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Head lice

The dreaded call– your child has head lice

What to do besides panic, when your school nurse calls home and tells you that your child has head lice? Now don’t go burning down the house just yet. You can do this, lice can be beat. 

Lice is no joke. Having creepy crawlies in your child’s and likely your head is serious business. So serious that people are opening lice clinics ALL over the place. They are charging $100-200 per head to get rid of head lice. The service is not guaranteed and often times the head lice come back. Now that you are itchy and there are lice bugs crawling all over you (not really but feels like it, Ya?), let’s talk about how we can help! Save your family the $800 and try to tackle this at home. The job will take grit and persistence. YOU can do this!

Checking for head lice in kids

Dr. Patricia Brown, a Dermatologist at the FDA explains how you can best check for head lice. Take a deep breath and whooossaaahhh. You can do this.

  1. Part the hair in several spots
  2. Use a magnifying glass and a bright light to help find the lice (fun fact– lice is the plural of louse. One louse, many lice.). The light might scare the lice, but mostly will help you to see things better. 
  3. Lice like warm areas, so check behind the ears and at the nape of the neck.
  4. Head lice can move fast (Eww) and it may be easier to spot the eggs. Lice eggs are otherwise known as nits. Nits don’t move and they usually are stuck to the hair shaft, almost like little white tiny grains of rice.
  5. Nits can look like dandruff, but you can identify them by picking up a strand of hair close to the scalp and pulling your fingernail across the area where you suspect one is hiding. Dandruff will come off easily, but nits will stay firmly attached to the hair. 

Lice treatment

There are many over the counter lice treatments on the market to help with lice problems. The medication will only kill the actual bug (louse) and not the (nit) egg. There is no medication that will completely penetrate and kill the lice eggs. It is important to read the directions on the box if you are using a lice treatment at home. It is especially important to read the age limits for the treatment, as some home treatments are not meant for children or babies. 

If you have called your provider and received a prescription, make sure to follow the instructions for use as well. The CDC outlines many of these lice treatments which can help you to determine which is best for you. 

The MOST important thing about treating lice after killing all the live bugs is to prevent the lice eggs from hatching. Live lice on your head feed on your body and then lay eggs on your hair follicle. Once these eggs hatch, you are back to square one and the life cycle starts all over.

A full grown bug will lay the eggs after about 1 week. These eggs take about another 1 week to hatch. The cycle continues until you stop these eggs from hatching on your head! You must get those eggs OUT OF THERE.

GET RID OF THE EGGS– How to use a lice comb

Lice eggs (nits) will be stuck to the hair shaft. You will need to comb the hair with a lice comb or pick them off. 

The nits need to be picked off to resolve the lice problem. Ever heard of the term Nit picking? Now you know where it comes from! Nit picking is tedious and awful work. But if you miss ONE egg, and it hatches, you may as well start crying now. The lice will be back. You must be nit picky! 

Every nit counts. Every last strand of hair must be combed. This must happen EVERY DAY for TWO WEEKS. No joke. You must do this daily. The best way to comb the nits is by lightly wetting the hair and parting it. Separate with a clip and use the lice comb to check every strand. After each swipe, wipe the comb on a paper towel. A nit will appear as a white/grey/yellowish teeny tiny grain of rice. And a bug, well…a bug looks like a bug. But they are TINY and may be dead or alive. Be prepared. 

Clean your house to help control the spread of head lice

Take a vacuum to your couches, change your sheets and take all the stuffed animals out of your kiddo’s rooms. Do a quick clean. The honest truth here is that people freak out about their homes and spend lots of time cleaning, and not enough time picking. I’m going to be nit picky here (see what I did?)— pick the nits, don’t waste all your time freaking out about your house. The lice like your nice warm head and can only live while hosting on your scalp. It is unlikely that your lice buddies will jump off your head and set up shop in your couch cushions. I mean they may fall off there but they won’t live long and they really just want a cozy scalp to live on. 

If you have questions about head lice, always feel free to chat with one of our nurses. We’re here to help!

Preventing head lice 

Sharing isn’t always caring! Don’t share brushes, headbands, hats or clothing. This will prevent you from catching head lice from infected friends. Be sure to remind your kiddos that they shouldn’t share headwear at school. Keep hats to themselves! Avoid sleepovers with infected friends. Laying on a couch or pillow that an infected person has been lounging on can get head lice on your head too. One little friend may fall off and cozy up to your head. 

Make it a habit to do a quick comb once a month or so during the school year, and more often when that dreaded letter comes home that someone in your child’s class has head lice. Head lice do not discriminate, anyone can get it! Now stop scratching your head and order that lice comb 🙂  And always feel free to reach out to our nurses with questions.

–Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, how to treat constipation in toddlers? Do I have a stomach bug or food poisoning? Does cold weather cause the flu?

Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.

Stomach bug

The stomach bug– so catchy you might just get it from reading this article.

The dreaded words… the stomach bug.🤢 Let’s talk about how we can avoid catching it and what it is.

The stomach bug is usually caused by a virus 🤒that causes vomiting and/or diarrhea 💩🤮. Viral gastroenteritis, stomach flu, stomach bug, puking, the runs all usually mean one thing. They don’t call it runs for just the obvious reasons… You will be running to the bathroom as well as having runny poo. How did you catch this, and is it really the stomach bug? 

Stomach bug transmission and symptoms

The stomach virus is spread by touching infected vomit, stool and saliva. 🤮 Good handwashing is a must.🚰 Don’t get caught eating a poop particle (yuck) 💩. Keep your hands away from your mouth! Try telling that to your thumb sucker or orally fixated school aged kiddo. 

Your symptoms usually occur about 24-48 hours after exposure to the virus. Besides suffering from vomiting and diarrhea, you will likely feel sick, have abdominal cramping, low grade fever, nausea and overall feel achy. 🤒 The stomach bug is hard to contain. If someone in your house has it, either clean the toilet each time they use it, or if you are lucky enough to have two bathrooms, only let them use one!

What causes the stomach bug

The most common viruses to cause the stomach bug 💩🤮 are the norovirus, rotavirus, and the adenovirus. Both the noro and rota viruses are SUPER contagious and can blow through schools, offices, and homes over a few days. Handwashing and good hygiene are KEY to preventing the spread. The most common time to get these viruses is October through April— Poop virus from Pumpkins to Petunias is a good way to remember it. But let’s face it, that’s more than half the year, so let’s just say it’s always around! Wash those hands! 🤒

What should I expect; how to rehydrate an adult who has the stomach bug

The stomach bug will usually only last 3-4 days, but it can last as long as 10 days! It’s important to give your gut a rest when the symptoms first start. If you are vomiting, give your belly a rest until the vomiting calms down by avoiding all food. Take small sips of Pedialyte or watered down Gatorade or broth. Small sips means small sips! If you chug the drink (which you may want to do, SO THIRSTY) you will likely vomit! Don’t do that! You are better off sipping and letting your body absorb small bits of fluid at a time than chugging a large amount and immediately vomiting it up, while absorbing nothing. 

