Childhood Immunizations and Vaccinations:
facts and tips

Parents are often encouraged to have their children immunized against certain diseases. However, some parents may be concerned about the effects. You may have even heard tragic stories about a child having a fatal reaction to the shots. Are these vaccinations really baby killers or do they make for healthy babies?

First the Facts
Immunization works by exposing you to microorganisms of a disease in a weakened or deaden form. This exposure causes you to produce the same antibodies that you would develop if you actually had contracted the disease. If, in the future, you were really infected with the same disease, your immune system would remember and use the antibodies it developed from the vaccine to kill the disease.

However, nothing is 100% and some studies have shown that as many as 15% of children who have been vaccinated fail to produce the appropriate antibodies to a particular disease. Additionally, some children will have a negative reaction to an immunization, becoming ill and, in a very small number of cases, becoming seriously ill or even dying. But this type of reaction is far from common. Plus, with all of the thousands of children who have benefited from immunization, the odds are stacked heavily against the potential risks.

Why Get a Vaccine?
Are you familiar with infantile paralysis? Perhaps you know it by its more common name, polio. Have you ever been concerned about contracting polio? Probably not, but your parents were at risk of being infected. The reason you've never been concerned about it is because of the successful polio vaccination. Polio is just one of the diseases for which a vaccine has been developed.

Thanks to smallpox vaccinations, this disease has been almost completely eliminated. While you're probably worried about the safety of your child's car seat or crib, serious communicable diseases are not at the forefront of your thoughts. This shift in concern and thinking has developed in less than one generation.

When your parents were children, they were at risk of contracting whooping cough, measles and maybe even typhoid. And yet, in a relatively short time, these worries and fears about disease have largely been done away with thanks to immunizations.

Vaccines guard against a variety of diseases and new vaccines are being developed to help protect against other diseases. Researchers are also looking for ways to make the current vaccines better. As more and more kids get child immunizations, the chances of completely eliminating many of these diseases gets that much closer to being a reality. So, what exactly are the most important childhood vaccinations? The most important ones protect us against DTP, polio and Hib 1, MMR and Chicken Pox.

Side Effects and Complications
It is not uncommon for your child to have a mild reaction when she or he gets immunized. Normal side effects for these vaccines include redness, swelling and tenderness where the shot has been administered. Mild fever, fussiness, sleepiness and nausea are also known side effects for some of the immunizations.

Some children who have reacted to a previous vaccination may react to an MMR vaccine by developing a high fever and even having convulsions. Similarly, seizures have been known to happen in some kids who received a DPT-Polio-Hib1 vaccine. Although this may not indicate any serious problems, be sure to notify your health care provider immediately if either of these problems occurs after a vaccination.

Not all children are suited to receiving vaccines. Some things such as allergies, serious illness or previous bad reactions to vaccines may make your child ineligible for immunization. Talk with your health care provider to find out if there is anything preventing your child from getting their vaccines.

Don't Forget!
To minimize any potential risks from the vaccines, here are some things you should keep in mind. First, make sure your child is in good health. Have your health care provider do a check-up first in case a cold or some other illness is developing that you may not realize.

While most health care providers already do this, ask yours to write down the vaccine's lot or batch number as well as the manufacturer's name in your child's chart. Or, keep your own vaccination schedule. If any problems do develop, you or your health care provider can contact the correct authorities with the appropriate information.

After the immunization, keep a close eye on your child for the first 72 hours. If there are any severe reactions, report them to your child's health care provider immediately. If your child exhibits any unusual behavior within seven days of the vaccine, you should also report that. This could be a sign of brain inflammation.

Keep track of how your child reacts to any and all vaccines. At your next immunization appointment, remind your health care provider of them, even if it was just soreness at the injection site.

As always, if you have any concerns or questions about vaccines and your child, be sure to discuss them with your health care provider. They are there to provide you with the information you want.