Child Getting a Flu Shot

Child Getting a Flu Shot
[Credit: Monkey Business Images, Ltd.]/[iStock]/Thinkstock

The flu vaccine is the first and best way to prevent getting the flu, which causes approximately 250,000 illnesses and 36,000 deaths each year.

We contacted Maura J. Rossman, M.D., health officer at the Howard County Health Department, to provide you with the latest changes in vaccine options and tips for making your child comfortable when getting a flu shot.

Read what she shared with us.

The Nasal Spray and Shot 

Recent studies found from 2013 until 2016 the nasal spray showed “poor or relatively lower effectiveness” at only three percent, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Based on these findings, the CDC voted that the live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) nasal spray should not be used during the 2016 – 2017 flu season.

Generally, vaccines containing a live virus cause a stronger immune response in our bodies. The nasal spray was thought to be comparable or better than the flu shot; it was not. To date, there is no explanation for its poor performance.

The flu shot performed well during last year’s flu season, at 65% effectiveness, indicating that millions were protected from the flu. “Based on manufacturer projections, health officials expect that the supply of the vaccine for the 2016 – 2017 season should be sufficient to meet any increase in demand,” according to a written statement from the CDC in June 2016. The flu shot is available in good supply and safe for most people ages six months and up.

Tips for Getting Your Child Vaccinated

Parents who are having a young child vaccinated should consider following the CDC’s tips for making the experience less traumatic:

• Distract and comfort the child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
• Smile and make eye contact with the child. Let him/her know everything is OK.
• Comfort the child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar helps him/her feel more comfortable.
• Firmly hold the child when he/she is sitting on their lap, whenever possible.

For older children:

• Take deep breaths with the child to help “blow out” the pain.
• Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
• Tell or read stories.
• Support the child if he/she cries. Never scold the child for not “being brave.”

Parents can help keep their child healthy this flu season by having them vaccinated, and getting themselves vaccinated as well.

Maura J. Rossman, M.D. is the health officer at Howard County Department of Health.

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bipolar disorderSeveral weeks ago I was hospitalized for severe depression. I’d been dealing with a stressful project at work, my father’s terminal illness, and just getting over a painful breakup. For weeks it felt like I was drowning in my own head. I constantly felt exhausted. Simple tasks, like showering and getting something to eat, felt like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro without oxygen. Crying for no reason became the new norm. I went through my normal routine, numb and almost robot-like and could not find it within me to feel any pleasure in what I did. My range of emotion was limited to sad, hopeless, and angry. I’d suffered from depression and anxiety most of my adult life, but I realized how bad it was getting when I started to have recurring suicidal ideations.

These ideations were what scared me the most. I had no control over my mind. It didn’t matter what I was doing, thoughts of ending my life became persistent. In a sick way, the thought of dying provided comfort in finally putting an end to my misery.

One morning, I had an extremely difficult time getting out of bed. I slowly showered, dressed for work, drove to the office, and told my boss that I was afraid I was going hurt myself. He knew about my struggle with depression and I explained my life was so unbearable that I wanted to end it. I cannot remember much, but I do know I was brought to the psych unit of the ER. I cried hysterically several times, begging the hospital staff not to admit me to the psych ward.

I was admitted to another hospital for short-term hospitalization where I was stabilized with medication and group therapy. I am currently in outpatient therapy to learn coping skills, stress management, and recognize behaviors that I need to work on.

living with bipolarHIGH FUNCTIONING
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a chronic brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

I am Bipolar II which means I have patterns of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes, which involve elevated, high-energy moods. When I am hypomanic, I feel extremely energetic, talkative, and overly confident. For example, I’ll take on dozens of tasks at work and insist I do them on my own. Most of the time, I’m unable to complete the unrealistic goal I’d set for myself.

My psychiatrist said I am a high functioning bipolar. I’d been misdiagnosed with major depressive disorder all these years. Everyone that knows me thinks I’m a workaholic overachiever with a sweet, bubbly, outgoing personality. They think I have this tank of never-ending energy when I am up until 3:00 a.m. baking batches upon batches of cookies for no reason. Or when I can take care of a sick family member at the hospital all day and then answer work emails until 4:00 a.m. night after night for a week and not feel exhausted. I learned that this was also my hypomania.

