Health and Science News for Parents

Introducing the reason I’ve been quiet… and musings on my second son’s birth

written by Tara Haelle

If you typically follow my blog, you may have noticed the absence of posts for the past several weeks. And then you may have done the math from my previous posts and correctly deduced that I had my baby. Of course, you could be forgiven if you didn’t deduce as much because my would-be April Fool’s baby (his due date was April 2) was a couple weeks early and actually became a St. Patty’s Day baby, arriving at 1:39pm on March 17. I had developed the symptoms of mild preeclampsia (elevated blood pressure and protein in urine) and was at 37 weeks. At that gestational week, induction is indicated to avoid the risk of developing more serious preeclampsia, so my son was born at 37 weeks, 5 days.

My son was born at 1:39pm on March 17. I took a break from blogging for the first month of his life.

My son was born at 1:39pm on March 17. I took a break from blogging for the first month of his life. Photo by Bella Baby Photography

Although I was filing a story even an hour or so after they began the pitocin for the induction (the induction began a little after 1 am on March 17), I thought it best after I had my son to force myself to take a break from work and the blog since the earliest weeks are always the toughest. (This sounds like an obvious plan, but I’m a workaholic, so I have to force myself not to work sometimes.) And his one-month birthday seemed like a good time to return to my blog and share a bit of what I learned from the experience. Therefore, this post will be a bit different from my past ones, jumping around a little bit and including a lot more personal reflection, but it will still have an evidence-based focus, and I hope my experience may offer insights for some readers.

First, one of the biggest differences between this birth and the birth of my first son (June, 2010) was what a difference it made for me to be much more informed about evidence-based medicine and my familiarity with dozens and dozens of studies related to pregnancy and birth. When I had my first son, I was not yet as well versed in the research and keeping up with recent studies. While I was educated and did a great deal of reading (and certainly Googling), I did not use as many primary sources (the actual research studies themselves instead of books or journalistic articles).

That lack of familiarity and comfort with the primary research made it more difficult to ask questions or challenge decisions of my then-OB. (Worth noting, however: Even had I used those primary sources, I did not yet have the foundation in epidemiology, biostatistics, etc. to understand them, as I do now. Trying to research/read them without that foundation could be as unhelpful or worse than not using them at all.)

Since then, I’ve become far more educated about evidence-based care, and write regularly about the research that comes out, so I’m fully steeped in it. In fact, my experience is not dissimilar from that of this blogger at Evidence-Based Birth, a highly recommended site.

Therefore, throughout this pregnancy and certainly during the birth experience, I was able to communicate far more comfortably and clearly with my OB and with the other medical staff – nurses, residents, back-up OBs, anesthesiologist, neonatologists, pediatricians etc. – and to know what questions to ask. To illustrate what I mean, it helps to know a bit about my history and the birth (without delving into TMI territory).

As I noted, I was induced due to preeclampsia, and frankly, I was so tired of being pregnant and in so much daily pain that I was admittedly looking forward to meeting the little guy a little early. Yet I was also aware that 37.5 weeks *is* early, enough so to increase the risk of neonatal complications, as I’ve written about before. I wasn’t thrilled not to be making it at least to 39 weeks, but preeclampsia is nothing to mess around with. During my first birth, I also had preeclampsia at 37 weeks, but I remember crying when the OB said we would likely need to induce, and I questioned whether it was really necessary since I’d heard stories about unnecessary inductions. Read the rest of this entry »


Hey parents – crank down the volume on those sound machines

written by Tara Haelle

I’m counting down the last few weeks until my baby arrives, and as I went through and deleted old apps I’m no longer using in my phone and iPad, I made sure NOT to delete Simply Noise, my favorite of the white noise apps I used when my preschooler was a baby. Oh how that app was a lifesaver! It was particularly worth the buck I paid because it had multi-tasking functions, so I could play it in the background, walking around my apartment or outside to calm my son to sleep while I checked Facebook or read my email or news articles on my phone. (My son was a difficult sleeper in just about every way possible.)

close-up of a sleeping baby

Among 14 infant noise machines tested, all but one exceeded hospital nursery decibel limits when played at full volume at all distances tested. Photo by Justyna Furmanczyk

So I read with interest a recent study in Pediatrics about infant noise machines. The study did not look at mobile apps like Simply Noise, but the researchers did investigate the maximum volumes that 14 consumer noise machines reached, and their findings could very well apply to baby noise apps as well. In short, those suckers can produce an awful lot of loud noise — enough to potentially damage a baby’s (or even an adult’s) hearing.

