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The Children's Wellness Blog

Frequently Asked Questions about the Flu Vaccine for Kids

November 9, 2017

Frequently Asked Questions about the Flu Vaccine for KidsIt’s that time of year again when temperatures are dropping and parents everywhere are bundling up their kids in coats and hats to protect them from seasonal illnesses. But about half of Americans don’t take advantage of the best way to prevent the flu: the flu vaccine. Our pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center know that parents have a lot of questions about the flu vaccine, so we’re answering some of the most common ones we hear from our patients’ parents.

Why is the flu vaccine so important for kids?

As beneficial as the flu vaccine is for everyone, it’s especially crucial for kids. Children are more likely to contract the flu because they tend to touch everything in their surroundings and then put their hands in or near their mouth and eyes. The risk is even higher for school-aged kids because they’re around so many other children in a small area.

To protect your kids from the flu and its potentially serious complications, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all kids get the vaccine, but especially kids between 6 months and 5 years of age. Babies under 6 months old actually have a higher risk for flu complications, but they’re not able to receive the vaccine, so it’s particularly important for your family and all of your child’s caregivers to get the vaccine if you have a baby or other high-risk individual at home.

Can my child get the flu from the vaccine?

This is a very common myth. The flu vaccine contains a deactivated (dead) form of the virus so the body can learn how to defend itself against the live virus. The vaccine will not cause your child to get the flu. Some side effects of the vaccine can mimic flu symptoms in kids, and some people mistake this for a mild flu.

Which type of flu vaccine should my child get?

The flu vaccine comes in two forms: trivalent (containing three strains of the virus) and quadrivalent (containing four strains of the virus). At Children’s Wellness Center, we always strive to offer our patients the most effective and safest vaccines on the market, so we only stock the quadrivalent vaccine, and our flu vaccine is preservative-free as well. The most important factor is just to get the immunization for your child.

In some past years, the flu vaccine has also had two options for administering: an injection or a nasal spray. This year, the only effective and approved flu vaccine is an injection. If you are offered a nasal spray flu vaccine, do not accept it.

When should my kids get the flu vaccine?

The flu virus changes each year, so kids need to get a new flu vaccine each year. The year’s vaccine is usually available in August or September, and we have already had the flu vaccine for the 2017-2018 season since September. We have plenty of supply for both patients and parents alike, so you should schedule a flu vaccine appointment at your earliest availability. For your convenience, we offer flu vaccine clinics most days of the week to make it easy and quick for families to come into the office for a nurse to administer the vaccine.

Does the flu vaccine guarantee that my child won’t get the flu?

As much as we would all love a 100% guarantee, this just doesn’t exist in medicine. Flu vaccines are about 60% effective. We do know, however, that vaccinated people who do get the flu tend to have a much milder case and are much less likely to end up with severe complications, like pneumonia. After all, the largest concern about the flu is that you never know which kids will have severe complications, so minimizing that risk is certainly worth the effort.

If my kids aren’t in a high-risk category, should we pass up the vaccine to conserve the supply for high-risk people?

Children who are at a heightened risk for serious flu complications include:

  • Kids under 5 years of age
  • Kids with certain chronic pediatric medical conditions (for example, a history of wheezing)
  • Children of American Indian/Alaskan Native heritage

If you and your kids don’t belong to one of these categories, you should still get the vaccine. There is no shortage of the flu vaccine this year, so there’s no need to put your child’s health at risk to conserve the supply for high-risk kids.

No parent wants to see their child get sick, and flu vaccines are among the most effective ways to keep your kids healthy. At Children’s Wellness Center, we’re here to help with flu vaccines, preventative guidance, and more throughout this flu season. To keep up with our future blogs and health tips for kids this season, be sure to follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Should You Let Your Teen Drive Your Other Kids to School?

November 3, 2017

Should You Let Your Teen Drive Your Other Kids to SchoolWhen teenagers first get their driver’s license, they’re typically excited to hop into the car every chance they get. Some teens even gain a sudden enthusiasm for running errands, just because they love the independence it brings them. In truth, this can be great for parents too, because you finally have someone else who can help with trips to the store, picking up dry cleaning, and other time-consuming jobs. Still, as we’ve often seen at Children’s Wellness Center, parents are much more hesitant to award the school commute to their teenagers when the new driver would be taking their siblings to school as well. So what’s the verdict? Is it okay to have your teenager drive his/her younger siblings to school?

