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Charlotte+Asher creates chic diaper bags for the stylish, modern mom.

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Parenthood related topics written by the founders of charlotte+asher.

Filtering by Tag: Vaccinations

Vaccines and Teens

Chantal Standafer

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This is the last week of National Immunization Awareness Month. And last but not least, it's time to focus on preteens and teens. As with babies and young children, pregnant women, and adults, there are certain vaccines that can be very important for keeping teens healthy now as well as setting then up for a healthy life.

While our kids (and yours) may be nowhere near the teen years, we know that they'll be here before we know it. And I don't know about you, but I like to have an idea of what's to come down the road. So here's the quick roundup of the top vaccinations for those formative years:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: Meningococcal bacteria can cause infections in the lining of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis)  and blood (septicemia). These infections can have very severe effects, including hearing loss, learning disabilities, among others. There are two different vaccines-- meningococcal conjugate vaccine and serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.  

  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine: HPV infections can cause some kinds of cancers (cervix, vagina, penis, among others). By getting vaccinated against HPV, most of those cases of cancer can be prevented.  

  • Tdap vaccine: While children receive the DTaP vaccine early in their lives, they can wear off over time. By getting the Tdap booster shot, preteen and teens can stay protected from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).

  • Flu vaccine: Teens and preteens need to receive this vaccine every year. The flu vaccine is updated each year, formulated to protect against the strains of the flu virus that are predicted to be the most prevalent that year.

No matter what stage in life you (or your child) are in, it’s important to make sure you are up-to-date with your vaccinations. If you are unsure of this, be sure to contact your primary care doctor (or child’s pediatrician). He or she will be able to assess you and provide recommendations.  Vaccines still remain the best protection against many devastating diseases!


 

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Preventative Measures: Getting the Flu Shot During Pregnancy

Chantal Standafer

Nothing like family snuggles. 

Nothing like family snuggles. 

As we get into August, thoughts of flu start to pop up. Not because it's going around yet, but the signs offering the flu shot are appearing at pharmacies. It's a gentle reminder that the flu season (generally October-March, but even into May) is just around the corner. 

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. It is contagious, believed to be passed by droplets created when infected people cough, sneeze or talk (so basically normal daily life being in contact with other humans). People can be contagious before they show signs of the illness, and can remain contagious for a number of days after coming down with it. This illness is characterized by a number of not so lovely symptoms including fever, fatigue, and body aches, among others. To put it mildly, it's not pretty. 

Getting the flu while pregnant can be especially challenging and dangerous. According to the CDC, because of the natural changes in women's bodies during pregnancy, they are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu, including hospitalization, preterm labor and delivery. 

Good news is that woman can receive the flu shot! While there are two available deliveries of the vaccine, the Mayo Clinic makes a clear recommendation that pregnant women only receive the shot and should steer clear of the nasal spray (the latter is made from a live virus, which is to be avoided during pregnancy). The effect of the vaccination is two-fold. Just like when getting the Tdap during pregnancy, the mother is protected, plus she transfers immunity to the baby. This is extremely important because infants cannot receive a flu vaccination until they are 6 months old. 

Be sure to talk with your OB/GYN or midwife about any questions you have. They are there to help and want you to have the healthiest pregnancy possible! Plus, there's a good chance you can get your flu shot at one of your upcoming appointments. But don't worry, if that's not an option most pharmacies can administer the shot too (and usually without much of a wait)! 

A Personal Story

Laura Hahn

As we close up August and National Immunization Awareness Month, we want to end on a more personal note. As much as we can spew facts at parents to do the right thing and immunize their child (assuming s/he is not immunocompromised), nothing can quite affect us as much as stories. So for this post, we are highlighting a letter written by the beloved children's author Roald Dahl. His daughter Olivia caught the measles in 1962, and he wrote this piece in The Sandwell Health Authority in 1986. We encourage you to read on.


Measles: A Dangerous Illness

 

Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn't do anything.

"Are you feeling all right?" I asked her.

"I feel all sleepy," she said.

In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.

The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.

On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.

It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk. In America, where measles immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.

Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die.

LET THAT SINK IN.

Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.

So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?

They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.

So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.

The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.

Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was James and the Giant Peach. That was when she was still alive. The second was The BFG, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children.


We are so privileged to live during a time where we can literally be immune to once deadly and rampant diseases. However, that has caused us to forget just how dangerous these diseases are, which has caused some to take vaccinations for granted. Since no one lives in a bubble and we all share the same earth, it's our responsibility to take public health seriously and not expose others to preventable diseases. The thing about disease is that it doesn't discriminate; anyone and everyone is susceptible. Not only are you loving and caring for your own children, but you are doing the same for others. So until these diseases are gone, keep spreading the word: #vaccineswork.

One Key Way to Keep Your Child Healthy

Chantal Standafer

Little guy knows that his 12 month vaccinations are a big deal! 

Little guy knows that his 12 month vaccinations are a big deal! 

Parents agree that feeding and sleep schedules are important to help keep their children healthy. The same goes for childhood immunizations. Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them against 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday.

“The recommended immunization schedule is designed to protect babies early in life,when they are vulnerable and before it’s likely that they will be exposed to diseases,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Public health and medical experts base their vaccine recommendations on many factors. They study information about diseases and vaccines very carefully to decide which vaccines kids should get and when they should get them for best protection.

Although the number of vaccines a child needs in the first two years may seem like a lot, doctors know a great deal about the human immune system, and they know that a healthy baby’s immune system  can handle getting all vaccines when they are recommended. Dr. Messonnier cautions against parents delaying vaccination. “There is no known benefit to delaying vaccination. In fact, it puts babies at risk of getting sick because they are left vulnerable to catch serious diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines.”