The researchers did not draw alarmist conclusions from their data, but they made it clear that the lack of instructions for safe use of noise machines, including volume levels and length of use, may be putting babies’ hearing development at risk.

To conduct their tests, they purchased all 14 models they were able to get either online or at a brick-and-mortar store. Each model played anywhere from one to 10 different sounds for a total of 65 sounds across all the machines. In addition to white noise and heartbeat sounds, the machines also had options for different nature sounds, such as birds, ocean waves, thunderstorms and insects, and different mechanical sounds, such as trains, planes and automobiles. (These descriptions reminded me of another app I downloaded for my son last year called Rain, Rain, which plays 25 different sounds, including transportation, household, nature and water sounds. He loves it.)

Then they cranked up the machines during each of the 65 sounds to maximum volume for 30 seconds and recorded the decibels when the machine was placed 30 cm, 100 cm and 200 cm away from the device measuring the volume. The 30 cm distance was intended to approximate a machine attacked to a crib rail, the 100 cm was about the distance of a machine sitting just outside a crib, and the 200 cm equated to leaving a machine across the room from a crib. (None of these, unfortunately, approximate holding an iPhone near a baby cuddled into your arm or in baby carrier.)

The decibel levels they recorded, even after calculations adjusted what would reach a 6-month-old’s ear canal, were disturbingly high. First, know that a limit of 50 A-weighted decibels (hereafter dBa) is recommended for noise in hospital nurseries. All 14 of the noise machines exceeded 50 dBa when placed 30 cm and 100 cm away, and all but one exceeded 50 dBa at 200 cm away. In fact, at 30 cm, the noise machines’ maximum volumes ranged from 65 to 95 dBa, and at 100 cm, the range went from 60 to 85 dBa. For those placed 200 cm away, the range was 45 to 80 dBa.

Meanwhile, OSHA recommends protective gear for adults exposed to 90 dBa or greater in the workplace*, and exposure to 85 dBa for eight hours or longer has been determined to put adults at risk for hearing loss. Yet three of the noise machines produced sound at more than 85 dBa when placed 30 cm away. In other words, if a fully grown adult slept for eight hours with one of those three sound machines playing at full volume from their bedside table, they would be exposing themselves to noise levels high enough to cause hearing damage — and their hearing is not still developing as an infant’s is.

None of this means that the sound machines are dangerous in and of themselves. For one thing, it’s unlikely that all the parents using them are cranking them up to full volume, and many parents may only use them as a child falls asleep (as I did with my app) rather than leaving them on all night. Still, if parents played the loudest of these machines – which produced sound at 92.9 dBa – near a baby’s crib, it would only take two hours before the noise exceeded adult occupational limits. One legitimate concern expressed by the researchers was that not all these sound machines come with instructions on safe use that guides parents on volume, duration of the noise and distance from the baby.

Further: we don’t have good information on how these noise levels, especially cumulatively, might affect babies: “Even if ISM noise levels are kept within “safe” limits, mitigating concerns about noise-induced injury, we must consider that auditory pathways are immature at birth and require appropriate auditory input to develop normally,” the researchers wrote.

The authors also cautioned that continuous exposure to white noise, regardless of volume, might be detrimental over time because it lacks the frequency and intensity variations of natural speech. This caution is based on studies of newborn rats exposed to white noise who showed later changes in sound processing and behavioral development. Since this data is based on animal studies, it may not translate to humans, but it shouldn’t be dismissed completely out of hand either.

