Tag Archives: research

Another unremarkable reaction to vaccinations

My friend and fellow Evidence-Based Parenting blogger, Tara Haelle shared her story of her son’s unremarkable reaction to his childhood vaccinations, here.  She also dissected a recent study from Pediatrics, the journal of the American Association of Pediatricians, on the impact of religious exemptions on  pertussis rates.  You can read Tara’s post here.  You can also join the Evidence-Based Parenting community on Facebook and discuss it, share your stories, here.

I’ve written before about the importance of vaccinations.  I’ve even written about a case of measles that hit WAY to close to home for me, here.  In light of that, the study which Tara wrote about is concerning to me.  The crux of that paper from Pediatrics?  “Counties with higher exemption rates had higher rates of reported pertussis among exempted and vaccinated children when compared with the low-exemption counties.” (Source).

If you think that choosing NOT to vaccinate your child doesn’t impact anyone else in your community, you are WRONG!

Parents are lying about their religious beliefs to score immunization waivers on the basis of a religious objection.  Those lies, that failure to vaccinate is having real and measurable impacts on their communities, in the form of increased cases of pertussis.  Vaccination is important.  Vaccines save lives.  We all have to do our part to keep our communities safe and healthy.

Today, I’ll join Tara and I’ll add my voice to the chorus of vaccine stories.

I have two children, Mable is 3.5 and Nemo just turned one.  Both children have been vaccinated according to the standard schedule recommended by the CDC, AAP, AMA, etc.

While I have done a lot of reading on the topic of childhood vaccinations, we relied heavily on the decades of schooling and practice that our pediatricians and nurse practitioners had, in deciding how to vaccinate our kids.

Columbus wknd mcphd

Both of my remarkable children have had only unremarkable reactions to their vaccinations.

Just last week Nemo recieved his first dose of the MMR vaccine and the Varicella vaccine.

I could not even tell you what happened after each and every vaccination.  I have a recollection of Mabel sleeping through the night for the first time after getting several vaccinations at her 8 week well child visit.  I have a recollection of Nemo having a slight fever after some shots- I don’t remember which ones or how old he was.

My experience has been completely unremarkable.  Other than expected tenderness at the injection site or being sleepier than usual, maybe a fever, neither of my kids have had any reactions.  And, as is clear from my inability to recall details, those reactions aren’t even memorable enough for me to recall.

That’s my unremarkable vaccine reaction story.  What’s yours?  Share it here or with other Evidence-Based Parents on Facebook.


Filed under #scimom, Evidence-Based Parenting Blog Carnival, Mabel, Mother, Nemo, Scientist

When should you introduce potentially allergenic solids?

Disclaimer:  I may have a PhD, but I’m no doctor.  Please don’t misconstrue what I’ve written here as medical advice, I’m only sharing my experiences and sources of information.  When it comes to decisions about when to introduce solids, and how to handle potential food allergies, no source of information is as important as your pediatrician!

A few weeks ago my mom’s group had a “Mom’s Night In” and several of us were discussing when to introduce solids, in particular, those that are known allergens (eggs, peanuts, shellfish, etc.).

I’ve written in the past about how Mac and I went about introducing solids with Mabel, and now again with Nemo.  Since we have no family history of food allergies, we didn’t hold back on anything (except for honey which is contraindicated because of infant botulism, not because of allergies).

Baby-led weaning in action:  Mabel at 6 months old munching on a Granny Smith apple

Baby-led weaning in action: Mabel at 6 months old munching on a Granny Smith apple

The science on food allergies and how/when best to introduce potentially allergenic foods isn’t entirely conclusive.  There does seem to be emerging evidence that delaying the introduction of foods does NOT decrease the likelihood of allergic reaction, it may even increase that likelihood.

There was an article on Yahoo Health today that did a great job of summarizing the science and the current recommendations regarding introduction of solids (three cheers for the author, Lisa Collier Cool, for linking directly to the journal article she was reporting on!).  To read it, click here.

The take home message:

•Complementary foods can be introduced between 4 and 6 months of age.
•The highly allergenic foods can be given as complementary foods once a few complementary foods have been tolerated first and should initially be given at home first rather than at a day care or a restaurant.
•There are certain situations when consultation with an allergist is recommended to discuss food introduction, including, among others, when an infant has poorly controlled severe atopic dermatitis despite treatment or has a reliable history of reacting immediately to a food. Source.

