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Questions and Answers for Moms about H1N1

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By Dr. Keren Call, pediatrician and board member of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition

Swine flu. H1N1. Scary stuff right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a lot of information about H1N1, sometimes called swine flu, every day – on TV, on the internet, in the newspaper. Moms have lots of questions about how to prevent H1N1, how safe the vaccine will be, and how can they best protect their family.

With the development of the H1N1 flu strain, the biggest thing to remember is not to panic. There is a lot of news and headlines preparing us for the WORST CASE SCENARIO. The predictions on infection rates are just that, predictions. The constant stream of information can be scary, but it is unknown what will really happen with the spread of H1N1 this flu season.

The good news is we DO know a lot about flu and H1N1. We know that we can prevent seasonal flu with a flu shot right now. We know that the H1N1 vaccine will be distributed in October. We know that the H1N1 vaccine will be safe. We know that the most vulnerable people – pregnant moms, children from birth to 24 years, and adults 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions – should get the vaccine first. We know that if your baby is under six months and is too young to get the vaccine, that everyone around the baby should be vaccinated. We also know that there should be enough vaccine for everyone who wants it; it just might take some time.

I do want to take some time to go through some specific questions I’ve heard from moms about H1N1:

What can I do to protect my family from seasonal flu and H1N1?
The best thing we can do is take the preventative steps within our control to protect our family and ourselves:

  • Get the H1N1 vaccine when it is available
  • If you feel sick, STAY HOME! This goes for children and yourself. Take time to care for your body when it’s sick and prevent spreading illness to others

It’s also a good idea to make a plan for the time you or your family does get sick:

  • Have a child care plan in place for sick children
  • Talk about working from home with your employer
  • Understand your insurance benefits

Finally stay informed. The information on the H1N1 virus changes daily. I know it can be overwhelming. These are some great resources that will keep you up to date on the latest information:

  • The Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition (CCIC) Flu Page – I also recommend connecting with the CCIC staff for questions big or small. They are connected with great professionals to answer your questions. This site also has an RSS and Twitter feed of CDC and news headlines about H1N1 http://www.childrensimmunization.org/flu

Will the H1N1 vaccines be safe?
Yes. The H1N1 vaccine was created in the same way that the seasonal flu vaccine is created. The seasonal flu vaccine has a good safety record. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common side effects following flu vaccinations are mild, such as soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have a system in place to monitor for adverse effects of the vaccine so we’ll know immediately if there are any bigger problems. Here is a detailed questions and answer sheet from the CDC on the safety of the H1N1vaccine.

Are there some people who should not receive this vaccine?
Yes. If your child has a severe allergy to eggs, talk to you doctor before you get the shot. Regardless, I think it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before getting any vaccination. Your child’s doctor will have the best understanding of your child’s health.

Will the H1N1 vaccine contain thimerosal?
Yes AND there will be a version of the H1N1 vaccine without thimerosal. The important thing to remember about thimerosal is that there are numerous studies disproving any connection between thimerosal and autism. Thimerosal is a powerful preservative that is important to vaccine production. With that said, there will be versions of the vaccine without thimerosal for children and adults.

Will the benefits of the H1N1 vaccine outweigh the risks?
Yes. Getting your child, yourself and your family vaccinated is a gift to your friends, neighbors, co-workers and community. By getting the H1N1 shot not only will you prevent your child and yourself from getting sick, you are stopping the spread of disease. Sometimes children and adults can’t get vaccinated due to complicated medical conditions like undergoing chemotherapy or even organ replacement. It is your gift to them to stop illness with your family so you don’t give it to someone else.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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