“Extrapolating these findings to infants suggests that regular exposure to white noise through infant sound machines on a nightly basis could affect hearing, speech, and language development,” the researchers wrote. “Furthermore, it is unclear whether more complex sounds, such as music, may have deleterious effects on infants when used as masking noise, and this is a potential area for future research.”

Pulling back a bit, remember that this study is specifically considering the possible extremes: playing sound machines at full volume, all night long, relatively close to a sleeping baby. If you have a sound machine, this study’s findings don’t mean you need to post it on Craigslist right away. And I’m certainly not deleting my lifesaver Simply Noise app.

But it does mean parents should consider using the machines at a very low volume for short durations and placed a good distance away from a baby’s ears. Parents may also want a machine with other sounds than just white noise to expose an infant’s developing ears to different frequencies and tone variations. The purpose of noise machines is to aid in blocking out background music or help in falling asleep, not create a dull roar that lasts all night long. I know that I’ll likely still use my apps when my newborn arrives, but I may think more carefully about keeping the volume low, using it sparingly, changing up the sound options and keeping the phone a good distance from my son’s head.


*I found 90 dBa on the OSHA website. The study states that occupational standards limit exposure time for noise greater than 85 dBa: “The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) and the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have recommended a workplace noise limit of 85 A-weighted dB (dBA) for an 8-hour exposure, with a 3-dBA exchange rate, indicating that for every 3-dBA increase above 85 dBA, the allowed exposure time is halved.”


Getting Back on Track after ScienceOnline…

written by Tara Haelle

I tried to plan ahead for this, but the best laid plans… After attending the excellent American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Chicago in mid-February, I barely had enough time to recover (especially while 35 weeks pregnant!) before I was off again for another event, ScienceOnline, the most intense conference I attend all year.ScienceOnline Together 2014 logo

Frustratingly, my blog has suffered while I’ve been jetsetting, and all the while some exceptionally interesting and important studies have come out (and been blown way out of proportion in the media!). However, I’m about to get back on track. I will be writing about that “breastfeeding-benefits-may-be-overstated” study that blew up in the media the day the day I flew out as well as the study on vaccine communication that ironically related to talks I was giving during my travels.

I had the Pediatrics study the evening before I left home, but I did not have time to write about it because I was giving a talk the next day (last Wednesday) to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health graduate students on how to communicate with the public about vaccine policy (see my presentation below). Then my session at ScienceOnline similarly dealt with one of the mistakes commonly made in writing about vaccines on blogs and in the media (using scary or inappropriate images!).

When I finally returned home – after two cancelled flights and way too much time in the airport and on planes – I was utterly exhausted, behind in work and sniffling and coughing with conference crud. Yet I’ve recovered and am looking forward to digging into that research and several other interesting studies that have been released and are coming out next week.

In the meantime, check out some of the Storify links below to learn about the fascinating sessions I attended at ScienceOnline, a gathering of scientists, bloggers, journalists and other communicators to discuss science communication, best practices and new ways to reach out to the public with science information.

Science writer Melinda Wenner Moyer led a great session (Storify here) on “Critical Science Writing: Helping readers become critical thinkers of science.”

PR specialist David Wescott moderated a session (Storify here) on “Healthy Online Promotion.”

And here is a Storify compiled by one of those who attended my session “Is your art (or lack of art) sabotaging your written message?

Also, at AAAS, I tweeted throughout a “Building Babies” symposium in which Mammals Suck blogger and researcher Katie Hinde presented “Food, Medicine, and Signal: Mother’s Milk Programs Infant Development.” The Storify is here.

I hope you enjoy perusing these while I get to work on covering all the interesting recent research!

Below is the presentation I used in my talk at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.


What’s the deal with Tylenol during pregnancy and ADHD?

written by Tara Haelle

Most likely, you’ll be seeing a lot of headlines today trumpeting the findings of a new study in JAMA Pediatrics about links between acetaminophen (Tylenol, paracetamol) use during pregnancy and later risk of ADHD or hyperkinetic disorders in children. But before you withhold Tylenol from your screaming teething baby or suffer through a horrendous headache in your second trimester, it may be helpful to view the evidence with a healthy dose of caution and skepticism.