Hydration is key with the stomach bug.🥛 You will feel awful, and that feeling will worsen if you become dehydrated. So take it easy, slow and steady wins the race. Once vomiting has stopped and you can tolerate drinking well, you can start eating small amounts of plain, bland, foods that are easy to digest. Don’t go eating a Big Mac or chicken wings. Stick to plain, non greasy, low fat foods. 

High protein foods like eggs 🥚, boiled chicken are okay🐔, as well as plain rice, broth and crackers. Avoid dairy for at least a week, especially in children. Milk and cheese🧀 are hard to digest and can prolong diarrhea symptoms. Switch to a non-dairy alternative such as coconut, nut or soy milk to hold them over as some kids love their milk! Plain yogurt with live cultures is also a great alternative as it provides some good bacteria for your gut. 

How to rehydrate your baby or young child who has the stomach bug

If your baby is less than 6 months old and has vomiting or vomiting or diarrhea 💩🤮, you should call your primary care provider. They may want you to come into the office for a visit. Babies over 6 months of age with stomach bug symptoms usually can be managed well at home with some effort. But not all! Make sure to call with any signs of dehydration or if your child is ill appearing.

First off, babies should have a wet diaper a minimum of every 6-8 hours. It’s important that their body is making urine (pee) regularly. If that’s not happening, that it a sign they are getting dehydrated and should be evaluated by your primary provider, an urgent care, or the ER depending on time of day. When in doubt, check with us or call your pediatrician. Don’t hesitate if things seem off, ask for some help and guidance, as young infants can get dehydrated much faster than older children. Remember, if they are not peeing, they should get checked! 

If your baby is actively vomiting, let their belly rest for an hour or two until the fast and furious vomiting improves. Once things calm down, offer your baby small amounts of Pedialyte at a time. Small sips are important. Keep track of what they are taking (put a sheet of paper on the fridge and track it all). If they chug the bottle, they are likely to vomit it all up. 🍼 Small sips means that they are absorbing small amounts frequently. Offer ½ oz-1 oz every 15 min and increase as they are able to keep it down. Some babies may even need you to syringe 5-10mL of fluid or give teaspoons every 2-3 minutes as they may refuse the bottle/breast.

Gelatin, tea, fruit juice, rice water, and other beverages are not recommended to rehydrate your child. Stick to premade oral rehydration such as Pedialyte, Infalyte, and ReVita or other generic Pedialyte version are great. Oral rehydration popsicles are a fan favorite and they are found non frozen next to the regular pedialyte bottles. 

Don’t give your baby formula or cow’s milk for 24 hours or until they are able to tolerate full feeds of Pedialyte. For babies on formula, you can reintroduce them slowing back to regular bottles by giving 50/50 Pedialyte/formula and then once tolerating that, back to 100% formula. 

Can I give breastmilk to an infant with stomach bug?

You CAN breastfeed your baby who has the stomach bug. Breastmilk is very well absorbed– your baby can easily digest your breastmilk. The same rule goes for chugging! Small sips, so either pull the baby off the breast or pump and offer small amounts at a time. 🤱Pedialyte frozen pops or breastmilk pops are also great ways to rehydrate without chugging.

Infants (0-6 months) can become dehydrated VERY quickly. If your baby isn’t taking any bottles, or is refusing to breastfeed, you should have a discussion with us or your provider about the plan for them as they will become dehydrated quickly. 

The stomach bug 💩🤮 can last up to 10 days in kiddos as well as adults. Once your child stops vomiting, diarrhea usually follows. Avoid letting your baby drink cow’s milk and dairy based formula until the diarrhea slows down to once a day or completely resolves. Lots of cows milk, cheese, greasy hard-to-digest foods can prolong diarrhea in kids and young babies. Who wants to deal with that!?

High protein foods like eggs, boiled chicken are ok, as well as plain rice, broth and crackers. Avoid dairy for at least a week, especially in children. Milk and cheese are hard to digest and can prolong diarrhea symptoms. Switch to a non-dairy alternative such as coconut, nut or soy milk to hold them over as some kids love their milk! Plain yogurt with live cultures is also a great alternative as it provides some good bacteria for your gut. 

If for any reason your child isn’t urinating for more than 8 hours, doesn’t make tears when they cry, has a very dry mouth, has sunken eyes, feels cool/clammy, seems listless/out of it/confused, or is complaining of a bad headache they should be evaluated by a provider right away. Remember, you know your child best, so if something seems up, don’t hesitate to get some help and have someone lay eyes on your kiddo! 

Food poisoning 

Food poisoning is similar to the stomach bug 💩🤮, but is caused by eating bad food that has a virus or parasite in it. Vomiting and diarrhea start fast and furious, about 2-6 hours after eating the bad food. Food poisoning usually doesn’t last as long as the “stomach bug.” Along with the vomiting and/or diarrhea, if you have food poisoning you will likely experience chills, sweating and lots of abdominal cramping. 

To help prevent food poisoning, avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, sprouts and other foods, and unpasteurized cheese and drinks. Also make sure to cook your food thoroughly. You can also help prevent food poisoning by washing your raw veggies and fruits well before eating. 

When to worry about dehydration in kids with stomach bug

The stomach bug usually resolves without complications. However, this is not always the case. If your child hasn’t urinated or had a wet diaper in 6-8 hours, they may be dehydrated. A sign of dehydration can be no tears when crying and a dry mouth. Kiddos are much smaller than adults and can become dehydrated MUCH faster than adults. Your child may appear to be like a wet noodle and can’t stand or lift their head. If you can’t get your kid to use their iPad and if your teen isn’t texting… well that is a clear sign you have a sick kid. If this is the case, you should have them seen right away in urgent care or the Emergency room as they may need intravenous (IV) hydration. 

Another reason to bring that kiddo to the office is if there is frequent diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days, poop with blood in it, or significant pain that is worsening or not resolving. Pain or vomiting and/or diarrhea with high fever >101.5 should also be seen right away. If you child can’t walk due to pain, or you have that uneasy feeling, always go with your gut and get them checked out.

