Category: The Toddler Years

Measles, The MMR and The Harmful Effects Of Not Vaccinating Children

On 20 August 2018, the World Health Organisation released a press release which stated that “Over 41,000 children and adults in the WHO European Region have been infected with measles in the first 6 months of 2018. The total number for this period far exceeds the 12-month totals reported for every other year this decade.” The WHO European Region is made up of 53 countries. 71% of these cases came from 3 countries: Romania, Italy and Ukraine. However, over the past few years, the amount of cases which have been highlighted in Ireland have been increasing and this is a worrying trend. For me as a parent, a chronic worrier and someone who lives with an invisible autoimmune issue, these figures absolutely terrify me.

Measles is an illness which by all accounts SHOULD be extinct. We’ve been vaccinating against it on a worldwide scale since 1971. Doctors have been giving two doses as standard since the late 1980s. By the end of 2017, 85% of children had received one dose of measles vaccine by their second birthday, and 167 countries had included a second dose as part of routine immunisation and 67% of children received two doses of measles vaccine according to national immunisation schedules. So why are we still in a position where not only are children catching this disease but dying from it? It looks like the answer is lying in reduced vaccination rates and in parents choosing to not vaccinate their children.

I do not say this in a sanctimonious way, I do not wish to tell ANYONE that my way of parenting is the best way of parenting, by any stretch of the imagination. However, when it comes to vaccinations against diseases which put not just your child in danger, then it becomes past a conversation about parenting styles and more about protecting the community as well as protecting your own child. I believe that if a child is medically considered fit to be vaccinated (ie not allergic to ingredients or against medical advice), then that child should be vaccinated against these diseases which have potentially life changing and threatening effects.

What Are Measles?

Measles (AKA rubeola) is a highly infectious viral illness. The measles virus is contained in the millions of tiny droplets that come out of the nose and mouth when an infected person coughs or sneezes. This means that you can catch measles by breathing in these droplets or, if the droplets have settled on a surface, by touching the surface and then placing your hands near your nose or mouth.

Measles symptoms appear around 10-14 days after exposure to the virus. They typically include:

  • Fever
  • Dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis)
  • Tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek. This is also called Koplik’s spots
  • A skin rash made up of large, flat blotches that often flow into one another

Less common complications of measles are:

  • meningitis,
  • pneumonia (lung infection), signs of which are fast, difficult breathing, chest pain and deteriorating condition,
  • hepatitis (liver infection),
  • encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), which can be fatal, so watch for drowsiness, headache and vomiting,
  • low platelet count, known medically as thrombocytopenia, which affects the blood’s ability to clot,
  • bronchitis and croup (infection of the airways), characterised by a hacking or barking cough, and
  • squint, if the virus affects the nerves and muscles of the eye.

These complications are more common in children under the age of five or in adults over the age of twenty.

The infection occurs in sequential stages over a period of two to three weeks.

  • Infection and incubation. For the first 10-14 days after you’re infected, the measles virus incubates. You have no signs or symptoms of measles during this time.
  • Nonspecific signs and symptoms. Measles typically begins with a mild to moderate fever, often accompanied by a persistent cough, runny nose, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and sore throat. This relatively mild illness may last two or three days.
  • Acute illness and rash. The rash consists of small red spots, some of which are slightly raised. Spots and bumps in tight clusters give the skin a splotchy red appearance. The face breaks out first. Over the next few days, the rash spreads down the arms and trunk, then over the thighs, lower legs and feet. At the same time, the fever rises sharply, often as high as 40 to 41 degrees celcius. The measles rash gradually recedes, fading first from the face and last from the thighs and feet.
  • Communicable period. A person with measles can spread the virus to others for about 8 days, starting 4 days before the rash appears and ending when the rash has been present for four days.
What Measles Really Looks Like
Kellie from My Little Babóg sent me this picture of her daughter who caught measles two years ago just days before her vaccinations were booked in after her first birthday.

