April is National Infant Immunization Month
Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, may require hospitalization, or even be deadly — especially in infants and young children. Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children, and teens from potentially harmful diseases.
How Vaccines Prevent Diseases
Vaccines reduce the risk of infection by working with the body’s natural defenses to help it safely develop immunity to disease.
When germs such as bacteria and viruses invade the body, they attack and multiply. This invasion is called an infection, and the infection is what causes illness. The immune system then has to fight the infection. Once it fights off the infection, the body is left with a supply of cells that help recognize and fight that disease in the future.
Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection. This imitation infection does not cause illness, however. It causes the immune system to develop the same response as it does to a real infection so the body can recognize and fight the real infection in the future. Sometimes, after getting a vaccine, the imitation infection can cause minor symptoms, such as fever. These minor symptoms are normal and should be expected as the body builds immunity.
Vaccines and Your Child’s Immune System
If you are a parent, you may get upset or concerned when you watch your baby get multiple shots during a doctor’s visit, but all of those shots protect your baby against up to 14 infectious diseases. Young children are especially susceptible to vaccinepreventable diseases, so their vaccine schedule is designed to protect them when they are most vulnerable, and before they are likely to be exposed.
Although children continue to get several vaccines up to their second birthday, these vaccines do not overload the immune system. Every day, your healthy baby’s immune system successfully fights off millions of antigens—the parts of germs that cause the body’s immune system to respond. The antigens in vaccines come from weakened or killed germs so they cannot cause serious illness. Vaccines contain only a tiny amount of the antigens that your baby encounters every day, even if your child receives several vaccines in one day.
What about combination vaccines? These shots are a combination of two or more vaccines that could be given individually—but with fewer shots.
Before the Visit:
- Come prepared! Take these steps before your child gets a shot to help make the immunization visit less stressful on you both
- Find your child’s personal immunization record and bring it to your appointment. An up-to-date record tells your doctor exactly what shots your child has already received
- Learn more about the benefits and risks of the vaccines that your child will receive by reviewing vaccine information statements. You can find these online or request them at your doctor’s office
- A mild illness is usually not a reason to reschedule a vaccination visit
- Pack a favorite toy or book, and a blanket that your child uses regularly to comfort your child
- Read any vaccine materials you received from your child’s health care professional and write down any questions you may have
For Older Children:
- Avoid telling scary stories or making threats about shots
- Be honest with your child. Explain that shots can pinch or sting, but that it won’t hurt for long
- Engage other family members, especially older siblings, to support your child
- Remind children that vaccines can keep them healthy
At the Doctor’s Office:
If you have questions about immunizations, ask your child’s doctor or nurse. Your child’s doctor will give you Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for the shots that your child will be getting that day. The VIS includes information about the risks and benefits of each vaccine. If your doctor doesn’t give you one you can request one.
Before you leave the appointment, ask your child’s doctor for advice on using nonaspirin pain reliever and other steps you can take at home to comfort your child.
|Tips to Make Shots Less Stressful
For babies and younger children:
For older children and adolescents:
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