When to be concerned about the stomach bug

Parents are always tired, but when should you worry about yourself or other adults? The stomach bug usually resolves without complications, especially in adults. However, this is not always the case. Often times you will have no energy and can’t get out of bed or may feel dizzy when standing. You may have the following symptoms: very dry mouth, no urination in 8 hours, feel like you have a fast heartbeat, have dark urine and the feeling of extreme thirst that doesn’t seem to improve with drinking. If this is the case, you should be seen right away in urgent care or the Emergency room as you may need intravenous (IV) hydration. Another reason to visit your provider is if you have fainting, there is frequent diarrhea that lasts more than 3 days, poop with blood in it, or significant pain that is worsening or not resolving. Pain or vomiting and/or diarrhea with high fever >101.5 should also be seen right away. 

We can chat with you to help you to determine if you are having severe symptoms of dehydration or this is something you can tackle at home. 

What will urgent care or the Emergency Room do for the stomach bug?

The nearby urgent care or the emergency room will do everything possible to get you or your child to drink orally before considering IV hydration (often times by starting with a dose of an orally absorbed anti-nausea medicine called ondansetron/zofran), so try your best to drink or get that kiddo to drink at home. Popsicles and a favorite drink offered frequently are helpful in getting stubborn kiddos to hydrate. Play a game with a drink or have a tea party with some Pedialyte or Gatorade to encourage your child to drink. Even offering small amounts with an oral syringe can help. Once you or your child start to absorb some fluids, you should feel significantly better. 

If you can’t seem to tolerate drinking and you are still vomiting and having diarrhea 💩🤮 and have signs of dehydration, and urgent care or the Emergency Room can help you to recover. They can place an IV in your arm and give you or your child proper fluids and electrolytes to help you recover from your illness. Dehydration can be very serious and can require medical treatment to reverse. In some cases medication is given to help with symptoms of nausea. Sometimes certain medication is needed to treat your diarrhea. The ER can do testing if necessary.🏥 

Chat with us if you aren’t sure on what to do! 

Prevent the spread of vomiting and diarrhea

Regardless of how you got your illness, it’s important to prevent transmission of the virus. Good handwashing is key to prevent the spread of illness. Always wash your hands before and after eating, when handling food and when using the bathroom. 🚰🤚🖐 Clean surfaces where raw meat is placed and never reuse an unwashed plate for raw food to serve cooked food. Always wipe surfaces down with Clorox or bleach products. 

According to the CDC, you can shed billions of virus particles in your vomit and poop 💩🤮. It only takes a few of these particles to make someone sick. Keep away from others while you are actively sick and for 2 days after. Don’t cook dinner or go to your job as a chef until your have been well for a few days. Keep your child home from school and daycare for an extra 2 days after they are vomiting and diarrhea free! And again, WASH YOUR HANDS! 🚰🤚🖐

– Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, does cold weather cause the flu?  Is the Hep A vaccine safe?  How to stop pertussis or whooping cough in babies. Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.

Does cold weather cause the flu?

Was Grandma right after all? Does cold weather cause the flu? 👵

What is the flu?

The flu, also known as the influenza virus, is spread by exposure to infected particles. These particles are transmitted through the air when people cough and sneeze. You can also be exposed by touching the particles and then touching your mouth or nose. The flu causes achiness, fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and can make you feel yucky and gross in general. You will be a hot achy mess. Many people complain that every last part of their body hurts, eyeballs included. You DON’T want this virus. Of course, it might be just the common cold

Don’t forget your coat!

“Put a hat on or you will catch the flu!” “Zip your coat or you will catch the flu!” 🧥 Was Grandma right? Does the cold weather cause the flu? 

The answer is, well, no, the cold weather alone doesn’t CAUSE the flu. The influenza virus does. But Grandma did have a point. The cold weather seems to have something to do with the spread of the influenza virus, according to the National Institutes of Health. Let’s explore why, so we can help decrease flu transmission this winter! 

One of the obvious causes for the flu to spread more easily in cold weather is that you are likely indoors when the weather is cold and windows are likely to be closed. This traps the air in, and with it, the influenza virus that your visitors are coughing all over your living room. To help avoid this, open up those windows when the air is mild to circulate the air in your house. Also avoid sitting across from your coughing friends in closed quarters, and let’s just avoid sitting in a room of coughing people unless you can’t avoid it. AKA don’t go to the ER for 1 day of runny nose. Talk to us first! Ever see someone wear a mask at the airport? Prob some good advice from Grandma!

The flu spreads better in the cold

According to an article by Harvard University, the influenza virus has been found to survive significantly longer in dry, cold air. This means when the cold wind blows 🌨 and it’s dry in your house, the influenza virus will live much longer and is more likely to infect you. Hmm, looks like Grandmas ARE always right. 

This means once the heat is on, it’s time to get that air nice and moist (yucky word but not yuck in this case). So either sleep on your shower floor OR start up that cool mist humidifier and get that air nice and humid. Keep warm and don’t forget that stocking hat!

Humidified air– when should we use humidifiers

Humidified air can help decrease flu transmission. The first thought is that why don’t we just humidify ALL the air!? Hospitals which tend to be cold and dry might benefit from humidified air as well as those dry hot schools. Humidifiers in every classroom? 🏫 Seems like a cheap alternative to costly flu treatments and hospitalizations. CNN reports that taking action based on this study may help reduce flu transmission, but it’s still too early to justify humidifying the entire community.

Flu vaccines and hand washing are still the best way to prevent the flu. That being said, if humidified air decreases flu transmission, there may or may not be 5 humidifiers being delivered to my house tomorrow! You get a humidifier, you get a humidifier, everyone gets a humidifier!!!! 😜

Get that immune system strong

The Harvard article also states that when the winter comes, the sun goes away and your Vitamin D and melatonin levels drop. This drop makes your immune system weaker and your chance of catching the flu higher. So it looks like that tropical vacation is a perfect way to avoid the flu! Or if you are a regular old human who can’t jet off for the winter to a tropical island, you can just boost Vitamin D with some vitamin supplements or fortified foods and some sunshine on those mild days. Keep that body strong and rested and well nourished!

Protect yourself– get a flu shot

Get your flu shot. Besides avoiding winter, you can get your flu vaccine to decrease your chances of getting the flu. The flu vaccine is going to help prevent you from getting the influenza virus. It’s very important to protect yourself and others around you from getting the flu. If you are sick, have a fever and are coughing away, it might be a great idea to stay home and rest. If you are out in public, you are exposing all the people around you to the flu. 

Good hand washing is always a great idea too. Wash your hands as often as possible during flu season (and always), and stay clear of those hacking buddies! Wash or sanitize before and after eating, after touching that grocery cart and basically whenever you think of it. Your healthy body will thank you!

Grandma had some great points all these years. You may as well get that chicken soup cooking, your winter hat ready and zip up that coat!

–Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, how to stop pertussis, or whooping cough, in babies. Is the Hep A vaccine safe? How to prevent UTIs in men? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.

