hate shots.

Like really hate shots.

They cry, scream, kick, try to run and hide — you name it, they’ve tried it to try to avoid shots. They fear shots, but we can help them with techniques that lessen the pain, and they often say “it wasn’t that bad” afterwards.

For more on how we can help lessen the pain, check out Vaccines don’t have to hurt as much as some fear.

8. I have an egg allergy so can’t get flu shots.

In previous years there was a concern that people with egg allergy would have a reaction from the vaccine so it was not recommended, but it has been found to be safer and still appropriate to vaccinate with proper precautions.

People who have had only hives after egg exposure can safely get flu vaccines following standard protocols.

People who have symptoms of anaphylaxis with egg exposure that requires epinephrine (respiratory distress, lightheadedness, recurrent vomiting, swelling – such as eyes or lips) should still get the vaccine, but they should be monitored at the appropriate facility (doctor’s office, hospital, health department) for 30 minutes to monitor for reactions.

9. Vaccines are only promoted to make people money. Doctors are shills.

Very little profit is made from any vaccine.

Really.

Some doctors and clinics lose money by giving vaccines.

I often tell my own patients that I don’t care if they get the vaccine at my office, the local pharmacy, or at the parent’s office – whatever works for them best. I just want everyone vaccinated.

This in the end will decrease my revenue because they will not come to the office seeking treatments for a preventable illness.

But I am a pediatrician to take care of the health of children, not to make money.

Pediatricians are consistently on the bottom of the list of physician salaries.

If I was in it for the money, I would have gone into orthopedics or another surgical specialty.

There are many things to consider when addressing this argument and the Skeptical Raptor does it well, including links to more information.

10. The flu vaccine contains mercury.

While it is true that some flu vaccines contain thimerosal, not all do.

Thimerosal was removed from the majority of childhood vaccines in 2001 due to lawmakers responding to constituent demands, not because it was shown to be a risk medically.

Since the flu vaccine is not only for children, there are multidose vials that contain thimerosal.

If that really bothers you, ask for a version without thimerosal.

But since it was removed because people thought thimerosal caused autism and the rates of autism haven’t gone down since it was removed, that’s pretty strong evidence that it never caused autism.

Just like the scientists said.

It’s a preservative that is effective.

I would gladly get a flu vaccine with thimerosal, and have over the years, but the majority of flu vaccines given to children in the US are thimerosal free.

Just ask.

Flu Vaccine Information and Recommendations for the 2017-2018 Season

  • Both trivalent (3 strain) and quadrivalent (4 strain) vaccines are approved for use this year. There is no preference officially of one over the other, but the vaccine should be appropriate for age.
  • No FluMist Nasal Spray flu vaccine is recommended. The nasal spray did not work well in the last few seasons it was used in the US. Until it is understood why it wasn’t effective then how to make it effective, it will not be recommended.
  • Pregnant women should be vaccinated to protect themselves and their baby.
  • Everyone over 6 months of age should be vaccinated. Children 6 months to 8 years who have only had one flu vaccine in their past will need two doses this season. This is because the first dose acts as a primer dose, then a booster dose boosts the immune system. Once the body has had a boost, it only needs a boost each year to improve immunity.
  • Infants under 6 months of age can gain protection if their mother is vaccinated during pregnancy and if everyone around them is vaccinated. They cannot get the flu vaccine until 6 months of age.
  • People with egg allergy can be vaccinated. If there is a history of anaphylaxis to egg, they should be monitored for 30 minutes.
  • The CDC is encouraging everyone to be vaccinated by Halloween if possible, but it’s not too late to be vaccinated after that if not yet done this season. It takes up to 2 weeks for the vaccine to be effective. Flu season typically starts in January, but the peak can be as early as November and as late as March.
  • It is acceptable and encouraged to give the flu vaccine along with other recommended vaccines needed.

 

 

Related blogs

Vaccines don’t have to hurt as much as some fear

Tamiflu: Guest blogger Dr. Mark Helm
Tamiflu Status Downgraded

Tamiflu: the not-so-great influenza treatment

Share Quest for Health
flu shot
Just do it… get your flu shot!

Vaccines Don’t Have to Hurt As Much As Some Fear

Many kids are scared of shots. Some even fight parents and nurses when it’s time to get shots. The more they fight and worry, the worse it gets. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Increasing the fear

In general there are some things that increase anxiety about shots or just make them seem bad.

Lying

Do not tell kids it won’t hurt. Shots can hurt. Lying doesn’t help. It just minimizes their fear and makes things worse. It might hurt, but how much is variable. Pain is a very individualized feeling. You can describe it as a pinch. Some kids do better with advance warning.

No promises

Never tell kids they won’t get a shot at the doctor’s office. They might be due for one (or more) and if they were specifically told they won’t get one, they are usually more upset.

Threats

Don’t threaten kids with shots if they misbehave. This makes kids see shots as a negative.