For a look at what it’s actually like to go through your child(ren) having measles, Kellie from My Little Babóg has written this piece which I think every parent should read.

Why Should We Vaccinate Against Measles?

The measles virus is exceptionally contagious and spreads easily among susceptible individuals. About 90 percent of susceptible people who are exposed to someone with the virus will be infected. To prevent outbreaks, at least 95% immunisation coverage with 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine is needed every year in every community, as well as efforts to reach children, adolescents and adults who missed routine vaccination in the past.

What is The MMR Vaccine?

MMR is a safe and effective combined vaccine that protects against 3 separate illnesses – measles, mumps and rubella (German measles) – in a single injection. The full course of MMR vaccination requires 2 doses. No country in the world recommends MMR vaccine to be given as three separate injections.

MMR vaccine was introduced in 1988. In the Irish system, the MMR is given at 12 months of age by a GP, followed by a second dose of the vaccine at age 4-5 years, either through the school system or by a local GP.

 

How Does the MMR Work?

The vaccine triggers the immune system to produce antibodies against measles, mumps and rubella, as though your body had been infected with them. Antibodies are proteins that are produced by the body to neutralise or destroy disease-carrying organisms and toxins.

This also teaches your immune system how to produce the appropriate antibodies quickly.

This video gives a bit of a rundown on how vaccines in general work and may be much easier than a block of text to understand!

What About Adverse Reactions?

As with any medication or vaccinations, adverse reactions are a possibility with the MMR vaccine.

After getting the vaccine, there may be discomfort, redness or swelling at the injection site. Children may be irritable and have a fever. If this happens, you can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen as well as plenty of fluids. Keep an eye on their temperature. It might also be a bit uncomfortable if clothes are rubbing against the injection site.

After 6-10 days 1 in 20 children may get “mini measles” with a rash and fever. About 1 child in 100 may get “mini-mumps” with swelling in the jaw area in the third week after vaccination. These are not contagious. Children usually recover from these side effects in 1-2 days.

In rare cases, a child may get a small rash of bruise-like spots about 2 weeks after the injection. This side effect, linked to the rubella vaccine, is known as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). It has been estimated that ITP develops in less than one in every 22,000 doses of the MMR vaccine. There is a greater risk of developing the condition from the diseases that the vaccine prevents. ITP usually gets better on its own, but, as with any rash, seek advice from your doctor ASAP.

In very rare cases, children can have severe allergic reactions straight after an immunisation. This happens in about one in 100,000 immunisations for MMR. Medical staff who give immunisations are trained to deal with allergic reactions to vaccines.

The table below shows the most common side effects from the vaccine, and the levels of same effects seen caused by the disease itself. (Health Protection Surveillance Centre)

People who have been recently immunised cannot infect others with the viruses contained in the MMR vaccine.

The Andrew Wakefield Scandal And Links To Autism

Andrew Wakefield published a study in The Lancet in 1998 linking the MMR vaccine to autism. His initial study appeared to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism and bowel disease. However, his research was not carried out correctly and has since been discredited. It used a sample size of just 12 individuals. Later it was discovered to be funded by lawyers who had been engaged by parents in lawsuits against vaccine-producing companies. This study was far from unbiased or complete.

Extensive research into the MMR vaccine, involving thousands of children, was carried out in the UK, the USA, Sweden and Finland. This research showed that there is no link between MMR and autism. One study looked at every child born in Denmark from 1991 to 1998. During that time, 82% of children born in Denmark received the MMR vaccine. The researchers looked at the records of over half a million children and found the risk of autism was the same in immunised children as in children who had not been immunised. In 2010 Andrew Wakefield’s name was removed from the medical register after his research was discredited. Experts from around the world, including the World Health Organisation, agree that there is no link between MMR and autism.

Isn’t Three Viruses Too Much For Their Little Bodies To Handle? Why Not Separate Them?

