Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pre-School and Daycare Vaccines: What is Measles?

With the recent refusal of numerous parents to vaccinate their children, most based on the fear that these types of vaccines are a result in the increase in autistic children, measles has begun to rear its ugly (rash-y) head. This might be as dangerous a consequence as refusing to get the vaccine in the first place, a gamble that may have long-lasting effects and possibly even death waiting in the wings

What is measles?

According to the New York Department of Health, it is an "acute, highly contagious viral disease capable of producing epidemics." What is often unknown, is how many people have had the vaccination that prevents this disease from spreading. Because the disease is "usually considered a childhood disease, it can be contracted at any age. The majority of cases are now imported from other countries or linked to imported cases." But that is changing according to Mike Stobe of the Associated Press.

He writes: "Measles cases in the U.S. are at the highest level in more than a decade, with nearly half of those involving children whose parents rejected vaccination, health officials reported Thursday" of last week.

"The number of cases" he continues, "is still small, just 131, but that's only for the first seven months of the year. There were 42 cases for all of last year." It seems to be making its re-emergence via home schooled kids in particular.

The following information comes from the NY Department of Health and is extremely important when making the decision to or not to vaccinate:

"In the first stage, the individual may have a runny nose, cough and a slight fever. The eyes may become reddened and sensitive to light while the fever consistently rises each day. The second stage begins on the third to seventh day and consists of a temperature of 103-105 degrees Fahrenheit and a red blotchy rash lasting four to seven days. The rash usually begins on the face and then spreads over the entire body. Koplik spots (little white spots) may also appear on the gums and inside of the cheeks.

"How soon do symptoms appear?
"Symptoms usually appear in 10-12 days, although they may occur as early as seven or as late as 21 days after exposure.

"When and for how long is a person able to spread measles?
An individual is able to transmit measles from four days prior to and four days after rash onset.

"Does past infection make a person immune?
"Yes. Permanent immunity is acquired after contracting the disease.

"What is the treatment for measles?
"There is no specific treatment for measles.

"What are the complications associated with measles?
"Pneumonia occurs in up to six percent of reported cases and accounts for 60 percent of deaths attributed to measles. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) may also occur. Other complications include middle ear infection, diarrhea and convulsions. Measles is more severe in infants and adults.

"How can measles be prevented?
"Anyone born on or after January 1, 1957, who does not have a history of physician-diagnosed measles or serologic confirmation of measles immunity, should receive two doses of MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine for maximum protection. The first dose should be given at 12-15 months of age. The second dose should be given at four to six years of age (school entry) at the same time as the DTaP and polio booster doses. MMR vaccine is recommended for all measles vaccine doses to provide increased protection against all three vaccine-preventable diseases: measles, mumps and rubella. Measles immunization is required of all children enrolled in schools and pre-kindergarten programs. Since August 1, 1990, college students have also been required to demonstrate immunity against measles."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Kids and Disaster Planning

Could your pre-schooler be the key to how well you perform in a disaster situation? Possibly so. Amanda Ripley, author of "The Unthinkable: Who Survives and Disaster - and Why" (Crown) is a journalist with more than her share of disaster coverage. In her book, she was fascinated by the way survivors reacted when tragedy stuck and offers a few ideas on how you can help your reaction and that of your family. Surprisingly, your youngest child may help.

All good daycares and pre-schools practice how to evacuate during a fire. And while this may seem to be training for the adult providers, the experience provides a valuable lesson for the children as well. A properly executed evacuation can only come with practice, a repetitive behavior that gives the mind a mental map of not only where to go but how to get there.

According to Ms. Ripley, you brain works with pattern recongintion. This is way for your brain to access what has happened before and draw on that experience at the very time when you do not have the opportunity to think about what needs to be done. Simply using words will not suffice. The brain needs a map, a script to draw on in these kinds of situations. Fortunately, that is the easy part. The hard pard is making the map and denying your instincts, which may actually act against you.

The Importance of Gathering

While it is important to gather your child to you when a disaster strikes, the biggest problem facing the adults is the gathering reaction. Believing that retrieving valuable papers or pictures or even mundane things like jewelry or articles of clothing (surprisingly, grown-ups will grab the oddest things when disasters strike such as the story of the woman who needed to take the book she had been reading even as the 9/11 disaster was unfolding around her). In other words, moving quickly is learned through rehearsal and cannot be counted on as something you would do without thinking.

