Tag Archives: influenza

Baby Safety: The 2 Leading Causes of Death and How You Can Prevent Them

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Safe to Sleep® campaign, baby safety, SIDS

Image courtesy of the Safe to Sleep® campaign

Recently I was asked to speak at a childbirth education class at my local hospital. I love talking to expecting parents as it brings back my own memories of that time: the excitement, hopes, fears…My topic tonight was baby safety.  I want to share this information with you as well.

1- SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and accidental suffocation is the leading cause of death in infants in the U.S. from 1 month to 1 year old.  Your child’s sleep environment is the most important thing you can control to keep your baby safe.  It is important that your baby always sleeps on her back on a firm surface with no crib bumpers, pillows (or breastfeeding pillows), sleep positioners or soft bedding. The safest place for your baby is in a crib that is in your room for the first 6 months. Breastfeeding is also associated with a lower risk of SIDS. If you choose to have your baby sleep in bed with you it is really important to keep in mind the risks and what makes a sleep surface safe.

Our first child was a really fussy baby and we did end up sleeping with her occasionally during her fussiest months (1-3 months). It is not something I recommend to others, but it was a decision we made out of desperation and with all of the risks in mind. We have a firm mattress (pillowtop removed), we slept with no pillows or blankets, and we placed her in the middle of a king size bed. This would have been especially dangerous if there were any other risk factors for SIDS (secondhand smoke, obesity, alcohol or drug use, or pain medications). We never let her sleep on her stomach and we never slept on a couch or chair with her. Sanity trumped absolute safety in our house, but we did our best.

For more information on SIDS prevention and safe sleeping please go to Safe to Sleep.

2- The leading cause of death in infants 1 month to 1 year worldwide is respiratory infections, including pneumonia and influenza. Thankfully in the U.S. we have free access to vaccinations. Unfortunately our vaccination rates in many areas of the country are below 90% and we can’t protect our infants unless everyone they are surrounded by is fully vaccinated. We also have access to clean water. Good hand washing can be very effective in reducing the spread of disease. Unfortunately not everyone (especially young children) does a great job of washing their hands after coughing, sneezing, wiping their noses, or using the restroom.

So what can you do to keep your baby safe from infection?

  • Remind people to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer before touching your baby.
  • Ask people who are sick to visit another time. The first sign of many illnesses that can be dangerous to your baby is just a clear runny nose (whooping cough, measles, RSV…).
  • Make sure anyone who is around your baby is fully vaccinated. This should include a yearly influenza shot and whooping cough (pertussis) booster.
  • Avoid crowded places for the first few months. If you have to go somewhere crowded try to keep your baby in an infant carrier or stroller with a blanket thrown over the top. Carry hand sanitizer and avoid anyone that looks like a grandma! She will want to touch your baby 🙂

For more information go to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics)

So I am curious (and maybe neurotically overprotective based on my career choice): Do you ask your friends and family to stay away if they are sick? Do you ask them if they are vaccinated before they come visit your newborn? How do they react?


7 Signs That You Did NOT Have the “Flu”

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Photo by CMRF Crumlin, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by CMRF Crumlin, Flickr Creative Commons

Whenever I talk about influenza I am told stories about the horrible stomach “flu” someone had the previous week. I agree the stomach “flu” is horrible, but it is not influenza. It should be called a stomach virus or a stomach “bug”. The term stomach “flu” confuses everyone and likely will for years to come.

You probably did NOT have the real “flu”, meaning influenza if ….

1- you were able to get out of bed

2- your symptoms came on gradually

3- your main complaints were vomiting or diarrhea

4- you did not have a cough or sore throat

5- you did not have a fever (greater than 100 fahrenheit)

6- your body didn’t ache from head to toe

7- you were better in 2 or 3 days

There are over 200 viruses that cause bad colds, and almost as many that cause the stomach “flu”. These are not influenza. Influenza is an illness you remember 20 years later. Influenza hits you like a ton of bricks and knocks you down for at least a week. The influenza virus changes so much from one season to another. Some years it is mild, meaning not as contagious or as life-threatening, and some years it is severe.

This year influenza is severe. It is hitting the young and the healthy. 50 young people have died in California this past week, and 50 more died in the week before that. I have not cared for any kids with influenza on my pediatric unit this season. They all bypassed me and were flown to the nearest pediatric ICU. They were all critically ill.

If you think you have influenza it is best to contact your physician within 24 hours. There are antivirals that can help, but they are most effective if started within 48 hours of symptoms. And remember: It is not too late to get your flu shot. Influenza will likely stick around until April or May.

For more information go to: flu.gov

“Prevention is better than cure”- Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman physician in the U.S. and the U.K., 1849

Photo by Future Atlas, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by Future Atlas, Flickr Creative Commons