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Will Immunotherapy Reduce My Child’s Allergies…Is It Worth It?

Allergy shotsImmunotherapy is a series of injections that helps build the body’s immunity to substances that trigger allergy symptoms. Each shot contains a tiny amount of the offending allergen. Over time, your immune system builds up a tolerance, which means that those sniffles and watery eyes lessen or even disappear.

Since immunotherapy is a commitment — the entire course takes years — it’s recommended for people who have multiple allergies and suffer from symptoms at least three months out of the year. Speak with your pediatrician about your child. Most doctors, including myself, advise that children should be at least 5 years of age to start allergy shots.

If your child is a candidate, consider whether or not you’d be able to take him to the doctor’s office regularly. He’ll need to get shots once a week for several months, and then once a month or so for two to five more years.

Next, check in with your insurance company. Most cover immunotherapy, but some have a yearly maximum or deductible. It’s important to have a clear idea of what’s covered before you begin treatment.

The good news:

  • 85 to 95 percent of patients experience a significant improvement in their allergy symptoms.
  • And for most, those benefits last for life.
  • What’s more, immunotherapy will protect your child from developing allergy-induced asthma and other types of allergies.

Has anyone in your family tried immunotherapy? Did it work?

It’s Fall: What Can I Expect As Far As My Child’s Allergies?

fall allergies - runny noses and itchy eyesWe are currently in the middle of the allergy season created by ragweed. We had thought we had made it through the spring and summer allergy season with our immune system health in good shape when all of a sudden it seems to return with a vengeance: watery, itchy eyes, constantly clear runny itchy nose, clearing your throat and trying in vain to scratch the back part of your palate with the back of your tongue. Here we are again, but in the spring/ summer seasons this was due to trees and grass. Every season has its own list of usual suspects to create allergy symptoms.

The end of summer and beginning of fall sees the end of the ragweed season and the onset of more indoor things to spark the symptoms of allergy. When families start to close up their homes for the colder weather to come, many allergens are trapped indoors such as molds and dust. Many people are allergic to just these factors, made worse by the onset of school and the ability of children to begin bring home the “bug of the week”. Colds become more frequent and the onset of asthmatic symptoms add to the coughs, runny noses and itchiness, along with such factors as spending more time indoors with your furry pets. The leaves are beginning to fall and the wind is beginning to whip the leaves around and fragment them causing a different kind of dust.

Added to that, as families begin to turn the heat on in their homes, two things happen; all the dust that has collected in the ducts now is blown into the indoor environment to mix with all the other allergens and the indoor air begins to dry out. This potpourri of particles is just about everywhere, just waiting to irritate your respiratory tract if you happen to have allergies.

The symptoms of allergic problems do not necessarily change with the seasons and probably the same medications your Doctor recommended in the Spring will also be effective, but if you have difficulty controlling the problem, get in touch with your healthcare provider – they can help you make sure your children are not bothered with these symptoms in school.

8 Steps to Boost Your Child’s Immune System

Editor’s Note: This is not an article about how to keep your kids safe from Coronavirus – our focus is to improve your child’s overall health and immune system. The healthier we can keep them, the more we improve their chances of fighting off each new bug that comes their way

The best offense is a good defense. It’s a saying that holds as true for football as it does for cold and flu season. But fending off colds doesn’t just mean reminding your kids to wash their hands. “How much you sleep, what you eat and how you spend your free time all play a role in having a strong immune system,” says Dr. Alan Greene, a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine and an attending pediatrician at Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif.

Follow this eight-step plan to keep your little ones — and you — healthy, happy and sniffle-free:

Scale back on sweets. According to the American Heart Association, the average American gets about 22 teaspoons of added sugar in one day — more than three times the amount the organization recommends. Not only can an excess of the sweet stuff pave the way for weight gain, but it can also wear down the immune system. “Refined sugar causes blood sugar spikes, which compromise white blood cells, the body’s first line of defense against colds,” says Greene. To scale back, swap out your kid’s soda for water and offer fruit instead of candy. The American Heart Association advises that children ages 4 to 8 who get about 1,600 calories a day should limit their sugar intake to 3 teaspoons — or 12 grams — a day.

Clear the air. Here’s another reason to protect your child from secondhand smoke and chemical-based household cleaners: “These pollutants damage cilia, the tiny hairs in your nose that help block viruses,” says Greene. Declare your home and car smoke-free zones, and use gentler cleaners — or save the serious scrubbing for the times your kid’s in day care or on a playdate.

Let ’em laugh. When life gets hectic, it’s sometimes simpler to rush through your day without cracking a smile. But taking time to have fun and giggle with your family is crucial for your well-being. In fact, research from Japan’s Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine found that watching funny movies boosts the production of the body’s natural cold- and flu-killing cells. Try having a tickle-fest, or pop in a chuckle-worthy DVD.