No one ever saw the depression because I have mastered the art of hiding it from everyone, including most of my family and exes (even the last guy, who also had bipolar). When I am agitated or what I now know is an unstable mood, I always make a deliberate effort to be kind to those I interact with because I’m a firm believer that you never know what kind of day they’re having. It was only when I was alone that I allowed the dark depression to devour me and keeping up this act of normalcy took its toll.

The key to leading a happy, functional life is managing my disorder to the best of my abilities. Thanks to my ex boyfriend (also bipolar), I have a huge head start in educating myself about the disorder. I am fortunate to have a strong support system to help me cope and finally adjust to my new reality.

I am doggedly determined to maintain my stability and health not just for myself, but the people in my life. I am working out a plan with my doctor and therapist to make sure I stay on track. I am learning to manage my stress and look out for triggers. And most of all, I am holding myself accountable for how I manage my disorder moving forward.

I’ve seen so many negative things in the media about people struggling with bipolar. Not one bipolar person is the same -and to negatively label all of us is ignorant and requires more education about the disorder. We, with bipolar, also ask for empathy and understanding. I know good people who struggle with this disorder; who work incredibly hard every day to maintain their stability for themselves and their families.

I did not choose to be bipolar. No one with this disorder did.

[Editor’s Note: This post is a personal account of one of our contributors who asked their name be kept private. If you or someone you know is suffering with depression and feels unsafe, please go to your nearest emergency room or call 9-1-1.]

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Eliminating Gluten, Nuts and Dairy Photo

Brad Calkins | |Eliminating Foods Diet

With school starting soon, you’re probably busy with back-to-school activities, like buying clothes and school supplies, but is preparing your child’s school for his/her food allergies on the to-do list?

With a little organization, preparation and education, you can help keep your child safe from experiencing a food allergy reaction at school. We’ve created this list of tips to get you started.

Make an appointment with the allergist.
Discuss and update your child’s food allergy emergency plan for school, making sure the plan includes a photo of your child and your and the doctor’s contact information. Also, ask for any prescriptions that may need to be filled for the school.

Order a medical alert bracelet.
Along with your child’s name and allergy types, consider including that epinephrine should be given for a severe reaction.

Gather your child’s medical supplies.
Make sure all of your child’s medications are packed and ready to go to school. If it’s possible, provide the school with medications that will not expire; otherwise, make a note of the expiration date(s) on a calendar, so you’ll be ready to replace them before the expiration date.

If your child won’t have an epinephrine auto-injector on him/her at all times, provide one to the school nurse, your child’s teacher and any other school staff who will spend time with your child. The epinephrine container should be labeled with your child’s name, photo and emergency contact information.

Develop emergency plans with the school.
Speak with the school’s staff and make emergency plans for different scenarios, like snack time, lunchtime, classroom parties and field trips. Remind school staff they should give epinephrine immediately, then call 911 in the event of a severe allergic reaction.

Attend the school meeting.
Ask questions related to your child’s food allergy, including:

  • Where is the food kept, and where will your child eat?
  • Are tables cleaned with disposable disinfecting wipes? Sponges can spread allergens.
  • Which staff oversees snack and lunchtime, and do they discourage food sharing?
  • Can teachers give you several days’ notice of food-related events, including birthday parties?
  • Is food used as a reward in the classroom, and if so, can alternative rewards be given?
  • Are kids urged to wash their hands, instead of using hand sanitizer, before and after eating? Hand sanitizer gels do not remove allergens.
  • Is training provided to teachers on how kids describe allergic reactions (e.g. kids may say their food tastes spicy, tongue feels hot, mouth feels itchy or funny, or lips feel tight)?

Write a letter to other parents.
Your letter should include the allergies your child has, what can cause a reaction and the serious effects of a reaction. Explain cross contamination and how preventative measures can keep your child safe.

For year-long tips, read “Going to School With Food Allergies” at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital website.

