Highly Contagious: Measles

Friday, January 23, 2015 2:02 PM comments (0)

measlesMeasles is extremely contagious, infecting nearly 90 percent of unvaccinated people who come into contact with it. Why is it so contagious? It’s spread through the air (via coughing/sneezing).  People standing in the airspace around the infected person can become infected by breathing in these respiratory droplets; they do not need to be sneezed or coughed on directly.  Those infected with measles are at their most contagious the four days prior to the appearance of the rash, meaning they are extremely contagious before they themselves are aware of the virus. 

Measles symptoms develop approximately 8-12 days after exposure but the measles rash will not develop until 3 -5 days after symptoms first appear. The first symptoms are similar to a severe cold:

  • High fever
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Red eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • And white-to-bluish spots may appear in the mouth immediately following the above symptoms

The measles rash begins on the face but quickly spreads downward, covering the body. Fever may be at its highest—topping 104 degrees Fahrenheit—at the appearance of the rash.  

Before the measles vaccine, more than three to four million people in the U.S. would contract the virus each year. Infected individuals can develop mild-to-severe complications including pneumonia, blindness, deafness, brain swelling, permanent neurological damage and even death. 

Julie Holland, MD, Head of General Pediatrics at NorthShore, discusses who should receive the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine and when: 

Everyone should be vaccinated. Vaccines like MMR are a safe and effective way to prevent the spread of the virus. While there have been small outbreaks in the U.S., measles is very common in other parts of the world and can spread easily to the unvaccinated and under-vaccinated in the U.S. 

  • Children. The CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine in childhood: the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at four to six years.
  • Teens and young adults. For unvaccinated individuals, two doses of the MMR vaccine are recommended for individuals in this age group: The first dose is given and then followed with a second dose a minimum of 28 days after the first.
  • Adults. For those born after 1957, the CDC recommends two doses of the MMR vaccine. 

Make an appointment or call your doctor or your child’s pediatrician to ensure you and your children are adequately vaccinated.

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Shingles: Reducing Your Risk and Pain

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 11:53 AM comments (0)

shinglesShingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.

Shingles is a painful blistering skin rash that often appears in a strip or band on a single side of the face or body. The rash may not be the first sign of shingles. Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching  or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears. Other symptoms can include fever, headache and chills. 

The rash produces chickenpox-like blisters and irritation, and pain can be very severe. In most cases, blisters will heal within 2-4 weeks and pain will subside with the rash. However, severe cases of shingles can leave the skin permanently scarred or discolored and pain caused by damaged nerve fibers can last long after shingles blisters have healed. 

Matthew Plofsky, MD, Family Medicine at NorthShore, shares information on how to shorten the duration of the infection, lessen the severity of symptoms and possibly prevent shingles altogether: 

Relieving symptoms and reducing severity: 

  • Antiviral drugs. The prompt use of antiviral drugs can reduce the severity of a shingles infection and help you heal quickly. Antiviral drugs also help prevent complications associated with a shingles infection.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers. Aspirin and acetaminophen may help with pain as will anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and naproxen. 
  • Keep skin clean. The infected area should be kept clean, dry and exposed to air as much as possible. You shouldn’t scratch shingles blisters at any time but make sure your hands are clean and that you are only touching infected skin with clean, dry hands. 
  • Keep skin cool. Ice and cold compresses applied to a shingles rash can help relieve pain and inflammation. 
  • Over-the-counter lotions. Calamine is an effective treatment for mild itchiness. 

Preventing shingles:

  • Vaccinate! The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends shingles vaccine for people aged 60 years and older. Even people who have had shingles can receive the vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. Almost 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime, and the risk increases as you get older.
  • Prevent chickenpox. Adults can possibly prevent two infections with one vaccine—chickenpox and shingles. If you’ve never had chickenpox, schedule an appointment with your doctor to get the chickenpox vaccine and you’ll help prevent a future case of varicella zoster infection. The chickenpox vaccine is given to most infants before they reach one year.

Have you been vaccinated for chickenpox or shingles?

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The Importance of Regular Pediatric Doctor Visits

Tuesday, January 08, 2013 8:31 AM comments (0)

Pediatric-AppointmentsDoes it seem like you make a lot of trips to see your pediatrician? Regardless of the reason—the sniffles, a high fever, an infection or something else—it is a good idea to make regular visits to the doctor. These appointments, along with any “back-to-school” check-ups, are not only important to your child’s well being, but also can help physicians identify health risks and preventive measures.

Alison Galanopoulos, MD, NorthShore-affiliated Pediatrician, identifies some of the common health concerns that a pediatrician can often identify during regular visits:

  • Behavioral Issues. Some behavioral issues may be hard for a parent to pinpoint. Something as simple as snoring, for example, can sometimes signal serious problems, such as sleep apnea, bedwetting and even ADHD.
  • Growth and Development. Your pediatrician can monitor patterns to help determine your child’s growth and development. He or she should also be able to ask the right questions during appointments to help identify any problems.
  • Obesity. Preventive health is key. With the rise of childhood obesity, having regular appointments that can track your child’s weight and height are essential to help determine a potential weight problem. Your pediatrician can work with you to establish healthy eating habits and promote exercise from a young age.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies. Many children have been found to be deficient in Vitamin D, which can lead to future health problems. The best way to combat this is to have your child (depending on age) eat 2-3 servings of calcium a day.
  • Vaccinations. There are many required immunizations, and it can be overwhelming for a parent to keep track of what is needed. You can work with your pediatrician to confirm your child is up to date.

How frequently do you take your child/children to the pediatrician?

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