School Smarts: Information parents need about vaccinations
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- When children head off to school, they're likely to bring home any number of bugs. Parents need to protect their own health and the health of the entire family --especially younger children. Pediatrician Heather Felton, M. D. from U of L Pediatrics Stonestreet says vaccines can make a difference.
Public schools do require some vaccines for children to attend school. But that depends on the age of the child. There are a group of vaccines that are required for children entering preschool and kindergarten.
These children need: -DTAP for protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, also known as whooping cough. -Hepatitis B. -Polio vaccine. -MMR for protection against measles, mumps and rubella. -Varicella, also known as chicken pox vaccine.
In the sixth grade, students get booster shots: -TDAP, which increases immunity against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. -MCV, which protects them from a type of meningitis.
There are other vaccines for parents to consider along the way as well, for protection against pneumonia, meningitis and HPV. That's why it's important for parents to stay in touch with their pediatricians and decide what's right for their children. Pediatricians like Dr. Felton will tell you that vaccines help prevent the spread of potentially life-threatening diseases. But some parents worry about their children receiving all these vaccines. The most important thing is for parents to open a communication with their doctors and to educate themselves about vaccines. There are also websites with good information. But there are websites with misleading information, too. So Dr. Felton suggests parents who want more, reliable information use these resources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.Cdc.gov and The American Academy of Pediatrics www.Aap.org
Many children worry about getting their shots, too. Some might feel better with a little preparation. To help kids deal with their anxiety, try:
Don't promise the needle prick won't hurt, as it does, though the amount varies. The truth may cause some worry, but lying means that your child can't trust you, which sets a bad precedent. Promise them that you will be with them, and the pain won't last long. You can also practice at home with a light pinch on the arm to demonstrate what a shot might feel like.
There are also children's books such as "Lions Aren't Scared of Shots," written by a doctor at George Washington University School of Medicine, that might also help them feel less anxious.
Eliminate the element of surprise by teaching your child what to expect at the appointment.
Read books to them about visiting the doctor, and encourage them to play doctor. Buy a doctor kit and go through the routine of what happens at the doctor's office. Let them give a pretend shot to a stuffed animal. Explain that everyone needs shots, and even though they might hurt for a minute, they help make people healthier. Calling attention to something else.
When a shot is imminent, distraction may work. How to distract your child during the shot depends on age. Babies and toddlers can be distracted with singing, stories or playing with a small toy. Older children respond well to watching videos or listening to stories or music. Cell phones can also be used to show children movies or photographs.
If one shot per doctor's visit is all your anxious child can endure, consider these options: -Most children age 2 and older can get FluMist, a safe, effective, painless nasal spray given annually that's an alternative to an annual flu shot. -Some doctor's offices offer synchronized vaccinations. If a child needs two shots at the same visit, two nurses give the shots simultaneously, which reduces the anxiety of waiting for the second shot. Parents can ask for this, if the doctor has enough staff on hand to accommodate the technique.
To contact Dr. Heather Felton, call U of L Pediatrics Stonestreet at 588-0610 or go to: www.UofLphysicians.com