Author Archives: ChildrensMN

Five Question Friday: Meet one of Children’s geeks

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Children’s is fortunate to have an incredible staff of technology experts from Best Buy’s Geek Squad Precinct inside its Minneapolis and St. Paul hospitals. One of those Geek Squaders is the multitalented Jake Beaver. Get to know Jake in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Outside of his work at Children's, Jake Beaver hosts and runs a number of podcasts/radio shows.

Outside of his work at Children’s, Jake Beaver hosts and runs a number of podcasts/radio shows.

What’s your role at the Geek Squad Precinct?

I work on getting the conference rooms set up for all types of meetings and conferences. I make sure that everything is functional with the technology in the room before the meeting starts. If there seems to be any issues with some of the meeting rooms, I am on hand to troubleshoot and make things work. I work on audio-video projects around the hospital such as the Squeezebox radios in the ORs, helping with PowerPoints for meetings, and answering general technology questions throughout the day.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I started my role at Children’s in July 2012 and have loved every moment of it.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Most days I will have a schedule of meetings to attend. Depending on the meeting, some of them, I will set up and be on call to be able to run over to the room if there are issues, while other meetings I will be in attendance in full to help make the technology run smoothly. I am also in a support role for other technology around the meeting rooms if something breaks or needs to be adjusted.

What do you love most about your job?

I really love the interaction with the staff at Children’s. Everyone has been so personable and kind that it makes coming to work fun. I look forward to see what challenges are going to be brought to me; makes every day a little different.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I always wanted to be an entertainer of sorts. I had dreams of working as a music video director (yes, there were such things as music videos once). As time went on, I wanted to have a career in radio and television, so why not go to the next best thing — Best Buy. They sell a lot of TVs, so it was the closest I thought I would get to it.

subscribe_blogWhat do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Outside of work I spend a good portion of my time with my 5-year-old son, Teddy. He is one of the coolest kids ever, and I’m not just saying that because he is my boy. He has tendency to surprise me every day with something new. I work on/own a live podcast network where we run 11 different talk shows a week. I produce a total of five different shows, and I’m an on-air host of two shows. One of those shows plays host to bar trivia twice a week where myself and two other hosts bring 60 questions each week to patrons who have a chance to win a lot of cool prizes. It definitely keeps me busy, which is good; keeps me out of trouble… sometimes.

When to vaccinate against measles

Joe Kurland, MPH

Our infection prevention and control team has received questions about the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine from a number of concerned parents since measles and vaccinations began dominating national news coverage. Here we highlight the number of recommended doses and the times to receive the vaccine.

I want to protect my child. What is the recommendation for the MMR vaccine in Minnesota now?

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, like most medical centers, follows the guidelines for vaccination as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

  • Every child should receive two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose given between 12 and 15 months of age and second dose between ages 4 and 6 years old. The second dose can be given earlier as long as it comes at least 28 days after the first dose.
  • If a child will be traveling outside of the U.S., he or she may be given a single dose of MMR if the child is between 6 and 12 months old. However, any dose given before the first birthday will not count towards the regular schedule, and the child still will need the two doses as outlined above.
  • If an older child is unimmunized and wants to “catch up” on his or her immunization schedule, the child will need two doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days.

subscribe_blogAs with all medical decisions, you should discuss your concerns and plan with your clinician. Currently, the CDC is not urging earlier-than-usual vaccinations, even for young children traveling within the U.S. or attending daycare. But as the measles outbreak changes, new guidance may become available. Please continue to check Children’s and CDC websites.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported an international-travel-related measles case on the University of Minnesota campus Jan. 28. To date, there have not been any additional cases in the greater community, and children are not at increased risk.

A few additional points to remember:

  • Two doses is all that is required, and after that the child is considered immune.
  • Blood testing for immunity (or titer levels) is not recommended by the CDC.
  • If adults are unsure of their vaccine status, they should get at least one dose of MMR.

If you have been hesitant to vaccinate your children, take this as a wakeup call. Vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles are active outside of the U.S. and may be just a plane ride away. You can and should protect your children; immunize them.

Joe Kurland, MPH, is a vaccine specialist and infection preventionist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Iron Range boy beats heart problem

Tyler LaMourea, 10, plays football, hockey and baseball. (Photos courtesy of Tara LaMourea)

Tyler LaMourea, 10, plays football, hockey and baseball. (Photos courtesy of Tara LaMourea)

Tara LaMourea

My son, Tyler LaMourea, was diagnosed with tachycardia, a faster-than-normal resting heartbeat, when he was 6 years old. When he sat at home or school, his heart suddenly went from a normal beat pattern of 65 beats per minute to 230.

