(Family Features) As a parent, you make decisions every day to keep your child safe and healthy, which include keeping your child up-to-date on vaccines to help protect against serious diseases.
You may wonder if the diseases that vaccines prevent are even a threat to your child, how they offer protection and why your child needs to get their shots at certain ages. Learning about vaccines will help you better understand why the disease protection they provide is so important for you and your family.
Germs, Germs Everywhere
There are many ways your child could be exposed to germs, like bacteria and viruses, that cause diseases. For example, germs could come from people coughing or sneezing around them or when they put toys in their mouths. When these germs get into your child’s body — through their eyes, nose, mouth, or open cuts — they attack and multiply. This invasion is called an infection, which is what makes your child sick. Your child’s immune system then has to work to fight it off.
If your child has received a vaccine to protect him against a disease, it will help his immune system safely fight off the disease, and develop immunity. Vaccines act like, or imitate, an infection. This “imitation” infection does not cause illness, but instead, it causes the immune system to react in a way similar to how it does to a real infection. As a result, your child’s immune system will create cells to recognize and fight the vaccine-preventable disease in the future. This protection is called immunity.
Immunity Stops Outbreaks
Immunity is important to protect your child against vaccine-preventable diseases, like whooping cough — also known as pertussis — and chickenpox, both of which still occur in the United States.
If people stopped vaccinating, even the few cases of the vaccine-preventable diseases that don’t occur as commonly in the United States, like measles, could very quickly become tens or hundreds of thousands of cases. Some of these diseases are still common in other parts of the world. You may think this isn’t a problem if you don’t travel to these countries, but your child could come into contact with international travelers anywhere in your community. Kids that are not fully vaccinated and are exposed to a disease can become seriously sick and spread it through a community.
To stop the spread of a disease, the majority of a community has to be immunized against that disease. When the majority of the community has the safe, proven protection of the vaccine, the outbreak doesn’t get the opportunity to keep spreading.
Timing Is Everything
When you vaccinate your child according to CDC’s recommended schedule, you are providing him with the best protection early in life, before he is exposed to life-threatening diseases. This recommended schedule is designed to protect infants and children by providing immunity when they are susceptible to diseases. The consequences of these diseases can be very serious, and even life-threatening, for infants and young children.
The CDC sets the U.S. childhood immunization schedule based on recommendations from a group of medical and public health experts called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). This group carefully studies all safety and effectiveness data to make recommendations about vaccines. The ACIP also looks at how severe the disease is, and the number of children who get it when there is no vaccine.
Vaccines Give You the Power to Protect
Immunizations have helped to greatly improve the health of children in the United States. By continuing to vaccinate your baby according to the recommended immunization schedule, you are giving him the best protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses before he is two years old.
To learn more about immunizations, visit the CDC online at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents or call 800-CDC-INFO.
Stress Less at Your Next Shot Visit
Even though you know vaccines are protecting your baby against diseases, it doesn’t make it less stressful for you to see your little one get shots. Fortunately, there are simple ways you can support your child before, during and after shots.
Before Getting Shots
- Read any vaccine materials you receive from your child’s health care professional and write down questions.
- Pack a favorite toy or book, and a blanket that your child uses regularly for comfort.
For older children
- Be honest with your child. Explain that shots can pinch or sting, but that it won’t hurt for long.
At the Doctor’s Office
- Ask the doctor the questions you wrote down ahead of time.
- Sit the child upright on your lap.
- Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
- Ask your child’s doctor for advice on steps you can take to comfort your child at home.
For older children
- Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.
- Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
- Tell or read stories.
- Support your child if he or she cries. Never scold a child for not “being brave.”
After the Shots
- Review information your doctor gives you about the shots, especially the Vaccine Information Statements or other sheets that outline which side effects might be expected.
- Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce any redness, soreness or swelling from the injection.
- Give your child lots of liquid. It’s normal for some children to eat less during the 24 hours after getting vaccines.
- Pay extra attention to your child for a few days. If you see something that concerns you, call your doctor.
Make sure your baby gets all doses of each vaccine according to the CDC’s schedule for best protection against 14 serious diseases before he turns two years old:
- Flu (Influenza)
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Pneumococcal Disease
- Whooping Cough (Pertussis)
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