Regular checkups at your pediatrician's office
or local health clinic are an important way to keep children healthy.
By making sure that your child gets immunized
on time, you can provide the best available defense against many dangerous
childhood diseases. Immunizations protect children against: hepatitis B,
polio, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), pertussis (whooping cough),
diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), Haemophilus influenzae type b, and chickenpox.
All of these immunizations need to be given before children are 2 years
old in order for them to be protected during their most vulnerable period.
Are your child's immunizations up-to-date?
The chart below includes immunization recommendations
from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Remember to keep track of your
child's immunizations -- it's the only way you can be sure your child is
up-to-date. Also, check with your pediatrician or health clinic at each
visit to find out if your child needs any booster shots or if any new vaccines
have been recommended since this schedule was prepared.
If you don't have a pediatrician, call your
local health department. Public health clinics usually have supplies of
vaccine and may give shots free.
.*Please remember that we are not doctor's
This information is intended merely as an aid
to you in determining if you need to contact your child's doctor about
his/her immunization status.*
Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus (DPT/DTaP)
Infectious diseases like diphtheria and pertussis
were major killers before the DPT vaccine was developed. This vaccine also
protects against tetanus ("lockjaw"), a bacterial infection that can result
when a wound is contaminated. The bacteria enter the body through cuts
and thrive only in the absence of oxygen. So the deeper and narrower the
wound, the greater the possibility of tetanus. With proper immunization,
these diseases are rare.
Childhood immunizations for these diseases are
given together, with a series of shots starting at age two months. DTaP
is a newer version of this vaccine. It may cause a less severe reaction
in the person receiving the vaccine.
The first booster is given between ages 9 and
11. After that, get a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster every 10 years.
Keeping up to date with Td boosters is important because tetanus can be
fatal. If it has been at least five years since your last shot, and you
have a wound (especially a puncture wound) that is very dirty or that you
suspect may be contaminated, get a Td booster. Otherwise there is no need
for more frequent vaccinations because this increases the risk of an uncomfortable
Polio is a viral illness that leads to loss of
mobility or paralysis. It is rare today because of the polio vaccine. The
first vaccine is given at age two months, and the series of immunizations
gives lifelong immunity. There are now two types of polio vaccine, IPV
(inactivated virus) and OPV (live virus). IPV is now the vaccine recommended
by the CDC in Atlanta. Please discuss the problems and benefits of both
with your child's doctor. Nonimmunized adults need immunization only if
they have a high risk of polio exposure.
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)
MMR is an immunization for measles, mumps, and
rubella (German measles). Two shots (given at 12 to 15 months and 4 to
6 years) are recommended. If both doses are given, no further MMR immunization
is needed. If you have a 6 to 11month old child in an area with a measles
outbreak, call your doctor or health department to discuss having an early
MMR shot. If given early, the dose should be repeated at age 15 months.
If you don't have records showing that you received two doses of MMR vaccine,
and you did not have these illnesses as a child, discuss your need for
immunization with your doctor.
A chickenpox vaccine (Varicella) is available.
The vaccine can be given to children at age 12 months and older, and to
teens and adults who have not had the illness. Immunity lasts at least
10 years, but it is not yet clear if booster shots will be needed. You
may choose to let young children catch chickenpox, because having the illness
provides lifelong immunity. However chickenpox can occasionally have life
threatening complications, so please discuss this issue with your child's
doctor. Chickenpox is more serious in teens and adults, so if a child has
not had chickenpox by age 11, vaccination may be more important. Varicella
is now required by many states in order to attend public school. Adults
need a blood test to see if they have ever had chickenpox, and may choose
to be vaccinated if they have not. A two-shot series is needed for adults.
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
The Hepatitis B virus causes serious and sometimes
fatal liver disease. Vaccination against HBV prevents infection and its
complications. It is recommended that all infants be vaccinated against
HBV. Three shots provide long-term immunity. Immunization is also recommended
1.) Adolescents who were not previously
vaccinated, especially if they are at high risk.
2.) Health care workers.
3.) People planning extended travel
to China, Southeast Asia, and other areas where HBV infection rates are
Hepatitis A vaccine is also now required by some
states. Check with your pediatrician for your states requirement.
Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib)
Haemophilus influenzae type b does not cause the
flu. It is a serious bacterial illness that causes meningitis and may lead
to brain damage and death. Most serious Hib disease affects children between
six months and one year of age. Every child between two months and five
years should be immunized against Hib. Children over five and adults need
immunizations only if they have sickle cell anemia or spleen problems.
Reactions to Childhood Immunizations
Temporary, mild reactions to immunizations are
common. Babies often develop a fever after the DPT shot, and the location
of the shot may be hard. A mild rash or fever may develop 10 to 14 days
after the MMR vaccine is given. The rash will go away without treatment.
The Hepatitis B vaccines have caused nausea, low-grade fever, rash, and
joint pain in some adults. Acetaminophen may soothe the discomfort and
relieve fever. Some doctors recommend giving acetaminophen before the shot.
Keep written notes on any reactions you observe. Tell your health professional
if you think the reactions are excessive.
Immunizations After Age 65
Annual influenza vaccinations are recommended
for everyone age 65 and older. The vaccines are most effective when given
in the autumn. A one-time pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for those
65 and older. Younger people with chronic diseases, especially respiratory
illnesses, should also consider receiving annual flu shots and the pneumococcal
vaccine. The latter immunization may be repeated every six years.
If you are in close contact with people who have
an infectious disease or you are planning travel to areas where illnesses
such as malaria, typhoid, and yellow fever are common, talk with your health
department to ask if other immunizations are needed.
A tuberculin test is a skin test for tuberculosis,
not an immunization. A positive result does not necessarily mean that you
have tuberculosis, but it does mean the bacteria have probably entered
your body. Whether you should be tested depends on the prevalence of tuberculosis
in your area and your risk of exposure. Once you have had a positive skin
test, the test should not be repeated. Subsequent tests will always be
positive and may cause more severe reactions.