newborn swaddled in blanket

Newborns and Winter Illnesses

Newborns and winter illnesses- these two things together can make new parents concerned! Conditions like Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu are major concerns for parents with new babies this time of year. RSV is a common, contagious, virus affecting the respiratory tract. For many, this is no more than a cold. For a newborn baby though, this condition can be very serious.

To answer common questions new parents may have, we reached out to two of our health professionals here at CCMH. Meagan Garibay, RN, BSN, CIC, our Infection Preventionist, and Amy Smith BSN, RNC-LRN of our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) gave us some enlightening information to help new parents rest assured they are doing all they can to protect their newborns from winter illnesses.

 

Is there anything new moms should be doing to help prevent newborns from winter illnesses pre-delivery?

 

Meagan: Vaccination helps moms pass on some protection to their babies. We encourage moms to get certain vaccines while pregnant such as the influenza vaccine and the Tdap vaccine. This confers some immunity to the fetus to protect them in their first few months of life (such as from pertussis), and/or it protects mom from catching something that could be potentially devastating for a fetus or a  neonate (such as the flu). The best thing mom can do for her baby is to keep herself well and healthy.

 

Are there any safety tips you have for friends and family who come visit newborns that can help keep newborns from winter illnesses?

 

Meagan: Washing your hands is probably the most critical thing you can do before you ever touch the newborn, or any of the newborn’s belongings or surroundings. Of course, if you are sick or think you may be getting sick, you should never visit someone with a new baby. Both new mom’s and new baby’s immune systems just aren’t strong enough to fight off whatever you may have. And the one thing I cannot stress enough: DO NOT KISS THE BABY! Not the cheek, not the forehead, not the hands. If it’s not your baby, lips off!

 

Are there any factors that put a newborn at risk for winter illnesses?

 

Amy: Most of the RSV issues we see at our hospital are the kids who have gone home from the NICU or the older kids, and those are the ones that get treated on the pediatric unit. However, I can sure talk about prevention and risk factors for our population though.  It’s not so much birth weight, but prematurity and especially prematurity with oxygen requirements in the NICU can put a newborn at risk. Infants between certain premature gestational ages can qualify for medication to help prevent RSV.

As far as what we see parents do with their children that puts newborns at risk, these things are taking them shopping in crowded places, letting strangers touch them without hand washing first, and kissing them such as Meagan mentioned. We have parents and grandparents that have babies in our NICU that want to come in and kiss them in their faces, and although we educate them not to do that, we really have a hard time getting them to understand just how dangerous that is.  Any viral cold sore can be transmitted to the baby and cause that baby to get sick! These babies immune systems are immature and they can’t fight off infections, colds, or illnesses.

 

Is RSV much more common in winter months?

 

Meagan: We do see more RSV in the winter months than any other season. Like flu, it is always “there” and in the community. People catch the flu and RSV and all other respiratory viruses in the summer months, too. However, it is not nearly as prevalent, and it doesn’t spread as fast. During the winter months, people are inside more, and are inside with crowds of people more. Therefore, this helps RSV spread.

 

Are there any tips to specifically help prevent flu? RSV?

 

Meagan: Wash your hands frequently (hand sanitizer counts), and avoid crowded places and sick people!

There is a vaccine for the flu, and everyone over the age of 6 months should get it every year. Efficacy of the vaccine varies from year to year. Nevertheless, even if you get the flu after getting the vaccine, your illness will not be as severe. It will not last as long as someone who hasn’t had the vaccine either. It is especially important that “vulnerable populations” (the very young, the very old, and otherwise immunocompromised persons) get the vaccine. This can be the difference between life and death. Many people think the flu isn’t “that serious”, but over 80,000 people died last year from the flu (which is the highest number in 4 decades).

Unfortunately there is no vaccine for RSV yet. There is one in development however, but that could take several years to be completed. Some high risk infants (such as premature infants) can be recommended to receive a medication that can help protect against serious complications from RSV such as Amy mentioned.

 

Should parents limit visitors, keep newborns out of public, etc. for a specific time?

 

Meagan: There is no hard and fast rule here – it’s entirely the new parents’ discretion. It’s always a good idea to avoid crowded places during the winter, just because of the increased likelihood that you’re going to come into contact with a lot of sick people that should’ve stayed home. As always, make sure visitors wash their hands when they come into the house to see the baby, and make sure they know not to come if they’re sick. You may get push back from some but remember – you are the parent of that baby, and what you say goes.

 

What has this season been like at CCMH so far?  

 

Meagan: This season has been a typical fall/winter so far. Currently, we are seeing more RSV than flu. Flu usually doesn’t peak until January/February, and RSV usually starts declining around that time, but both will hang on and continue circulating well into March and even April.

 

We would like to thank Amy and Meagan for taking time out of their busy schedules to give us this important information. If you are a new or expecting mother and have other questions about caring for your baby, visit the Women’s Health section of our site at https://www.ccmhhealth.com/womens-health/.

 

Disclaimer

The Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not provide specific medical advice for individual cases. Comanche County Memorial Hospital does not endorse any medical or professional services obtained through information provided on this site, articles on the site or any links on this site.

Use of the information obtained by the Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not replace medical advice given by a qualified medical provider to meet the medical needs of our readers or others.

While content is frequently updated, medical information changes quickly. Information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies or typographical errors. For questions or concerns, please contact us at contact@ccmhhealth.com.

