Flu Vaccines Protect Our Keiki

By Dr. Michael Hamilton
Interviewed by Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - December 23, 2009
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Dr. Michael Hamilton

Do you have an area of specialty?

I practice general pediatrics but did extra training in caring for newborns and infants. Thus I have a special interest in infants, although I see patients from birth to the early 20s.

What do you recommend parents who are expecting do when looking for a pediatrician for their child?

I think parents should do their research and, if possible, interview potential doctors to seek background information on their future physicians. Ask candidates if they are board certified. Board certification means that the doctor has passed all of the necessary tests to be an expert in their particular field. But that is not enough. It would be ideal to have a face-to-face visit with a potential candidate. This way you can see the clinic and staff and get a feel for the doctor’s style and personality. Parents need to be comfortable in discussing a wide range of topics with their pediatrician. A meeting will give you a chance to see if you will feel comfortable talking with your doctor.

When during their pregnancy should parents be looking for a pediatrician?

Expectant parents should begin their search for a pediatrician as early as possible. As you get closer to your delivery date, you’ll be worrying about a lot of other things, so don’t put it off.

Can you discuss flu shots and your stance on that?

Flu shots are very important and very effective. A lot of information about the flu and flu vaccines has been circulating around in the media. The bottom line is that the flu can be a very serious illness. I think we all know that the flu can be deadly. The seasonal flu alone is responsible for about 36,000 deaths per year across the U.S. And we all know how fears of the H1N1 virus have affected our community since about April or May of this year. Flu vaccinations are a very good way to give your family some protection from the virus, and they’re safe. The flu vaccine has been manufactured and produced in the same fashion since the mid-1970s. The H1N1 vaccine is processed and manufactured in this same fashion. The safety profile of both vaccines has been excellent.

Dr. Hamilton checks Jolie Ah-Yat for an ear infection. Jolie is held by certified medical assistant Shari Tomanaha

Is it OK to get both flu shots (seasonal and H1N1) at the same time?

You can get the H1N1 and the seasonal flu shot at the same time, but you cannot get both live-attenuated vaccines (nasal mist vaccines) on the same day. Both of those need to be spread out by at least four weeks.

What is the difference between the nasal and shot vaccinations?

Because the nasal spray is a live-attenuated virus vaccine, some felt that you would get a better immune response from the nasal spray verses the shot. However, more recent studies indicate that you get roughly the same level of protection from either. Not everyone, however, qualifies to get the nasal spray. For example, people with asthma can’t get the nasal spray. And children under 2 years of age do not get the nasal spray.

What tips can you give parents to help keep their kids healthy and happy?

Sometimes I’m not sure that those two go together - having our kids happy at a given moment and keeping them healthy. Shots are a good example. This is a great way to keep them healthy, but I don’t know too many kids who are happy about it.

Children should eat right. This would include fruits and vegetables, and making sure they get enough protein. But, clearly, a healthy child is a happy child, and being happy is also a good promoter of overall health.

In addition to good nutrition, exercise is very important. By and large, children in this country are not getting enough exercise. They are spending too much time in front of a screen, whether it is a computer screen or TV. We recommend no more than two hours of screen time per day.

And something else we often don’t give enough attention to is sleep. A lot of kids and teenagers are simply not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to a lot of health and behavioral concerns. Many children need more sleep than they are getting.

Reading to your children also is a really important and fun thing to do. At Kaiser Permanente, we are supportive of reading to your child. We have adopted the national Reach Out and Read program, which provides an age-appropriate book to children at each well-child visit under the age of 6.

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