The latest study on taking acetaminophen during pregnancy requires some caution and skepticism. Source photo by BirkFoto.

The latest study on taking acetaminophen during pregnancy requires some caution and skepticism. Source photo by BirkFoto.

As with so many other associations that researchers are digging into, the evidence related to acetaminophen’s possible long-term effects on children are far from settled and riddled with possible methodological bias that prevents us, so far, from having much to go on. In looking at the study published today, I’ll cover the findings first, then the strengths, then what all this means and the weaknesses — don’t skip that last part!

First, what did the study involve? The researchers conducted phone interviews with 64,322 pregnant women, one in each trimester, who gave birth between 1996 and 2002. They asked the women whether they had taken any painkillers and then asked which ones if the women said yes. (Women could choose from a list of 44 or add others.) The women also reported how many weeks during each trimester they had used these painkillers. Overall, 56% of the women had taken acetaminophen at least once during their pregnancies.

The mothers’ responses were then compared against diagnoses of hyperkinetic disorders in their children, the children’s use of ADHD medications and the children’s display of ADHD-like behavior at 7 years old, based on a 25-question assessment completed by the mothers.

When the researchers crunched the numbers – taking into account a wide range of other factors that I’ll get to in a moment – they did find associations between use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and hyperkinetic disorders and/or ADHD. Children were 37 percent more likely to have been diagnosed with a hyperkinetic disorder, were 29 percent more likely to be taking ADHD medications, and were 13 percent more likely to show ADHD behaviors at age 7 if their mothers reported taking acetaminophen during pregnancy (compared to moms who didn’t).

Further, the researchers found an “exposure-response” relationship. That means the risk of these three outcomes appeared to increase along with the number of weeks that the mothers reported using the acetaminophen, particularly if it was taken during the first trimester. Read the rest of this entry »


Flu is really bad this year – and the vaccine’s been pretty good

written by Tara Haelle

You’ve probably already been hearing what a bad season it is for the flu. The news is awash with tragic stories of otherwise healthy children and even adults without underlying conditions succumbing to this year’s influenza. Because I am pregnant, the ones that hit me the hardest are the stories of pregnant women – especially those who did not get the flu shot – losing their babies and even their own lives to the flu. But the most tragic irony is that this season, those suffering and dying the most are the very folks who often skip out on the flu shot… because they’re healthy adults. In fact, early season estimates by the CDC put the flu vaccination rate at 39.5% for all ages. usmap7

When I wrote about top myths about the flu vaccine in October, some commenters took issue with the need for healthy young adults to get the flu shot, especially if they were not going to be around children or the elderly (and therefore feel a responsibility to prevent transmission). Among the inaccurate myths I countered were that the flu isn’t that bad and that people don’t die from the flu if they’re healthy. Unfortunately, this year’s flu season is a textbook case for why they’re horribly wrong.

The most recent CDC FluView summary, ending February 15, reports over 7,000 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases in the U.S. (The actual numbers of flu this year are far higher since many who have the flu never get the laboratory-confirmed flu test, and the rapid test has a high false-negative rate, especially during times when flu prevalence is high in the population.) The most frequently circulating strain this season is the influenza A H1N1 virus, one which was included in this year’s vaccines and which tends to hit young and middle-aged adults particularly hard.

As this week’s CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows, the concern for healthy adults has borne out, and the single biggest factor shared among those becoming severely ill or dying from the flu are that they did not get their flu shot this year. (And it’s not too late! You can still get one!) In fact, adults aged 18 to 65 account for nearly two thirds (61%) of all hospitalizations for the flu this year. Ironically, this year’s season is not as bad as last season in terms of total cases, but you’re hearing so much about flu because so many healthy adults are dying from it this year.

