Archive for February, 2008

Vicks VapoRub on your kids’ feet?

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

The internet and the blogosphere are double-edged swords, as you know. They carry the good and the bad, the truth and the lies. This week an oldie resurfaced on the blogosphere – that you can relieve nighttime coughs by lathering Vicks VapoRub on your kids’ feet (or your feet if you’re the one with the cough) and then just cover with thick socks. Poof, no more cough. Well, Poof, it’s all nonsense.

As you’ll read in Chapters 8 and 10 of Germ Proof Your Kids – The Complete Guide to Protecting (without Overprotecting) Your Family from Infections (ASM Press, Washington, D.C., 2008), there are no proven over-the-counter cough remedies for kids, including Vicks VapoRub – even when applied “as directed” to the chest or in vaporizers.

The “source” of the “Vicks to the Feet” rumor was said to be the “Canada Research Council”, which doesn’t exist. The National Research Council of Canada has responded to inquiries from several “myth buster” web sites by saying it has never done such a study and typically doesn’t involve itself at all with “alternative” treatments.

See an earlier post on my GERMBlog regarding honey for nighttime coughs in kids older than 15 months of age – there is some science behind that, and a real research study that shows benefit. And, the taste of honey is so much more pleasant than the smell of camphor!

Influenza continues to challenge us

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Two stories this past week remind us of the ongoing challenge of influenza. The influenza viruses, which include the dreaded Bird Flu, are a diverse and constantly evolving group of germs (see Chapters 3 and 9 in Germ Proof Your Kids – The Complete Guide to Protecting (without Overprotecting) Your Family from Infections (ASM Press, Washington, D.C., 2008).

The strains of influenza that cause disease every year in this country and around the world typically result in the hospitalization of as many as 200,000 people and the deaths of 36,000 patients. This week we learned that the number of childhood fatalities due to influenza last year in the U.S. was 73, of whom almost half had a concomitant infection with bacteria. Many of those infecting bacteria were the difficult to treat methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). For more on MRSA, see earlier posts in this GERMBlog and Chapters 3 and 5 in Germ Proof Your Kids – The Complete Guide to Protecting (without Overprotecting) Your Family from Infections .

We have long known that influenza virus infection makes patients more susceptible to concurrent infection with bacteria – that MRSA is emerging as one of those concurrent bacterial infections is of course concerning because MRSA infections can be severe and are harder to treat than other bacteria.

The other story of importance this week is that a strain of influenza has emerged this year that was not included in this year’s vaccine. Influenza vaccines are designed each year based on best predictive models using last year’s predominant strain types from around the world. The strain that is now causing some cases of the flu emerged in Australia at the end of the flu season last year, too late to be included in this year’s vaccine design.

Despite the possibility that the strain of flu you and your kids may be exposed to this season may not match the vaccine, you and your kids should still receive the vaccine – it protects against the majority of flu strains that are circulating and, if your kids don’t get the flu, they are less likely to get a bacterial infection that complicates the flu. For recommendations on who should get flu vaccines, see Chapter 7 in Germ Proof Your Kids – The Complete Guide to Protecting (without Overprotecting) Your Family from Infections .