Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Better Way to Protect Your Family from Tuberculosis

I have so many memories of my grade school years. I attended a private Catholic school where half of the nuns were very strict, and the other half were funny and huggable. We wore annoying uniforms and shoes that pinched your toes. And we stood in line. A lot.

Me in my uniform. Don't I look happy?
Floating around in my head is a memory of a time we were waiting in line (again). I had no idea why, because I was a kid who usually had her nose stuck in a book and didn't listen very well. Imagine my surprise to find the nurse's office at the end of that line. And an itty, bitty needle that she stuck into the inside of my arm, just under the skin. I watched in fascinated horror as a tiny little bubble popped up under there and then just like that she said I could go. It itched like crazy. I think I was into kids' horror books at that time, so visions of alien invasions swam before my eyes. But with my next book, the itch went away and so did the memory of that visit. Until three days later I was standing in line again in front of said nurse's office. I went in, the nurse grabbed my arm and looked at it again, but there was nothing there. The bump had disappeared. 

She nodded, her pen scratched something on her list, and out the door I went.  

I didn't really know it then, but I was getting a TB test. Did you ever have to do that in school? Or at your pediatrician's office? They were checking to see if any of us had been exposed to the Tuberculosis (TB) virus and were carrying latent TB, which is not the full-blown disease, but can turn into it. 

You may or may not know that TB is caused by a highly contagious bacteria that is spread when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or simply speaks and another person breathes in the infected droplets in the air. TB can live in your body in an inactive state for days, weeks, months, even years before it turns into the contagious disease. Once it takes hold, it can affect your lungs or any other part of your body. 

Sadly, this disease affects 30 percent of people around the world. New infections happen every 3 seconds, and people die of this disease every 21 seconds. :(

So, yes, even though my kids are homeschooled, I worry about their health. We are pretty active and travel a lot. My kids come into contact with other people almost every day at museums, homeschool programs (see photo above!), the pool, grocery stores, parks, basketball practice, piano lessons, airports, hotels, and a gazillion other places.

The good news is that there is a new TB blood test that replaces the 110-year-old skin test. I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of DiMe Media for the TB Blood Test and learned that there is no more injecting stuff under your skin (which wasn't exactly pleasant) and then going back three days later to have it read. No more itching. Nothing is injected INTO your body. You can even take it if you've had a TB vaccine, which can create a false positive on the skin test. This new TB blood test is more accurate.

All of which is a big bonus in my book because let's face it, I'm too busy to be taking my kids back and forth to the doctor's office. Now I can just call and make one appointment, y ya! I'm good to go. I don't have to go back. I can just call for the results or check the results online via their patient portal. 

And here's more good news: there is a treatment. If you have the inactive bacteria in your body, you can take medicine to get rid of it before it becomes active and attacks your body.

My kids trust me to take care of them. It's my responsibility to make sure they stay healthy. So I feed them healthy foods, make them get exercise, take them to the doctor when they are sick...and when they need check ups. The TB blood test is just one small way of making sure their little bodies are safe.

So please, protect your family. It's important to get your children between the ages of 5 and 18 tested. You can read more about TB and the new blood test in English or in Spanish via their websites.