Within the first few months of your child's life, your pediatrician will likely start talking to you about immunizations. Even if your house is stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap, it's important to know what options are out there to keep your kid safe from diseases that could have harmful consequences.
With all of the talk out there about the pros and cons of getting your child immunized, here are five things you need to know about how the process works and why doctors recommend it:
What is immunization?
The World Health Organization defines immunization as the process that makes a person immune or resistant to an infectious disease. The most common way to achieve this is by giving the person a vaccine. Over the past 200 or so years, doctors have been able to use vaccines to fight diseases that used to kill millions of people, including young children, every year.
How does immunization work?
Vaccines are usually given through a needle injection, though Verywell noted there are some that can be given through the mouth or the nose.
According to WebMD, once a vaccine enters the body, it helps the immune system develop antibodies that fight the virus or bacteria that causes that specific illness. (The process can take a few weeks, so your child won't instantly become immune.) The next time your child runs into that virus or bacteria, his body will have the tools it needs to fight off the illness.
Does my child really need to be vaccinated?
If you plan to enroll your child in a daycare or school, there may be minimum vaccination requirements before they can get started. According to he National Vaccine Information Center, exceptions can be made based on certain medical or religious grounds, but an application is required.
If you don't have any medical or religious concerns, vaccines are strongly encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control to help slow the progress of infections. When more people get vaccinated against a certain disease, outbreaks can be prevented because the germs won't be able to travel as fast through the population. This is called community immunity.
Which vaccines are recommended for kids?
The CDC website lists 16 potentially harmful diseases that their recommended vaccines can protect against. Those diseases are:
- Hepatitis A & Hepatitis B
- Whooping Cough
Each vaccine should be taken during a specific age range, so be sure to talk to your child's doctor to find out the right time to bring them in for their shots.
What are the risks involved with vaccines?
KidsHealth says the most common reactions to vaccines are fever and redness, swelling and soreness where the shot was given. In rare cases, patients have had seizures or severe allergic reactions. If you're concerned about side effects, Parents Magazine has some tips for easing the sting and making your child's first immunization experience as comfortable as possible.
If you have questions about vaccines or side effects, it's best to talk to your child's doctor.