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Vaccines

There is no shortage of information about children and vaccines. But the most important thing you need to know is this: Vaccines save kids' lives.

Immunizations help protect children against debilitating and potentially deadly diseases, such as polio and measles. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, vaccines have reduced the number of infections from these preventable illnesses by more than 90 percent.

"Vaccinations have been used for hundreds of years to prevent diseases and the spread of diseases that have the potential to cause significant morbidity and mortality," said family physician Christopher Waguespack, DO. "The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks and problems associated with them. Every major medical group that weighs in heavily on the subject recommends routine vaccination in children and adults."

Many of the diseases that vaccinations prevent are rare, and that's due in part to the effectiveness of immunizations. But that doesn't mean your children don't need protection. The viruses and bacteria that cause these diseases still exist. Also, some vaccine-preventable illnesses are still common outside of the U.S., so travelers could carry diseases with them. That's why it's so important for children to be up-to-date on their shots.

Are they safe?

Vaccines are both effective and safe. Side effects are usually mild and can include swelling, redness and tenderness at the site of the injection. Also, kids may have a slight fever or fussiness for a little while after a shot.

Most children—even those with a minor illness, such as a cough or ear infection—can be immunized safely. Kids who have a more serious illness may need to delay or avoid certain shots based on recommendations from the child's pediatrician.

For those who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons, community, or "herd," immunity offers protection.

According to www.vaccines.gov, when a majority of a community is immunized against a contagious disease, most members of the community are protected against that disease because there is little opportunity for an outbreak.

The website explains that even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines—such as infants, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals—get some protection because the spread of contagious disease is contained. This is known as "community immunity."

Children aren't the only ones who need vaccines, though. Adults should stay up-to-date on vaccines, too, and may sometimes need a booster for a vaccine they received as a child.

How can I help my child get through this?

For a child, going to the doctor may be associated with getting a shot, and that's because kids nowadays get vaccines to protect them from 14 diseases. That's a lot of shots!

Even though the pain from most vaccinations isn't bad, many kids still fear them. With a few simple strategies, parents can help ease both the dread and the discomfort of shots.

Soothe infants and babies:

  • Place a tiny bit of sugar on a newborn's tongue. (This probably won't help with older babies.)
  • Bring a favorite toy for baby to hold.
  • Make eye contact and smile.
  • Softly sing a favorite lullaby.
  • If you're breastfeeing, nurse your baby.
  • Afterward, hold and rock your baby in firm, loving arms.

Comfort toddlers:

Ask your doctor about using a cooling spray or topical anesthetic to numb the injection site.

  • Hold your little one on your lap, chest to chest.
  • Read a favorite story.
  • Blow the pain away. Ask your toddler to blow you kisses or to set a pinwheel spinning.

Empower older kids:

  • Ask whether your child can pick the shot site. having a sense of control may make getting vaccinated easier.

Relieve the after-pains:

Sometimes kids have soreness at an injection site or feel fussy or feverish after a shot. These things may help:

  • Place a cool, damp washcloth on the injection site.
  • Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever. Never give aspirin.
  • Serious reactions to vaccinations are rare., Still, any time you are worried about your child's health, don't hesitate to call your doctor.

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