Siblings

Siblings can increase anxiety with their teasing. Don’t share the need for shots with siblings and if it’s possible to leave siblings at home when one child will need shots, that might work best.

Your fears

Some kids worry more because parents are worried or presume the child will be worried. When the parent starts talking about shots in a worrisome manner it feeds into the fear. Try to be factual. Don’t start telling them it’s okay and not to worry. That tells them there’s something to worry about.

Building anticipation

Some kids do best if they don’t know shots are coming. If they ask if they’ll get shots at an upcoming visit, you can say you don’t know. If you think your child will lose sleep for days worrying about the shots, this is often the best way to handle it. Then the doctor and nurse at the office can deliver the news and it isn’t your fault.

How to prepare

If you want to prepare your kids before bringing them in for shots or if you just need some help when you’re at the office, follow these tips:

Risks and Benefits

I often ask kids if they’ve ever gotten hurt playing outside. They usually say yes. Then I ask if they still wanted to play outside again. They usually say yes. I might sound surprised that even though they know that they can get hurt, they still want to play, but then I “realize” that it was because the benefit (playing) outweighs the risk (getting hurt). Then we talk about the benefits of the shot are so much more than the quick poke and a little pinch feeling. This works really well for the middle school shots because they’re old enough to get the connection.

Medicine?

Don’t pre-treat with an oral pain reliever. Studies have shown that acetaminophen and ibuprofen decrease the immune response, which might make the vaccines less effective.

Crying’s okay

Don’t tell kids to not cry. It’s okay to be scared and to feel pain. Let them know what is and is not okay. If they cry it’s okay. It is not okay to kick, hit, run, or do anything that can harm others or themselves.

Education

Educate kids about how vaccines help us. There are many resources available. When they understand why the shots are good for them, it helps them to accept them.

Practice

Practice what happens when we get shots.

Have them practice sitting still and making their arms loose.

Wipe the arm with a tissue as you explain the person giving the shot will clean the area with a very cold wet tissue to clean the area. (I avoid the term alcohol swab because the term alcohol confuses younger kids who learn about drug prevention in school.)

Pinch the arm to show them there will be a small pinching feeling.

Put a bandaid on the area if they like or just explain that they can get a bandaid when it’s over. (If your child hates bandaids, tell the person giving shots that they prefer to not have them.)

Let them practice giving you a “shot” too.

Show that the poke will be fast and they can move their arms up and down afterwards to make the sting go away.

Lovies

Bring a comfort item from home, such as a stuffed animal or blankie.

Blowing

There is evidence that blowing out or coughing during the injection helps decrease the pain. We often recommend this for kids old enough to blow or cough.

Sometimes we’ll entice preschoolers with bubbles or pinwheels. It really helps!

Distraction

Other forms of distraction can help too. Telling stories, reading books, or watching a video on a smart phone or tablet are great distractions.

Sit vs Lay Down

Studies have shown that allowing kids to sit (rather than force laying down) during shots is perceived as less painful. The less restraining the child needs, the better. It makes sense that if they need to be held down they will be more scared and it will be perceived as more painful.

I have seen tweens and teens prefer to lay down if they have a history of getting light headed with needles or they’re worried about fainting.

Order of vaccines

Ask the person giving the vaccines to save the most painful vaccine for last, if applicable. (Our nurses do this routinely.)

Pain DISTRACTOR devices

Our office sometimes uses Buzzy when kids are especially afraid of shot pain. As long as the child isn’t overly worked up and they aren’t opposed to the coldness of the ice, Buzzy works fantastically! If kids have worked themselves into a frenzy it isn’t sufficient to distract in this way.

Bribery

I used to think bribery was not a good parenting technique… until I had kids. It can be very effective. If you can promise a reward for being brave, such as stopping for a smoothie or getting a favorite treat, that can work wonders.

Just do it

I like this Dr. Mom’s take on getting shots. Dr. Corriel knows that her son will just need to do it. Fear and all.

Help with anxieties in general

(great for life worries, not just shots!)

Build up bravery

After kids do things that they were afraid of, congratulate them for the attempt. Remind them that even though they were scared they did it. This helps set the pattern that they can be brave when faced with any fear.

Kids can even keep a list of things that they did despite being scared to try. Make a “Bravery Book.”

They can use the list whenever a new fear pops up to see how many things they’ve already done and how brave they really are.

video to future self

I’ve started recommending that parents take a video of kids to show their future self if they can say it didn’t hurt as much as they worried it would.

We all tend to remember the anxious phase of excessive worry, but forget that it wasn’t that bad.

Show the video the next time shots are due. Their own self stating it wasn’t bad can be reassuring!

Meditation

Use a meditation app, such as Stop, Breathe & Think. It’s free and helps with general anxieties as well as mindfulness. Download it and use it at home several times to let them get comfortable using it.

