My Son Battles Pertussis

30 07 2010

(Our thanks to mom and guest blogger Aleshya Garner.)

My name is Aleshya Garner. My now 10 month-old son, Peyton, is a pertussis survivor. At only 6 weeks of age he developed the disease pertussis, also known as whooping cough.

This disease caused my son to have severe coughing attacks, followed by the struggle to catch his breath, which caused him to turn purple due to low oxygen levels. During each attack, I listened to my son make these awful high-pitched noises, a sound that’s very common in pertussis. As a new mother, the first sounds I expected to hear from my son were soft coos and giggles, not the sounds of him gasping for air. I worried with every cough, “Will he catch his breath?” The only thing you can do is help him through it, with a calm tone, “please breathe Peyton, please breathe” while watching him turn purple.

We are not sure how Peyton got whooping cough, but it could have been prevented had our family been more aware that adults as well as children need booster shots. Just one simple Tdap shot could have possibly prevented Peyton and our family from experiencing this horrible disease.

Not only were we uneducated about pertussis, it took three trips to the ER for the doctors to finally admit Peyton into the ICU at our local hospital. During one of the trips, the doctor told us Peyton’s condition was caused by being constipated, so we were sent home. After being told many wrong diagnoses, they finally ran a pertussis test on my son. The test took about five days to culture. My husband and I were told for five days, by many different doctors, that there was no way our son had pertussis, even though Peyton’s pediatrician suspected it. They were sure it was the flu. The pertussis test came back positive.

I was told that because the hospital staff did not take proper precautions with Peyton’s “possible” pertussis, everyone in every department that he came in contact with was required to take antibiotics, after the pertussis was confirmed.

Peyton was discharged from the hospital after seven days on October 25th. At that time, we were only two weeks into his pertussis. This is surprising, given that resources I read say this disease can last up to ten weeks. Each day was a little bit better, as his attacks were not as frequent as they were in the beginning, but they were just as severe.

More and more cases of pertussis appear each day. A disease that we once just about wiped out is back. As a new mother, I thought “All I have to do is keep him safe from the flu…….” Boy was I wrong. Not in my wildest dreams did I think that my healthy infant son would have to battle with such a potentially fatal disease.

Why isn’t there more awareness out there about pertussis? Why aren’t we encouraged more to follow up on our booster shots to prevent another pertussis outbreak, to protect more babies like Peyton, and to save lives?

To all new parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, please from the bottom of my heart, get your booster shots. It is that important, and since there is little awareness, help spread the word about pertussis. You may never know it, but it could save a baby’s life.





Twilight Love Bites… Ouch!

28 07 2010

The Twilight Series: It’s the rage among teens.  It’s a love story with hip, modern-day vampires.  Love the books, love the movies, but do NOT love the Twilight trend that is emerging among teen friends and couples: biting.

Teens caught up in the Twilight rage are “leaving their marks” on each other as a sign of closeness.  What does this mean?  It means that they are biting each other.  As parents, we thought we had left that nightmare long behind us in the toddler years!  It’s returned, and the implications are even more serious.

First there are the socio-psycho implications. Teen biting is a form of branding, and a form of ownership.  Some teens believe it shows commitment to a significant other, or group of friends. One teen noted biting was an “add-on to kissing,” comparing it to putting a case on his iPhone.

It seemed we had all but eliminated the idea of “blood brothers and blood sisters,” and now we have teens that cut each other’s skin to taste each other’s blood.    

This is extremely dangerous and can cause serious infections.  The human mouth is filled with bacteria, and a bite that draws blood can have serious implications.  If biting has occurred, we need to look for signs of more serious bites, including:   swelling, redness, pain, and pus at the site.   All bites need to be carefully cleaned, and may require treatment with oral or IV antibiotics. 

What often goes unmentioned is the danger of spreading bloodborne diseases,  such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and B, and syphilis.  

There is a vaccine for hepatitis B, so please be sure your teen is vaccinated.  There are no vaccines for HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C.  These diseases do not discriminate, and if your biting, vampire-loving teen chooses to engage in such activities, she may end up with an infectious disease that at best remains with her for the rest of her life, and at worst, takes her life.

