Immunizations (also called vaccinations) are a set of shots given to infants and children at different ages to help keep them from developing dangerous childhood diseases. The diseases vaccinations protect against have serious complications and can even be fatal. Making sure your child receives immunizations when scheduled is the best way to help protect your child.
Immunization is key to preventing disease among the general population. Vaccines benefit both the people who receive them, and the vulnerable, unvaccinated people around them, because the infection can no longer spread. In addition, immunizations reduce the number of deaths and disability from infections, such as whooping cough and chickenpox.
Although children receive the majority of the vaccinations, adults also need to stay up-to-date on certain vaccinations, including tetanus and diphtheria. In addition, those adults who have never had chickenpox or measles during childhood (nor the vaccines against these specific diseases) should consider being vaccinated. Childhood illnesses such as mumps, measles, and chickenpox can cause serious complications in adults.
Many childhood diseases can now be prevented by following recommended guidelines for vaccinations:
- Meningococcal vaccine - to protect against meningococcal disease.
- Hep B - to protect against hepatitis B.
- Polio vaccine - to protect against polio.
- DTaP and Tdap - to protect against diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough).
- Hib vaccine - to protect against Haemophilus influenzae type b (which causes spinal meningitis).
- MMR - to protect against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).
- Pneumococcal vaccine - to protect against pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis.
- Varicella - to protect against chickenpox.
- RotaTeq® - to prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis in infants.
- Hep A - to prevent viral infection of the liver.
- HPV - to protect females from human papillomavirus, which is linked to cervical cancer.
A child's first vaccination is given at birth. Immunizations are scheduled throughout childhood, with many beginning within the first few months of life. By following a regular schedule, and making sure a child is immunized at the right time, you are ensuring the best defense against dangerous childhood diseases.
Please visit the Online Resources page for the most up-to-date guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
As with any medication, vaccinations may cause reactions, usually in the form of a sore arm or low-grade fever. Although serious reactions are rare, they can happen, and your child's physician or nurse may discuss these with you before giving the shots. However, the risks of contracting the diseases the immunizations provide protection from are higher than the risks of having a reaction to the vaccine.
Children may need extra love and care after getting immunized, because the shots that keep them from getting serious diseases can also cause discomfort for a while. Children may experience fussiness, fever, and pain after they have been immunized.
Do not give aspirin to a child who has fever without first contacting the child's physician. Aspirin, when given as treatment for viral fevers in children, has been associated with Reye syndrome, a potentially serious or deadly disorder in children. Therefore, pediatricians and other healthcare providers recommend that aspirin not be used to treat any fever in children.
If more serious symptoms occur, call your child's physician right away. These symptoms may include:
- a large area of redness and swelling around the area where the injection was given. The skin area may be warm to touch and very tender. There may also be red streaks coming from the initial site of the injection.
- high fever
- the child is pale or limp
- the child has been crying incessantly for several minutes
- the child has a strange cry that is not normal (a high-pitched cry)
- shaking, twitching, or jerking of the body
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Online Resources of Pediatrics