A Dose Of Prevention

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Starting at infancy, children need to be immunized against a variety of contagious diseases that can pose serious threats to their health. For school-aged children, the need to be vaccinated increases as they are exposed to other children who may have everything from the flu to chickenpox.

Before your child returns to school this year, make certain that he or she has been immunized against common diseases. Without vaccinations, children are at risk for catching dangerous illnesses that can lead to brain injury or even death.

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Some vaccines offer protection against more than one disease. DTaP covers diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough). Td covers tetanus and diphtheria only and is used as a booster shot for teens and adults. The MMR vaccine immunizes children against measles, mumps and rubella.

Following is a list of shots that children in each age range need:

  • Children ages 4 to 6 require immunization with DTaPcolor>, MMRcolor>, and poliocolor> vaccines.
  • Children ages 11 to 12 need MMRcolor>, hepatitis Bcolor>, and chickenpoxcolor> vaccines. If at least five years has gone by since their last DTaP vaccine, a booster Tdcolor> vaccine is recommended.
  • Teens ages 14 to 16 need a booster Td color> if five years have elapsed since their last shot. Health officials also recommend boosters every 10 years thereafter.
While some children experience reactions to vaccines, they are usually mild and well worth the long-term protection the child will receive.

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Some swelling and soreness at the site of the shot is normal, as is mild fever. Serious reactions are very rare, but parents should consult a physician immediately if they occur.

If you can't afford to pay for immunizations, you can get free or low-cost shots at community health centers, medical school clinics, public health clinics, children's clinics and some pediatricians' offices.

Check with your pediatrician or a local health clinic to find out what shots your child needs before the school year begins.