When parents choose not to vaccinate or to follow a delayed schedule, children are left unprotected against diseases that still circulate in this country, like measles and whooping cough. Since 2010, we have seen between 10,000 and 50,000 cases of whooping cough each year in the United States. And, up to 20 babies die from whooping cough each year in the United States. Most whooping cough deaths are among babies who are too young to be protected by their own vaccination.

The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 667 cases from 27 states reported to CDC's NCIRD. This was the greatest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000. Staying on track with the immunization schedule ensures that children have the best protection against diseases like these by age 2.

Parents who are concerned about the number of shots given at one time can reduce the number given at a visit by using the flexibility built into the recommended immunization schedule. For example, the third dose of hepatitis B vaccine can be given at 6 through 18 months of age. Parents can work with their child’s healthcare professional to have their child get this dose at any time during that age range.

“I make sure my kids are vaccinated on time,” said Dr.Andrew Kroger, medical officer, NCIRD, and father of two. “Getting children all the vaccines they need by age two is one of the best things parents can do to help keep their children safe and healthy.”

If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. For more information about vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.

Celebrating Infant Immunization Week

Laura Hahn

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This week is National Infant Immunization Week (April 16-23), an annual observance by the CDC to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs and their partners in promoting healthy communities. This is an important week for charlotte+asher since we firmly believe in the importance of infant vaccination, as we donate a specific amount from each bag purchase to the Shot@Life organization. Through Shot@Life, we help fight against the world’s four most deadliest diseases for children: measles, polio, pneumonia and diarrhea.

While these diseases are the most dangerous for children worldwide, that is not to take away from the importance of other routine vaccines we get here in the US and other developed countries. For example, it is routine for newborns to get a Vitamin K injection right after birth, whether at a hospital, birthing center, or even at home with a midwife. This shot ensures that your baby’s blood will be able to clot properly, as Vitamin K deficiencies are extremely serious and may cause life-threatening bleeding. The Hepatitis B shot is also routinely given to newborns before leaving the hospital, though at a birthing center or home birth you may get this at the first pediatrician visit.

As parents, sometimes it’s hard to see our children crying when receiving their vaccinations. I particularly admire and am thankful for the nurses who are expert shot givers and administer the shot and band aid in one fell swoop with minimal bleeding in a few seconds. However, that momentary crying is absolutely worth it to protect them from life-threatening diseases that would otherwise cause us and them to cry. It's worth remembering that even if a child catches but doesn't die from a vaccine-preventable disease, she can still suffer tremendously and will likely need a lot of medical intervention to survive. The facts and studies are out there showing the efficacy and safety of the vaccines our children receive at their pediatric visits. Some children may experience side effects like soreness at the site of vaccine or a low-grade fever, but these are usually mild, short lived, and treatable.

We should continue to discuss the importance of vaccines, raise questions to get a better understanding of them, and strive for the best concoctions. No vaccine is 100% effective, but many are 90% or higher and their effectiveness is increased by herd immunity. We support vaccines not just to protect ourselves and our children, but also as a public health contribution--to help protect each other, especially those who are immunocompromised and unable to get the vaccinations themselves. Our children are the future; they shouldn’t be held back by diseases we have been so fortunate to effectively fight. But we need to continue fighting so that we can win, together.

Why I got the Tdap While I Was Pregnant

Chantal Standafer

Getting the Tdap vaccine is a pregnancy decision that will have a lasting impact. Long after the showers are done and the baby is finally here, your antibodies will still be providing immunity to baby. Because of that I did not hesitate in getting it. I actually jumped the gun by asking my doctor about getting the shot early in my pregnancy. Once I hit the third trimester mark, she gave me the green light to get the vaccine and I made my way to a pharmacy immediately.

The Tdap vaccine helps build immunity against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. While all of these diseases are serious, it is the last one that is of greatest concern to new parents. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a bacterial infection that affects the respiratory system. The symptoms can be especially serious for young babies and is absolutely heart breaking to see, since it is completely preventable.

So what are the main reasons why I got vaccinated?

  • Increase in pertussis cases. In the US, the greatest incidence of pertussis in 60 years occurred in 2012.

  • Passive Immunity. By getting the vaccination while pregnant, antibodies created by my body crossed the placenta into the baby’s system, providing him with short-term immunity to the disease until he’s old enough to get the DTaP himself. Small traces of the antibodies are also passed through breastmilk.

  • Infant vaccination schedule. Baby cannot begin to receive his own vaccination until the age of two months. Most whooping cough deaths are among babies younger than 3 months old, so it’s especially important to get this vaccine on time.

  • Vaccine safety. Recent studies show that it is safe to get while pregnant and there are no increased risks of pregnancy complications as a result of getting the vaccination.

  • The immunity to pertussis wanes over time. Even though I received a booster when our daughter was born two years ago, evidence shows that the concentration of pertussis antibodies decreases fairly quickly and those left in my system would not be enough to protect my son. In order to provide an adequate level of antibodies to my son, I needed to get it again during my pregnancy.

We take great steps to protect our children from potential physical dangers. We see this in how we purchase car seats and baby proofing gear for our homes. But some potential dangers are invisible, like the whooping cough bacteria. Since there was something I could do about that potential danger, I took advantage of the opportunity to protect my son by getting the Tdap vaccination while I was pregnant with him.

If you’re pregnant and have any questions regarding the Tdap vaccine, make sure you speak with your doctor or midwife. Here’s hoping for healthy pregnancies and babies!