Thursday, October 9, 2008

Health Care and Vaccines

Roughly 25% of parents are not sure about vaccines for children according to a new study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) noted in an article announced by Reuters Health this week. And, their doctor is a big reason for that concern. Many times, their is a lack of trust between patient and provider, and information can be sometimes difficult to find or understand about possible side effects, especially if there is a language or culture gap. However, according to HealthLink at the Medical College of Wisconsin, vaccines offer safe and effective protection from infectious diseases that have caused millions of illnesses and deaths. Vaccines have already eradicated smallpox worldwide, eliminated polio in the US, and significantly reduced the number of cases of measles, diphtheria, rubella, pertussis and other diseases. But there are still some areas where low immunization rates have led to disease outbreaks. By staying up to date on recommended vaccines, you protect yourself, your family and your community from serious, life-threatening diseases.

HealthLink reports that vaccines work this way: when people are exposed to disease germs, they produce substances called antibodies to fight them off. Usually, the antibodies destroy the invaders and the illness is prevented. Vaccines are made from the same germs (or parts of them) that cause disease, but the germs in vaccines are either killed or weakened so they won't make us sick. Vaccines cause us to produce antibodies against that particular illness just as it would if the real disease was attacking. The antibodies usually stay in our immune system for a lifetime and protect us from getting sick with the same disease again. This protection is called immunity. Most childhood vaccines give immunity to 90% to 99% of the children who get them. But occasionally a child will not respond to certain vaccines. This is another reason why it's important for all children to be vaccinated. Children who haven't responded to vaccination have to depend on the immunity of others around them for protection.

For most of these vaccines, the first shots should be given when children are still babies according to HealthLink. Children can be vaccinated at the doctor's office or at the local health department. Keep a list of the shots each child has received so you know when your children need more shots. Children will need these records to start most schools. Most of these shots can be given at any age, and a child who has gotten behind does not have to start over. The shots already given will still count, and the child will still develop immunity. Contact your doctor or health department clinic for details about getting back on schedule. Children are especially vulnerable to infections, so most vaccines are given during the first five to six years of life. Recommended vaccinations begin soon after birth. Ask about special programs that provide shots for kids - many public health clinics offer free vaccines or charge a small service fee.
Being aware of the vaccines that are recommended for infants, children, adolescents and adults - and making sure you receive these immunizations - is vital to protecting everyone. More info on what vaccines, how they work, and when to be administered can be found on the HealthLink site.

Here are some tips about Vaccine Safety from HealthLink:
1.) Vaccines are very safe, but they are not perfect. Like any other medicine they can cause reactions. Usually these are mild, like a sore arm or a slight fever. Serious reactions are rare; your doctor or nurse can explain any risks. Keep in mind that in almost every case, getting the disease is much more dangerous than getting the shot.
2.) Tell your doctor if anyone in your family has had a bad reaction to a vaccine, and ask if there are any reasons why a vaccine is not recommended. After receiving a vaccine, children might be fussy due to pain, fever or other mild reactions.
3.) If children have pain:
Give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Do not give aspirin to children - it can have serious side effects in some cases.
4.) If children have a fever:
--Give them plenty to drink.
--Clothe them lightly - do not cover or wrap them tightly.
--Give them acetaminophen. Do not use aspirin.
--Sponge them in a few inches of lukewarm (not cold) bath water.
5.) If a child's arm or leg is swollen, hot or red where the shot was given:
--Put a clean, cool washcloth over the sore area for comfort.
--If redness or tenderness increases after 24 hours, call the doctor's office or clinic.
--Give acetaminophen for pain. Do not give aspirin.
6.) Call the doctor's office or clinic if children:
--Become pale or limp.
--Have been crying for more than 3 hours and won't stop.
--Have rectal temperature of 105°F or higher.
--Have a high-pitched cry that isn't normal.
--Are shaking, twitching or jerking.
--Continue to fuss for more than 24 hours.

The CDC recommends the following vaccines for teens and college students, especially new freshmen in college dorms:
--Tetanus-Diptheria-Pertussis vaccine
--Meningococcal vaccine*
--HPV vaccine series
--Hepatitis B vaccine series
--Polio vaccine series
--Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine series
--Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine series
--Influenza vaccine
--Pneumococcal polysaccharid (PPV) vaccine
--Hepatitis A vaccine series

Keeping up with vaccinations at home and abroad is a very serious matter. Choosing to ignore them can be a very dangerous decision. So far this year, the US is seeing more breakouts of communicable diseases due to lack of vaccinations, especially in the new immigrant populations coming into the country. Additionally, there are reports of widespread pandemics in certain parts of the world, including many third world or underdeveloped nations, that have led to high death rate among both adults and children. Diseases such as Measles, Smallpox, and worse can be picked up easily if exposure to infected individuals happens, and you have not been vaccinated. For much detailed information about vaccines, you can visit websites such as Vaccines.org or the CDC.gov to get up to speed on vaccinations.

Until next time. Let me know what you think.

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