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Do YOU Need a Measles Booster?

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Woman Getting VaccineAs the recent measles outbreak that began at California’s Disneyland spreads to more than 100 people in a dozen states, you may be wondering about your own immunity, as well as that of your kids. Do you have the protection you need?

Before the 1990s, the measles vaccine was given as one shot, but the recommendation changed to two after an outbreak in 1989, so you may be among those who never received that second dose and are now wondering whether you should get a so-called “booster shot” to protect yourself from this highly contagious respiratory disease.

Fortunately, if you received the measles vaccine in childhood, then you’re well protected as an adult. Even with just a single dose in your system, you’re still 95 percent protected, says Amesh Adalja, M.D., an infectious disease physician and a member of the public health committee at the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). “Immunity does wane a bit as we age, but at this point the recommendation for a measles booster doesn’t extend to the general public,” he explains.

Of course, getting a measles booster won’t hurt—adding a second dose can increase its effectiveness to about 98%—and there are certain high-risk groups who need two doses, including health-care workers, college students, and those who plan to travel where measles is still a serious health problem. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention supports the IDSA’s recommendation: if you had a single dose but don’t fall into one of these specific groups, you don’t need a second one.

And if you’re wondering about your own parents or grandparents, rest assured: Anyone born before 1957 is likely immune, in part because this population lived through several years of epidemic measles.

Related: The 6 Vaccines All Parents (and Grandparents!) Need

The bottom line? If you’re unsure about your immunity, your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine whether you have the necessary protective antibodies. But the priority now is not necessarily for adults to receive a booster, but rather to vaccinate all children with the two-dose shot at age 1 and again before kindergarten. —Jennifer Kelly Geddes

Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a New York-based writer and editor who specializes in parenting, health and child development. She’s a frequent contributor to and the mom of two teen girls.

More About Measles

Image: Shutterstock

The Vaccine Schedule
The Vaccine Schedule
The Vaccine Schedule

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The Measles Outbreak: 8 Facts You Need to Know

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Measles sign

By Wendy Hunter, M.D.

As measles has spread to 14 states (and more than 100 people) already this year—and it’s only February—news reports only tell part of the story about vaccination and risks of exposure. Here’s what concerned parents need to know.

Measles is hard to diagnose early.

Just like a cold, early symptoms are fever, fatigue and loss of appetite; followed by cough and red, watery eyes. Only after about three days does the classic rash appear on the head and progresses down the body.

Measles is highly contagious.

Infectious measles droplets persist up to two hours after the infected person has left an area. And since the contagious period is long—from four days before a rash until four days after—a single infected person can contact hundreds of people.

Measles can cause serious complications.

Measles can lead to pneumonia or ear infections. Most kids recover easily, but in approximately every 1,000 cases, one person will suffer encephalitis (brain inflammation) that causes permanent brain damage; and two to three people will die.

The vaccine is safe.

The latest study, in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, showed that the vaccine is safe. This goes for both forms of the vaccine available in the U.S.: measles-mumps-rubella, or MMR; and measles-mumps-rubella-varicella (chicken pox), or MMRV. Researchers tracked more than 600,000 1-year-olds over 12 years to confirm the vaccine’s safety.

The vaccine works.

Ninety-five percent of kids will develop immunity when they get their 12-month vaccination. The second dose before kindergarten (age 4-6) gives 99 percent immunity. By contrast, 90 percent of exposed, unvaccinated people will get sick. Immunity can disappear over time and 5 in 100 will lose their immunity by their late teens or adulthood.

The vaccine works even if your child gets it after being exposed to measles.

If your child is exposed and unvaccinated, or hasn’t gotten a booster shot, the vaccine protects when given within 72 hours of exposure.

Very young babies are already protected.

Until 6 months, babies are still protected by the antibodies received in Mom’s womb. But the antibodies will break down, and by 9 months, your baby becomes vulnerable.

Babies should now be vaccinated before international travel.

Because of increased risk, the AAP and CDC now recommends vaccinating 6- to 12-month-olds. However, the regular two-shot series after 12 months is still necessary to ensure long-lasting immunity. And a traveling toddler should get the booster shot early. Learn more about the AAP’s updated vaccine schedule here.