Some great articles:

Share Quest for Health

HPV Vaccine Concerns

The large majority of the parents who bring their children to my office want their children to be vaccinated against any disease we can protect them against. The HPV vaccine is one exception. While most of my patients are given the Gardasil at their 11 or 12 year check up, some parents still “want to do their research” or “have heard things” so they decline to protect their kids at those visits. Sadly they often return year after year and say that they still haven’t done their research, so their child remains unprotected. Sometimes they’ll say that they will let their child decide at 18 years of age. Sadly, by that age many will have already been infected.

I recently had a parent share HPV Vaccine: Panacea or Pandora’s Box? The Costs and Deceptiveness of the New Technology with me. She had concerns based on the information in this article. The first thing I noted was that it is from 2011. This is outdated, since we have learned so much in the six years since it was published, yet like many anti-vax articles, it continues to circulate online.

 The first argument is that it won’t last long enough.

It is therefore possible that the protective effects of the vaccination will wane at the time when women are most susceptible to the oncogenic effects of the virus (those over 30), providing protection to those who do not need it (adolescents) and failing to provide protection to those who do (women over 30).

Studies show protection lasts 10 years and hasn’t dropped by that time. If future studies show a booster is needed, we can add that. That in no way should mean to not give protection for the years it is really needed – adolescence and young adult life. I cannot agree with the statement that providing protection “to those who do not need it (adolescents)” at all. Yes teens need protection. I’ll get more into their risks below. And the fact that women over 30 are more likely to develop the cancer does not mean that is when they come into contact with the virus. It’s kind of like saying that kids don’t need to brush their teeth because they don’t have cavities. If you wait for the cavities to develop, it’s too late!

The second argument is based on old version of the vaccine.

We now use the 9 valent variety, which covers the large majority of cancer causing strains. Again, even if there are other strains, why not protect against what we have?

Natural immunity lasting longer than vaccine immunity?

The argument that natural immunity will last longer than the vaccine immunity is not a valid argument. Natural immunity can wane with some diseases too, and if we can protect against the disease, it is preferable. Boosters for many vaccines are needed when we know immunity wanes. That’s okay. Some parents advocate to not vaccinate and get the real disease. When their kids get whooping cough they’re miserable. Many are hospitalized. Some even die. I’d rather do boosters! (This may be a bad example because I don’t think our booster for whooping cough lasts long enough and there are complications with giving boosters more often, but ongoing surveillance and research will continue and hopefully improve the situation.)

The cost issue is interesting.

If it was not cost effective in the long run, insurance companies wouldn’t pay for it. It’s that simple. They’ve done the math. Australia is a great example. Their cancer rates are down because HPV is a mandatory vaccine.

Debunking Risks

The risks listed have all been shown to not be as risky as once shown.

Abstinence as prevention?

The article also alludes to this being a sexually transmitted disease so we can just teach abstinence until marriage.

There are so many things wrong with this.

First, this virus can spread through non-intercourse activities, which can be part of a normal and healthy teen relationship.

Second, even if your child is a virgin at marriage, their spouse might not be. Or the spouse could die and they remarry.

Or there could be infidelity in marriage.

There may not be signs of this virus during an infection. Testing for HPV is recommended for women over 30 years of age, but is not available for men at any age, so teens and young adults will not know if they have the virus or not.

And we know that abstinence only teaching fails. Some people raised in strict Christian households have sex outside of marriage.

Teaching kids to protect themselves is much more effective to prevent many sexually transmitted infections, but condoms don’t always protect against HPV transmission.

And there’s always rape. One out of four women has been sexually assaulted. One in four! What a horrible thing to be raped. Then to find out you get cancer from that…

What about males?

They argue it hasn’t been tested in males.

It has.

And it cuts cancer rates in men too. They’re not just vectors as stated in the article.

We keep learning

This article is several years old.

It didn’t yet know that the cancer rates in Australia would fall like we now know.

We’ve learned much more information than they knew in 2011 when it was written.

We know the HPV vaccine is safe.

It is best given before the teen years to induce the best immune response and to get kids protected before the risk of catching the virus becomes more likely.

It isn’t a lifestyle choice to get this virus, as it seems the author claims. People have sex. This virus and other infections can spread through sex. But this virus is also spread without intercourse (such as through oral sex or skin to skin contact without sex), which is why 80% of the adult population has had the virus at some point.

If you don’t think the risk is real

Someone You Love is a documentary that follows several women with HPV related cancer. If you still think the vaccine isn’t worth it for your child, watch it. I am not paid in any way to recommend this. It simply is a powerful documentary that shows the devastation of HPV disease and you should see that before saying your child doesn’t need protection.

Do I recommend the vaccine?

I strongly feel this is a safe and effective vaccine. So much so that my own teens received three doses of the original Gardasil and one dose of Gardasil 9 despite no official recommendations for this booster. I want to protect them in any way that I can.

If I had any concerns about its safety I would not have given it to my own children.

I don’t think I can list any study or give any argument stronger than that.

Many people raise concerns about the HPV vaccine, but the studies show it's safe and effective to prevent cancer in both men and women.