As you can probably imagine, there is no clear-cut answer about how much driving experience a teenager should have before they’re comfortable enough behind the wheel to take on the added responsibility of young passengers. It’s really a question of each teen’s maturity level, willingness to follow the rules for safe teen driving, and experience level on the road. Some young drivers simply learn the skill better than others, so while one teenager may be a very safe driver after a certain number of months behind the wheel, it can take another teenager twice as long to reach that same ability level. It’s also about more than sheer driving skill. The largest danger for a teenager with young passengers is that the passengers will distract him/her, so as a parent, you should be able to objectively evaluate whether your driver is mature enough to stay focused on the road (and whether your other kids will cooperate and avoid distracting your teen driver).

If you do decide to trust your teenager with the school commute, here are a few kids safety tips to keep kids and teenagers safe during the drive:

  • Make sure there are enough seat belts and the appropriate car seats or booster seats available for every child, and make sure the driver knows how to properly secure kids in these safety restraints. Have them practice this while you supervise, because people often think they know how to use a car seat when they’re actually using it incorrectly.
  • Have your teenager do a dry run of the route while you ride along (several times, if necessary). This is especially true if they will be dropping off younger siblings at different elementary schools, day cares, or other facilities. If this is the case, make sure your teenager knows exactly where to drop off their siblings and what safety protocol to follow.
  • Teach your young driver that if a distraction arises in the car (caused by a sibling or something else entirely), they should pull into a parking lot of another safe place to deal with it, rather than trying to multi-task on the road.
  • Every teenager should know to never use their phone while driving, but explain to your teenager that this is even more important while they have the additional distractions and responsibilities of a car full of kids.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all kids under age 13 should always sit in the back seat of the vehicle, so make sure your teenager follows this car safety rule for kids. Of course, this also means that your teenager shouldn’t have more young passengers than the number of seatbelts in the back seat.
  • Make sure your teenager knows that their permission to transport their siblings should not be interpreted as permission to transport their friends. In fact, Georgia’s graduated driver licensing program puts legal limits on the number of young passengers a new driver can have (other than immediate family members). As a parent, remember that you can also put further restrictions on this as well.
  • Consider using a “contract” like the American Academy of Pediatrics’ teen driver agreement, which lays out the rules that both the teenager and the parents should adhere to for safe driving. Throughout the process, many teens respond better to respectful two-way conversations rather than lectures. If it seems to work for your teen, emphasize that you and he/she are a team with one goal – to get the entire family to school and back safely.

Ultimately, every family needs to make their own decisions about their teen’s driving restrictions. Whatever you may choose, our team of trained pediatric professionals at Children’s Wellness Center is here to guide you and answer your questions. To learn more about how to keep your teenager and your other kids safe, call Children’s Wellness Center in Atlanta. For more kids’ health and safety tips, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Resources for Child Behavior Problems

October 27, 2017

Resources for Child Behavior ProblemsWhen your child has a medical issue, the solution is rather clear-cut: you take them to a doctor. But when your child is struggling with behavior rather than health issues, the path is much less straightforward. Many people simply see all behavioral issues for kids as a matter of discipline, so parents often assume that parenting their kids correctly is the only way to solve the problem, and they spend years trying one strategy after another. For some kids, though, the issue needs more than a change in parenting style, and sometimes it’s even caused by an underlying medical or mental health condition. Regardless of the reason, you’re not in it alone, and there are a number of specialized professionals you can turn to for help.

Your Pediatrician

Board-certified pediatricians are experts in kids, in both their physical and their emotional wellbeing. Especially for first-time parents, just knowing whether or not your child’s behavior is normal can be the first challenge. Our pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center have the experience to know what you can expect at different developmental stages, so if you’re concerned about a change in your child’s behavior, we’re happy to answer your basic questions. We also have the expertise to recognize the signs of certain conditions that can affect behavior, like ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, depression, and more. While we don’t conduct thorough diagnostic tests or provide a definitive diagnosis, we’ll be able to tell you if your child’s behavior may be a sign of a known condition and we can provide you with referrals to the appropriate mental health specialists who can evaluate your child and offer you more detailed answers. As your “medical home,” we also work toward spreading valuable information to our patients between appointments, so be sure to follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook for daily articles about physical and behavioral health for kids.

A Behavior Therapist and/or a Cognitive Therapist

For kids with general behavioral problems, talk therapy is often a great first step. There are many different methods, but for improving a child’s behavior, the two most common and most helpful are generally cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy seeks to identify the negative thought patterns that are keeping kids in emotional stress (like “I can’t do anything right,” or “If I can’t get all A’s, I might as well stop trying”) and teaching the child to break free of them. Behavior therapy, on the other hand, is useful for breaking kids of bad behavioral habits and reinforcing positive actions instead. Sometimes these two methods are used in combination with each other.

A Family Counselor

One important factor in a child’s behavior problem is his or her relationship with family members, and there are often disagreements or problems the parents don’t even know about because kids struggle with having an open and honest discussion about them. For families, learning to communicate calmly and clearly about your emotions can be a very challenging process. This is the role of a family counselor – to guide families through their difficulties and teach them how to communicate with each other and talk through any frustrations or negative feelings they may be experiencing.