Tyler could feel his heart rate change from normal to racing. He never got dizzy or fainted, but he would get pale and feel exhausted. There are things that can be done to convert a heart rate back to normal, but they never worked for Tyler. Each time he had an episode his heart rate would climb higher and remain rapid for longer periods of time.

Tyler and his nurses

Tyler and his nurses

One day, I received a call from his school’s nurse and brought him to the hospital’s emergency room, where he would get an electrocardiogram (EKG), electroencephalogram (EEG) and blood work to make sure there was nothing else abnormal. Tyler’s highest recorded heart rate was 230 beats per minute for 2½ hours before it converted on its own. We were in the emergency room when I saw a monitor go from 230 beats a minute to 175 to 65 within three beats.

On Nov. 3, 2014, Tyler, now 10, had surgery at Children’s Hospital and Clinics of Minnesota’s Minneapolis hospital. When we got to the hospital, Tyler was nervous about the surgery — we all were — but all of the people we encountered were nothing short of wonderful, from the receptionist that did our paperwork to the nurses and doctors that took care of Tyler. One of the nurses came into Tyler’s room with the items he was to wear, and in her other hand were two blankets that are donated to Children’s from which he got to choose. Tyler was shocked that he got to keep the blanket. He said the blanket was special to him and he felt better knowing it was in the operating room with him and when he woke up he had it; it was one of the sweetest things to hear from him.

When it was time for Tyler to go to surgery, as parents, my husband, Jeremy, and I were able to go into the operating room with him before it began. Once he started to fall asleep, we left and the team inserted Tyler’s IV.

subscribe_blogWe were in the waiting area, and the nurse who was in surgery with Tyler would call us to provide updates during the 2½-hour procedure. When the nurse called for the last time, she said they were able to find the nerve that caused the issue and cauterized it. To confirm the surgery was successful, the team was unable to replicate Tyler’s rapid heart rate once the nerve was cauterized, which was a relief to us.

The doctor came in to talk with Jeremy and me about the procedure and what to expect in Tyler’s recovery. We live on the Iron Range, 3½ hours from Children’s – Minneapolis, and were concerned about Tyler traveling that far. We were assured that he was going to be OK as long as he lies flat for a few hours after surgery to get the incisions to close. We got into the room after Tyler woke up and explained to him that he had to lie flat. He was excited there was a Nintendo Gamecube in the room for him to use, so he was in good shape to lie down.

We made the journey safely home, and Tyler had to rest for a few days before resuming normal activities. He’s an active boy who plays football, hockey and baseball. His surgery took place at the start of hockey, and he missed four days of practice before he returned to playing. He was sore for about two weeks, but he would say, “It isn’t too bad.”

Tyler returned to hockey after heart surgery.

Tyler returned to hockey after heart surgery.

Nearly three months after surgery, you would never know Tyler had anything done or there ever was a problem. Children’s was the best experience for which we could have asked. Everyone we encountered that day was so supportive and courteous to us. We will never forget the great experience we had as well as how great they were to Tyler before and after his surgery. We all are grateful to everyone at Children’s and couldn’t have asked for anything more. Thank you to the staff at Children’s who help make a stressful situation for families into a positive experience.

From hopelessness to triumph: Eliana’s battle with chronic pain

Eliana, shown here in June 2014, was diagnosed with chronic pain disorder. (Photos courtesy of Cami Vogt)

Eliana, shown here in June 2014, was diagnosed with chronic pain disorder. (Photos courtesy of Cami Vogt)

Cami Vogt

Our story is not one of acute trauma or even an emergency. For some it may seem less than dramatic. But we hope our story will give courage and hope to all those other parents who cope with chronic illness in their child.

Our story is of a long journey; it tells of the amazing fortitude of one little girl, the perseverance of her siblings and the compassionate and enduring care of a team of experts.

Eliana, 8, visited Kavita Desai, Ph.D, on Jan. 21, 2015, at the Kiran Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic.

Eliana, 8, visits Kavita Desai, Ph.D, on Jan. 21, 2015, at the Kiran Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic.

We came to the pain and palliative care clinic at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota in January 2013 after two lonely and frustrating years of trying to find out the source of our little girl’s pain.

