Make Sure Your Kids' Vaccinations Are Current
< Aug. 22, 2012 > -- With schools across the country about to reopen for the fall, one item to add to your back-to-school list is a check on your children's immunizations: Are they up-to-date?
"These vaccines save children's lives, says David Kimberlin, M.D., at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Although most of the diseases that vaccinations protect against are now rare in the U.S., outbreaks still happen, the CDC says. More than 20,000 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough, have already been reported this year through late July, with nine deaths, all of them in children younger than 1 year.
Vaccinations protect not only school-aged children from infectious diseases, but also younger children and older adults at home and in the greater community.
"At any given time, all of these vaccine-preventable diseases are at most 18 hours away," Dr. Kimberlin says. "For example, one of the few remaining places where polio circulates is Afghanistan, and U.S. troops return home from there daily. Anyone exposed could inadvertently pass polio to a child."
Long list of diseases
In addition to pertussis, 15 other diseases are currently preventable with childhood vaccines: chickenpox (varicella), diphtheria, seasonal flu, Haemophilus influenza type b, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, measles, meningococcal, mumps, pneumococcal, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus, and polio.
Vaccines help prevent disease by causing a child's immune system to recognize the disease in "imitation" form, so if the real disease comes along later, the child's body can fight it off.
Although vaccines can cause side effects, the most common ones are mild. Side effects can include redness and swelling at the site where the injection was given, and fever. Most side effects ease in a few days.
"People do have all sorts of fears of things they don't understand, but there is no rational reason for not vaccinating a child," says Vivian Friedman, Ph.D., also at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this website.
Keep this information in mind to help your child's immunizations go more smoothly:
Vaccines are some of the safest and most effective medicines we have, and they have made many dangerous childhood diseases rare today.
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
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