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Prácticas de Piscina By Asdrubal Velasquez (Visionado on FLICKR)

I rejoice when the weather is warm enough to swim! Swimming is one of the most healthful ways to exercise, and is broadly enjoyed by people of all ages, from babies to the aged. People can get into the pool and enjoy themselves so much that they don’t even know how much beneficial aerobic (heart-pumping) exercise they’re getting.

Aerobic exercise itself has important health benefits: it reduces harmful inflammation linked to many diseases; lowers stress; lowers blood pressure; strengthens muscles (including the heart), and can even help smokers to quit. In fact, swimming is one of the most highly-recommended types of aerobic exercises, according to Johns Hopkins exercise physiologist Kerry J. Stewart, Ed. D. In addition, it’s one of the best exercises for older adults, as it’s easy on the joints.

Most swimmers in Howard County don’t have access to natural bodies of water, such as lakes or the ocean, so we swim in the neighborhood pool, kindly supplied by Columbia Association, one of the neighborhoods in other towns, or by a private owner. The water in these pools needs to be carefully maintained for cleanliness, because the people splashing around bring bacteria into the standing water of the pool. The operators of these pools add chemicals to the water. Without chlorination, health risks would prevent our swimming in a pool.

Most pool operators maintain water cleanliness with chlorine-based chemicals, then test the water for the correct balance of pH (acid-alkaline balance) and chemicals several times throughout the day. Although several alternatives to chlorine exist, each has a disadvantage, including a substantial differential in price. So additions of chlorine seem to be the default choice for water cleanliness.

But chlorine use has its side affects: it’s drying to skin and hair, and may make swimmers’ eyes redden and burn. Some some people are undeniably allergic to chlorine; some people suspect chlorine of causing serious diseases of the respiratory tract or even cancer; but research on these serious side effects is not conclusive.

But (sniff) what’s that sharp smell? Smells like too much chlorine!

Actually, that smell is the result of inadequate amounts of chlorine. Here’s the science: molecules of chlorine combines with molecules of nitrogen or ammonia being thrown off our bodies (organic matter). This is what smells bad. Whenthere is more chlorine in the water, the chlorine can do its job and the odor should be minimal. It’s inadequately-chlorinated water that is most irritating to the skin and eyes, and may be implicated in swimmer’s ear, a common ear infection due to constantly-wet ear canals and bacteria in the water.

And why is the water so cloudy? It’s due to any combination of these events: particles forced out of the water by imbalanced water, poor filtration or sanitation, or heat. Hot days can contribute to cloudy water.

Unless there are other health-related risks, the health benefits, fun, and social value of swimming far outweighs the disadvantages posed by chlorine. One of the rites of summer is swimming, especially out of doors on a hot Maryland day.

The Center for Disease Control’s Triple A’s of Healthy Swimming go into depth on ways to keep everyone healthy when in the water. The most important and easiest of these include:

  • Staying out of the water if you are ill, especially illness of your digestive tract. Also stay out of the water if you have a cut or other break in your skin. Being aware of potential water-borne problems.
  • Showering before you swim to rinse off the organic materials on your skin. This way, you won’t be contributing to what the chlorine as to break down.
  • Regular bathroom breaks for children and adults are crucial. Urine, after all, in another organic material.
  • Protecting yourself with eye goggles, an after-swim shower, shampoo, and body moisturizer.
  • Questions to ask the pool operator: “Are chemical levels checked at least twice per day, or more often when the pool is heavily used?”, “What is the latest pool inspection score?”, and “Has the pool operator completed specialized training in pool operation?”Have a great swim!
Jean has recently retired from Howard County Library System. She also swims at four different Columbia Association pools each summer.

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Like ham and eggs or sunshine and summer, with winter comes snow and shoveling the white stuff. Snow shoveling can be a good source of aerobic exercise, but it doesn’t come without risks. Improper shoveling can cause injuries to your back and shoulders. And the American Heart Association says the risk of heart attack can increase while shoveling since cold temperatures and physical labor make the heart work harder. This may be partially due to the sudden demands that snow shoveling puts on the heart, especially for those who live a fairly sedentary lifestyle.