Flu vaccine

Let’s talk flu vaccine. As a mom I understand the worries that you might have. Is this safe? Is this necessary? Am I doing the right thing? It’s not only OK to ask these questions, but necessary. Now, the key to asking the questions is… Who is answering them? 

Get medical professionals to answer flu vaccine questions

As a pediatric nurse practitioner 👩‍⚕️I must put my foot down. A medical professional or a trusted, reputable, science based resource MUST be the one answering your questions about the flu vaccine. Please do not ask on a mom group, a celebrity blog, or a random website🤦🏽‍♀️. Check your source. I don’t make money from vaccine companies when giving my advice, but celebrities do make money from talk shows and magazines. That’s a fact 🤷🏾‍♀️. Always consider the incentives your information source might have. 🤑

Here is an example of a great article about common flu myths from a trusted Children’s Hospital. 

I worry about the safety of my children and those around us. If my healthy son gets the flu will he be ok? 🤧 The fact is, since he is vaccinated, he likely will be just fine. 💉 Studies show that vaccinated children are less likely to die from the flu than those that are unvaccinated. You can find one of the studies supporting this here from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Just be aware it has lots of science speak🤣🤣🤣! Will Susie down the street be ok when she gets the flu? She just had a heart transplant and her immune system is subpar (what we in the healthcare world call “immunocompromised”). She might not be ok. 

Flu vaccine helps you and others

Think about Susie. Patients like Susie who have a suppressed immune system need to be vaccinated to be protected. 🤧 Sometimes, however, patients like Susie can’t get the flu vaccine due to their disease or severe allergies. So, instead, they rely on healthy people getting the vaccine and decreasing the chances that the flu virus is passed around. 👾 Healthy people should be vaccinated to protect themselves and so they don’t give the flu to those who are immunocompromised. 🤧 Not all people can get all vaccines due to allergies and medical issues. 

If you don’t get vaccinated, you are more likely to get the illness and spread it to others. Help protect those who can’t get the flu vaccine for medical reasons. What if Susie were your child. You would protect her right? It takes a village to raise kids. Be the village❤️. Vaccinate your child. 

Please, for the safety of your family and families around you, don’t listen to celebrities, mom groups, or untrusted sources that are NOT backed by science. Listen to the facts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that children are less likely to DIE from the flu if they are vaccinated. This is a very important statement. 

Is the flu vaccine safe?

The flu vaccine is found to be very safe. 💉 Sometimes the flu vaccine can cause pain at the site or localized redness around where you were given the shot. As your body develops antibodies, you may feel achy, have a headache or nausea 🤢, but the flu shot does NOT actually cause the flu! These milder symptoms should not last long. 😷

The flu vaccine helps protect those who are unable to be vaccinated. 🤧 Help a mama out. Protect Susie. Protect your family. We are all in this together. Read the facts. The flu vaccine is going to reduce YOUR child’s risk. Let’s vaccinate.

Don’t let non-medical professionals teach you about vaccines. If your child had the flu you wouldn’t take them to the mechanic, right? Then don’t take them to a Facebook group made up of people who are not medical professionals. 💊 Take them to your local pediatrician’s office and have a conversation. Shoot, have a few conversations!

Or chat with us at Nurse-1-1.com. We are medical professionals, and we can help you figure out what’s best. 👩‍⚕️👨‍⚕️

–Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, should I be concerned about giving my child the MMR vaccine to prevent measles? What are the best ways to prevent UTIsWhen to get that sports injury checked out by a medical provider? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.

What is Hepatitis A? Is Hep A vaccine safe?

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A is a serious infection of the liver by the Hepatitis A virus (HAV). Hepatitis A is spread by fecal matter (tiny poop particles💩) that you accidentally eat (Eww😝), usually by means of contaminated food and water. Hep A can also spread by close contact with a person infected with the virus or their caretakers, shared needle use, and unprotected sexual contact. 

According to the CDC, signs of this infection include:

  • fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and/or joint pain
  • severe stomach pains and diarrhea (mainly in children), or
  • jaundice (yellow skin or eyes, dark urine, clay-colored bowel movements)

HAV can last up to 2-6 months and usually begins within a few weeks of exposure. Most people will be ok and have no long term effects from this virus. Once you get Hep A you can’t get it again (phew!). In some severe cases Hep A can cause death. 😳 Interestingly, children under the age of 6 may not have any symptoms at all. 

Hepatitis A Vaccine 

The Hepatitis A vaccine protects you against getting hepatitis A. 😎 It is routinely offered to children at 1 years of age and then again at least 6 months later at their 18 month or 2 year visit. Anyone can get the vaccine and it works best as 2 doses given 6 months apart. According to the CDC, the following high risk people should get the Hep A vaccine. People who:

  • are traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common
  • are a man who has sex with other men
  • use illegal drugs
  • have a chronic liver disease such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C
  • are being treated with clotting-factor concentrates
  • work with hepatitis A-infected animals or in a hepatitis A research laboratory 
  • expect to have close personal contact with an international adoptee from a country where hepatitis A is common

Is the Hep A vaccine safe?

Hepatitis A vaccine is found to be very safe with very minimal side effects or problems. Since the vaccine was developed in 1996, the occurrence of Hepatitis A in the community has significantly decreased. Minor side effects of the vaccine include pain at the injection site, achiness, fatigue and low grade fever. Most people tolerate the hepatitis A vaccine very well. The risks are low and the benefits are high! ❤️

What if I am exposed to Hep A?

If you know, or suspect, that you have been exposed to Hep A, you should be sure to get the Hep A vaccine or a special infusion called immune globulin within 2 weeks of exposure. You should call your Primary Care Provider right away to discuss the best plan for you.

Why are there Hepatitis A outbreaks?

You may have heard about Hepatitis A on the news. There have been many outbreaks in recent years. From 2013 to 2016, there were multi-state hepatitis A outbreaks because of contaminated frozen strawberries and pomegranate seeds and a localized outbreak from raw scallops. More recently there was an outbreak in Colorado and California related to drug use. 

This disease is often seen in areas of poor living conditions, in intravenous drug users, and in jails. Now, don’t think that because you aren’t an IV drug user that you can’t get Hep A. All it takes is someone with Hep A to go to the bathroom, not wash their hands and then make your food at a restaurant (gross, I know!). Water contaminated with Hepatitis A that is used to wash your produce can also cause transmission. This is how outbreaks happen and how hepatitis A is spread. 

You may not feel you’re at high risk for hepatitis A, but it is important to protect yourself and your family against hepatitis A, especially if you go out to dinner or have other people preparing your food in the grocery store or a restaurant. Which, let’s be honest, is all of us! So be sure to wash those hands.

hep-a-outbreaks-food-safety

Think you might have symptoms of Hepatitis A?