Single vaccines in place of MMR put children and their families at increased and unnecessary risk. Generally, it is considered that the mother’s immunity will cover her child for only up to 12 months against measles, mumps and rubella, and some evidence is showing that the timescale for measles is even less than that. In spreading the vaccines, it would increase the risk of a child contracting one of the diseases while waiting for a time period between vaccines. It would also increase the number of vaccines the child needs to six instead of the current two. The combined vaccine is safer as it reduces the risk of the children being infected with the diseases whilst waiting for full immunisation cover.

 

What About Herd Immunity? Won’t That Keep Kids Safe?

Herd immunity (otherwise known as Community Immunity) keeps a certain level of the community safe. However, to do this, it requires for the vast majority of the community to be vaccinated. Germs can travel quickly through a community and make a lot of people sick, which can lead to an outbreak. When enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, the germs can’t travel as easily from person to person. This means that the entire community is less likely to get the disease.

That means even people who can’t get vaccinated will have some protection from getting sick. And if a person does get sick, there’s less chance of an outbreak because it’s harder for the disease to spread. Eventually, the disease becomes rare — and sometimes, it’s wiped out altogether.

Herd/Community immunity protects everyone. But it’s especially important because some people can’t get vaccinated for certain diseases — such as people with some serious allergies and those with weakened or failing immune systems (like people who have cancer, HIV/AIDS, type 1 diabetes, or other health conditions).

Community immunity is also important for the very small group of people who don’t have a strong immune response from vaccines.

What About Reports That Say The Drug Wasn’t Tested Enough Before Giving It To Kids?

The normal procedure for licensing was used for MMR. The vaccine was thoroughly tested before being introduced into the Irish routine immunisation programme in 1988.

 

How Widespread is Vaccination against Measles Currently, And What Is The Scale Of The Current Problem?

While immunisation coverage with 2 doses of measles-containing vaccine increased from 88% of eligible children in the WHO European Region in 2016 to 90% in 2017, large disparities at the local level persist: some communities report over 95% coverage, and others below 70%.

The figures for Irish vaccination at levels can be seen here. In looking at the figures which are broken down by quarter, we can see a national decline from 93% to 92% over the last 6 years, remaining steady for the last 3 years at 92%. In the breakdown by area, Wicklow has the worst average rate of vaccination for the MMR by the age of 24 months, with just 85% of eligible children vaccinated with the MMR in the last two quarters, part of a steadily decreasing trend in the area. On the other hand, areas in the midlands and the west of Ireland seem to be hitting the targets consistently for vaccination. Those, however, are just the current vaccination figures and do not take into account young adults and adolescents who have not been vaccinated in the years since the Wakefield report which caused mass hysteria over reported dangers of the vaccine. The lack of vaccination around the time of that report’s publication and the years that followed has led to an increased number of secondary-school and college-aged people contracting communicable diseases like measles and mumps which had not been seen before at that age in recent years.

In Ireland in the period between July 2017 and June 2018, Ireland saw a total of 95 cases of measles, 20 cases per million of population. During that same time period the year before, July 2016 to June 2017, this figure was just 15, making up 3.2 cases per million of population. In a single year, it has multiplied 533.333%.

The United Kingdom, our closest neighbour, had 947 cases in the July 2017-June 2018 period, making up 14.46 per million of population. In the year before that, it had 413 cases in total, which was 6.3 per million population, in effect increasing by 129% in a 12 month period.

The “target” for disease control as considered by the WHO is less than 1 per million of population. Only 21 out of 53 countries (51 when you discount those who did not report in 2017/18 and 50 when you discount those who did not report in 2016/17) meet that target in 16/17, and only 8 countries meeting it in 17/18.

