The importance of childhood immunizations
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 through the community if most people are immunized. In addition, immunizations reduce the number of deaths and disability from infections, such as measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox.
Although children receive the majority of the vaccinations, adults also need to be sure they are already immune to certain infections and/or stay up-to-date on certain vaccinations, including varicella, seasonal influenza, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, zoster, human papillomavirus (HPV), pneumococcal (polysaccharide), hepatitis A and B, flu, and meningococcal. Childhood illnesses, such as mumps, measles, and chickenpox, can cause serious complications in adults.
About guidelines for routine childhood immunizations
Many childhood diseases can now be prevented by following recommended guidelines for vaccinations:
- Meningococcal vaccine (MCV4). A vaccine to protect against meningococcal disease.
- Hep B. This protects against hepatitis B.
- Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). A vaccine to protect against polio.
- DTaP. This protects against diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough).
- Hib vaccine. A vaccine to protect against Haemophilus influenzae type b (which causes spinal meningitis and other serious infections).
- MMR. This protects against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles).
- Pneumococcal vaccine/PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine). A vaccine to protect against pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis.
- Varicella. This protects against chickenpox.
- Rotavirus (RV). This vaccine protects against severe vomiting and diarrhea caused by rotavirus
- Hep A. This protects against hepatitis A.
- HPV. This protects from human papillomavirus, which is linked to cervical cancer and other cancers.
- Seasonal influenza. This protects against different flu viruses.
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.
Reactions to immunizations
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 doctor or nurse may discuss these with you before giving the shots. However, the risks for contracting the diseases the immunizations provide protection from are higher than the risks for having a reaction to the vaccine.
Treating mild reactions to immunizations in children:
- Fussiness, fever, and pain. Children may need extra love and care after getting immunized. The shots that keep them from getting serious diseases can also cause discomfort for a while. Children may experience fussiness, fever, and pain at the immunization site, after they have been immunized.
- Fever. DO NOT GIVE ASPIRIN. You may want to give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen, medications that help to reduce pain and fever, as directed by your child's health care provider:
- Give your child plenty to drink.
- Clothe your child lightly. Do not cover or wrap your child tightly.
- Sponge your child in a few inches of lukewarm (not cold) bath water.
- Swelling or pain. DO NOT GIVE ASPIRIN. You may want to give your child acetaminophen, a medication that helps to reduce pain and fever, as directed by your child's health care provider.
- A clean, cool washcloth may be applied over the sore area as needed for comfort.