The original review from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology that the article refers to can be viewed here.   It summarizes and outlines the recommendations of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology with regards to breast feeding, restricted diets, and introduction of solids.  It’s organized well, lots of bullet point, summaries, etc. so definitely read through it, even if you aren’t a scientist or doctor!

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Filed under #scimom, breastfeeding, Mother, Scientist

From The Annals of the Obvious: HPV vaccination does not make girls more promiscuous

Yesterday it was all over the news what anyone with a brain cell might have been able to figure out on their own- vaccinating girls against Human Papilloma Virus does not make them whores.

Here’s the study:  Sexual Activity-Related Outcomes After Human Papillomavirus Vaccination of 11- to 12-Year Olds, by Bednarczyk et al.

To briefly borrow a summary for the NYTimes:

They selected a group of 1,398 girls who were 11 or 12 in 2006 — roughly a third of whom had received the HPV vaccine — and followed them through 2010. The researchers then looked at what they considered markers of sexual activity, including pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing for or diagnoses of sexually transmitted diseases.

Over all, in the time that the girls were followed, the researchers did not find any differences in these measures between the two groups.  Source:  Anahad O’Connor, NYT.

When I was a tween and got vaccinated against hepatitis, I didn’t run out and spread my legs either.  I don’t think I even realized that hepatitis could be sexually transmitted at that age- or even paid close attention to what I was being vaccinated against.

I’m not sure why people think that being vaccinated against an STD would make a child more promiscuous, but apparently that’s the most cited reason given by parents for not vaccinated against HPV!

I can’t understand the reasoning, “Hmm.  Should I vaccinate my daughter against cervical cancer?  Give her protection against oral cancers as well?  All with this simple vaccination?  Oh, wait!  It’s an STD?!  Heck no.  I’d rather a daughter who died of cervical cancer than a daughter who engaged in premarital sex- because I know my precious little angel would never do that otherwise!”

Look.  HPV is an STD that causes genital warts.  It also causes cervical cancer.  It’s also now been linked to oral cancers as well, see here.  The HPV vaccine could guard your children, female and male (it causes penile cancer as well) against infection.  That means your daughters won’t get cancer and neither will your sons (they also won’t pass it on to your future daughter in law*).  Even if your precious little angel saves him/herself for marriage, who’s to say their spouse did the same?  Newsflash:  Almost one third of 14- to 19- year olds are infected with HPV!  Those are not odds I want to take with the health of my kids.

Just as I do with every other vaccine, I’m going to follow the CDC guidelines when it comes to the HPV vaccine.  Mabel and Nemo will both be vaccinated.

That said, I’m not going to turn them loose without a healthy dose of info on sexuality and sexual health.  I hope they always make the wisest of decisions when it comes to sex.  I would be happy if they waited until they were married.  Do I know the odds of that are slim?  Yes.  Are young people inherently unable to make decisions based on the long-term consequences of their actions?  Heck yeah. That’s why this vaccine is so important-  I don’t want a single bad decision to result in a cancer diagnosis down the road- for them or for their future partners.

Also note, all of this is assuming that children only engage in consensual sexual relations.  We know that this is not the case.  Children should be protected from predators, but they should also be protected from being victimized twice- first at the hands of an abuser, and second from any STD that abuser might transmit to them.


*Pardon the hetero-normative language, but I’m guessing a person who fears a vaccine causing their daughter to have premarital sex, and that chance trumping her healthy, is NOT considering the possibility that their son or daughter could possibly ever be homosexual.


Filed under #scimom, Mother, Scientist

A new low

Have you ever watched a nature show on The Discovery Channel or Animal Planet and thought to yourself, “Who in the hell spent their time figuring that out?!”

The one that comes to my mind is an innocuous show I was watching about some lake in Africa and the hippos that lived there.  Seemed like standard nature show fair.  Imagine my utter shock and surprise when the focus switched to one aspect of hippo biology that I could have lived my life without ever knowing.  You could live without it too, so skip the next paragraph if you wish.

Apparently there is a species of leech, Placobdelloides jaegerskioeldi, that breeds in the rectum of a hippo.  Yeah.  The show was replete with close up VIDEOS of the leeches and the hippo hiney hole. It opens a whole can of worms (or leeches?):  Who cares?  How did somebody figure that out?  Why is the name of all that is holy did someone pursue it?  What poor scientist spent his/her field work literally up the butt of hippo?!  Who thought there was something even more gross that leeches mating?  How about leeches mating in a hippo rectum?