If you are worried that you might have Hepatitis A, make sure to do the following. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated, use good hand hygiene to avoid exposing others, and reach out right away to your primary care provider to get guidance. Usually, HAV infection is self-limited. This means your immune system will take care of it on its own without medication. However, really good self-care and rest is crucial. The Hep A illness may last months and it might take up to 6 months to fully get back to yourself. If at any point you are feeling worse, getting yellow 😷, unable to stay hydrated and having profuse diarrhea, or having any other concerning symptoms, please make sure to get checked out right away! 

You may have lots of questions about the vaccine or the illness. We would love to chat with you if you are concerned. Reach out to one of our nurses 24/7 and we can help. 

–Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

 

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like how to prevent tick bites in kids? Is there an HPV treatment? How common is pertussis in adults? Well we can help— we put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.

 

What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)???

If you’ve ever had sex, oral sex, anal sex, or any contact with someone’s genital region… This article is for you. If you haven’t done any of this before, you should still read the sections lower down. You are one of the lucky people who can actually prevent yourself from ever getting HPV by the beauty of a simple vaccine! Thank you science! 😍😍😍 And, if you’re the parent of a young child or teenager, then this article is a must read! 

HPV, or human papilloma virus, is very common and very contagious. Most middle-aged men and women who have been sexually active probably have or have had HPV at some point (unfortunately, the vaccine did not exist when they were young). It often goes without symptoms for many years, but can also crop up as groups of warts. 

Types of HPV

HPV comes in two varieties: low-risk types and high-risk types. Most cases of HPV are low-risk types that can crop up as groups of warts, but that’s about it. The body’s immune system is usually good at fighting both low-risk and high-risk types and often can clear the HPV on its own within 2 years. 

However, there are some high-risk types of HPV (13 of these suckers according to the CDC). These can lead to cancer in a small minority of people after decades of being infected and the body not being able to clear the virus. Over recent years, its been found that HPV is more serious than once thought. HPV has been found to be the cause of different kinds of cancer, specifically of the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, and back of the throat and other types of oral throat cancer. 😳 What was once thought to be just a wart is now just a wart that can cause cancer. It can be silent, and very serious. But there are ways to keep yourself safe, so read on! 😀😀

Skin Symptoms of HPV

You may find fleshy, flat, or mini cauliflower like skin clusters growing in the genital region or around the anus. These warts are itchy and spread easily. Thankfully, warts aren’t dangerous and they don’t lead to cancer. Instead they are just really annoying to whoever has them. The good part is that your healthcare provider or a nearby sexual health clinic like Planned Parenthood can diagnose them and then work on treating and removing them (usually by freezing the warts). Sometimes, even if you have HPV, you also may find NOTHING AT ALL on the skin. You may have HPV and not even know it. 

How to prevent HPV— HPV vaccine

The HPV vaccine 💉 is offered to children over age 9, and encouraged by at least age 11. Gasp, you say, 11 years old they’re not sexually active! Well the scary truth is that a lot of kids are sexually active at age 11 or are thinking about it. Some people also do not consider oral 👄sex as sex, but oral sex can still transmit HPV. ANY skin to skin contact can transmit HPV. Oral, anal or genital all count. Kids are trying out these new things on the bus 🚌, in school, when you’re not home, and maybe even when you are home! 

The age of onset of sexual activity keeps getting younger. Sex has been around since the beginning of time. It’s biological and it’s real. It’s important to teach the kids to protect themselves, and that these things can cause serious long-term effects on their bodies. The best thing you can do as a mom or dad is to consider the HPV vaccine for your child, and yourself. 

Getting the HPV vaccine isn’t a green light to sex. It’s a way to protect long before having sex. The CDC reports that “HPV infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. Nearly 80 million Americans are currently infected with some type of HPV. About 14 million Americans, including teens, become infected each year.” Be open, have conversations with your child about their bodies and about sex.

Really, as a parent, you should be thinking about the HPV vaccine 💉like you do the tetanus and meningitis vaccines. You should ask the same questions about all vaccines. Are they safe? Do we need them? The answer is YES! They are crucial to preventing serious deadly illnesses and keeping your children safe.

HPV vaccines do the same as the other routine sets of vaccines. The best part, for children ages 9-14, you only need a series of 2 vaccine shots over 6 months, while anyone ages 15 and over must get a series of 3 shots over 6 months. Do your kids a favor, get the vaccine when they are young and save yourself one extra trip to the doctor and one less reason for your kids to be whiny and upset! 🤣

Additional ways to prevent HPV

Besides getting the HPV vaccine to prevent some strains of the virus, there are other ways to protect yourself. Avoiding sex is one way to prevent HPV. Though most adults will have sex at some point in there life. Thus, using barrier protection is another. Most people who have HPV may not even know it, so your sexual partner may be spreading the HPV virus to you during genital contact without the slightest clue they are doing so.😳 Remember, safe sex is great sex and can decrease your chances of HPV and STIs. 

Using condoms 100% of the time can prevent the spread of HPV, as well as other sexually transmitted infections. You will need to protect yourself when having oral (i.e. dental dams), anal and genital sexual contact. ANY skin contact with an infected partner can spread the disease. Read more here about symptoms of STIs in men and STIs in women here. Don’t forget to talk to your children about the importance of protection and the reality of what sexual choices can mean. It’s 2019, time to talk to those kids! Need help? Check out this great resource for parents from Planned Parenthood. 

Side effects of HPV vaccine

One of the main side effects of the HPV vaccine is fainting. It is recommended to get the HPV vaccine while laying down. Teenagers are the most likely to faint. The truth is that teenagers are the most common group of kids under 18 to pass out with any kind of blood work or shots, so it’s hard to know if the cause is the age group or the actual vaccine. Other side effects include pain at the injection site, headache and mild fever. 

When I mention the HPV vaccine, it’s common for some parents to provide pushback. They think that this is a new vaccine and that it’s not safe. But this vaccine has been around since 2006 and has been studied for safety. The CDC reports on the safety of the HPV vaccine here.

Make sure to feed your teen a snack before getting any shot or bloodwork. Teens are more likely to faint in general. I cringe when I send kids for blood work when they haven’t had breakfast! I always offer juice before a vaccine for all teens, as they are the ones who always seem to faint! Babies and kids cry when they get vaccines so they are forced to breathe as they yell and scream. Teens tend to hold their breath and tend to pass out 🙄

Since the HPV vaccine came out in 2006, some young adults haven’t received the vaccine. When I say young adults, I mean people in their late 30s and early 40s! These people most likely have been exposed to HPV during their lifetime, so it’s especially important for them to be more vigilant about getting pap smears and checked at their dentist for oral cancers. If you haven’t gotten the vaccine, it’s never too late to protect yourself! Talk to your primary healthcare provider! 

