Infectious diseases

10 things parents should know about flu shots

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Even though it’s only the beginning of September, parents should be thinking about scheduling flu shots for their children (and themselves). Here’s the latest information everyone needs to know about getting vaccinated.

Is the “full course of antibiotics” full of baloney?

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

Conventional medical wisdom has held that taking antibiotics for longer periods of time produces better results and lowers the risk for antibiotic resistance. But the evidence for this is slim, and researchers are now questioning this approach.

Ticks and the changing landscape of tick-borne illnesses

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

Ticks are being found in more places, and they are carrying newly discovered bacteria, meaning it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your family when you are outdoors.

When to worry about your child’s fever

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Children get sick, so it’s not unusual for a child to have a fever. Most of the time it isn’t serious, but there are times when parents should be concerned about a fever.

Most cases of pink eye (conjunctivitis) don’t require antibiotics

Mallika Marshall, MD
Mallika Marshall, MD, Contributing Editor

While bacterial conjunctivitis responds to antibiotic treatment, many people with the more common viral type are prescribed antibiotics unnecessarily, which contributes to increased resistance to these medications.

Think your child has a penicillin allergy? Maybe not.

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Because diagnosis of drug allergies is often done based on symptoms but without testing, many people who believe they are allergic to antibiotics such as penicillin do not in fact have the allergy.

Bad viruses travel fast: Measles vaccine important for travelers

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

Because measles is so highly contagious, and because there is a significant delay before symptoms manifest, a person can carry the virus and infect others without knowing it, and many adults may not have received an effective dose of the vaccine. Many outbreaks of measles could probably be prevented if more travelers received MMR vaccine prior to foreign travel.

Why vaccines are important for our country’s financial health, too

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Vaccinating babies and toddlers prevents many illnesses, but it also helps the avoid high costs associated with treating those illnesses, helps reduce sick time taken by parents, and contributes to greater immunity in a population.

H. pylori, a true stomach “bug”: Who should doctors test and treat?

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

A stomach infection of H. pylori bacteria can cause ulcers, but not everyone with the infection shows symptoms and the treatment process can be challenging, so only people with certain conditions need to be tested for it.

The flu shot saves children’s lives

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Even though this year’s flu season is just about over, parents should be thinking about protecting their children next winter. Despite short-term reactions in some people, the flu shot is safe for nearly everyone.