Serve some bacteria. The good kind, that is! “Probiotics strengthen the immune system,” says Greene. “The trick is giving your child enough of these friendly bacteria.” He recommends looking for a product with 5 to 10 billion units from more than one strain of probiotics, such as a combination of lactobacillus and bifidus regularis. Most yogurts contain only 1 billion units per serving, so consider stocking up on fortified juices too.

Score some D-fense. Not getting enough of this vitamin, which the body converts from sunlight, can increase your odds of catching a cold by up to 40 percent, reports a study from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Because it’s very difficult to consume that much from foods (good sources include dairy and seafood), look to supplement your child’s diet with a vitamin that contains at least 600 IU of D, the amount recommended by the Institutes of Medicine. Pick a brand with D3, the form that’s more readily absorbed by the body.

Stress less. Too much tension can trigger the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that dampens your body’s defenses, says Greene. Of course, it’s impossible to rid your child’s life of all stresses, but teaching him coping techniques can help him better deal with them. The next time he seems anxious, have him lie down with one hand on his tummy. Ask him to take deep breath; his stomach should push against his hand when he inhales and move away when he exhales. Eventually, he’ll learn to take these “belly breaths” when he’s feeling frustrated.

Get moving. Freezing outside? Resist the temptation to camp out in front of the television. Staying active provides a number of healthy benefits, including a stronger immune system. According to a recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, people who worked out five days a week came down with 46-percent fewer colds than their couch-potato counterparts. So bundle up and go on a family walk or create an indoor obstacle course.

Have a set bedtime. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who logged more quality shut-eye were five times less likely to get a cold than those who tended to toss and turn. Experts recommend that children younger than 12 should log 10 hours of sleep a night, one- to three-year-olds should get 12 to 14 hours, and those younger than 1 need 14 to 15 hours. To help put your little one — and colds — to bed, create an evening ritual that signals it’s time for sleep, like reading a favorite book or doing a few easy stretches.

Parents, 5 Fun Facts About Colds: Bet 3 Surprise You

Some surprising facts about colds, including what causes symptoms such as a blocked nose, and why mucus turns thick and yellow.

1. Cold viruses don’t make us feel ill

“It’s your own immune system response that makes you feel ill,” says Professor Ron Eccles of the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, where experts have researched the common cold for more than 20 years. When you get a cold, the virus attacks the nose and the back of the throat, and it doesn’t take long for the body’s natural defences to start to work.

“The immune system detects the virus and floods the area with white blood cells and chemical messengers, and these trigger various symptoms such as headaches and a blocked nose.”

2. A blocked nose is due to swollen erectile tissue

“During a cold, the lining of your nose is the battlefront,” says Professor Eccles. When your nose feels blocked it isn’t because it’s full of mucus, but because the blood vessels in your nose are inflamed.

The nasal lining is made from erectile tissue (similar to the tissue in the sexual organs). When you have a cold, the blood vessels swell up as infection-fighting white blood cells flood to the area. This narrows the air passage in your nose and restricts the airflow as you breathe.

A decongestant spray can reduce the swelling and allow you to breathe more easily.

3. You can catch a cold through your eyes

When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release droplets of mucus into the air, or into their hand if they use their hand to cover their mouth. If you get these droplets on your hand (for example, by shaking hands or touching contaminated objects such as doorknobs), you can pass them into your eyes or nose when you touch them.

Most of us touch our eyes and nose more often than we realise. A duct links the eyes and the nasal cavity, and the virus travels easily from the eye to the nose and throat, where it can cause infection. You can help to avoid being infected by washing your hands thoroughly.

4. Women get more colds than men

“Women have more colds than men, and this is probably due to increased interaction with children,” says Professor Eccles. Children get around seven to ten colds a year, compared with two to three for adults. So people who spend a lot of time with children, such as childminders, nursery teachers or school teachers, are more likely to pick up the viruses.

5. Yellow mucus is caused by white blood cells

When your immune system is fighting a cold virus, one of the first symptoms is clear, runny mucus from the nose. As the cold develops, mucus usually becomes thicker and yellow, then green. White blood cells cause this change in colour and texture as they flood to the nasal area and increase in number as the cold progresses.

“Many people think that yellow or green mucus is caused by bacteria, but this isn’t the case,” says Professor Eccles. “It’s because there are billions of white blood cells in the mucus.”

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A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunizations – Part II

I will pick up where I left off in A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunizations – Part I and deal with some immunizations not yet mentioned (and I do apologize for the time lapse between these posts).

Baby girl gets vaccinatedMMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella [German Measles]) is a very good, effective vaccine used for many years without significant problems, regardless of the negative information that has appeared over the years to attempt to link this vaccine with a number of problems. The supposed link between this vaccine and the development of certain neurologic disorders (e.g. autism) originated in an article appearing over 15 years ago in a British medical journal. Multiple attempts to prove this information have shown no relationship as mentioned above. Not only was this a very poorly designed study but the very same journal was forced to retract the article and in fact the author was stripped of his license to practice medicine and severely punished. There have never been articles since then confirming the supposed association.