Take note: if you are at risk for heart attack, you need to take special precautions. The National Safety Council and the National Institutes of Health recommend the following tips for safe snow shoveling:


  • snow shoveling tips
    [Credit: pavelgr/Thinkstock] Protect your heart if at risk for a heart attack: you recently had one and/or coronary stents, heart disease history, high blood pressure or cholesterol, smoker, sedentary lifestyle. Get your doctor’s permission beforehand. Take frequent breaks and pace yourself.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Robeo |] Call 911 if you have: chest tightness or pain, pain in your jaw or pain radiating down your arm. Experts recommend calling an ambulance versus driving to the hospital. Specially-trained emergency teams can assess your condition, stabilize you and activate a treatment team.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Dolgachov |] Avoid injury while shoveling. Don’t lift too much snow, use a smaller shovel or partially fill a larger one. Bend from the knees with a straight back and sit into the motion; avoid twisting movements. Listen to your body and stop if you feel pain.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Eurobanks |] Shovel snow when it’s fresh. It’s easier to move than when it’s wet and packed. Push the snow rather than always lifting.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Maszas|] Ears, nose, hands and feet need extra protection and are at risk for frostbite after as little as 10 minutes in sub-freezing temperatures. Dress in layers that can be removed as needed. Protect your face, since cold air makes working and breathing harder and adds strain on your body.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Ocusfocus|] Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is as serious in the winter as in the summer. Also, avoid eating before you shovel.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Scukrov |] Avoid caffeine and nicotine as they are stimulants that can increase your heart rate and cause your blood vessels to constrict, putting extra stress on the heart. Too much caffeine, alcohol or sugary drinks can all cause dehydration.
  • snow shoveling tips
    [© Pojoslaw|] Warm up before you start by marching in place or walking for a few minutes. Stretch your arm and leg muscles after you’ve warmed up. Warm muscles are less likely to be injured.

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leaflets three let it beWhen I was ten years old, I got two unforgettable cases of poison ivy. A nature girl, I spent spare time out of doors, digging in the dirt, and climbing trees and fences. In the spring of that year, I was digging a hole (purpose, unknown) and found some pesky roots in the way. In pulling up the poison ivy roots, I released urushiol oil all over my hands and next day, my hands were covered with huge weeping blisters. I missed a week of school, as the medication of choice at that time was calamine lotion, which was totally ineffective. That winter, I left a Christmas party to hike and climbed a vine-covered fence. In climbing the fence, I again exposed my hands to urushiol, and missed another week of school with the misery and pain of poison ivy. Because at least 75% of people react to poison ivy, you might know what I’m talking about.

I took these experiences as a personal affront, and swore a vendetta on this innocent plant. Its urushiol oil covering conserves moisture in hot Maryland summers, and is not a defensive measure. Its green leaves are commonly enjoyed by wildlife such as deer and bears, and birds relish the seeds in the fall. In fact, birds which consume the seeds are responsible for the sudden appearance of the plant in your back yard.

Because the plant flourishes where light is prolific in the forest edges, not in the shade, more poison ivy grows in Maryland in 2015 than before the European colonists cleared the trees. And we may be seeing more of it in the future. A Marine Biological Laboratory study found that the plant is highly sensitive to greater carbon dioxide levels. With climate change bringing rising CO2 levels, poison ivy will enjoy an ideal growing environment.

poison oak poison ivyDepending on the severity of the rash and the location on your body, a case of poison ivy rash can make people a little itchy or endanger their health. Calamine cream may help minor rashes. Medical help should be sought for heavy rashes, swelling (especially on the face and genitals), or breathing problems. Strong medications and even hospitalization may be necessary.

Prevention always beats treatment. Learn (and teach your kids) what how to avoid skin contact with urushiol-covered plants. The American Academy of Dermatology’s website includes excellent photographs of poison ivy, oak, and sumac, all of which produce urushiol.

Wear clothes with long sleeves & long pants when you spend time in the woods or in the garden, removing and washing the clothes after use. After suspected exposure (gardening, walks in the woods), immediately wash a soap or cream such as Tecnu or Zanfel to remove the urushiol. If your pet has run through poison ivy, she won’t get a rash- but she can bring the rash to you, so wash her, too.

Jean has been working at Howard County Library System’s Central Branch for nearly nine years. She walks in the Benjamin Banneker Park whenever she gets a chance.

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