The largest surge in cases seems to radiate in Serbia, Ukraine, Italy, Georgia and Greece. Just 7 states out of the European region had effectively eradicated measles in 2017/2018, reporting zero confirmed cases of measles in that time. The Italian Senate has recently voted to remove mandatory vaccinations from their legislation in a time of already startling climbing figures of infection in their country. In contrast, in the USA where the public school system in many states requires full vaccination schedules for access to schools (and vaccines are given free of charge), with a population of 325.7 million (2017 figures) has had a total of 1691 cases since 2010, with 667 of them taking place in a huge outbreak in 2014. It is thought that the majority of those cases came from infected visitors from The Philippines. In Australia, which has a similar “mandatory” policy, where they penalise parents financially and refuse to allow access to public institutions for not vaccinating kids without medical cause, there were 1279 cases between 2010 and 2018 year to date, in a population of 24.13 million people. When you compare this with the YEARLY figures that we are seeing in areas of much smaller population – Ireland has 4.773 million people, which is just over 20% of the population of Australia and just 1.47% of the population of the United States, it is clear that our problems are on a much larger scale.

So, is mandatory vaccination the solution? I don’t believe it is a politically viable option, given the current way that the Irish government functions. There are already policies in place across the Health Service Executive to make vaccinations as easily accessible as possible to patients. Parents are given reminders by text message in some cases, and at checkups with doctors. We do not have a system that allows those doctors to make that choice for the parents, ultimately the choice is up to them. I just hope that in making that choice, they are not making the choice for another child or vulnerable person’s health for them.

 

Vaccinate your children – give them and the community around them the best chance of good health and avoiding a life-changing or ending disease. Measles is not a childhood illness children should have to get in 2018, and by vaccinating them, it gives them the best possible chance of avoiding its dangers.

*****

BadMammy is on Facebook and Instagram – come over and say hello!

Closing Time: Leaving Creche Days Behind

“Closing Time, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”

I’m reminded a lot of this song lately, it’s playing in my song almost daily for the first time since my teenage years. It seems like a whole lot is changing and there are a lot of new beginnings going on. This time though, the boy child has graduated his preschool and is moving onto a Montessori in a whole other place, with new people, and is leaving creche, and his baby days, behind. (more…)

22 Times Grey’s Anatomy Summed Up Parenting A Toddler

I’ve started re-watching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy lately while I’ve been off work. I’ve been a fan of Grey’s Anatomy since the early days and though I fell away from it for a while, I’m straight back in there now. It’s the perfect mish-mash of funny, serious and damn heartbreaking. I’m invested in these people like they’re real, they’ve been a part of my life for a decade.

While re-watching, I’ve noticed in some bits that they’re referring perfectly to how life with a toddler is. So, here’s 22 times that Grey’s Anatomy perfectly summed up what it is like to be a parent to a small child.

22 Times Greys Anatomy Summed Up Parenting

(more…)

Slipping Through My Fingers, The Toddler Days

There’s a song in the movie Mamma Mia which might have drawn a tear or two since becoming a parent. In the middle of the movie, Meryl Streep is watching her fully-grown daughter prepare for her wedding, and singing this song as the scene plays out. The song itself, “Slipping Through My Fingers” was written about ABBA members’ Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog’s 7 year old daughter. It sums up the feelings of watching our kids grow up so fast and not being able to grab them back in for a cuddle on your lap, or a snuggle to sleep to keep the baby days going. It’s gorgeous, and right now, it feels very apt for the stage I’m at with Eliott.

Slipping Through My Fingers

(more…)

More Affordable Childcare- What IS Available?

Childcare is often declared to be the second mortgage of many homes. Personally, it makes up almost as much as our rent per month, and we only have one child. It’s a major outlay and can really have some families in a bind as to whether both parents working is actually financially worth it. The price of childcare differs dependent on your needs and what form parents use – au pairs, creche, montessori, in house childminders, childminders in their own homes, grandparents and family members. So, how do we ensure we have affordable childcare?