Measles is a highly contagious viral illness that has been responsible for wiping out entire populations of primitive and un-immunized people. As with the other 2 diseases in this combination of vaccines in MMR, there can be very serious complications that can lead to prolonged and serious illnesses and even death. Combining these three vaccines into one has been shown to be both safe and highly effective. The side effects of the vaccine are mild and temporary.

Mumps is also highly contagious and can as with German Measles cause significant serious problems.

Varicella (Chicken Pox) has a preventative vaccine with few side effects and very good protective capability. The disease has the potential to cause serious illness and may necessitate hospitalization. As with the vaccines mentioned so far, the low incidence of any problems is way less than contracting the disease.

Hepatitis A is an infectious disease of the liver (as with Hepatitis b mentioned in Part I) but is actually easier to contract than B and far more common. While Hepatitis B needs contact with blood or body fluids to possibly contract the disease, Hepatitis A also can be contracted through contact with stool, urine and saliva- all very prevalent in day care an nursery settings. The vaccine is one of the very best that we have- very small incidence of very mild side effects, and very high degree of protection bordering on 90 to 95% in some studies.

Pneumococcus, (similar to the hib mentioned in Part I), is a bacteria that can cause serious disease in all ages. In the past, there were a large number of deaths associated with contracting illness due to this bacteria- fortunately since the vaccine (pneumococcal) was introduced, this incidence has greatly diminished.

Just a few more vaccines:

Meningococcal disease is responsible for death and/or disability in a large number of those contracting this disease. It’s degree of infectivity rises to higher levels where there are large numbers of young people congregated such as in dormitories and therefore the vaccine is recommended as children get older and are preparing for college, or other situations of group activities (overnight camp, etc.)

HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is an infectious disease transmitted through sexual activity and therefore the vaccine is recommended as children are entering puberty or before. While this vaccine was initially directed at girls, it has become apparent that because this is a disease transmitted between the sexes, it is equally important to vaccinate boys also at about the same age.

Now that you are aware of the vaccines and the illnesses they protect against, and the safety and efficacy information, I hope you will have your child fully immunized when recommended by his/her Pediatrician. (Click here for the American Academy of Pediatrics 2016 Immunization Schedule). I have been practicing Pediatrics for almost 40 years and have had the unfortunate opportunity to see first-hand the ravages of some of these illnesses before immunizations were available to prevent them. I then was overjoyed to watch the dramatic decrease in these deadly diseases after the introduction of appropriate vaccines. Research is always ongoing and I look forward with great anticipation to the further eradication of diseases that affect children worldwide.

If there are any other questions regarding immunizations or shots, please communicate these to me.

A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Immunizations – Part I

Baby girl gets vaccinatedImmunizations against a multitude of illnesses are begun during infancy and continued into adolescence. While there are many immunizations given during this period many are combined with others so that the total number of actual “shots” are fewer than if given separately. Regardless of the number of immunizations given at one particular time, research has consistently shown that there are no greater side effects in both severity and number when these immunizations are given to your baby. Furthermore, the earlier these are given, the more protection is afforded your baby during a time at which these illnesses can have serious consequences. Research has shown the proper ages at which to give these shots to kids and these ages have become the standard. (Click here for the American Academy of Pediatrics 2015 Immunization Schedule)

DPT (diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) is extremely important to protect your baby. Diphtheria is a devastating disease that mankind has had to deal with in the past that can swell the throat to the point of suffocation, along with high fever and a very ill child. Pertussis is still around today and is worse in severity the younger the child; there is severe prolonged coughing with a characteristic “whoop” at the end of a spasm as the child “catches his/her breath”. Many people with a persistent cough can be carrying Pertussis. There is also high fever and fatigue and loss of the natural cough suppression of the brain to the point of lack of oxygen. Tetanus is a severe disease and often ends with the death of the patient- muscle spasm especially of the facial muscles, fever and exhaustion also is present and again the younger the child the worse the symptoms and outcome.

Hib is a vaccine against a bacteria called Hemophilus Influenza type b, and can be responsible for illness in children and adults. It used to be a main cause of meningitis (another severe illness consisting of inflammation of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Fortunately after the vaccine was appoved and used, there has been a marked decline in that particular kind of meningitis. Another triumph of man over bacteria.

IPV or OPV (polio) is an illness that sometimes caused muscle weakness to the point of suffocation. “Iron lung” (a certain type of respirator) used to be needed to help people breathe but the rate of death was still high. The polio virus is still around today but the disease is either mild or without symptoms at all.

Hepatitis b can be a very debilitating disease that can permanently injure the liver leading to lifelong problems and shortened life span. This is given in a series of three and has very few to no side effects.

There are still many immunizations to cover that I will do in a follow up early next Spring

The bottom line is that it is important to fully immunize your children at the earliest possible and allowable time. Listen to your doctor, he/she is fully aware of benefits of these life saving vaccines.

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