Wendy Hunter, M.D., is a pediatrician in the Emergency Department at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, and the mom of two children. She’s the author of the Baby Science blog, where she explains the reasons behind weird kid behaviors and scary (but normal) baby symptoms.

More About Measles

Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids
Vaccines for Babies and Older Kids

Image: Measles sign via Shutterstock

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Is a Cure for Peanut Allergies in Sight?

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

peanut allergiesSome hopeful news for parents of kids with peanut allergies: A new Australian study found that a daily dose of peanut protein taken with a probiotic was successful in treating nut allergies in children.

Researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Hospital Institute in Melbourne, Australia gave 60 kids with peanut allergies a probiotic along with a small dose of peanut protein, or a placebo. Researchers reported that over 80 percent of the children who received the probiotic with gradually increasing amounts of peanut protein—a technique known as oral immunotherapy—were able to tolerate nuts at the end of the study. And even more surprising: the kids were able to include them in their diet without adverse reactions two to five weeks after the treatment ended.

So what does this mean for children suffering from mild to life-threatening peanut allergies right now? “This is a wonderful, small study that holds a lot of exciting avenues for future research and applications, but we can’t necessary take these results and run with them just yet,” says David Stukus, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and a spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. “The biggest drawbacks are that it’s a small study and only tests kids’ reactions to peanuts a few weeks after the conclusion of the study, so we don’t know what would happen if they ate nuts a few months or years down the road.”

Dr. Stukus also cautions that, as in all other studies with oral immunotherapy for food allergies, there was a very high rate of allergic reactions in patients who underwent the therapy. “Almost 50 percent of these kids had some sort of reaction, including anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening—this is not a safe procedure to do on your own. It requires supervision from a physician or a team of medical professions, and can only be done under the right circumstances.” So if your child has a peanut allergy, speak to your allergist about how this development might help your family down the road.

Maria-Nicole Marino is an Assistant Editor at Parents who covers kids’ health. She’s a proud Syracuse University alum with a not-so-secret love of kickboxing. Her cubicle currently houses two yoga balls and a bike. #healtheditorproblems

Food Allergies: Helping Your Child Cope
Food Allergies: Helping Your Child Cope
Food Allergies: Helping Your Child Cope

Image: Peanuts via Shutterstock

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Must-Know 2014 Pregnancy, Parenting, Health, and Safety News

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

child in childcare centerThere’s a lot to keep up on when you’re a parent (or parent-to-be), whether you’re in that exhausted-and-expecting stage, the exhausted-because-you-have-a-newborn stage, or exhausted because you’re chasing around your active kiddos. So in case you missed it, here are some of the most noteworthy and news-worthy pregnancy, parenting, health, and safety stories we covered in 2014:

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 became law

Good news from Washington (yes, really!): Thanks to the signing of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, young kids in child care will now be safer. As Parents deputy editor Diane Debrovner wrote last month, “The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal grant program that provides child-care assistance to low-income families. The new law affects child-care centers and individuals who care for children with the support of federal funding, but all children in child care are likely to benefit from the new higher standards.”

The government took a stand on circumcision

Few topics are more hot-button that the decision parents of boys must make regarding circumcision. But earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weighed in on the issue in a draft of guidelines, saying that medical evidence showed the procedure can reduce the risk of HIV, STDs, UTIs, and even some types of cancer. The CDC says circumcision should be covered by health insurers, but still doesn’t go so far as to flat-out recommend it to parents.

Too many babies are sleeping with unsafe bedding

A shocking study published in the January 2015 issue of Pediatrics looked at infant bedding use from 1993–2010 and found that more than half of babies fell asleep with potentially hazardous bedding. Another finding: Teen moms were most likely to use soft bedding, altough, as we noted, “the study also found a link between use of bedding and mothers who were younger in general, a minority, or not college educated.”

We’re making car-seat mistakes from the get-go

Is there a parent among us who hasn’t fretted about the car seat being installed correctly? Well, as it turns out, we’re right to be worried. A study presented in October at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 93 percent of parents make at least one major mistake (such as a too-loose harness, a too-low retainer clip, or using the wrong harness slot) before they’ve even driven away from the hospital. And in almost 70 percent of cases, there were mistakes with both the installation of the seat and how baby was positioned in it.

