Monday March 10, 2014
This past winter was definitely not normal for people in most areas of the United States. Millions of us dealt with record low temperatures, above average snowfalls and far too many "snow days" (at least most parents will agree that there were too many!).
After what seemed like a winter that would never end - and still hasn't really - there are signs of Spring in parts of the country. In fact, parts of the South are already seeing increased pollen levels. And as any seasoned allergy sufferer knows, with increased pollen counts come increased allergy symptoms.
So if you find yourself with an itchy throat, watery eyes and runny nose, it may not be yet another cold coming on it could be allergies.
If you aren't sure, take our quick and easy quiz:
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Monday March 3, 2014
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) have developed a patch that could be used to deliver flu vaccines in the future.
Don't expect to see it available next year, but early tests and studies look promising. The patch has 50 microneedles attached to it which would deliver the vaccine to the skin in a way which is virtually painless according to participants in a study that tested the ease of using the new patch by individuals that are not trained health care professionals.
Currently, in order to get a flu vaccine, you have to either go to your doctor's office or get one at a pharmacy, flu clinic or other location and it is administered by a health care professional who is trained to deliver vaccines. The developers of this new type of vaccine hope the ease of use and elimination of the need for medical professionals to deliver it will increase flu vaccination rates.
The patch has not yet undergone human testing to determine how effective it will be at providing protection against the flu (the latest test was just to see how easily people could use the patch - it did not contain any vaccine) but researchers have said that they have plans to test it including the vaccine in the next year or so. There is already an intradermal flu vaccine that is injected into the skin with a very small needle, so there is a precedent that a vaccine that is delivered only into the skin can be effective. It's just a matter of time to see if this one will be as well.
What do you think? Would you get a flu vaccine if it was a patch you could stick on yourself? Would you feel comfortable if you could get it in the mail and use it on your family?
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Tuesday February 25, 2014
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has announced an updated policy strongly opposing the use of health clinics in retail stores (such as CVS and Walgreens) for the treatment of children. Many people use these clinics to seek treatment for minor illness such as colds, the flu and stomach viruses.
The AAP is made up of over 62,000 Pediatricians and Pediatric specialists. They routinely come out with recommendations that guide health care providers and parents to provide the best care for their patients and children.
Several reasons were given for discouraging the use of these clinics in treating children.
Concerns About the Quality of Providers
A vast majority of health care providers in retail based clinics are nurse practitioners (NP) or physician's assistants (PA) who may or may not have training in pediatrics. Contrary to popular belief, children are not just small adults - their bodies actually work differently, they may experience different symptoms during an illness than an adult would with the same illness and medications may be processed differently in their bodies. That is not to say that providers in these clinics are incapable of caring for children, but pediatric health care is different from adult health care.
Continuity of Care
A major concern among Pediatricians whose patients go to retail based clinics for minor illnesses is that opportunities will be missed for talking about other issues. The providers in the clinics will not know a child's long term medical history and could pass off symptoms as minor and related to something like a cold when they are actually related to a more chronic illness that the Pediatrician would know about.
Missing Complicated Problems
The concept of a "medical home" - where one doctor (or group of doctors) cares for a child throughout their childhood - is important for kids, even those without chronic illnesses. Kids have to see the doctor a lot, even when they are healthy. They go for regular check ups and Pediatricians are able to monitor for signs of anything out of the ordinary. They do this when you take your child in for a sore throat or cough as well, even if they aren't talking about it. The concern that many of these visits will be replaced by trips to the pharmacy clinic is a concern for the AAP because opportunities to pick up on more significant illnesses or chronic conditions could be missed.
I have a child with a complicated medical history and would likely not even consider taking him to a retail based clinic because I don't trust that the providers there would have the extensive knowledge it takes to make sure his illnesses are treated properly. However, I have another child that is healthy and would consider taking him to one of these clinics if I felt it was necessary and there were no other options available.
I understand the AAP's concern and their reasoning, but I think the expectation that parents avoid these clinics completely is just unrealistic. There may be more options (such as Pediatric Urgent Care centers) in larger metropolitan areas, but often in smaller cities and towns, these retail based clinics are the only option after regular business hours other than the emergency room.
The policy does go on to say that if parents choose to use one of these clinics for their child, that they at least try to find one that has a formal relationship with their doctor so the information will be shared with their Pediatrician and they can follow up with them during regular business hours. It also encourages Pediatricians to be available to their patients and offer accessible hours and locations.
What do you think? If you are a parent, have you taken your child to a retail based clinic for care? Will you in the future?
Saturday February 22, 2014
Have you ever wanted to be a part of public health surveillance? Or maybe you just want to know how many people are sick in your area. Now you can do both with one app (or website if you prefer) called Flu Near You.
This innovative concept uses the power of crowdsourcing to track and monitor flu symptoms throughout the United States. Just fill out a weekly questionnaire (it's really just a form with check boxes) about your symptoms over the past 7 days and see how prevalent those symptoms are in your area as well. It is simple but extremely valuable information. Brought to you by some significant leaders in the field of public health, the anonymous data you provide really enhances the information researchers gain from traditional flu surveillance methods.
On the website, you can see how the CDC's FluView reports and Google Flu Trends compare to current findings through Flu Near You.
To learn more about Flu Near You and see how it compares to the CDC's reports and Google Flu Trends, read:
See the website for yourself and find out if you can get the app on your mobile device:
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