Tag: flu season

I Refuse to Listen to Bad Advice About Flu Shots, and I Won’t Apologize for It

The only thing that seems to be more rampant than the flu this season are the articles pushing people to skip a flu shot.

POPSUGAR moms will hopefully go somewhere else for advice about flu shots.
POPSUGAR moms will hopefully go somewhere else for advice about flu shots.

They. Are. Everywhere.

I Refuse to Listen to Bad Advice About Flu Shots

Why are we seeing so many folks attacking flu shots lately?

It’s simple. A bad flu season reminds people that they should get vaccinated and protected. We see the same thing when there are outbreaks of measles, mumps, and pertussis, etc.

And then those folks who are truly anti-vaccine have to come out and justify why they still don’t believe in vaccines.

That leaves us with arguments like this:

“Whenever I start to get worried that I’ll end up with the flu if I don’t get the shot, I remember that it isn’t always effective.”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

It is true that the flu shot is not always effective, but if you are only going to use things that are 100% effective, then why would you take “lots of vitamins and natural supplements” when you have the flu, things that have been shown to be ineffective?

“Side effects can include soreness around the injection side, a low-grade fever for a few days, and muscle aches. Now, I know that this may seem like a small price to pay to avoid getting the full-blown flu, but if I can avoid any sickness at all, why not try?”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

Uh, if you want to try and avoid any sickness, why not get a flu shot? Even when it isn’t as effective as we would like, a flu shot can help reduce your chance of hospitalization, serious flu complications, and of dying with the flu.

“Have you ever taken a step back and learned more about what the heck is actually inside the flu shot? ”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

I know exactly what’s in the flu shot.

Does anyone at POPSUGAR?

Got something you want published online? Head over to POPSUGAR...
Got something you want published online? Head over to POPSUGAR…

Even with a disclaimer from an Editor, POPSUGAR should be ashamed of themselves for publishing an article that says the flu shot is filled with toxins. In addition to an ingredients list, the CDC explains that “all ingredients either help make the vaccine, or ensure the vaccine is safe and effective.”

Flu shot ingredients are not toxins!

“Instead of injecting myself with toxins, I do things like practice good hygiene, take lots of vitamins and natural supplements, and rely on my body and it’s strength to fight off any unwanted bacteria. The human body is an incredible thing, and I trust it. I also like it to ride out things naturally.”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

The flu is a virus, not a bacteria, but I get the point that the author is attempting to make. The thing is though, that while the human body is certainly incredible, relying on it to get you over the flu is not always an easy ride. We often have to pay a high price for natural immunity.

And the people who die with the flu don’t die because of poor hygiene or because they don’t take enough vitamins and supplements. They die because they have the flu. And more often than not, especially in the case of children, because they are unvaccinated.

“For some people, getting the flu shot is at the very top of their to-do list, but for me, it’s something I refuse to do. And that’s OK too.”

Jen Glantz on Do You Need To Get A Flu Shot?

It is certainly OK that Jen Glantz doesn’t get a flu shot each year. At least it is OK as long as she doesn’t get the flu and give it to someone else.

It is not OK that POPSUGAR gives her a voice on such an important topic. Don’t listen to them.

It’s not as big a deal when she writes about the “importance” of drinking both hot and cold water each day, drinking apple cider vinegar for bloating, the best baby names of the year, or how to pee when wearing a wedding dress. That’s the kind of clickbait type content you expect from a POPSUGAR type site.

But scaring people and making them think that there are toxins in flu shots?

Save it for GOOP.

What to Know About Bad Flu Shot Advice

This year’s bad flu season wasn’t limited to folks getting sick… There was also a lot of bad flu shot advice going around.

More on Bad Flu Shot Advice

The Strategic Plan to Develop a Universal Influenza Vaccine

Even before you get to talk about problems with flu vaccine effectiveness,  it becomes clear that everyone wants a better flu vaccine.

One big problem with the current generation of flu vaccines?

You have to get them each and every year.

Developing a Better Flu Vaccine

So what would we all want in a new and better flu vaccine?

It would:

  • last longer, so you didn’t have to get a new vaccine every year
  • be more effective
  • cover more flu vaccine strains, so it wasn’t a “guess” about which flu strains to include in the flu vaccine each year and we didn’t have to worry about drifted flu vaccine strains or new and emerging strains for which there is no vaccine

A universal flu vaccine, which covers all possible flu strains, would be ideal.

So why haven’t we been working on developing a universal flu vaccine?

Well, we have.

It just isn’t that easy.