More Affordable Childcare

(more…)

Easter At Rathwood – The Experience

In the run up to Easter, it’s been great to see a load of kid-centric activities to fill up the holidays popping up. Egg hunts, fun days, these are the things that memories are made of. So when we were offered the chance to try out the Rathwood Easter experience, we jumped (bunny-hopped?) at the chance. Rathwood is a home and garden centre in Tullow, Co. Carlow. I’d been there a few times previously, but never taken part in any of their experiences (I guess 25 is not their target audience age), however armed with the three year old we decided to try it out.

Easter at Rathwood

(more…)

He’s Three – A Snapshot of My Little Boy’s Life on his Birthday

On the 24th of March 2014, I became a mother. At 7.05 am, my son was born by emergency caesarean section. Since that moment, my life has changed forever. It’s been a tough journey at times, but it’s also been so, so rewarding. And now he’s three. THREE. A proper “big boy”, there’s no baby left here.

He's Three - BadMammy.com

So, what is he like at Three? I really liked the framework of the linky post I took part in recently with Awfully Chipper, so I’m going to use the same for him here. So, here’s a snapshot of my little boy, as he turns three years old.  (more…)

9 Educational Shows For Your Kid on Netflix

Ah, television, the great divider of opinion. I, along with many parents, prior to becoming a mother was a “My child won’t watch it” type. All I can say to my former self is Ha. Ha. Ha. We worship at the church of Netflix some days to get by, it’s just how life is when it’s hectic and the toddler needs distraction so we can make dinner. However, that doesn’t mean I’m happy to stick him in front of just anything – there’s definitely stuff I don’t want him watching.

Since E doesn’t really watch conventional television, most of his watching is Youtube or Netflix based, which makes things a bit easier to monitor. I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about the content of what he’s watching, and after taking a look, have found a lot of options both entertaining AND educational. So, here are 9 Educational Shows that will appease both parent and child on Netflix.

Educational kids Shows On Netflix

(more…)

Hello Mammy Guilt, again

The boy child is nearly three. He’s at that brilliant age where he’s a proper little human who you can actually have a conversation with. Okay, so his topics are limited and almost always come back to Fireman Sam or Paw Patrol, but we’re getting somewhere. He’s managing this whole new grown-up-toddler thing alongside his Tyrant-In-Training gig, so it’s a fine balance we have to work with. He tells me he’s a big boy (or a big girl, dependent on the day, we’re leaving him to figure it out), we’re half way to toilet training and I’m given a spark of joy each time he makes me a “cuppa-coffeee” from his toy kitchen. These are the good days.

Hello Mammy Guilt, Again

(more…)

Favourite Bedtime Stories: What is on our Bookshelf?

I am not a fan of bedtime. The child going to bed, yes, perfectly happy with that (what parent isn’t?) but it’s an ordeal at the moment. No matter what kind of routine we try to put in place, it’s a bit of a non-runner. Basically my two year old has skipped childhood and gone straight to the teenage years. Refuses to sleep until late at night, is a GRUMP in the mornings and doesn’t want to listen to a word I say. I’ve not yet gone seeking a refund from the midwives in CUMH just yet but I’ve been close. However, the one bit I do like of the whole farcical routine is curling up with bedtime stories and reading together. It’s a nice time for the two of us and once I’ve got the books that I can’t stand out of the way (I’m talking to you Stickman!), it can be nice and relaxing. So, what have we been reading lately? A mesh of old and new books on the shelves, some I’ve spoken about before, but this is what the two and a half year old is loving right now (and I’m not tearing my hair out reading).

Favourite Bedtime Stories The Books We Go Back To Again and Again

(more…)

The A To Z of My Toddler

My toddler is a curious fellow, an ever changing personality. I’d point out some manufacturing flaws (the lack of love of sleep, the mess) but I did make him myself so I’ve nobody else to really blame. However, flaws aside, he does provide me with endless entertainment, a new perspective on life and some thoughts on the kind of old age home he’ll be paying for to make up for the 5am wakeup calls. Something new changes every day – whether it’s learning new words, or stringing together sentences, or managing to scoot through the entire apartment flawlessly – he’s an ever growing lovely little thing.

