Health Watch and the Flu
Good hygiene is a must, and keeping your hands clean is good way to prevent transmitting a nasty bug. Your baby's immune system is fragile in those early weeks, and an adult's mild cold can become dangerous for an infant. Remind loved ones to always wash their hands before handling your baby, too.
In September 2004, the CDC issued a report urging parents to vaccinate babies and toddlers six- to 23-months-old for the flu, adding that "anyone who lives with or cares for someone at high risk of flu complications, particularly newborns…" should also seek vaccination.
According to a news story on CNN in September 2004, the flu kills about 36,000 Americans and hospitalizes another 200,000 annually. Last year 152 children died from the flu, the vast majority of them unvaccinated.
Ask your daycare provider, babysitters, or anyone with close contact to your baby if they have been vaccinated, suggests Dr. Carol Baker of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"The only way to protect babies under the age of six months, who are too young to be vaccinated, is for all those around them to get vaccinated," she adds. Vaccinated pregnant women pass the immunity to their babies. "[This] is a disease that we have the means to prevent," says Baker.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, children need two doses of influenza vaccine given one month apart their first time, but they only need one dose in subsequent years.
Although many flu shot clinics are experiencing a shortage of vaccines this year, pediatric and general practice offices who maintain standard orders with flu shot manufacturers may not be experiencing such a marked supply drop.
Baker suggests calling your pediatrician early to inquire about availability for both the first dose and the follow-up booster. You can also visit the American Lung Association website at www.lungusa.org to locate flu shot clinics near you.