Does the HPV vaccine prevent cancer?

The HPV vaccine does not prevent you from getting cancer 100%, but it significantly decreases your risk by protecting you from 9 different high-risk strains of HPV. Decreasing your risk is a big deal. It’s important that we always do better when we know better. 

How do I know if I have HPV?

You may have HPV and not even know it. Some people don’t find out that they have HPV until they find a wart, have an abnormal PAP smear or are diagnosed with cancer. For women, it’s important to get regular Pap smears at your gynecologist’s office. Some primary care offices will also provide this service. 

What is a pap smear? 

Providers perform pap smears to check the cervix for abnormal cells, inflammation and disease. The provider inserts a small brush into the vagina to scrape cells from the cervix and test them for anything abnormal. The pap smear is now recommended every 3 years for most people over the age of 21 years. Planned Parenthood has some really great information about females being tested for HPV. 

HPV treatment— can HPV be treated?

There is no actual treatment for HPV. There is however medication that can be taken to help suppress the warts if you have developed genital warts. If your pap smear is abnormal and precancerous cells are found, then there are treatments to help prevent the cells from developing into full blown cancer. Of course, if you are found to have cancer, there are treatments for that too. 

If you are worried about your health or have concerns about HPV, please reach out to one of our nurses. We would love to chat!

–Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, should I be concerned about giving my child the MMR vaccine to prevent measles? What are the best ways to prevent UTIs? When to get that sports injury checked out by a medical provider? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.

Urinary Tract Infections

The first signs that you have a urinary tract infection (UTI) are burning when you pee and urinary frequency (peeing a whole lot!). 🚽 A UTI occurs when bacteria gets into your urinary tract (somewhere between your kidneys, bladder, and where the pee comes out) and causes irritation and inflammation (UGH!). Don’t fret…most urinary tract infections can be easily treated with antibiotics.  

Usually UTIs are caused by e.coli. E.coli is a bacteria that normally lives in your intestines. It hangs out in your poop 💩 (EW GROSS). Annoyingly, e.coli can jump from your poop and make its way unto the urethra, the tube that connects your bladder to the outside world through your vagina or penis.  Now don’t panic. Your anus (poop hole) and your urethra (pee hole) are very close. All it takes is one bad wipe or smear and the bacteria can get close enough to cause an infection. Other things can cause urinary symptoms too. Here you can read about smelly urine and funny colored urine. Females and uncircumcised males are more likely to get UTIs than circumcised males, but anyone can get one.

Symptoms of a UTI

The first symptoms of a UTI are usually some mild discomfort with urination or in the lower abdominal (i.e. belly) region. The discomfort quickly progresses to full blown pain with urination.  You may have urinary frequency and the urge to pee, but only small amounts come out. Some people see blood in the toilet when they wipe. 🚽  As the UTI worsens, you may develop a fever and can also have back, belly, or pain in your side (“flank pain”).  Sometimes people have vomiting and overall feel pretty cruddy or flu-like. These are all reasons you should be seen right away for a urine test.  Any symptoms that get worse quickly should be seen more urgently.  

Children, especially babies, often have no symptoms other than fever. 🤒 If your baby is under 3 months and has a fever, please call your pediatric provider right away. 👶If your baby of 3 months and over has had fever for more than 24 hours with no other symptoms, they could have a UTI and need to be checked out. Same goes for your toddler child who has had a fever for more than 2-3 days with no symptoms at all. They could have a UTI and need to be checked as well. Like adults, some children might have a small amount of blood in their diaper or in their urine. Definitely call your pediatric provider or get them checked out if that happens

Some elderly adults 👵with a UTI will have no symptoms other than some confusion and agitation. So, if grandma suddenly seems like she is confused, it is a good idea to have her checked out too. 

How to prevent UTIs in women

Let’s talk vaginas first.  Now, you can try and reduce your risk for UTIs by doing the following.  First, wiping front to back is a great idea. Keeping the bacteria in your poop 💩 away from your vaginal area is the best way to avoid getting a UTI.  If you started wearing thong underwear and have found that you suddenly have vaginal irritation and frequent UTIs then it might be time to ditch those undies for some full coverage.  They don’t call thongs butt floss for no reason!  

It’s also important to void (pee) before and after having sexual intercourse.  This will help to flush out any bacteria that may have gotten pushed up into the urethra during sex. Good hygiene is important.  Make sure to keep things clean! A shower 🚿 before sex or a wet wipe can help keep things fresh.  

How to prevent UTIs in men

Hygiene is an important part of preventing UTIs in men. 🍆  In uncircumcised men, it’s important to gently pull back the foreskin (skin covering the penis’ tip) to allow cleaning of the tip of the penis underneath (especially the area where the tip of the penis and the foreskin meet!).  Dry the skin before retracting back your foreskin. Keeping things clean will decrease the risk of bacteria getting into your urethra. The less “smegma,” the better for everyone involved! Drinking lots of fluids will help flush the urethra, as well as voiding (peeing) before and after sex.  This is especially important with anal sex. E.coli is the most common bacteria to cause UTI’s and it is found in the stool 💩 (poo).  

UTIs in children

Kiddos can get UTIs as well. They are more common in girls when they begin to potty train but boys can get them too. 🚽 Kids are notorious for poor wiping skills so it’s important to do it for them until they clearly have the ability to do it correctly themselves. If they are doing it solo, remind them to wipe extra and always front to back (starting with the vagina/penis and back to the butt). Check those little bums for poop debris!  

Kids are really good at holding their urine and poop too. 🙄🙄 Holding urine can increase their risk for UTIs.  Make sure to offer them water throughout the day and encourage bathroom breaks. If they are starting to hold it in on a regular basis, check out our article on constipation for some tips and tricks. 

In uncircumcised boys it’s important to keep the penis clean. Now, they are a little different than adult males.  You should NOT pull back the foreskin of the penis. You can gently wash the tip of the penis. 🍆 It’s ok to push the skin slightly to expose the tip, but pulling back the skin can cause scarring and pain.   Warm baths are a great way to loosen up any debris and gently clean under the foreskin. As your child grows, the penis will naturally stretch the foreskin and it will eventually pull back as the connections between the tip of the penis and the foreskin break apart on their own.  Your child will naturally help this process along as they discover their penis in the bath and help the skin to gradually and gently stretch over time without causing pain or injury to themselves.

Drink lots of fluids

Drinking lots of fluids in general will help to flush the urethra in all people.  🚰 Keeping hydrated with water is important in a lot of ways, one being to keep your urine moving along which helps to prevent bacteria from climbing up your urethra.  Light yellow to clear urine is a great sign that you are drinking enough water. Darker yellow/orange urine means you are dehydrated and need to drink more water!  