Many different research teams have been working on a universal flu vaccine for years and some have already had some success.

Does that mean we will see a universal flu vaccine soon?

Unfortunately, of the almost 40 organizations working on improved flu vaccines, including a universal flu vaccine, about 30 are still in preclinical or phase 1 trials. So the answer is no, we will not see a universal flu vaccine soon.

The Strategic Plan to Develop a Universal Influenza Vaccine

Maybe that will change now that more and more folks are pushing for a better flu vaccine and we see the effects of severe flu seasons without a good vaccine.

Of course, talk isn’t enough.

“A priority for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is development of an influenza vaccine providing durable protection against multiple influenza strains, including those that may cause a pandemic, i.e., a universal influenza vaccine. To invigorate research efforts, NIAID developed a strategic plan focused on knowledge gaps in three major research areas, as well as additional resources required to ensure progress towards a universal influenza vaccine. NIAID will use this plan as a foundation for future investments in influenza research and will support and coordinate a consortium of multidisciplinary scientists focused on accelerating progress towards this goal.”

Erbelding et al on A Universal Influenza Vaccine: The Strategic Plan for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

That’s why it is also encouraging that we have seen the:

  • The Flu Vaccine Act would help fund a universal flu vaccine.the Pathway to a Universal Influenza Vaccine workshop convened by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in 2017
  • the Strategic Plan for Developing a Universal Influenza Vaccine by the NIAID that was announced in 2018
  • U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced the Flu Vaccine Act, which would invest $1 billion towards development of a universal flu vaccine

Knowing that developing a universal flu vaccine is a priority of the NIAID and that so many organizations are already working towards this goal is very reassuring.

Hopefully we are a lot closer than some folks thing.

Until then, a seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to avoid the flu and serious flu complications.

What to Know About Developing a Universal Influenza Vaccine

Developing a better flu vaccine, including a universal flu vaccine, is an even bigger priority with the announcement of the Strategic Plan for Developing a Universal Influenza Vaccine.

More on Developing a Universal Influenza Vaccine

FluMist Is Coming Back

FluMist is a live, attenuated nasal spray flu vaccine.

While pediatricians, parents and kids loved it, since it wasn’t a shot, it hasn’t been available since 2016 because it was found to be less effective than flu shots against the H1N1 strain of flu.

The History of FluMist

FluMist had been a good option for kids who don't want to get a flu shot every year.
FluMist had been a good option for kids who don’t want to get a flu shot every year. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

The FluMist nasal spray was first approved in 2003 for healthy kids over age 5 years and adults up to age 49 years.

In 2007, the age range was expanded to included healthy children between the ages of 2 and 5 years.

It quickly became a favorite of kids who didn’t like the idea of getting a flu shot each year, although some kids didn’t like getting something sprayed into their nose.

Next, in 2012, FluMist Quadrivalent, with protection against four strains of flu virus, was approved.

While some experts initially thought it might work better than traditional flu shots and it actually became the preferred flu vaccine for kids in 2014, by 2016, FluMist was no longer recommended in the United States.

The Return of FluMist

On February 12, 2017, at a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), members voted to once again recommended FluMist Quadrivalent to prevent the flu. It will be available for next year’s flu season, although the recommendation still has to be approved by the director of the CDC.

What happened to FluMist?

“In the 2013-2014 influenza season, when lower than expected effectiveness of FluMist Quadrivalent was first observed, Influenza A (H1N1) was the predominant circulating influenza virus strain. When the data showing lower than expected vaccine effectiveness became available, FDA began working with MedImmune to investigate potential reasons for this finding.”

FDA Information Regarding FluMist Quadrivalent Vaccine

Although they worked on a fix after the 2013-2014 influenza season, the following season showed poor effectiveness for all flu vaccines because of a drifted flu strain. So it wasn’t until the following year that it was noticed that FluMist still didn’t work as well as a flu shot against H1N1 flu strains, at least not in the United States.

Surprisingly, studies in other countries, including Finland and the UK showed that FluMist did work.

And now MedImmune, the company that makes FluMist, has replaced the H1N1 seed virus it uses to make FluMist, and preliminary testing shows that it is more effective and should be as effective as a flu shot.

That’s why the ACIP voted 12-2 to make FluMist available for the 2018-2019 flu season.

Will you get it for your kids next year, instead of a regular flu shot? If the number of parents and kids asking for FluMist this year is any guide, many will be glad it’s back.

What to Know About the Return of FluMist

FluMist has hopefully been improved, been made more effective, and will be ready to help prevent the flu for the 2018-2019 flu season. It will be an especially good option for those kids who don’t want a shot.