Your School Psychologist

If your child’s school has a school psychologist, he or she can be a tremendous help. School psychologists are trained specifically to address the psychological needs of kids and teens and to communicate with them. Plus, because they are already in your child’s school, school psychologists can be a perfect connection to your child’s teachers and school administrators to help resolve any issues between the child and the school authorities. If your child’s behavior stems from one of the underlying conditions mentioned earlier, the school psychologist can also be a great advocate for their needs and can make sure that their teachers and administrators understand how to help your child be successful.

A behavioral problem can be a huge concern for parents, because there’s no simple “if this, do that” solution, and because it can have such an impact on a child’s future. But it really does take a village to raise a child, and you can rest easy knowing that our staff at Children’s Wellness Center is here to be the go-to village member you can rely on. If you have concerns or questions about your child’s behavior, schedule an appointment at Children’s Wellness Center to take the first step toward a happier and more peaceful home.

Safety Tips for Over the Counter Medications

October 20, 2017

Safety Tips for Over the Counter MedicationsEveryone knows that prescription medications are prescription-only because they need to be used sparingly and with caution. However, it’s important to also remember that just because a medication is over-the-counter (or OTC) does not mean that it carries no risks. Especially for kids, over-the-counter medicines need to be used correctly in order for them to be safe and effective. Our board-certified pediatricians and nurse practitioners at Children’s Wellness Center want your family to be safe and healthy, so here are a few tips to help you use your kids’ OTC medicines correctly:

  • Don’t be overly quick to give your child medicine. While the right medications can be perfectly safe if used correctly, many childhood illnesses simply need a little rest and time to allow your child’s immune system to do its job.
  • Keep all medications in their original containers, complete with childproof lids.
  • Always read the instructions on the original packaging for the medicine and follow the instructions closely.
  • Be aware that some OTC medicines have minimum ages. For example:
    • Acetaminophen (like Tylenol®) should not be given to infants under 2 months of age unless it is specifically recommended by a doctor.
    • Ibuprofen (like Motrin®) should not be used until 6 months of age.
    • Kids under 6 years old should not take any OTC cold medicines or cough
    • Aspirin (and all medications that contain aspirin) should be avoided for all kids unless your doctor specifically says that it’s okay.
  • Use measuring spoons, droppers or other applicators that are specifically made for the purpose of measuring and administering medicine for kids (in fact, many medicines come with their own measuring cups or spoons). Do not use kitchen teaspoons and tablespoons as a substitute, and don’t try to “eyeball it” and guess on a dosage. The most accurate way to measure dosage is with an oral syringe, which most pharmacies will give to parents for free.
  • Some OTC medicines come in the form of oral drops for infants and syrups for toddlers. Remember that infant drops are usually more concentrated than the syrups, so if your toddler needs, for instance, 1 teaspoon of syrup, do not substitute 1 teaspoon of an infant drop medicine.
  • Store all OTC and prescription medicines alike in a safe, secure place that is out of your kids’ reach. This should be one of your childproofing
  • Keep in mind that some drops, syrups, and tablets include multiple medicines, so be sure to read the ingredient list. For example, if you’ve given your child a syrup that contains acetaminophen, avoid doubling up and giving him/her an additional dose of acetaminophen as well.
  • Many medicines for kids have charts to tell you the correct dosage. If there is a weight chart and an age chart, use the weight chart first, because it will be a more accurate dosage.
  • OTC medications can still cause adverse side effects or allergic reactions. Keep track of these so that you know if you need to avoid certain ingredients in the future. Call your pediatrician if your child vomits or develops a rash. Call 911 emergency services if your child is unconscious and won’t wake up, has a lot of trouble breathing, starts twitching or shaking uncontrollably, or begins acting very strangely.
  • As far as vitamins and dietary supplements go, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vitamin D supplements of 400 IU/day for infants under 1 year of age, and 600 IU/day for kids over 1 year of age. This is primarily for infants who are being breastfed or for kids who are not getting enough vitamin D in their normal diet. Beyond this, only give your kids additional vitamins if it’s specifically recommended by your pediatrician, because large doses of unnecessary vitamins can cause serious adverse effects.
  • Be sure to follow any OTC medication’s instructions about whether the medicine should be taken with certain foods, with water, without food, etc. so that your child’s body can absorb and use the medication the way it should.

When your kids are sick, of course you want to do everything you can to help them feel better quickly, and OTC medicines can be helpful. Just be sure you’re using them correctly and only when appropriate to make sure that they’re truly giving you and your kids the benefits you expect. For more kids’ health tips for parents, follow Children’s Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

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