Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The 2013-2014 Flu Vaccines

     Yet again we are in the time of the year where we are headed into the influenza "flu" season. Our recommendations from past years remain the same: 1. Everyone 6 months and above should get the flu vaccine each year (with very few exceptions -- the most common one is a history of anaphylaxis to egg). 2. The flu shot can be given to anyone 6 months and above. It is the only flu vaccine recommended for those with a history of diabetes, asthma, and a serious heart condition. 3. The flu nasal spray ("Flu Mist) is available for 2 years of age and above who are in otherwise good health. It is still not approved for usage below 2 years of age or with children with asthma, diabetes, or a serious heart condition.
     This year, you will hear more about the "quadrivalent" vaccine. This means that there are four strains in the vaccine (not the usually three). About half of the time in the last 11 years, there has been a two strains of the B influenza virus in the community. Nationwide, on average, this will help prevent an extra 300,000 cases of influenza each year by adding the fourth strain into the vaccine.
     Our Flu Mist vaccine is quadrivalent this year. It has two A strains and two B strains. The flu shot we purchased this year is not quadrivalent -- it is the 3 strain trivalent vaccine. We decided to order this because there was a significant increased cost to the quadrivalent shot, the quadrivalent shot was approved for "just" 3 years of age and above, and there was a chance our supply of the quadrivalent vaccine might not be ideal. We believe the 3 strain trivalent vaccine will very likely give good protection. It is likely we will have the quadrivalent flu shot in future years.
     Our website has the dates for our flu vaccine walk-in clinics for the Fall of 2013. We actively encourage all of our patients to receive the flu vaccine at our office this Fall.

September is a peak asthma month

     We will see many children with a history of asthma in the office with worsening symptoms in September. The Fall allergies are bad at this time of year (ragweed, other weeds, and molds), the weather changes frequently, and children are back in school getting more illness exposures. It is easy for many children to get off of their normal preventative medication during the warm weather months. All of these factors make it more likely for us to notice a dramatic increase in wheezing during the back to school time of year.
     We cannot do much about the weather and you cannot stay inside in air conditioning all the time to avoid the allergies. And despite our best efforts to avoid the illnesses with back to school time, this is also difficult. So what to do?
     The most important thing to do is to make sure that your child is taking their daily preventative medication (inhaled steroids, Singulair(r), etc.). Starting this now or before this season starts is very important. It takes a couple weeks to get the most benefit from these medications. It is also time to get a flu shot. This helps prevent a case of flu which can cause a worsening of the asthma.
     Please call the office if you have questions.