More on the Return of Flumist

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to the Flu

During a bad flu season, especially when effectiveness of the flu vaccine is less than ideal, parents want to know how to protect their kids from the flu.

Protecting Kids from the Flu

Cover your coughs and sneezes so you don't spread the flu virus to other people.
Covering your coughs and sneezes might help prevent the spread of the flu virus to other people.

Of course,  the best way to protect kids from the flu and serious complications of the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year.

Still, the flu vaccine isn’t perfect.

So, what else can you do?

Like other respiratory diseases that are mainly spread by coughing and sneezing, you can help reduce the risk that your kids will get sick by:

  • as much as possible and practical, keeping your kids away from other people, especially those who are obviously sick
  • encouraging your kids and others to properly cover their coughs and sneezes
  • teaching your kids to wash their hands properly
  • encouraging your kids to not touch their eyes, nose, or mouth, or to bite their nails or put things in their mouth, like their pencil or pen
  • cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that your child will likely touch
  • encouraging others to stay home from school or work when they have the flu until they are fever free for at least 24 hours, although they might be contagious for even longer

While these techniques might not work, they are certainly better than doing nothing and simply letting your kids catch the flu.

What to Do If Your Child Is Exposed to the Flu

If your kids do anything outside the home, even if they don’t go to daycare or school, there might come a time during a long flu season when they get exposed to someone with the flu.

What do you do?

“Prevention (prophylaxis) is a term used when someone who does not have flu symptoms is given Tamiflu to help stop them from getting the flu because they are exposed to or come into close contact with someone (for example live with or take care of someone) who has the flu.”

FDA on Tamiflu: Consumer Questions and Answers

In addition to watching for classic flu symptoms to develop over the next one to four days, if your child is unvaccinated or it is a year during which the flu vaccine is not very effective, if your child is in a high risk group for severe complications from the flu (under age two to five years or any age with chronic medical problems), then you might ask your pediatrician about:

  • a once a day dose of Tamiflu (Oseltamivir), which is recommended as a preventative in infants as young as three months old
  • a once a day dose of Relenza (Zanamivir), which is recommended as a preventative in children as young as five years old, unless they have respiratory problems, like asthma

But that doesn’t mean that everyone should take these flu medicines every time they are exposed to someone with the flu. If these medicines are overused, flu viruses will develop resistance and they won’t work, just like happened to some of the older anti-viral flu medicines, amantadine and rimantadine.

Still, if your child with diabetes, uncontrolled asthma, muscular dystrophy, or healthy four month old is closely exposed to someone with the flu, then taking Tamiflu to prevent a potentially severe case of the flu is likely a good idea.

What to Do If Your Child Gets the Flu

And if your child gets the flu?

Believe it or not, most healthy school age kids with the flu don’t need to be seen by their pediatrician.

“When treatment is started within two days of becoming sick with flu symptoms, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by about one day. They may reduce the risk of complications such as ear infections in children, and pneumonia and hospitalizations in adults. For people at high risk of serious flu complications, early treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of more severe illness that might require a hospital stay.”

CDC on What You Should Know About Flu Antiviral Drugs

You should see your pediatrician or other health care provider at the first sign of flu symptoms if they are at high risk for serious complications of the flu and they might benefit from Tamiflu, which includes those under two to five years old and children with any chronic medical problems.

And of course, seek medical attention if your child with the flu is showing signs of a severe case of the flu, such as trouble breathing, dehydration, or being inconsolable, etc.

You should also seek medical attention if your child with the flu was getting better, but then starts to get worse again, with a return of fever, worsening cough, or severe headache, etc.

When in doubt, call your pediatrician!

What to Know About Protecting Kids from the Flu

In addition to avoiding people who are sick with the flu, see your pediatrician as soon as possible if your younger, high risk child is gets sick after being exposed to someone with the flu.

More on Protecting Kids from the Flu

What Shots Do You Need to Be Around a Newborn?

We often focus on what vaccines a baby will need once they are born, but it is also important that folks around your new baby get vaccinated too.

What Shots Do You Need to Be Around a Newborn?

To protect their new baby, many parents institute a no visit policy for friends and family members who don't get vaccinated.
To protect their new baby, many parents institute a no visit policy for friends and family members who don’t get vaccinated.

Of course, all of your vaccines should be up-to-date, especially if you plan to be around young kids. That’s how we maintain herd immunity levels of protection for those who can’t be vaccinated and protected, including newborns who are too young to be vaccinated.