Will Elderberry Prevent or Cure a Cold or the Flu?

Elderberry has been popular among natural remedy enthusiasts for centuries. Although, it has generated much conversation on the internet in recent years. As soon as autumn hits, you can find many people mixing up this ancient concoction for daily consumption in hopes of preventing the flu, cold and other ailments. However, as with many popular medications and remedies for cold and flu treatment, you may be skeptical if elderberry really works despite having and friend or two rave about the medicinal berry.

Skepticism of such natural remedies and medications is not unfounded with companies often producing misleading advertising during cold and flu season, a time we all tend to panic a bit and try as best we can to avoid these thriving germs. Airborne, the popular “cold fighting” drug of the early 2000’s, for example, settled a lawsuit over $20 million in 2008 for their false advertising claims as a “miracle cold buster.”1 To this day, you will still see the medication on the shelves now vaguely marketed as an “immune system booster.”

What are the facts about Elderberry?

So to cut through the hype, what are the facts about elderberry? Elderberries are produced by the European elder, a native tree to Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. However, it can grow in parts of the United States too. The tree produces a red variety of elderberries and a blue / black variety. Only the blue / black elderberry is used for medicinal purposes. Other parts of the tree including the leaves, bark, fruits, roots, and flowers, are also used in traditional medicine, naming the herb as a “medicine chest” by Hippocrates.2

Elderberry can also be used in wines, pies, teas and jams. When it is used for medicinal purposes, many individuals are making homemade elderberry syrup. The berries are typically boiled with honey and medicinal spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Users can purchase Elderberry in capsules, logenzes, tinctures, and other combination products. No standard dosage of elderberry exists, yet many adults consume a tablespoon or two a day in hopes of preventing a cold or the flu.

Uncooked elderberry can be dangerous, causing severe nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, weakness and need for hospitalization. Older, unverifiable records report childhood deaths from consuming American black elderberry, a related berry to the European variety used medicinally.3 It is unknown exactly how much elderberry is safe for child consumption.

Can Elderberry really prevent or cure a cold or the flu?

Are you considering Elderberry to relieve your cold or flu symptoms? Well, for most people it is probably worth a try. Little is known about how the ancient remedy works, and if it truly works. The berry contains flavonoids, chemicals which are believed to aid in reducing inflammation.

Scientist who are funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) study the antioxidant effects of elderberry. They hope to discover if the plant helps cure infection. Currently, the NCCIH reports, “Although some preliminary research indicates that elderberry may relieve flu symptoms, the evidence is not strong enough to support its use for this purpose.”4

Israeli scientists may disagree. After studying the effects of an elderberry extract that is commercially available known as Sambucol®, Israeli research reported the growth of influenza viruses in lab dishes were suppressed when the elderberry extract was introduced. This research team also reported that patients with confirmed cases of avian flu, H5N1, who were given the extract recovered faster than those in the study’s placebo group.5

An Australian study from 2016 may also suggest that extract from the European elder may shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms. A group of 312 participants was divided into two groups, one taking a placebo and the other taking elderberry extract. The group given elderberry recorded a decrease of symptoms days sooner than the placebo group.6

Although the research presented seems promising, most health authorities will agree that more research is needed to confirm the health benefits of Elderberry. Some studies suggest that combination products consisting of elderflower along with various herbs may be helpful for sinusitis. Due to the usage of multiple ingredients, the role elderflower plays in their effects, if any, is unknown.4

Are there any dangerous interactions between Elderberry and medication?

At this time, there are no negative interactions reported between the usage of elderberry supplements combined with other medications.7 Unknown interactions could exist. You should always discuss the possible risks and benefits of supplemental usage with your doctor.

What are the best ways to avoid a cold or the flu?

To reduce the risk and spread of cold and flu, remember to follow the suggestions reiterated by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for decades: avoid contact with those who are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after no longer having a fever controlled by medication, clean surfaces that may be contaminated, wash your hands often, and cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze.8 Also discuss the possibility of receiving a flu shot with your doctor.

Are you experiencing cold or flu-like symptoms and do not have a general practitioner? Visit ccmhhealth.com/providers to search for one of our providers.

Disclaimer

The Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not provide specific medical advice for individual cases. Comanche County Memorial Hospital does not endorse any medical or professional services obtained through information provided on this site, articles on the site or any links on this site.Use of the information obtained by the Comanche County Memorial Hospital website does not replace medical advice given by a qualified medical provider to meet the medical needs of our readers or others.While content is frequently updated, medical information changes quickly. Information may be out of date, and/or contain inaccuracies or typographical errors. For questions or concerns, please contact us at contact@ccmhhealth.com.

Sources

1 CNNMoney. 4 March 2008. Airborne settles lawsuit for $23.3 million.
2 Jaret, Peter. 29 February 2016. Health. Immunity Boosters for Cold and Flu Season.
3 Center for Disease Control (CDC). 6 April 1984. Poisoning from Elderberry Juice — California.
4 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). September 2016. European Elder.
5 Blackburn, Nicky.Isreal 21C. 29 January 2006. Study shows Israeli elderberry extract effective against avian flu.
6 Tiralongo, Wee & Lee. 8 April 2016. Elderberry Supplementation Reduces Cold Duration and Symptoms in Air-Travellers: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.
7 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. 4 June 2016. Elderberry.
8 Center for Disease Control (CDC). 1 August 2018. CDC Says “Take 3” Actions to Fight the Flu.