You can find evidence of this craze on teen-made YouTube videos and Facebook pages.  Some teens say they have been biting their partners for over a year. 

We all need to be talking to our teens about the health risks involved in this practice.  They need to hear our opinion on this; it will make a difference when it comes time for them to choose to participate in this risky behavior—or not.





Teens, Vaccines, and Media

26 07 2010

How do I communicate with teens? This question hounds most providers as well as parents and teachers. Thanks to excellent research by the Kaiser Family Foundation and PEW Research Center, we know some of the answer lies in the latest media trends and technologies.

But what about health information? Most parents have to walk the line between gatekeeping and educating their teens about their own health and wellness. Nowhere is this juggle more apparent than in the realm of teens and vaccines.

According to CDC, teens 18 and under need Tdap, meningococcal, seasonal flu, and HPV vaccines, as well as to stay current with other childhood vaccines.

In 2008, CDC launched a pre-teen vaccine campaign, impressing on caregivers the importance of vaccinations for this age group as well. The host of recommended vaccines protect against diseases such as whooping cough, HPV, meningitis, pneumonia, and others.

Reaching Our Teens

Communicating the importance of vaccinations to teens isn’t just a matter of laying out the facts. Programs like GetVaxed, PKIDs teen and young adult site, attempt to reach adolescents using colorful, short, pithy health messages with extra punch and color.

Translating health messages, pithy or not, into action is a science that interests many, especially given the evolution of information-sharing with the onset of online and mobile technologies.  In a subsection of the Internet and American Life Report, Pew Research Center tracks the way teens use technology to communicate and get information.

As teens increasingly turn to texting as their preferred method of communication, parents and health providers would be wise to consider ways to text out health and prevention messages.

According to Pew, using texts to educate teens about STD prevention can be effective, though no data exists currently that addresses text immunization messages.

Given the importance of teen and pre-teen vaccination, it’s clear that parents and immunization educators would benefit from more outreach efforts targeting the favored language of teens (texts, Facebook, and the mobile Web).

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s report, Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8 to 18 Year Olds concludes that in the past few years TV as a messaging medium has largely been replaced by the Internet and mobile technology.

Parents and providers are still the trusted purveyors of immunization information for teens, but we need to adapt how we share that information with them to ensure receipt.

 





Dr. Mary Beth Takes the Ick Out of Ringworm

23 07 2010

Dr. Mary Beth, PKIDs’ advice nurse, says ringworm looks disgusting, but no need to panic.

Listen now!

Right-click here to download podcast (8min/4mb)





Pre-teens Need Vaccines Too

21 07 2010

(courtesy of guest blogger Amelia Burke, MA)

There are serious diseases that kids are at increased risk for as they approach the teen years, such as meningitis, whooping cough, and human papillomavirus (also known as HPV, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer in women).

And the statistics speak for themselves:

  • 13,000 cases of pertussis (whooping cough) were reported in 2008.  Although deaths from pertussis are usually in the youngest infants, adolescents and adults can develop complications such as pneumonia, rib fracture, difficulty sleeping and urinary incontinence.  Infants often catch pertussis from family members, including adolescents;
  • An estimated 1,000 – 1,200 cases of meningococcal disease (including meningitis) occur in the United States annually, with 10-15% of those people dying from it and an additional 15% having a long-term disability, such as hearing loss, loss of a limb, nervous system damage, or brain damage as a result;
  • And every year in the U.S., about 6.2 million people get a new HPV infection, about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer, and about 4,000 women die from the disease.

CDC recommends that pre-teens should receive the following:

  • Tdap vaccine – combined protection against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
  • Meningococcal  vaccine  – protection against meningitis and its complications
  • Seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccines – protection against seasonal and H1N1 influenza viruses
  • For girls, HPV vaccines to protect against the two types of human papillomavirus that cause up to 70% of cervical cancers.

As well, one of two available HPV vaccines also protects against warts in the genital area, and boys and men ages nine through 26 can get this vaccine.

These recommendations are supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine.