In addition to routine vaccines, it is especially important that teens and adults who are going to be around a newborn or younger infant have:

  • a dose of Tdap – now routinely given to kids when they are 11 to 12 years old and to women during each pregnancy (to protect newborns against pertussis), others should get a dose if they have never had one. There are currently no recommendations for a booster dose.
  • a flu shot – is it flu season? Then anyone who is going to be around your baby should have had a flu shot. And for the purposes of keeping a newborn safe from the flu, you can assume that flu season extends from September through May, or anytime that flu shots are still available.

That’s it?

Only two shots?

Yes, only two shots assuming you are either immune or are up-to-date on your other vaccines. If you have been delaying or skipping any vaccines, then you might need an MMR, the chicken pox vaccine, and whatever else you are missing.

Other Precautions Around a New Baby

Unfortunately, there are many risks to a new baby that aren’t vaccine preventable.

Just because everyone is vaccinated and protected, that doesn’t mean that you should have a party welcoming your baby home and invite everyone in the neighborhood. Besides the flu, we get concerned about other cold and flu-like viruses, especially RSV.

That means to protect them, you should keep your baby away from:

  • large crowds, or even small crowds for that matter – in general, the more people that your baby is exposed to, the higher the chance that they will catch something
  • people who are sick
  • cigarette smoke – second hand smoke increases the risk of infections, like RSV

And make sure everyone, even if they don’t seem sick, washes their hands well before handling your baby.

“Parents or relatives with cold sores should be especially careful not to kiss babies—their immune systems are not well developed until after about 6 months old.”

AAP on Cold Sores in Children: About the Herpes Simplex Virus

Because you can sometimes be contagious even if you don’t have an active cold sore (fever blister), some parents don’t let anyone kiss their baby. Most of this fear comes after news reports of babies getting severe or life-threatening herpes infections after a probable kiss from a family member or friend.

When Can I Take My Newborn Out in Public?

When can you take your baby out in public? Most people try to wait until they are at least two months old.

Is that because that’s when they are protected with their two month shots?

Not really, as your baby won’t really be protected until they complete the primary series of infant vaccinations at six months.

Two months is a good general rule though, because by that age, if your baby gets a cold virus and a fever, it won’t necessarily mean a big work-up and a lot of testing. Before about six weeks, babies routinely get a lot of testing to figure out why they have a fever (the septic workup), even if it might be caused by a virus. That’s because younger infants are at risk for sepsis, UTI’s, and meningitis and they often have few signs when they are sick.

Keep in mind that going out in public is much different from going out. You can go for a walk with your baby at almost any time, as long as they are protected from the sun, bugs, and wind, etc., as long as there aren’t people around.

What to Know About Protecting Newborn Babies

Protect your baby by making sure everyone around them is vaccinated and protected, especially with a dose of Tdap and the flu vaccine.

More on Protecting Newborn Babies

Are Vaccinated Children Dying from the Flu?

We know that kids die from the flu, not just this year, but every year.

In fact, on average, just over 100 kids die of the flu each year!

The flu is a terrible disease.

How Many Kids Die from the Flu?

The CDC started to track pediatric flu deaths in the fall of 2004, when it became nationally reportable. This followed a particularly bad 2003-04 flu season (H3N2-predominant), during which the CDC got reports of 153 pediatric deaths from only 40 states.

Since then, the number of pediatric flu deaths has ranged from a low of 37, during the 2011-12 flu season, to a high of 289 deaths during the swine flu pandemic.

  • 2004-05 flu season – 47 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2005-06 flu season – 46 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2006-07 flu season – 77 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2007-08 flu season – 88 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2008-09 flu season – 137 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2009-10 flu season – 289 pediatric flu deaths (swine flu pandemic)
  • 2010-11 flu season – 123 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2011-12 flu season – 37 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2012-13 flu season – 171 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2013-14 flu season – 111 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2014-15 flu season – 148 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
  • 2015-16 flu season – 93 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2016-17 flu season – 110 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)

So far, this year, there have been 151 flu deaths in children.

Are Vaccinated Children Dying from the Flu?

The anti-vaccine movement is obviously the one in PANIC MODE as they continue putting out anti-vaccine propaganda.
The anti-vaccine movement is obviously the one in PANIC MODE as they continue putting out anti-vaccine propaganda, even as unvaccinated kids continue to die.

Although this year’s flu season, in which an H3N2 flu strain got off to an early start, certainly has the potential to be a lot worse than your average flu season, it seems similar to other H3N2 flu seasons.