I’ve wondered these same things with other research I’ve read about.  Like the impact of sleep deprivation on fruit flies– where some poor grad student had to be similarly sleep deprived to stay awake and shake the container of flies every time they started to nod off before the Sleep Nullifying Apparatus was invented to do it for him/her.

Source: xkcd.com

I’ve also wondered these same things with my own research.  As an undergraduate I studied the role of DNA Polymerase Beta in mismatch repair during meiosis in rats. [See here for an irreverent and hilarious take on Pol Beta and its function.]  Now, in case you forgot from high school biology, meiosis is the special version of cell division that creates gametes (ie sperm and eggs).  To study meiosis, we needed cells in which meiosis was taking place.  Where are gametes made?  Well, eggs are mostly made in fetal ovaries of female rats.  Sperm are made 24/7 in the testes of male rats.  So, if we were given the option of trying to track down meiotic cells it’s much easier to get your hands on rat testicles than fetal/embryonic rat ovaries- trust me.

Thusly, I spent a good portion of my undergrad research time dissecting out rat testicles, mincing them up with scissors, putting them in a very (ironically) phallic looking Waring blender, then further crushing the cells in another (ironically) phallic looking dounce– all in the name of making cell lysates so we could look for proteins that interacted with Pol Beta during mismatch repair.

I certainly raised a lot of eye brows and elicited many disgusted reactions from people when I discussed my research- particularly when on a grad school prospective student weekend a prof who studied spermatogenesis shouted to me loudly at a social function, “Ah yes!  So exciting!  You’re the student working with testicles!”

Things didn’t exactly improve from there.  The summer after college I got a job working at the county health department in their West Nile Virus Monitoring Program.  This means trapping mosquitoes, sorting them with a dissecting microscope, and sending them off to the state lab for testing for West Nile.  This part wasn’t that bad- other than the nasty water we used to attract the mosquitoes (we were only interested in the females, since they’re the ones that bite, and they like to lay their eggs in nasty fetid water- see here) and all the mosquito bites.

The grossest part of the job involved the ‘monitoring’ of the bird population.  The community was encouraged to call the health department to report any dead birds they found, then we’d go and get those dead birds, pack them on ice, and ship them off to the state lab for testing.  I responded to calls from helpful citizens who swiftly bagged the bird they found and conveniently refrigerated it until we could pick it up.  I also responded to calls from people who reported a pile of rotting flesh and maggots that was once a bird as a dead bird.  I also responded to calls from people who were so irrationally terrified of West Nile that they left the dead bird to rot and bake in the sun rather than go near it.  There was also the concerned citizen who hit a Canada goose with his car and reported it to us (Note to caller:  you hit it with your car, it didn’t die from West Nile Virus!).  It was pretty gross.  Some were pretty far gone and so decayed and stinky that we just disposed of them because they couldn’t be tested.

I should mention that I was the only woman on this team with four other men.  When I interviewed for the position the man who would be my manager said, “Are you sure you’ll be OK picking up dead birds?” (which I’m guessing was a concern because I am female and thus averse to ‘yucky stuff’) to which I replied, with a totally straight face, “My last job involved grinding up rat testicles.  I don’t think this will be a problem.”  He was appropriately and humorously silenced by my reply and offered me the job.

As a grad student I did pretty well.  My breast cancer research was relatively innocuous.  No in vivo work.  No dissection.  Standard blood and guts-free in vitro benchwork.

As a post-doc I had to help out with the harvesting rat hepatocytes (liver cells) that involved some surgery, but I was just assisting and didn’t have to get my hands dirty.

I mistakenly thought I’d moved on from the realm of research that makes people ask “Why in the hell would you do that?!  Gross!”

The operative word here being mistakenly.

I think my research is going to take me to a new low this year.  How low?

Hmm…. how should I convey the lowliness of this?  I think two words will sum it up.

Mouse enemas.


Part of my research this year will involve engrafting cells into mouse colons.  How does one get cells into the colon of a mouse?  Basically by giving the mouse an enema of cells.


Seriously not looking forward to this new low.

What about you?  Any ‘lowly’ research projects under your belt?  Any bizarre nature shows that made you feel bad for the researchers?


Filed under Scientist