Another somewhat sad irony is that the flu shot is particularly effective this year given that it included the H1N1 strain. The MMWR also reported on the mid-season estimates of the vaccine’s effectiveness, based on data from 2,319 children and adults who had acute respiratory illness and were enrolled in the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network from December 2013 through January 2014. Researchers look at all these cases and then assess how many had received the flu vaccine and how many had not. Read the rest of this entry »


10 Sex Myths Debunked When Trying to Conceive

written by Tara Haelle

Today’s article is a guest post by Dr. John Rapisarda of Fertility Centers of Illinois. This post was offered to me through an unsolicited email, but the information is evidence-based and seemed a fun share for Valentine’s Day for all those couples hoping to conceive a baby.

This Valentine’s Day, many couples will celebrate their love — and likely express that through some extra time in the bedroom. But if you’re looking to conceive, you may have some questions about sex that you hadn’t thought of before. Over the years, countless old wives’ tales have been created around sex, conception, and pregnancy.

“If couples are constantly worrying or focusing on what they should and shouldn’t do when trying to conceive, they are taking the pleasure out of their intimacy,” says Dr. John Rapisarda with Fertility Centers of Illinois. “But instead of worrying about these tasks and goals, it’s better to focus on each other and your future together.” Here Dr. Rapisarda sets the record straight on 10 common sex myths.conceiveVday

Myth One: Does laying down after sex help with pregnancy?

While there is no scientific evidence that laying down after sex can increase pregnancy, standing up or going to the bathroom does cause gravity to pull sperm away from the direction of the cervix. Laying down for 15 minutes after sex can help sperm by giving them the time and directional ability to get where they need to go.

Myth Two: Do certain positions enhance the ability to conceive?

It has not been scientifically proven that certain sex positions are more effective. Sperm will travel to the cervix regardless of position, but may do so more effectively when gravity is working in its favor. Do whatever position feels right, then lay down after sex or finish in a position that won’t pull sperm away from the cervix.

Myth Three: Does having sex every day increase pregnancy?

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that having sex every day only slightly increases pregnancy versus having sex every other day. In men who have a normal sperm count, sex every day will not decrease the sperm concentration. This is great news for couples trying to conceive. Both findings allow couples to relax and have sex on their schedule, without concern of reducing conception odds.

Myth Four: Is it better to have sex in the morning?

Studies have shown that sperm count is slightly higher in the morning, which may make morning sex more effective for conception. But studies show this is only a slight difference, so if night sex works better with your schedule, stick to that.

Myth Five: Do aphrodisiacs really boost sex drive?

According to the FDA, there is no scientific evidence showing that aphrodisiacs increase sexual desire. In contrast, researchers have found that certain foods, herbs and supplements can stimulate hormone or chemical production, which can affect the libido (but they haven’t proven so conclusively). Monitoring the libido in conjunction with individual taste preferences introduces too many variable factors, as the sex drive and culinary preferences will vary from person to person. If champagne and chocolate puts you in the mood, go for it — but don’t put time into planning a menu in order to enhance desire.

Myth Six: Can a massage help when trying to conceive?

When it comes to having a baby, decreasing stress and relaxing is a critical component. In a Harvard Medical School study with women who had fertility problems, 55 percent of women who completed a 10-week course of relaxation training and stress reduction were pregnant within a year, compared to 20 percent of the group who did not take the course. Get a massage, meditate, rest, or do any other activities that aid in relaxation and decrease stress.

Myth Seven: Can briefs and heat hinder a man’s fertility?

The testes are outside of the male body for a reason — to maintain a cooler temperature. Should the temperature of the testes reach 98 degrees, sperm production will temporarily fall. Conversely, cooler temperatures can cause sperm count to rise, but it takes at least two months of cool temperatures for sperm count to be affected. Activities that can heat the testes, such as long visits to the hot tub, hours of typing on a laptop, wearing tight briefs and logging Olympian-quantity miles on a bicycle can heat up the testes and decrease sperm count.

Myth Eight: Can you become pregnant a couple days after you have sex?