If I’m asked to describe him, there’s no real single word I could choose, there are too many things to just pick one. I quite enjoyed a similar post about myself that I did last summer, so here’s a look at an A-Z of my toddler, a bit of a fun idea to capture a little snapshot of him in time, right now, aged 2 and a quarter.

The A-Z Of My Toddler - BadMammy.com

(more…)

Living With The Twoligan

I live with a dictator. Things are rarely on my terms, but on those of the short angry man I live with. His physical force rules the household, a fear of waking up to a variety of MMA moves on my head, the destruction of the living room a daily reality. There are days where I feel in control, but within minutes it can come crumbling down and we are under the thumb again. He practices techniques like water boarding (using a milk bottle, chewed through) and sleep deprivation, makes us ponder escape methods, ways to run away and change our identities.

Living With the Twoligan. BadMammy.com (more…)

6 Tips for a Stress-free Start To Creche

Choosing childcare is difficult and time-consuming. There is a lot to be thought about; flexibility of employers and of the childcare options, cost, how your child is with strangers, proximity to childcare options and workability of it into your commute to work in the morning… the list goes on and on. There are lots of different options that may be available; childminder (in or out of your home), au pair, Montessori, creche, family friend/family member. There are pros and cons to all of them (particularly when it comes to cost and flexibility; some work out better than others!), but it will be down to your circumstances and wants as to what option you will end up going for. If that option happens to be creche, then welcome to the gang.

If your child is about to start creche, it can be a stressful time for both child and parent. Here are some tips I've learned along the way which have made the transition a bit easier for both of you! BadMammy.com 2016. (more…)

Let’s Talk Night Terrors – What are they, and why is my child getting them?

As parents, we want to make our child as happy and as secure as they possibly can be, every hour of every day. There’s only so much we can do, aside from keeping them warm, fed, clothed and loved. Some things we can’t quite control. Recently E has started having night terrors, which are definitely out of our control, and definitely make me feel like an absolute parenting failure for not being able to prevent.

Let's Talk Night Terrors
(more…)

Finding Your Village

It takes a village to raise a child, says the old African proverb. From the first days of becoming a parent, professionals insist that you use the support structures around you; generally, family and close friends, as it can be a tough adjustment, especially while coping with sleep deprivation. What if your support structure isnt around if you dont live near family or dont have friends who understand what it’s like? This has become increasingly common in modern Ireland, as people move away from family for work or college, friends have emigrated or moved on for work or relationships, and you are left home alone with your newborn, wondering where that village has disappeared to.

Finding Your Village Modern Parenting Communities

(more…)

Always Drink Coffee Before Soft Play – Tales from the Front Line

Ah, soft play areas, savers of sanity (most of the time). When you are accompanied by a tiny human who finds fantastic enjoyment from flinging themselves around in ball pits, on foam mats and generally tangled up in things, it makes sense to veer towards the large padded area on a rainy Friday morning. Unlike me, however, you should always stop off at a coffee shop first – for the insurance policy against the sanity loss soft play can bring before caffeination occurs.

Always Drink Coffee Before Soft Play

(more…)

A morning of Soft Play – Chuckies Play Centre, Cork

 

When you’re at home with a toddler, days can get pretty repetitive. Unless you set up different things to do during the week, it can feel like Groundhog Day. Every day involves chasing a football around the living room. My life soundtrack is currently the songs from Baby Genius. It’s worse when it rains – yes, I’ve still not learned to love the rain – because as I don’t drive, there is little to do in the city centre with a toddler and outside of that isn’t much of an option. There are only so many visits to the kiddie library we can do in one week, so I decided one morning that we’d change tack and head to Chuckies Play Zone, the closest soft play centre to us.

A Morning in Chuckies Play Centre

(more…)