Eliana, then 6 years old, suffered almost constantly from severe headaches, stomach pain, deep body aches, chest pain and debilitating fatigue. We sought out every specialist we could think of, but there were no answers, and no freedom from her suffering. When our neurologist at Children’s, Elizabeth Gilles, MD, gave us the opportunity to consider this unique and groundbreaking clinic, we were skeptical. We had tried so much and were so tired. But we knew we had to try — for Eliana.

And so we found hope. That hope came from a team of experts who were willing to rally around not just Eliana, but our entire family. They showed us that they understood that chronic pain affects the entire family, not just the child. They validated her pain, our experiences and fears. They also gave us a diagnosis: chronic pain disorder.

Eliana continues to battle chronic pain and improve.

Eliana continues to battle chronic pain and improve.

But most of all, they showed us the effectiveness of what a team of specialists in pediatric pain could accomplish. At any one time, we may have up to five people from the team working with us. That lonely feeling of the past is gone; it’s amazing how much stronger you can be when you’re not alone.

We still are on this journey. Eliana has turned two whole years older since we first arrived at the clinic, which celebrated the grand opening of its new space this month. She has worked so hard and gotten so much better. But chronic pain in children is complicated and requires perseverance. The true hero in this story is our Eliana Faith, and we stand in awe of her fortitude.

None of this would have been possible without her amazing pain team at the Kiran Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic. We are indebted to Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MDKavita Desai, Ph.D; physical therapist Andrew Warmuth, nurse Donna Eull, massage therapist Candace Linares, social worker Cindy Daughtry and receptionist Alison McQuade (our first line of defense!).

Thank you for believing in us, for partnering with us and for giving us hope. Let the journey continue — together!

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About the Kiran Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic at Children’s – Minneapolis

Pain of any kind not only is disruptive to the life of a child, but also to the child’s family. Children’s has the largest, longest-running pain and palliative and integrative medicine program in North America. Children’s combines the best and most-appropriate pain medicines with the best integrative therapies (like massage, aroma therapy and biofeedback) to help alleviate kids’ pain. The pain clinic is made up of a diverse group of providers, including doctors, nurses, physical and massage therapists, psychologists and social workers – all of whom rally around children and their families so they can heal.

Get screened for type 1 diabetes at Twin Cities walk

The McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center at Children’s – St. Paul is part of an international research network called Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet. It currently is screening relatives of individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D) to see if they are at risk for developing the disease.

subscribe_blogThe TrialNet research study offers a blood test that can identify an increased risk for T1D up to 10 years before symptoms appear.

TrialNet offers screening to:

  • Anyone ages 1-45 with a parent, brother, sister or child with T1D.
  • Anyone age 1-20 with a niece, nephew, aunt, uncle, grandparent, half-brother/sister or cousin with T1D.

Children’s will host a free screening event from 7:30-10:30 a.m. Feb. 21 at the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes at the Mall of America. For more information or to refer eligible families, contact Brittany Machus, clinical research associate, at [email protected] or (651) 220-5730.

Mom grateful for Children’s care before, after daughter’s double lung transplant

Janice Eason and her daughter, Kali, 8 (Photos courtesy of Janice Eason)

Janice Eason and her daughter, Kali, 8 (Photos courtesy of Janice Eason)

Janice Eason

My dreams came true 8½ years ago when I became a mother to Kali Grace, the most beautiful baby girl. But little did I know how many people I would need to keep my dreams alive.

My water broke at 22 weeks, and Kali had to be delivered at 24 weeks. She came into this world weighing 680 grams, less than 1½ pounds, and with underdeveloped lungs. Before I could even see her, she was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, where she would spend the first eight months of her life.

Kali's baptism

Kali’s baptism

Kali was always one of the most critical patients on the unit and liked to keep all of her doctors, nurses and therapists on their toes to be sure they could handle anything. Her team did handle everything and more that Kali gave them. She was cared for greatly, and everything was done to be sure Kali was always getting what she needed. And her team always made sure that as her mother I was heard.

I was told that Kali would need to go home for hospice care if she didn’t receive a double lung transplant. We found a transplant center in Houston to perform the difficult surgery do the transplant. After a delicate recovery period, we came back home just after Kali celebrated her first birthday.

While there were other hospitals, doctors and nurses that helped care for Kali, Children’s, including the team at the Kiran Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic, always has been the place where we received the best and greatest care.

Kali at Children's

Kali at Children’s

Kali is 8 now, but we have never been far from Children’s. We’re here multiple times a month for appointments and have a few hospital stays a year dealing with Kali’s ongoing conditions.