Sperm can live in the reproductive tract for three days, allowing conception to occur up to 72 hours after sex. Due to the resiliency of sperm after ejaculation, having sex prior to and during ovulation can boost conception odds.

Myth Nine: Do sexual pheromones really exist?

In a study, scientists found that “hormone-like smells ‘turn on’ the brain’s hypothalamus, which is normally not activated by regular odors.” Additional research teams also found that hormone-like chemicals can produce changes in mood, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature, creating a pheromone effect. But do these changes affect sexual arousal? According to scientific research thus far, there is no clear tie.

Myth Ten: Does lubricant affect my ability to get pregnant?

Water-based lubricants such as Astroglide and KY Jelly may inhibit sperm movement by 60-100 percent within 60 minutes of intercourse. Opt for natural oils, oil-based lubricants or even cooking oil, but be sure to keep any potential allergies in mind. Pre-Seed lubricant is a commercial product that may even enhance sperm’s ability to move.


John_RapisardaDr. John Rapisarda is a reproductive endocrinologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois who has been treating patients since 1991. Dr. Rapisarda considers it a privilege to help couples and individuals grow a family, and treats each patient with compassion, understanding and personalized care. 


“The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine,” an infographic from the CDC

written by Tara Haelle

Today’s post is just a graphic about vaccine production that I came across on the CDC website. It’s so nicely done and informative that I wanted to post it here as well!



2014 CDC immunization schedule released

written by Tara Haelle

The latest changes to the CDC’s recommended schedule of childhood vaccinations were released on Monday. Although changes are sometimes made to the schedule mid-year, most adjustments to the schedule occur when the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) revisits it in fall of each year.

Only a minor change was made to the overall schedule which did not affect the routinely recommended vaccines.

Only a minor change was made to the overall schedule which did not affect the routinely recommended vaccines.

The newest schedule for 2014, available in various forms on the CDC website here, only contains a couple tweaks compared to last year’s schedule. The most substantial change is that parents can give the meningococcal vaccine to their children earlier if they wish.

The meningococcal vaccine is now available for children starting at 2 months old, though it is not among those officially recommended for all children. The meningococcal vaccine protects against diseases such as meningitis, an infection of the brain and spinal cord that can be fatal. In terms of the recommended vaccines for all children, there have been no major changes.

The new schedule has, however, added clarifying information for giving young children the flu vaccine. There has been confusion in the past about what children should receive and when. Basically, kids aged 6 months to 8 years old may need to get two doses of the vaccine, depending on whether it’s their first time being vaccinated against the flu and/or when they received their first flu vaccine. The second dose must be given at least 28 days after the first dose. Not getting both doses, if needed, may not protect the child at all from the flu.

The other footnotes that were updated in the 2014 schedule include information for high-risk individuals receiving the pneumococcal vaccine and the hepatitis A vaccine. The former protects against bacteria that cause pneumonia, and the latter protects against a liver disease that is still very common throughout the world.

In addition to ACIP, all changes to the CDC recommended schedule are approved by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.



8 Reasons You Are Wrong About Not Vaccinating Your Daughter

written by Guest Author

When Kathy McGrath came across an article listing 8 reasons the author had not vaccinated his daughter, it reminded her of her own search to find good information about vaccines when her daughter was born. Now, years later, she fully understands how and why vaccines are safe, effective ways to protect children from many diseases. She responds here to each of the points made in that misinformative article.

by Kathy McGrath

To vaccinate or not. That is the question.

Before I had my first daughter I was a vaccine “fence-sitter.” When I first came across pro- or anti-vaccine articles on social media and blogs, I was truly looking for information.

I questioned why the hepatitis B shot had to be given at birth and wondered why there were so many shots on the schedule. I was perplexed why whooping cough is so prevalent even though babies receive several shots in the vaccine series that are supposed to protect against it. I questioned why I still needed to vaccinate for many other diseases that didn’t seem to be around much anymore. I got called a concern troll and was attacked on “pro-vax” pages for admitting I’d used complementary medicine.  Then I got called an uneducated “sheeple” and Big Pharma Shill on the “anti-vax” sites.  I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere.

