Timely Parenting Research

The Low-Down on Shots, Soaps and Sports

By Lisa A. Beach

Just when you think you’ve got this parenting thing figured out, new research comes along that refutes everything you’ve been doing since day one. If you’ve been debating the merits of flu mists, antibacterial soaps and whether or not your kids should specialize in a singular sport, here’s the scoop on the latest research to help you make the best choices for your family.

Flu Shots

Hoping to save your kids the pain of a flu shot this fall, opting instead for the painless nasal spray vaccine? You’re in luck! According to a March 14, 2019, statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the organization recommends that all children ages 6 months and older receive either the injectable flu vaccine or the nasal spray vaccine for the best protection during the upcoming 2019-20 flu season.

This year’s recommendation differs slightly from last year, when AAP cited a preference for the flu shot over the nasal spray. Previous research showed poor effectiveness of the flu mist compared with the traditional flu shot in recent flu seasons. During the 2016-to-2018 flu seasons, AAP did not recommend the nasal spray because it didn’t work as effectively against influenza A/H1N1 strain during the previous two flu seasons. Vaccine effectiveness can vary from one flu season to the next.

For this upcoming 2019-2020 flu season, however, the AAP and US Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) also support the use of the nasal spray vaccine – or live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4). The goal? To provide the best protection and adequate vaccination coverage in children of
all ages.

“All children 6 months and older should receive the flu vaccine, in whatever form their pediatrician recommends,” says Bonnie Maldonado, MD, FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.

“Every year, we are never sure if the vaccine strains are going to be perfectly matched up with incoming flu strains, but based on the information that we have now, we believe the nasal spray is an acceptable option.”

Bottom line: Make sure your kids receive the flu shot as soon as it becomes available, preferably by the end of October.

Antibacterial Soaps

You can skip the expensive antibacterial soap the next time you’re stocking up on supermarket essentials and instead buy less expensive, plain ol’ soap. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a statement that manufacturers can no longer market consumer antibacterial washes containing certain active ingredients, including the most commonly used ingredients – triclosan and triclocarban. Why? Because the manufacturers failed to demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others.

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” says Janet Woodcock, M.D., director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “In fact, some data that suggests antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

What to do if soap and water aren’t available? The CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Specializing in Sports

Even though you’ve been grooming your soccer star since she was 3 with the hopes of her someday snagging a college scholarship, you might be doing her more harm than good. According to a report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, young athletes who specialize in just one sport face an increased risk of overuse injuries from their highly focused training. Plus, they’re more likely to experience stress and burnout from the singular focus and the pressure of performing.

In the report published in Pediatrics, lead author Joel S. Brenner, MD, FAAP, explains that “more kids are participating in adult-led organized sports today, and sometimes the goals of the parents and coaches may be different than the young athletes.”

The best advice? To minimize risk of overuse injury and boost the likelihood of being physically active into adulthood, the AAP encourages children to participate in multiple sports and delay specialization until at least 15 or 16.