Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It’s time to get smart about antibiotics

Did you know that every year, at least 2 million people in the United States are infected with bacteria that can’t be cured by antibiotics — and at least 23,000 die because of it?

Antibiotic resistance makes some medicines unable to stop or heal sickness. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scientist Arjun Srinivasan, MD, told us that we all have a role to play in keeping antibiotics effective. During Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, he told Get Ready several “simple things like cleaning your hands properly using soap and water” and getting flu shots can help.

“What these things do is they reduce your chance of getting ill,” he said. “And we know if you don’t get ill, you’re less likely to wind up in a doctor’s office or an emergency department where you might get an antibiotic prescription that you may not need.”

Listen to our podcast with Srinivasan, and learn how you can get smart about antibiotics.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A quick sniff up the nose can prevent the flu

Patient getting the nasal spray flu vaccine
CDC/ Dr. Bill Atkinson
Have you been putting off getting your flu vaccination because you’re afraid of needles? Would you believe us if we said that there’s a quick, easy and needle-free alternative? Well, fear no more! The nasal spray flu vaccine is here.

Every year, thousands of people in the United States die from the flu and even more are hospitalized. The flu season occurs in the fall and the winter and can peak from late November through March, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In fact, flu cases are happening right now around the country. Sadly, health officials in California reported in November that both an infant and an adult have already died from flu this season.

Getting the nasal spray flu vaccine can not only keep you from getting the flu, but it can make your symptoms less severe if you do get it. Plus, it can prevent you from spreading your flu germs to your family and friends — including people who can’t get the vaccine, such as young babies.

So how does the nasal spray flu vaccine differ from the shot? For one, there’s that no needle thing. The nasal vaccine is also made from a weakened flu virus. But don’t worry — it can’t cause the flu. (Really!)

The spray works for both kids and adults and it’s safe for healthy people ages 2 through 49, says CDC. There are some folks who shouldn’t use it, though. For example, the nasal spray flu vaccine shouldn’t be used with people who are pregnant or have egg allergies, or in certain young kids with asthma, so check with your health provider before vaccination.

Flu vaccines take about two weeks for protection to develop, so it’s a good idea to get vaccinated ASAP. Luckily, protection lasts for the entire flu season. (Score!)

If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you may have heard that nasal spray flu vaccine manufacturers fell behind in shipping out vaccine supplies this year. So there’s a possibility that you may not find the nasal vaccine at the first place you try. You may want to call around to pharmacies, your doctor and local health department and ask if they have supplies before heading out for your vaccination.

But if you can’t find the nasal spray, don’t put off your vaccination: talk to your health provider about the regular flu shot instead. You don’t want to risk your health by waiting.

No one wants to miss out on all of the wonderful holiday festivities because of the flu. Muscle aches, sore throats, headaches and chills are not something you want to have while spending time with friends and family (or spread to them).

Want more facts on flu vaccination to read and share? Check out our Get Ready fact sheet. To find a vaccination site near you, use the Healthmap Vaccine Finder.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

How prepared is your child’s school for disasters?

Photo: Lisa Apt/www.iwalktoschool.org
You’ve bought your kids their supplies, shown them how to ride the bus and even managed to get them out of bed. But there’s one more thing to think about now that school’s back in session: Emergency preparedness. Being prepared is important no matter where you are, so how can you be sure your child’s school is ready?

Most schools have some sort of emergency preparedness policies, either by regulation or choice. But they can vary from school to school. To really know what’s going on, call your child’s school leaders and check in.

Here are five preparedness questions you can use to get the conversation started.

  1. What steps are in place in case of disasters? Most schools have plans ready for disasters and community problems. Get a copy and find out where your child will be in case of an emergency. Ask about fire drills and other lessons.
  2. What can I do to get my child ready? Ask about vaccination requirements as your child ages and make sure your children are up to date on their vaccinations. Also, make sure your child knows her or his address, the full names of parents or guardians as well as important phone numbers. It’s also a good idea to designate another trusted emergency contact for your child in case you’re unavailable.
  3. Where can I get information about the school during an emergency? Extreme weather or emergencies can close schools or send students home early. Ask how you’ll be notified and how you can be ready if schedules change.
  4. If a serious emergency occurs, is there a place for children to shelter-in-place? Is there a stockpile of food, water and medical supplies? Schools should be able to provide for students’ basic needs during emergencies.
  5. After an emergency, what support is offered to students? Emergencies can be hard on students, even if no one is hurt. Ask about how students are supported afterward in terms of academics, mental health and more.

Making sure your child’s school is ready for emergencies is an important part of back-to-school season. With a few questions, you can take an active role in making sure your children will be safe while they learn.

For more information on how to get ready for disasters, check out our school preparedness fact sheet.

Friday, November 06, 2015

From the archive: Got asthma? An extra reason to get your flu shot

This post originally appeared on our blog in November of 2008:

Fever, aches and chills. Yuck! Flu season is upon us, and for many who come down with these symptoms, a few days in bed and plenty of fluid may be just what the doctor orders. But if you’re one of the more than 22 million Americans with asthma, the flu can lead to conditions that are much worse.

Photo: Patrick Benko
When you have asthma, your airways are already somewhat inflamed. They overreact to irritants and allergens, including viruses. Rather than fighting the virus, your lungs may secrete substances that promote inflammation. Making matters worse, viruses can replicate themselves more extensively in lungs affected by asthma than in healthy lungs.

Therefore, many health experts recommend that people with asthma get an annual flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with asthma are at high risk of developing complications after contracting the flu virus, yet most adults with asthma don’t get their annual flu shot.

So if you have asthma, take steps to protect yourself from flu: Avoid people who are sick. Wash your hands regularly. And if you haven’t gotten your flu shot, get one today.