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Educating your childs immune system is an important part of preventing disease and an important part of preparing for the upcoming school year.
Children can be immunized against a number of serious infectious diseases by receiving vaccines, said Andrew J. White, MD, a pediatrician at Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Childrens Hospital. Some vaccinations are given at birth and most are scheduled throughout early childhood, but important boosters should be given to school-age children.
By following a regular schedule, and making sure a child is properly immunized, parents can ensure the best defense against dangerous childhood diseases, such as polio, measles and hepatitis, said White. This protection is long-lasting, and will work this school year, next school year and into adulthood.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control have agreed on the following immunization schedule to prevent many childhood diseases:
Hep B given at birth, 1-2 months later and a third dose after 6 months, to protect against the hepatitis B virus, a cause of liver disease and liver cancer;
Polio vaccine (IPV) given at 2, 4 and 6 months, and again between 4-6 years of age, to protect against polio;
DTaP given at 2, 4, 6 15-18 months and 4-6 years, to protect against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough);
Hib vaccine 3-4 doses, to protect against Haemophilus influenzae type b (which may cause meningitis);
MMR given after 12 months, and again at 4-6 years, to protect against measles, mumps and rubella (German measles);
Pneumococcal vaccine (PCV7) at 2, 4 and 6 months, to protect against certain types of pneumonia, infection in the blood, ear infections and meningitis;
Varicella given after 12 months to protect against chickenpox and shingles;
Hep A given at 12 months and 6 months later to prevent hepatitis A infection.
The recent outbreak of mumps highlights the necessity for being immunized (specifically with the MMR vaccine) as this nearly forgotten infection is currently spreading easily throughout the Midwest. Two doses of this vaccine will be protective in about 90 percent of people.
White stressed that an immunization, like any medication (or any substance, herb or supplement taken for medicinal effect), can cause unwanted side effects. Some children may have mild reactions to vaccinations, including soreness at the site of the injection or a low-grade fever. Parents can apply a cool cloth on the injection site and give acetaminophen to reduce pain and fever. Do not give aspirin to a child who has fever without contacting the child's physician, as this medication has been linked with Reye syndrome.
Serious reactions to vaccinations are rare, but can include a large area of redness and swelling at the injection site, high fever, incessant crying, shaking, twitching or jerking. White encourages parents to call their childs physician immediately if such reactions occur.
By following a regular vaccination schedule you can educate your childs immune system, thereby maximizing the learning opportunities for reading, writing and arithmetic.
Source: Washington University School of Medicine