The Children’s staff have made Kali feel so comfortable with all she has to deal with in her life, and she loves everyone at the hospital who cares for her. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful place to call our second home that is able to make my child feel like such a normal girl given all of her circumstances. We forever will be thankful to everyone who makes Children’s such an amazing place.

Kali continues to visit Children's for checkups on a regular basis.

Kali continues to visit Children’s for checkups on a regular basis.

Measles and how to protect against it

A rash forms three to five days after other measles symptoms start. (iStock Photo)

A rash forms three to five days after other measles symptoms start. (iStock Photo)

Joe Kurland, MPH

Something strange has been happening over the past few years. Infectious diseases are fighting back against the tools that have previously succeeded in protecting us all. In 2000, the U.S. announced that measles had been eliminated from the country. Our tools were so effective and some vaccine-preventable diseases were so rare, that they were all but unknown to a generation of parents and doctors. Sadly, these tools became a victim of their own success.

Measles

Measles is caused by a virus. Sometimes people say “it’s just a virus,” which ignores the fact that some of the most dangerous germs we know are viruses, measles included. It gets into your body when you inhale droplets sneezed or coughed out by someone who’s infected and is considered to be one of the most contagious diseases of which we known, with research showing that, on average, one sick person will infect as many as 18 people who are not protected. Nine out of 10 unimmunized people exposed will get measles because it is that easy to catch. This is partly because measles is an airborne virus; it can survive and infect other people who simply walk through the same room as an infected person. And the infected person doesn’t have to be in the room. The droplets are so small that the air in a room stays infectious for up to two hours after the ill person has left.

OK, measles spreads easily. But is it really that scary? What does it do?

After you’re exposed to measles, it takes between seven and 14 days to develop signs of the infection. The signs include high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. You get a rash three to five days after those symptoms start. At first it looks like flat, red spots that show up on your head by your hairline and then spreads like a bucket of rash downwards. It covers your face, neck, chest, belly and finally your arms, legs and feet. The rash may be small, individual, raised, red bumps with flat tops, or they can join into large patches. Four days before the rash shows up, you can spread the virus to others.

For many people, the rash and fever go away after a few days, but for some there are complications. These can vary in severity from mild effects like ear infections and diarrhea to more severe symptoms such as pneumonia and swelling of the brain (encephalitis). Pneumonia is the most common (1 in 20 cases) cause of measles-related death in children, and encephalitis, while less common (1 in 1,000 cases), can cause seizures which may lead to deafness or mental disabilities. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die from it. Infections in pregnant women may result in premature delivery or a low-birth-weight baby.

You have my attention. What can I do if I’ve never had my shots and may have been exposed?

In the U.S., there are several factors working in a person’s favor:

A modern health system: Clinicians watch for measles and other diseases. If a case is found, they are required, by law, to report it to their local public health departments. The public health experts (epidemiologists) interview the sick person, notify anyone who may have been exposed and work to stop measles in its tracks by having people stay home while potentially contagious. 

Effective medication: There are no antiviral medicines available to treat measles. People exposed to the sick person can protect themselves if they act quickly. If the measles vaccine (MMR shot) is given in the first few days after exposure, it can stop the virus from making you ill.

Community immunity: This is perhaps the most effective tool we have. Community immunity (also known as herd immunity) stops a disease outbreak like a firewall by stopping the virus from reaching new hosts. If you surround an infected person with people who can’t get infected with measles — because they are immune, immunized or were previously infected — the virus cannot spread and the outbreak will end. Community immunity is especially important for families where someone is immune-suppressed or who have children younger than 1 year old who are too young to be immunized.

subscribe_blogSo, the vaccine is the best protection against measles. But some say the MMR vaccine is safe, while others say it is risky and may harm my child. What’s true?

All medical treatments have some risk. But after many studies examined MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and other vaccines, the final word is the MMR vaccine is safe and rarely causes a severe allergic reaction.

And there is no link between the MMR vaccine and autism spectrum disorders. The association between the two repeatedly has been investigated, and no study has shown results linking the vaccine to the symptoms. In fact, newer research into autism suggests that it’s the result of unusual networking in the fetal brain in the weeks following conception.

What were you saying about our tools being a victim of their own success?

