Every year children are exposed to any number of diseases and illnesses.
You may have heard of a child catching chickenpox or whooping cough, but you may not even remember smallpox, a disease that caused scarring and blindness. That’s because there have been no cases of smallpox since 1977. Over time vaccinations have wiped-out the occurrence of many diseases like polio – which hasn’t occurred in the United States since 1999 but is still a threat in other countries.
Children should start receiving vaccinations when they are born and as they grow. These immunizations help children resist diseases and build up a defense that helps all of us stay disease-free.
Immunizations start at birth and continue into the teenage years. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains and recommends the current immunization schedule, that you can read here. The following is a list of illnesses that have a corresponding vaccination in order of when they are given to children.
Hepatitis B (HepB) – a serious liver infection that can spread by contact with an infected person.
Rotavirus – a very contagious virus, the most common cause of diarrhea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain in infants and children around the world. Diarrhea causes dehydration especially in the very young
Diptheria – a contagious disease that looks very similar to having a cold but can lead to difficulty breathing, heart failure, paralysis, and even death.
Tetanus – a disease caused by bacteria that affects the nervous system leading to painful muscle contractions.
Pertussis, also known as Whooping Cough – this disease starts like a cold and mild cough but then there are fits of coughing that are hard to stop and take all the air from the lungs, vomiting after the cough, and exhaustion because of the coughing.
Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) – this is a bacteria that causes many types of infections from bronchitis and ear infections to more serious illnesses like bloodstream infections and pneumonia.
Pneumococcal conjugate – this disease is also caused by bacteria and can lead to infections in the lungs, blood, and brain.
Poliovirus – a contagious illness that causes nerve injuries that lead to paralysis, difficulty breathing and sometimes death.
Influenza (flu) – a contagious respiratory illness that infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. The illness can be mild to severe and even result in death.
Measles – a childhood infection that is caused by a virus featuring a skin rash of large flat blotches, high fever, sore throat, and swollen eyes. It’s almost always prevented by the vaccine.
Mumps – a viral infection that the glands that produce saliva, located near the ears. In addition to muscle aches, loss of appetite, fever and feeling tired, this infection can cause hearing loss.
Rubella (formerly known as German measles) – a contagious disease caused by a virus and known for a distinct red rash in addition to fever and swollen glands. It’s a milder form of measles, lasting about three days. If a pregnant woman contracts Rubella it can cause a miscarriage or stillbirth, developing babies are at risk for severe birth defects and lifelong problems.
Varicella (also known as chickenpox) – a highly contagious disease causing an itchy, blister-like rash. Once a child has had chickenpox, the virus stays in the body near the spinal cord and brain, sometimes the virus comes back along the nerves and causes shingles.
Hepatitis A – a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness. It comes through eating or drinking contaminated food or direct contact with someone who has hepatitis a.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – a viral infection that’s passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. People can have the virus and not have any health problems, in others it causes cancer.
Meningococcal (meningitis) – although rare, this is a serious infection that affects the covering of the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed. It can also lead to a blood infection. People who survive this infection are left with disabilities like deafness, brain damage, and neurological problems.
Your doctor can answer any questions or concerns you may have about the vaccines. If your child is behind and needs to “catch up” the CDC also has a recommended timeline of which vaccines to give.