Tragically, that means a lot of kids will likely die with the flu this season. H3N2-predominant flu seasons tend to be much worse than when other flu virus strains

And like previous flu seasons, we know that:

  • many of them will be otherwise healthy, without an underlying high risk medical condition
  • half will be between 5 to 17 years old

And most of them will be unvaccinated.

“During past seasons, approximately 80% of flu-associated deaths in children have occurred in children who were not vaccinated. Based on available data, this remains true for the 2017-2018 season, as well.”

CDC on How many flu-associated deaths occur in people who have been vaccinated?

And we also know that it isn’t too late to get a flu shot to get protected for the rest of this year’s flu season.

What to Know About Pediatric Flu Deaths

The flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but there is no denying the fact that year after year, most pediatric flu deaths are in kids who weren’t vaccinated.

More on Pediatric Flu Deaths

Updated April 13, 2018

Elderberry and Oscillococcinum to Treat the Flu

Have you heard of using Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum to treat the flu?

How about taking high-dose Elderberry syrup as part of your post-flu vaccination care plan?

Or taking Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum as part of a flu prevention protocol?

Do Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum Treat the Flu?

Do you think that Oscillococcinum can really treat flu symptoms?
Do you think that Oscillococcinum can really treat flu symptoms?

Even if you have heard of Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum, you may not know what they really are or what they really do…

Elderberry syrup (Sambucol) is supposed to help you get over cold and flu symptoms quicker. Maybe it does, at least in mice with the flu.

Not surprisingly, there is no strong evidence that elderberry works.

What about Oscillococcinum?

As much as Oscillococcinum costs, it must work, right?

Nope.

What Is Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum?

Surprisingly, these natural “flu fighters” are sold in most pharmacies, so the average person has no idea that they aren’t real medicine.

Not real medicine?

Does that make them alternative medicine?

“…there’s no such thing as conventional or alternative or complementary or integrative or holistic medicine. There’s only medicine that works and medicine that doesn’t. And the best way to sort it out is by carefully evaluating scientific studies – not by visiting Internet chat rooms, reading magazine articles, or talking to friends.”

Paul Offit, MD on Do You Believe in Magic?

So Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum fall into the category of medicine that doesn’t work.

That still doesn’t help you understand what they are though…

Elderberry syrup is made from the berries of the European elder tree (and lots of sugar to make it taste sweet). While it is sold like a traditional cough and cold medicine, it is just another herbal remedy.

What’s in Oscillococcinum?

Active Ingredients:
Anas Barbariae Hepatis Et Cordis Extractum 200 CK HPUS

No berries or herbs in Oscillococcinum.

And not much of anything else either.

“Since 1925, Oscillococcinum has been prepared as follows. Into a one litre bottle, a mixture of pancreatic juice and glucose is poured. Next a Canard de Barbarie is decapitated and 35 grams of its liver and 15 grams of its heart are put into the bottle. Why liver? Doctor Roy writes: “The Ancients considered the liver as the seat of suffering, even more important than the heart, which is a very profound insight, because it is on the level of the liver that the pathological modifications of the blood happen, and also there the quality of the energy of our heart muscle changes in a durable manner.” Maybe the French tendency to call any form of not well-being a “crise de foie” (“bilious attack”) had also something to do with it. After 40 days in the sterile bottle, liver and heart autolyse (disintegrate) into a kind of goo, which is then “potentized” with the Korsakov method.”

Jan Willem Nienhuys on The True Story of Oscillococcinum

Wait.

Whose pancreatic juice do they use? The ducks?

While all of that sounds gross, if you have taken Oscillococcinum, you can rest assured that you haven’t eaten any duck heart, duck liver, or pancreatic juice.

Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic medicine and so that mixture is diluted so much, it is impossible that any of the original “medicine” is still in those little sugar pills.

Why People Buy Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum

So if they don’t work, why do so many people buy these products?

As I said, many people don’t know that they are anything different than all of the other traditional cold and flu treatments on store shelves. After all, most pharmacies don’t have a section or shelf for medicine that doesn’t work.

We see the same thing when parents buy homeopathic teething medicines, colic tablets, pain and fever reducers, pinkeye drops, and cough syrup.

Unfortunately,  since there are few good options to treat cold and flu symptoms, especially in younger kids, they buy Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum. It is also the remedy that is pushed on many anti-vaccine websites and by holistic pediatricians.

What to Know About Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum

Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum have not been shown to work to treat the flu or flu symptoms and are mainly pushed by alternative medical providers.

More on Elderberry syrup and Oscillococcinum