Health Highlights: Jan. 1, 2009

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

New Immunization Recommendations for Children Unveiled

Updated immunization recommendations for flu shots for children have been unveiled by three leading U.S. health groups.

The revised 2009 schedule calls for routine annual flu shots for children aged 6 months through 18 years. The previous recommendation applied to children from 6 months to 59 months of age. The new recommendation increases the number of eligible children by approximately 30 million.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • New Immunization Recommendations for Children Unveiled
    • New Year's Resolution: Restock That Medicine Cabinet
    • Drug Makers Agree to Voluntary Ban on Doctor 'Freebies'
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"Vaccination is the best protection against influenza," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease, said in a news release issued Wednesday. "This important update to the childhood immunization schedule helps us extend protection from influenza and its complications to all children between the ages of 6 months and 18 years, not just those at highest risk of complications from influenza."

The other health groups announcing the new vaccination schedule were the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Recommendations for inoculation against rotavirus -- a disease that causes diarrhea in young children -- include changes for the maximum ages for vaccination. The first dose should be given by 15 weeks of age. The latest age any dose may be given is 15 months. If the vaccine Rotarix is administered at ages 2 and 4 months, a dose at 6 months is not needed, the news release said.

The revised schedule also clarifies vaccination against human papillomavirus, the leading cause of cervical cancer in women. Routine dosing intervals should be used for series catch-up -- i.e., the second and third doses should be administered two and six months after the first dose. The third dose should be given at least 24 weeks after the first dose, the release said.

You can read the full immunization schedule at www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

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New Year's Resolution: Restock That Medicine Cabinet

To get the new year off to a safe and healthy start, the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) suggests cleaning out and then restocking your medicine cabinet.

"You should do this once a year, at least," said Dr. Nick Jouriles, president of the ACEP. "A year's worth of showers and baths create heat and humidity that can cause some drugs to lose potency. It's good to get rid of them and replace them if they need to be replaced."

If a pill loses potency, you may not be getting the necessary dosage of medication. Holding on to several old prescriptions can also increase the risk of taking the wrong pill, Jouriles said in a news release.

Actually, a bathroom medicine cabinet isn't always the best place to keep medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter. Instead, keep them in a linen closet or a dark area, especially away from children, the release said.

According to ACEP, here are some essentials for your medicine cabinet:

  • Up-to-date prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
  • Adhesive bandages of assorted sizes for minor cuts and scrapes.
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