What to expect at your visit

At the visit with your medical provider, you will need to produce a urine sample.  Drink lots of fluids and ask for a cup if you are feeling like you or your child can’t hold it any longer and you are still in the waiting room.  Otherwise you might be spending some time downing popsicles and trying to get a few drops of urine for the test. 

If your child is too young and can’t pee on demand, they may need to use a small plastic sterile tube (catheter) inserted into the urethra to obtain urine from the bladder. Your child will not be happy about being held down for this! However, it’s quick, safe, done frequently, and your child won’t recall the procedure later in life.

Urine test results for UTIs

Once your urine test is back, there will be some indication that there is an infection in your urine.  This test is usually pretty quick. There is usually bacteria and sometimes small amounts of blood or nitrites in your urine if you have a UTI.  The urine will then be sent off to the lab to be cultured. This is how they find out what kind of bacteria (if any) is growing in your urine, so that you can get the best antibiotic for the job.  

If your provider thinks that this is a UTI, they will likely start antibiotics 💊 while they wait for the culture results.  Your antibiotic should start working within 24-48 hours and you should start to feel better around that time. Until then, you definitely shouldn’t be feeling much worse, so if that happens check back with your provider. 

Sometimes the results of urine test aren’t perfectly clear if you have a UTI or not. The provider doing the test may or may not wait another 24 hours for the culture test to come back before deciding whether to give you antibiotics or not. 

Kids with UTIs sometimes need extra testing of the kidneys to be sure that they look ok and are draining properly.  If you child has a fever and has a UTI, then discuss the plan for getting more testing with your primary care provider.  

Call with any concerns

Chat with us regarding your concerns. We are happy to help.  There are other things that can cause urinary discomfort too. Check out our articles on foul smelling urine and STDs/STIs in women and STDs/STIs in men.  

–Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, I have had a swollen eyelid for a week. What are some treatments?  What are some good ideas for staying healthy during the holidays? Is croup in kids dangerous? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.

Measles, the MMR vaccine, and when should we worry

Here’s a scary story with a happy ending. It’s Saturday morning and you are in a medical office 😷getting your 3 year old child checked out. He has had a runny nose 🤧  and low grade fever for the past few days. Today he started to feel better but you thought you might just keep the appointment. 

You’re feeling extra worried because you just got home from Disney 3 weeks ago, and there was a case of the measles at the airport where you had a layover. Your child has an ear infection, no rash, no high fever. He is easily treated with an antibiotic. The nurse practitioner breathes a sigh of relief that it’s not measles.  Your child hasn’t been vaccinated for measles, so the NP was especially concerned. 

You previously chose not to vaccinate with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine 💉 because of something you heard on the news. It’s scary business trying to decide what’s best for your child when there are so many people saying different things. 

Thankfully, the waiting room full of babies and children can breathe a sigh of relief. The 2 mo old baby who sat next to you on the plane can too. He is too young to get the MMR vaccine, and has no protection at all against this deadly illness. The children your son played with this weekend can also take a deep breath– their parents chose not to vaccinate, so those kids are vulnerable, too. 

You see, measles is spread before you even know you have it. It’s SUPER contagious and can linger in the air for TWO hours, infecting anyone who breathes in any particles an infected person may have coughed or sneezed out. 🤧 

These are some of the reasons that you should consider the measles / MMR vaccination.

When is measles Contagious?

One of the cruddy parts of measles is that you can be contagious for four days before you get the measles rash and symptoms The spread of measles can be fast and furious if you’re in a crowded place and are coughing 🤧 or sneezing. Your trip to Disney or the crowded grocery store or mall can get you exposed to measles without warning. 

MMR vaccinations can eliminate measles. So why are we seeing measles infections increasing?

Measles has been creeping its way back into the United States by travelers ✈ from other countries where they don’t always vaccinate 💉 and where there are more frequent measles cases. People who are not immunized properly can then catch measles here in the US. That’s how the cycle starts. People without the right vaccinations spread it to others who are unvaccinated, and so on. 

Measles is very serious. It can cause serious complications for you and your child. 🏥 The MMR vaccine protects you and your family. This amazing medical innovation is one of the main reasons we have such a low rate of measles here in the US. Or at least we used to. During a time when we had very high vaccination rates (meaning most Americans received the MMR vaccine) the frequency of measles cases was very low. Now, as more people choose not to vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine, the cases of measles are steadily growing. This is scary, and should concern all of us.

Vaccine safety, MMR and autism

The MMR vaccine is very safe, much safer than getting measles, Mumps or Rubella. 🤒 There can be some tenderness at the site of the shot, mild fever or rash but otherwise it is quite safe!  Check out this link from the CDC to read more about the safety of the MMR vaccine

In old news, some people thought that the thimerosal used as a preservative in the MMR vaccine caused autism. This theory has been proven wrong, and there has not been thimerosal in vaccines since 2001 according to the CDC. They also found that since thimerosal was removed, autism rates have increased, so there is no direct correlation between thimerosal and vaccine use. 

The original study from 1999 that put a possible link between the MMR vaccine and autism has never been confirmed despite many attempts by scientists. Instead, this link has been disproven repeatedly. It was originally published by a British doctor (Andrew Wakefield) who had major undisclosed financial conflicts of interest, for which he ended up losing his license after the British General Medical Council investigated him. 😬The study was retracted by a major journal. Multiple major studies in the U.S. since have not shown any link between the vaccine and autism. Read more about it here

If you are concerned with the safety of the MMR vaccine, it’s important to make sure that you are reading about safety from a reputable source. 🏥 I stand firm by my statement that a medical professional or a trusted, reputable, science-based resource MUST be the one answering your questions about any vaccine. Please do not ask on a mom group, a celebrity blog, or a random website. Check your source. I don’t make money from vaccine companies when giving my advice, but celebrities do make money from talk shows and magazines. 🤑That’s a fact. Always consider the incentives your information source might have. 

Symptoms of measles

The measles illness usually presents with cold-like symptoms, dry cough, runny nose and watery eyes. These symptoms are followed by a rash after 3-5 days of illness. The rash then creeps down your body and is accompanied by very high fever. Typical cold symptoms don’t cause a full body rash and high fever. So if you notice these symptoms, call your doctor’s office. Any time your illness seems to worsen after 3-4 days rather than improve, you should be checked out or should discuss with your provider. 

The measles infection is scary, but is fortunately rare. If you have a high fever 🤒 and a rash, chat with one of our nurses 🏥 about your symptoms. We can help you decide if you should be worried about measles.

Get that MMR vaccine and protect all those who can’t protect themselves. Help to keep measles rare!

Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Pertussis, whooping cough in babies

Pertussis, or whooping cough— protect that baby!