Enterovirus D86, ebola, and flu were—and remain—causes of concern

Three different health threats caught our attention this year: enterovirus D68, which by October had more than 650 confirmed cases, ebola, and influenza. And while, sadly, both enterovirus D68 and ebola caused a loss of life, it’s the flu that causes the most harm, killing an estimated 30,000 Americans each year and causing the hospitalization of roughly 20,000 kids under the age of 5.

The EEOC updated its rules regarding discrimination and pregnancy

Unfortunately, accusations of pregnancy discrimination seemed to abound in 2014, from the Supreme Court’s hearing of Peggy Young’s case to the woman who claims she was fired for needing to take pee breaks. But one bit of good news: for the first time in more than three decades, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, tougher rules regarding pregnancy discrimination and “related issues” (think breastfeeding and parental leave.) As we reported, one thing the EEOC made clear is that “adjustments may need to be made for pregnant workers—including providing the option of light duty.” Furthermore, employers can’t force a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence when she’s capable of continuing to work.

Yet another study disputed a vaccines-autism link

As we reported last summer, a study published in the August issue of Pediatrics reviewed “a large body of scientific findings and concluded that parents should be reassured about vaccines’ safety.” The study found no causal relationship between vaccines and autism.

Scientists may have discovered the cause of 40% of pre-term births

In October, we reportde that scientists at Queen Mary University in London “identified the chemical chain of events that they believe causes the preterm premature rupture of the fetal membrane (PPROM)—the condition that accounts for 40 percent of all preterm births.” The findings were published in the journal Placenta. Next up—we hope: a treatment that would actually repair the membrane.

The pre-term birth rate in the U.S. is way down

In Novermber, the March of Dimes released its annual Premature Birth Report Card, which revealed that the pre-term birth rate in the United States fell to 11.4 percent—a 17-year low. Good news, to be sure, but the organization stressed that there’s still work to be done to ensure more babies are born healthy, and at term. To that end the U.S. received a “C” grade on the report because it missed the group’s stated goal of a 9.6 percent preterm birth rate.

The autism rate was lowered to 1 in 68

In March came a shocking new estimate from a CDC report that 1 in 68 kids are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The previous estimate, made two years ago, put the prevalence at 1 in 88. As our Red-Hot Parenting blogger Richard Rende, PhD., wrote, “The estimated prevalence of ASD has gone up tremendously in the last decade, and it is assumed that improved recognition and diagnosis is the primary factor. The implication here is that we have underestimated the true rate of ASD and as such the new data suggest an urgency in mobilizing resources to understand the causes and accelerate the delivery of interventions.”

Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism
Early Signs of Autism

Image of child in daycare: Shutterstock

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Just How Unaffordable Is Child Care in the U.S.?

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Child in Day CareChild Care Aware of America has released it’s 8th annual Parents and the High Cost of Child Care report—and the results are sobering. According to this year’s report, child care in the United States can cost up to $12, 280 a year for a 4-year-old, and even more—up to $14,508—for babies.

“Quality, affordable child care provides critical support to our nation’s workforce and is one of the earliest learning settings our children will enter,” said Lynette Fraga, Ph.D., executive director of Child Care Aware® of America, in a press release about this year’s findings. “It’s time to address the disparity between high care costs and low provider wages, and find a solution to what has become a crisis.”

Among other things, the report looked at center-based care “based on the cost of child care as a percentage of state median income for a two-parent family” and found that in 2013, the 10 states with the least-affordable child care for infants in fulltime care were, in order: New York, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Washington, Illinois, Nevada, California, and Kansas. For 4-year-olds, the least-affordable states were New York, Vermont, Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Colorado, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine.
Parents and the High Cost of Child Care

Other key findings in this year’s report:

Parents pay more for child care (for two kids) than they do for their mortgage in 23 states, plus Washington, D.C.; and parents who have both a baby and a 4-year-old in center-based child care pay more for that care than they do for rent in every state. And in every region of the U.S., families spend more on child care fees for an infant in center-based child care than they spend on food.

Tell us: How much do you spend on child care?

After Baby: I'm The Primary Breadwinner
After Baby: I'm The Primary Breadwinner
After Baby: I'm The Primary Breadwinner


Image of child in day care: Shutterstock; Graphic: Child Care Aware of America

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