I was stunned by the passionate and rapid-fire judgmental comments from both camps and initially retreated from conversation as I became further alienated by both sides.

I realized it was my choice to take it to heart or continue to ask questions and learn. I realized that I couldn’t expect others to automatically know my intentions, so I decided to put on my objective glasses, see beyond the language and emotion and take on board the facts. Here’s what I have learned.

Kathy McGrath also researched vaccines after her daughter was born -- but relied only on evidence-based information.

Kathy McGrath also researched vaccines after her daughter was born — but relied only on evidence-based information.

1 A. The risk of adverse events from vaccines are greatly outweighed by the risks of adverse events from the diseases.  If you think it’s the other way round, either

  • you’ve failed at risk/benefit analysis
  • you don’t know what these diseases are capable of, or
  • you are getting your information from dubious sources.

Hands down, the risks are greater with not vaccinating. Gaining ‘natural immunity’ means putting your child through unnecessary suffering and risk of a severe or even fatal outcome.  You simply cannot obtain specific immunity to vaccine preventable diseases safely through any other method than vaccination. Natural births, exclusive breastfeeding, chiropractic visits and a well-nourished, healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle will not build specific antibodies to the diseases as vaccination can.  Healthy, robust children get sick and die from these diseases. Ask any pediatric ICU doctor.  We don’t vaccinate for trivial reasons.

For example, chickenpox is often thought of as a mild disease, even a ‘right of passage’ in childhood, but it can actually be fatal.  I’ve had chickenpox myself, and I was fine. The risk of dying from chickenpox is low, but the risk of severe effects from the chickenpox vaccine is magnitudes lower.

As I did, you may wonder why we need to keep vaccinating children against diseases like polio and diphtheria, which are rare in developed countries.  It’s because many diseases we vaccinate against are still common in other areas of the world and can easily be spread by travellers.  There have been recent outbreaks in developed countries – including the US – of whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella. Diphtheria and tetanus are rare, but they still occur. These diseases still exist, and without vaccines, they could re-emerge.  With every disease on the immunization schedule, the risks from the disease outweigh the risks from the vaccine in gargantuan proportions. 

1B.  Your sources are key.  A decision made from Natural News articles and other pseudo-medical blogs will be poorly informed because the science is dubious and the information is cherry picked, misconstrued or downright wrong.

Every health organization of every country around the world is supportive of vaccination. And so is the overwhelming majority of the medical profession. You can trust information from legitimate medical sites and government health agencies because they are evidence-based.

And please don’t claim that “Big Pharma” are behind every study and every decision these organizations make.
Look up research in the PubMed library, where you will find scientific studies from all over the world from independent scientists, universities and other organizations with zero financial interest in pharmaceutical companies. If you exclude the pharmaceutical company-funded studies, the medical and scientific consensus still concludes that vaccinating is the safer choice over not vaccinating.

1C. Vaccine critics may worry about the long-term effects of being injected with multiple vaccines. Do they build up to toxic levels? Do they lead to chronic disorders? 

No. Here’s what happens when you’re vaccinated.  You get injected with antigens (bits of the original disease that have been inactivated, killed or weakened) that stimulate your body to make specific antibodies (disease-fighting immune cells) to fight this disease.  Developing a good level of immunity from a vaccine can take anywhere from a couple of weeks (the flu shot) to a couple of months (DTaP given at 2, 4 and 6 months).  Once antibodies are made, the body disposes of the antigens.

Vaccines also contain inactive ingredients (the excipients), such as aluminum salts, formaldehyde and trace antibiotics. These don’t stay in the body long enough to build up and create long-term health effects.  They leave your body within days or weeks.   The excipients found in vaccines are also found in things we consume or are in our environment.  When spaced out over months on the vaccination schedule, the amounts are diminishingly small compared to what we shovel into our mouths several times a day. And please don’t worry that ingestion differs from injection.  We’re talking about infintisimally small amounts here and the calculations for safety limits on injected substances are already factored in.  The only long-term effect from vaccines is the immunity to the disease our children develop from them. 

