This week, I had the opportunity to ask some of my many burning flu-season questions to an expert in the medical field.
Having no background in medicine whatsoever, I’ve been especially confused, overwhelmed, and anxious about this year’s flu season. After today, I’m not completely worry-free, but I do feel a whole lot better having some of my questions answered.
In reading The Kids Post with Maddy, Owen, and Cora during breakfast this week, we’ve been learning a little bit about the flu each day. On Tuesday, we read about our Germ Fighter in Chief and grabbed some tips for trying to stay healthy from Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius.
On Wednesday, in What Can You Do?, we read about why we need vaccines along with some specific steps everyone can take to reduce his or her chances of getting the flu.
Finally, I was able to get some of my own questions answered, from Dr. Russel Libbey*, a pediatric infectious disease expert. Here’s the skinny:
- Finding Flu Answers: Below are the questions that I sent to Dr. Libbey.
1. I was planning on having my children, ages 5, 4, and 2 years, get the regular flu shot; in fact, my 4 year old already got the FluMist at his yearly appointment in August. The pediatrician told me the others could have it after Labor Day. Does it make a difference for people to get the shot this early, or should we wait until later in the fall? Will it really be as effective in four months?
Flumist lasts about 6 to 9 months, flu shots 4 to 6, so you should get Flumist while you can. There will likely be several strains as there often is. The vaccine tries to predict which might be most novel to our immune system and most infectious-it is not always 100%. The seasonal vaccine is available now and should be offered to all. It may not be so easy to coordinate if you wait for the H1N1 vaccine.
2. Is there a difference in strength between the FluMist and the flu vaccine? Would you recommend one over the other for certain ages?
The strength is not the issue. The live vaccine appears to confer a better response for a longer time, especially with younger kids. It is probably less significant into the 20’s. Flumist is a great vaccine and, in addition to it being easy to take, it lasts longer with slightly better immunogenicity in the younger population. I feel much better offering the Flumist early than the shot which may not last as long. It seems that the shot is equal or even better in the older population.
3. With the controversy surrounding the h1n1 flu vaccine, can it really be recommended that children and pregnant women get it? What are some of the possible complications?
Flu during pregnancy is significantly associated with miscarriage. It is best to get the vaccination before getting pregnant or in the 2nd or 3rd trimester, but if there is flu around, it is worth getting vaccinated.
4. What is the recommendation for getting the seasonal flu vaccine and h1n1 vaccine? Is it safe to get both? How long should we wait between getting the seasonal flu vaccine and the h1n1 flu vaccine, or does it not matter?
There is no restriction on time intervals between immunizations except for a month between live vaccines that can not be given on the same day. It is safe to get multiple vaccines at any time, truly. And if it is the only time to get both flu vaccines, it is ok too.
5. On top of the regular, general precautions we take to prevent the spread of germs during the fall and winter, what else would you recommend we do to stay healthy this season?
Good hygiene, diet, exercise and stress reduction! The same advice for all good health.
6. Seriously, I’m scared and sick at the thought of a possible pandemic. Tell me something that may assuage my fears and those of my friends and family, or please encourage me to go out and get myself some face masks before they run out. I’m not sure what to do, so I’m not doing anything yet.
Really, it is not going to be as dire as some pictures might suggest, especially here, However, it could be devastating in some underdeveloped countries, but that is another controversy that is outside of our perspective here. I do not think you need to be scared.
Okay, so Dr. Libbey was kind enough to answer some questions for me, but here are a few links to check out if you still need more:
- Center for Disease Control: H1N1 General Information
- American Academy of Pediatrics: H1N1 Information
- MedImmune: Don’t Play with the Flu–Take a Flu Quiz (no, really!)
- Don’t Play With the Flu on Facebook: For everyone who fans the page, $1 will be donated to the non-profit, Families Fighting Flu.
Let’s hope for a healthy, flu-free flu season!
Please Remember: I am not a doctor, do not have even close to a medical degree, and am just relaying information about a “hot topic” to teachmama readers because I love them so much. Please consider visiting your health care provider if you have any other questions or concerns. OR, if you are a doctor, know a doctor, wish you were a doctor, or should be a doctor, feel free to add, correct, or clarify any information above.
*Here’s some info on the doctor who answered my questions:
Russell Libby, BA '74, MD '79, is founder, president, and medical director of Virginia Pediatric Group and co-founder, VP, and medical director of American Pediatric Consultants, Inc. Currently chief of general pediatrics at Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, Libby has been named best pediatrician in the Washington area by Families magazine for over 10 years and listed among Washingtonian's top doctors. Libby also hosts the television programs To Your Health and Dr. Libby's World of Medicine, and has recently published Guidelines for Pediatric Home Health Care published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, "The Social, Civic, and Medical Uniqueness of Pediatric Practice" in Art and Practice of Pediatrics, and a chapter on Pediatric Home Health Care for the textbook Pediatric Hospital Medicine.
Thank you to the people at MedImmune who contacted me and asked if I would be interested in interviewing Dr. Libbey and being a part of this campaign.
FYI: I am not being compensated in any way for providing this information; it is just important to me–and many people I care about–so I thought I’d share.