Childhood Immunizations

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Vaccination is one of the greatest achievements of medicine and has spared millions of people the effects of devastating diseases. Diseases cause suffering and, in some cases, permanent disability or death. Vaccines allow a person to be protected from the disease without experiencing the serious adverse effects of that illness. The organisms that cause a disease (or materials produced from those organisms) are weakened or killed and then made into vaccines. These vaccines are injected into the body or are taken orally. The body reacts by making disease-fighting substances - antibodies - that build up in the system and guard against these diseases for a long time, often for a lifetime. Thus, immunization helps the body to defend itself against a particular disease.

Fully immunizing your child according to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics can help protect your child from many common infections.

Most babies and toddlers receive up to 20 shots by their second birthday, and kids with health conditions such as allergies, asthma or diabetes have far more unwelcome experiences with needles and doctors. Often kids are paranoid about shots and start crying the moment they realize that they are going to visit the doctor. You can anticipate your child's distress and take steps to reduce it before you even reach the doctor's office.

Here are some facts and helpful hints:

  • Do not be careless about immunizations. The eight childhood diseases (measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and polio) which are preventable by immunization, can, and do cause crippling and, even, death. These illnesses are serious and their repercussions can be terrible.
  • Understand what protection vaccines give and what risks vaccines create for their children. Even though vaccines are among our safest and most effective medicines, they can cause side effects. These are usually mild - a slight fever, a sore arm, a mild rash - and don't last long. But on rare occasions they are more serious.
  • If your child receives a vaccine, gets sick and visits a doctor, hospital, or clinic during the 4 weeks after the immunization, this should be reported to the office or clinic where the vaccine was received.
  • Vaccines work best when they are given at the recommended time and on a regular schedule.
  • Keep a record of your child's immunizations. A current record, showing kinds of immunization and dates received, helps you to cooperate with the doctor. It serves as a reminder of visits coming up and of remaining immunizations and booster doses that you won't want your children to miss. It provides comforting evidence that your family is completely protected against eight serious diseases.
  • Parents should themselves be calm and collected when taking children for immunizations. Anxiety of parents can negatively affect children and causes uneasiness in them.
  • Comfort a child during shots. You can also bring a favorite toy, blanket or story book to the clinic.
  • If you're concerned that your child might be having a serious reaction related to an immunization, contact your doctor as soon as possible or seek emergency care.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,