Because the vaccines and immunizations our medical system uses are so effective, the scary, deadly diseases they prevent are now rare. Paralytic polio, babies born with congenital rubella syndrome, tetanus, diphtheria are unknown and forgotten to an entire generation of parents. Because the effects of these diseases were forgotten, the tiny risks for side effects from the vaccines became the focus of concern. Combined with questionable sources in media and on the Internet, fear of vaccines grew. Pockets of underimmunized communities sprung up in cities across the U.S. and provided a foothold for vaccine-preventable diseases, imported from countries with lesser health systems, to resume their toll on a new generation of susceptible children.

But I heard the anti-vaccine community is pretty small and most people follow their pediatricians’ recommendations.

It’s true. Nationally, the number of parents electing to refuse vaccinations is low; however, in some communities, vaccine coverage is less than in war-ravaged Sudan. And this gives the diseases a chance to attack. Measles is so contagious that outbreaks may occur if any more than 5 percent of the community is unvaccinated. Some schools in Oregon and California have reported vaccine rates of 50 percent to 69 percent when anything less than 95 percent vaccinated has great potential for an outbreak.

Vaccines have been so effective that we lost our fear of the diseases they prevented. Amnesia created doubt and hostility towards the utility and need for protection. It is up to parents to protect not only our own children against measles, but in doing so, know that we protect others, too.

For more information:

Joe Kurland, MPH, is a vaccine specialist and infection preventionist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

The scoop on a good night’s sleep

Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics. (iStock photo)

Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics. (iStock photo)

Erin Fritz, CNP

The significance of good sleep habits often is overlooked. It seems so simple; when the hour is late and it’s dark outside, it’s time to get some rest. Unfortunately for millions of kids and young adults, it’s not that simple. With busy school schedules, after-school and weekend activities, and maximizing time with family and friends, sleep often is one of the first things to become compromised. Not only does lack of sleep make for a tired person, but it has a critical impact on many aspects of health, daytime function and cognitive development.

Snoozing significance

The direct effect that sleep has on health has been well-studied over the years and is known to lower a person’s resistance to illnesses. Decreased amounts of sleep alter immune function, making it more likely for illness to occur. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares evidence for a higher risk of getting the common cold, pneumonia and influenza when sleep deprivation is a factor. Once illness occurs, sleep is necessary to boost the immune system and fight off illness. Sleep is the body’s time to repair and rejuvenate itself.

Daytime function also is altered with sleep deprivation. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recently released recommendations for later start times in middle and high schools after noting an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance related to decreased amounts of sleep. Poor test scores, increased behavioral problems and children falling asleep in class have been highlighted as inhibited daytime functions directly related to sleep deprivation.



Sleep suggestions

Recommendations per the CDC:

Age Recommended amount of sleep
Newborns 16-18 hours a day
Preschool-aged children 11-12 hours a day
School-aged children At least 10 hours a day
Teens 9-10 hours a day
Adults (and elderly) 7-8 hours a day

Sleep solutions

subscribe_blogWhile it’s easy to perpetuate the cycle of being sleepy, it’s possible to make a conscious effort to improve this problem. Simple steps to a good night’s sleep include: sticking to a schedule, decreasing caffeinated beverages, keeping naps to a minimum, creating a calm environment, and knowing when to unplug from electronics.

It’s important to keep in mind that sleep deprivation might not seem like a big deal, but it can have serious consequences. Incorporate healthy sleep habits to promote an overall healthy lifestyle.

Sleep well!

Erin Fritz is a certified nurse practitioner at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Taking a proactive approach to preventing sexual abuse

Parents may become concerned about sexual abuse, particularly in younger children, due to behavior. (iStock photo)

Parents may become concerned about sexual abuse, particularly in younger children, due to behavior. (iStock photo)

Alice Swenson, MD

Parents worry about many things that might happen to their children when they’re in the care of others. Sexual abuse often is one of those concerns, so it’s important for parents to be aware of the risk of sexual abuse in young children and to take steps toward prevention.

  1. Teach kids from a young age that their bodies belong to them and that if someone touches them in a way they don’t like, they are allowed to say no. Model this behavior by allowing your child to say no to things like hugs.
  1. Children should be taught that the private parts of their bodies are just that, private, and that only specific people should be allowed to look at or touch those parts. This may include people who are changing diapers or helping with toileting, or, in older, more-independent children, only doctors or nurses who are making sure that their bodies are healthy. Children should know the proper anatomical terms for body parts so if something happens they can communicate to protective adults. Parents should have regular conversations under non-stressful circumstances with their children about who they can talk to if something happens to their bodies that they don’t like, naming specific people such as a parent, teacher, doctor or nurse.
  1. Talking to your children about secrets is important. Explain that families don’t keep secrets from each other and that if someone tells them not to say something to their parents they need to tell right away.

subscribe_blogThe most common way that sexual abuse is discovered is when a child discloses that it has occurred. When this happens, parents should refrain from questioning the child at length. At that point it is crucial that the concerns be reported to local child protection and law enforcement. Trained professionals can then investigate the allegations and help keep children safe.