If you have a new baby at home or are going to have one anytime soon there are a few things that you will need to do (just a few!) 😂 One of them is to make sure that the people who will be holding your baby👶 are up to date on the pertussis vaccine.

Pertussis coverage is found in the Tdap and Dtap vaccine. Pertussis, otherwise known as “whooping cough,” can make babies very sick. Most children who are up to date on vaccines have gotten their Dtap or Tdap vaccines but it’s common that grandparents 👵 and aunts and uncles may not have gotten theirs in a long time. 

These vaccines protect people from Tetanus and Diphtheria, which are rare, as well as the more prevalent Pertussis bacterial illness (hence the T, D, and P). Over time, the coverage for Pertussis can wear down. What might be a simple cold in an adult can be much more deadly for babies under one year of age, especially newborns.

Children start getting the Dtap at age 2 months.They then get it at 4 months, 6 months, around 15-18 months, and then once more at around age 4 years old. Once they are fully immunized, they can receive the Tdap booster. The Tdap booster is given around age 11. This is sometimes the last time many adults got the vaccine! 💉 

Often times adults don’t get another Tdap vaccine unless they get a rusty cut and need to get a tetanus shot. This shot usually has pertussis coverage (Tdap) in it. So unless grandpa 👴 got a nasty wound in the last year or so, it’s time for a repeat Tdap to protect that new grandbaby! We now know that the immunity can wear down, so many older people are being offered the Tdap vaccine more regularly, especially those with young families. 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧

Pertussis in adults

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are an estimated 16 million cases of pertussis and about 195,000 deaths from this illness per year worldwide. Adults are encouraged to get the Tdap vaccine booster instead of the Td booster so they not only get tetanus and diptheria but they also get the “P”, pertussis coverage. 

Children under 12 months of age are more likely to become seriously ill from pertussis, but anyone can get it. Often times pertussis presents more like just a regular cough or bronchitis, and there is not a “whoop” sound with it.

When people have this prolonged cough, the risk of spreading it becomes more concerning. Those who are in contact with babies who aren’t fully vaccinated yet should be especially careful. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles can spread the illness to their loved ones without even knowing it. 

Pertussis vaccine during pregnancy

Women who are pregnant🤰 are now getting the Dtap vaccine to help pass on some antibody protection to their baby while the baby is still in the womb. This vaccine is especially important since babies can’t get their own protective shot until 2 months of age.

Make sure your partner also gets their vaccine! Keep that baby safe. 👶 Anyone who holds that new bundle of joy should head on in to their primary office, local pharmacy, or urgent care to get their vaccinations up to date. Feel free to contact one of our nurses to discuss whether the Dtap vaccine is right for you.

Whooping cough symptoms

Pertussis is commonly known as “whooping cough.” It can present as a lingering, nagging cough or coughing fits that don’t always seem serious in adults. 😷 The cough lingers for more than 2 weeks and then starts to become more bothersome as mucus builds up. As this happens, coughing fits often follow. The sound that occurs after catching your breath can sound like a “whooping” sound (not to be confused with croup).

Pertussis can cause serious breathing issues, pneumonia, hospitalizations or even death in children under 1 year of age. Some people will turn blue, have pauses in breathing, or have a cough that makes them vomit. 🤮 Any of these concerns should be seen right away. Sometimes in really small infants, the only symptom the little one may have is long, 10-20 second pauses in their breathing, without a cough. If that happens go to the ER or call 911!

Spreading pertussis or whooping cough

Pertussis spreads by coughing and sneezing onto another person. 😷 Most people don’t know that they have pertussis. They can easily spread it to a new baby without knowing it. Older siblings and relatives are most likely to give your baby pertussis. They are most contagious after having the cough for about 2 weeks. Keep anyone with a prolonged nagging cough or with coughing fits far away from your newborn!

If you have any known exposures to whooping cough 😷, call your provider right away. Your provider will decide if you or your child needs to have preventative treatment to protect from the illness. Our nurses would love to chat with you about your concerns or questions as well.

Pertussis treatment

Pertussis, although serious, is treatable with antibiotics. 💊 The treatment is usually very simple. If you have been in contact with anyone with confirmed Pertussis or whooping cough please call your provider right away. 

People who have been exposed to pertussis should be treated. This helps prevent them from getting the illness and then spread the infection. Providers will treat with antibiotics whether the patient has been immunized or not. Pertussis treatment is most important for those in close contact with newborns or pregnant women,🤰 and anyone who is immunocompromised (immune system is suppressed for whatever reason) or who has chronic health issues. This is especially important for those who are in close contact with anyone with pertussis. 

Get that cough checked!

If you think you have any symptoms of Pertussis or “whooping cough” or may have been exposed to the illness, we’d love to chat and help you determine what’s the best next step!

– Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like, I have been suffering from headache and fatigue for a while. Should I be worried? What is the the difference between a common cold vs flu? Is fever in kids bad? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.

Nurse-1-1, population health, & health influencers

This morning I got an alert from Google that Nurse-1-1 was mentioned in the news. This one was different than the other alerts I usually get if Nurse-1-1 is in the news. It wasn’t an article I knew about ahead of time, and it wasn’t from a tech publication. It was from “The Link”, a small publication that targets students at Concordia University. The article, titled Sex Ed(itorial): Is My Birth Control Ruining My Life?, focuses on women’s health and references Nurse-1-1 as an expert source of health information. This is big news for anyone focused on population health.

From a population health standpoint, reaching influencers in communities is key. The CDC is always engaging PR firms to help them reach local influencers who can help educate a community about vaccinations, flu prevention, outbreaks of preventable illnesses and other health information that they need help educating communities about. The goal of this article is to reach women on a college campus.

It is no wonder to us that Nurse-1-1 is used to help spread the word on campus. In a recent study by Nurse-1-1’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Igor Shumskiy, he found that people are 5 times more likely to discuss their sexual health concerns on Nurse-1-1 than even with their own doctor’s office advice line. This morning’s article from The Link goes one step further. Not only are nurses on Nurse-1-1 influencing patients, they are helping publications spread important health information to their targeted communities. 

We are now looking at ways to expand this use of Nurse-1-1 for other organizations focused on population health. As any well functioning startup does, once you see something working, and working well, you need to look for ways to scale. We are mission driven here at Nurse-1-1. Enabling nurse influencers to educate their local communities about important healthcare topics makes us happy. This outcome is just one of many ways Nurse-1-1’s network of over 500 Nurse Practitioners across all 50 states can positively impact the health and wellness of Americans. Nurse-1-1 eliminates the uncertainty of the internet search and puts an expert nurse in your living room.

– Michael Sheeley, Co-founder/CEO Nurse-1-1