Most health insurance plans cover these vaccines, and for families without insurance, there are options for cost coverage through the Vaccines for Children program (VFC). You can find a VFC provider by contacting your local health department, visiting CDC’s website, or calling 1800-CDC-INFO.

CDC’s Pre-teen Vaccine Campaign has educational materials tailored for various audiences, including Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American parents, available in English, Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese.  Learn more and download / order these materials at NO COST.





Obesity in Children Often Overlooked by Parents

19 07 2010

We love our kids, no matter what.  We want them to be happy, healthy people, but in the U.S., our children’s health is increasingly at risk from obesity.

A new study “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010”  released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that 1/3rd of American children are now overweight or obese and nearly 10% of infants and toddlers are overweight. That is triple (triple!!) the childhood obesity rate of 1980.

Polls reveal that many parents believe that childhood obesity is a big problem, yet fail to recognize the problem within their own household. Obesity in children (defined as a body mass index, or BMI, between the 85th and 96th percentile for their age and gender) is reaching such epidemic proportions that Dr. James Marks, RWJF’s senior vice president says,“We’re in danger of raising the first generation of children who could live sicker and die younger than the generation before them” [emphasis added].

First Lady Michelle Obama is tackling the issue with the Let’s Move! campaign, a national effort to bring healthier food to schools and to low-income areas, and to get kids exercising.

From a health standpoint, there are few things a parent can do for a child that are more important than introducing a healthy lifestyle and eating habits.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), here are some actions parents and families can take to encourage healthier habits in kids:  

  1. Make sure your child eats breakfast daily
  2. Choose family meals together rather than eating out
  3. Limit screen time (less than 2 hours per day is recommended)
  4. Pay attention – relatively speaking your child may look “healthy,” but keep in mind that he/she may be surrounded by other overweight kids
  5. Encourage your child to get at least one hour  of exercise each day

It’s been shown time and again that too much screen time, whether sitting in front of video games, television, phones, or computers, is linked to insufficient exercise and an overall sedentary lifestyle, which in turn can lead to overweight kids. Along with eating foods overly packed with fat and calories (such as fast food) American kids are spending too much time sitting around.

In the words of a Nike commercial, we need to get our kids up off the couch, get them outside, and inspire them (hopefully with our own active healthy example) to“Just Do It!”

 





Lessons Learned from Botswana’s AIDS Fight

16 07 2010

In the early to mid-’90s, life expectancy in Botswana was 65 years. Ten years later, it was below 40 years of age due to the impact of AIDS. The children of Botswana were also affected by the pandemic. To date, nearly 100,000 children have lost at least one parent to AIDS

Faced with such losses in a country with a population under 2 million, and determined to save its people, the government took action and the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP), was founded.

The Institute provides training and research, and acts as point of contact for the efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS in Botswana. In 2001, simultaneous to the opening of a state-of-the-art lab funded by the Institute, the government launched the Masa (or “new dawn”) treatment program, buying antiretrovirals and making them widely available at no cost to infected citizens. The research capabilities of the BHP, along with Botswana’s HIV/ AIDS education, prevention, and treatment efforts, are unparalleled and show impressive results.

Key factors in Botswana’s fight against HIV/AIDS include:

  • International and national funding and research partnerships (represented by the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute)
  • Coordination of education efforts at the national level, and targeted to specific populations including school-age children, pregnant and new mothers, and high risk adult populations
  • Education outreach including targeted mobile outreach (involving peer-to-peer education and counseling)
  • Focus on enrolling mothers in the program to prevent mother-child transmission of the disease.

Stemming the tide of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is crucial in halting the spread of disease. In Botswana, peer-to-peer enrollment in the government-sponsored prevention and treatment program slowly increased maternal participation from under 10% to just over 33%.

Both the Masa and the Botswana-Harvard Institute aren’t easily replicated in countries without a similarly high level of financial and governmental support, but the lessons learned can still be applied.

Although it’s unlikely that most developing countries have the resources to accomplish what wealthy Botswana has done, it is a bit of bright news in the otherwise depressing struggle that is HIV/AIDS in Africa.