Most children who are sexually abused have no physical findings on an exam, and exam findings that may cause concern for parents, such as redness of the genital area, are not necessarily associated with sexual abuse.

Parents may become concerned about sexual abuse, particularly in younger children, due to behavior. Sexual development begins in early childhood, and children by age 3 may express interest in their private parts and touch themselves to experience pleasure; this can be normal behavior. Other common sexual behaviors may include expressing interest in other children’s private parts, showing their private parts to others and trying to look at adults’ private parts.

There are, however, sexual behaviors that may be outside the “norm” (trying to put things into their private parts, simulating sex with other people), but these may indicate other problems such as exposure to pornography rather than indicating sexual abuse.

It’s the responsibility of everyone in the community to keep children safe and healthy and protect them from abuse. Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, including the Midwest Children’s Resource Center, is a community partner in this endeavor, offering services such as medical evaluation of child abuse and therapeutic resources.

Alice Swenson, MD, is a child abuse pediatrician at the Midwest Children’s Resource Center, a clinic which is dedicated to the medical evaluation of suspected child abuse and neglect.

‘Flu’ may not be flu

fluheader1121

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has seen a large number of influenza cases over the past several weeks, and many children have needed to stay overnight to help treat their symptoms. (iStock photo)

Joe Kurland

Influenza, or “the flu” as his friends call him, is a horrible bug. He wipes you out. He gives you a fever and makes your muscles and joints ache. Your head pounds and you just want to crawl into a warm cave and sleep.

There are many other bugs out there that want to be like the flu. Some of them are bad enough that people even use the term “flu” in their names like “the 24-hour flu” or “stomach flu.” Know this: Real flu does not last only 24 hours, and the real flu does not limit itself to your belly.

If you or a loved one is suffering from sudden vomiting, diarrhea and fever but get better within a day or two, that wasn’t influenza. Those symptoms usually are due to bugs that spread through food. And those bugs love this time of year. With family holiday gatherings, school or office parties, and shared meals, there are lots of chances for the bugs to spread and make people sick.

Some of the infections can come on quickly, such as Staphylococcus aureus infections, that can make you nauseated, vomit or suffer belly cramps and diarrhea in as little as an hour. Other infections can take days. Norovirus, which may show up two days after eating contaminated food, makes you feel miserable with abdominal cramps, vomiting and watery diarrhea. E. coli is another bug that can take as many as eight days or more before you are hit with gas, fever, stomach cramping and even bloody diarrhea.

Fortunately, most people recover quickly from these infections and many don’t need medical care. While you may not feel well enough to eat after infections like those above, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids (water, ginger ale, sports drinks) to prevent dehydration. When you feel well enough to eat, begin slowly and start with easy, bland foods such as toast, oatmeal or crackers. You don’t want to shock your belly with strong flavors, spice or heavy food.

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ABC NEWS: Flu shots are dangerous… and 5 other flu myths busted

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Things are different with the real flu, which is a respiratory illness. Influenza can come on suddenly, with symptoms often including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches and fatigue. Some people may experience vomiting and diarrhea, but they are not always present. Influenza infections can be life-threatening and require multiple days in the hospital. Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has seen a large number of influenza cases over the past several weeks, and many children have needed to stay overnight to help treat their symptoms.

And this is why we have an influenza vaccine: it helps prevent you from getting really sick. Sometimes (like this year) the flu changes (mutates) a bit. This can cause you to get real influenza symptoms even though you got your flu vaccine earlier in the season.

subscribe_blogNot fair, right?

Well, we may still have the advantage. The vaccine helps train your body to react to the influenza invader and keep the infection under control. You might feel sick for a week and spend some time doing puzzles in your bed (or warm cave), but the vaccine helps keep you out of the hospital. And good news: It’s still not too late to vaccinate against influenza.

Not every illness is the flu. But if you’re feeling sick and are concerned, it’s a good idea to contact us. Whether it’s a wicked seven-day coughing influenza or 24 hours of bathroom misery from a stomach virus, we’re here for you at Children’s.

Joe Kurland is a vaccine specialist and infection preventionist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.