Follow the Leader

It is generally assumed that the leader will be the adult present at the time. Unfortunately, someone needs to grasp this role in order for the number of survivors to be highest. We tend to be agonizingly orderly, even polite when disaster strikes in a public place. But n the home, when moments count, we do some dumb things and this adds to the possibility that our plans will not get followed.

There are things you can do that will allow you to let the leadership role be assumed by even the youngest family member.
First, have fire drills. They may seem like an exercise that is better put off until tomorrow, but the more times you do it with your family, the better the chances are that they will all survive.

With the lights out, try and find your way to the nearest exit and escape. It is not as easy as it seems. Often we will confront obstacles that should be moved, doors that are not easily unlocked form the inside (where are the keys?), and what needs to go with you when you leave (fires might require a quick grab of important papers stored near an exit or, in the case of a natural disaster, an emergency back pack - a subject we will discuss in my next post).

Secondly: and ounce of prevention Put your child in charge of fire safety around the house. They will be reminders to things such as change the smoke detector battery on the first of the month if you give them the chore. It is a good way to teach them (and refresh what they have learned in pre-school about calendars) to follow a routine of good habits.

And lastly, give them the confidence to make the right decision You may be injured or feeling under the weather when a disaster strikes leaving the only clear-headed thinking to your toddler. The more confidence you give your child in which decision to make, the higher the likelihood the whole family will survive.

    Do they know not to open a door if there is smoke seeping in around the cracks or the door knob is hot?
    Do they know to exit the house without hesitation even passing up the opportunity to call 911?
    Do they know how to crawl? (We practice that in our pre-school situation but are you prepared to re-enact this during a simulated drill once a month?)
    Do they know how to stop, drop, and roll, which is another thing we talk about and practice once a month as part of our fire safety class here?
    Is your escape route free of obstacles and have you designated a place outside for all of you to meet (a neighbor's house or on the corner)?

You may have less than three minutes to get to that place. Can your family do it? Have you practiced more than once?

It can save your life!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Kids and Tradition

I have mentioned that kids are conformists, enjoying the activities that a group can provide, the interaction that other individuals bring and the way that they can count on these things - not just the times when they happen, but the regularity of their occurrence. We all think of traditions as something that happens at the holidays. In fact, those two words are often linked in such a way that those who love the repetitive nature of gatherings and festivities around the these special occasions actually begin looking forward to and planning for them days, weeks, even months in advance. Some of us loath them and the restrictions they offer - same thing, different year.

But kids are different. They relish traditions. The question is: what kind of tradition are you offering?

According to Mbathio Sall of the Bibliothèque lecture Développement in Dakar, Sénégal, traditions are not only important, they provide a rich set of memories, cultural learning and often the much needed interaction that daily life often edits down to a couple of hellos, goodbyes and little else. Because of that, our children suffer.

Mr. Sall breaks down traditions in the following way (quoted directly without grammatical corrections):
    "The tale or fable is generally told kids by old people, at dusk. Among the numerous explanations on the time of enunciation of the tale, let's keep this one: "The night is more auspicious to the dream and the creative imagination, and the mind is more free after works and diurnal worries.""

    "The myth is a long narration that is object of strong belief for the people that produced him. Indeed, to the difference of the tale in which the sharing of the real and the unreal has the tendency to balance."

    "The epic or epic narration relates exploits of hero who really existed and who played a major role in a people's, an ethnic's history."

    "Proverbs are some vivid truths to which the tale acts as an illustration the most often. Some storytellers say the proverb before developing it with the help of the tale. Proverbs are often told kids by the old people, who still like nowadays to decorate their speech: they connote eloquence and wisdom."

    "Indeed, from the tale, to the myth, proverbs and riddles and even epic narrations, there is always a teaching to pull, a value to instill in the child.

    And finally, the song, which Mr. Sall describes as: " as being "the adornment" of the verb."

    "Themes of instruction are provided more for tales and proverbs. The symbolic meaning coming from these two types is used on several plans: the knowledge of the nature, morals, the social behaviour..."

There is no better place in the American culture than the dinner table. We seldom gather as a group in any other place for a single purpose. This is perfect opportunity to discuss what happened at pre-school that day, what your child learned and possibly what you know about the subject. Offer and anecdote about your days in school.

No television, no distractions, no time limit. It doesn't have to be elaborate but it does need be placed very high on the list of things you do "traditionally".