There is nothing to suggest a “synergistic toxicity” either.  The ingredients can’t build up and cause “multiplied” harm because we are talking about tiny, miniscule amounts of ingredients and many of them are inert. And again, they exit the body.

Critics might also point out that “artificial” stimulation of the immune system could lead to chronic disorders such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and autoimmune disease. But there is no evidence of this.

Children who receive vaccines on time do not have different neuropsychological outcomes to those who are unvaccinated or on a delayed schedule.

The incidence of allergies and chronic diseases in vaccinated versus unvaccinated children is the same.

1D. Side effects are real, but extremely rare.  There is no evidence to suggest serious side effects are under-reported. 

Conversely, there is evidence that serious adverse events are over-reported.  Minimal side effects, such as swelling and a sore arm, do tend to be under-reported.  Yet, most adverse events tend to be over-reported because of the perception that they are caused by the vaccine when the adverse event’s appearance is really just coincidental timing with the administration of the vaccines. For example, there are adverse reports in the US VAERS database which list motor vehicle accidents, accidental drownings, drug overdoses, suicides and teenage pregnancies as adverse events. Each of those is clearly an unfortunate incident that occurred around the same time as vaccination but could not have been caused by vaccines. Similarly, reports such as ovarian failure, autism and multiple sclerosis are not caused by vaccines because each has been studied and found through the scientific method not to be linked to vaccines. Some people might think they got the flu from the flu shot because it developed later on that same day.  But the timing of the incubation period makes that implausible.  And so on.

When side effects are reported to VAERS, experts evaluate them and many are found to not be causally related.  For example, this study shows only 3% of adverse events reported to VAERS were determined to definitely have been caused by immunization. Further, those 3% and the 40% determined to be “probably” or “possibly” related to a vaccine “were dominated by local reactions, allergic reactions, or symptoms known to be associated with the vaccine administered.” In other words, they were the minor adverse events that we already know about and are provided on VIS sheets.

Severe adverse events from vaccines occur less than 1% of the time. We know this from clinical trials, post marketing surveillance and clinical evaluation or reports.

2.  It is very unlikely a vaccinated child will contract the disease.  If they are unlucky enough to do so, the disease will, with minimal exceptions, be very mild.  

With some vaccines, such as the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), it’s extremely unlikely for a vaccinated person to catch the disease.   With pertussis and flu vaccines, it is more likely that a person might catch the disease, but the course of the disease will not be as severe as if the person were unvaccinated. That this can occur has more to do with the kinds of vaccines and the nature of the organisms than vaccine failure. Read the rest of this entry »


Pacifiers and strollers recalled – and a new “recalls” blog feature

written by Tara Haelle
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled these pacifiers.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has recalled these pacifiers.

This is a quick post to alert parents about a recall on some pacifiers and a stroller. Previously, I have not reported on recalls, especially because any parent can easily subscribe to email updates about them on the Consumer Product Safety Commission website. I happened to see these two notices in a parenting group on Facebook and thought they were worth mentioning. Then, while I was on the CPSC website, I found a cool feature that allows me to include a box of CPSC recalls on my website, so it’s a feature I’ve added to this blog. (Scroll down and look on the right column. It’s still a bit messy with the coding, so I’m working on fixing that.)

The strollers recalled are B-Agile, B-Agile Double and BOB Motion strollers, recalled due to a potential folding hazard that can lead to broken or badly cut fingers or even finger amputation.

The pacifiers are actually (unfortunately) pretty cute, if cheesy. They are the Fred & Friends Chill Baby Artiste, Volume and Panic pacifiers (pictured at right), recalled due to being possible choking hazards.

If you sign up for the recall list, keep in mind that there are a lot of consumer recalls, so consider setting up a filter for them in your email if you don’t want to be flooded with them. Alternatively, visit the CPSC site or this blog’s update box regularly to check on the latest recalls.


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