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Patient education: Vaccines for babies and children age 0 to 6 years (The Basics)

Patient education: Vaccines for babies and children age 0 to 6 years (The Basics)

What are vaccines? — Vaccines can prevent certain serious or deadly infections. They are a way of teaching your body how to fight the germs that cause infections. Thanks to vaccines, many fewer people get seriously ill or die from infections than in the past.

Vaccines usually come in shots, but some come as nose sprays or medicines that children swallow. When a person gets a vaccine, this is called "vaccination" or "immunization."

Why should my child get vaccinated? — Getting vaccinated can help keep your child from getting sick. If your child does get sick, being vaccinated can keep them from getting severely ill. Plus, being vaccinated also helps protect the people around your child from getting sick.

What vaccines do babies and children get? — In the US, doctors recommend that babies and children get vaccines that can prevent the following infections:

Hepatitis B – Hepatitis B can cause long-term liver problems or liver cancer.

Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis – Vaccines to prevent these 3 different diseases are usually grouped together in 1 shot. Diphtheria can cause a thick covering in the back of the throat that can lead to breathing problems. Tetanus causes the muscles to work abnormally. Pertussis, also called "whooping cough," can cause a severe cough.

Polio – Polio can cause muscle weakness and pain, and lead to long-term paralysis. Paralysis is when people are unable to move their arms or legs.

Rotavirus – Rotavirus can cause severe diarrhea. Babies and children who have severe diarrhea can lose too much water and get "dehydrated."

Haemophilus influenzae type B, called "Hib" – Hib can cause an infection of the skin, throat, joints, or tissues around the brain.

Pneumococcus – Pneumococcus is a germ that can cause an infection of the lungs, ears, blood, or tissues around the brain.

Measles, mumps, and rubella, called "MMR" – Vaccines to prevent these 3 different diseases are grouped together in 1 shot. Measles can cause a rash, fever, and cough. It can lead to long-term problems with the lungs, ears, or brain. Mumps causes swelling of glands in the cheeks, and can lead to long-term problems of the brain or testes. Rubella is also called "German measles." If a person gets rubella while they are pregnant, it can harm the baby's health.

Chickenpox – Chickenpox can cause a fever, sore throat, and rash. Some children with chickenpox can get very sick and get a lung or brain infection.

Hepatitis A – Hepatitis A does not usually cause problems in children, but can cause severe liver disease in adults. Children who get the hepatitis A vaccine help prevent the adults around them from getting the infection.

Flu – The flu can cause fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, or sore throat.

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – COVID-19 can cause a fever, cough, and trouble breathing, along with other symptoms. Children age 6 months and older can get a COVID-19 vaccine.

How many vaccine doses does my child need? — Each vaccine is different. Some vaccines work after just 1 dose. But most need 2 or more doses to prevent an infection. For most vaccines, it takes a couple of weeks before a person is fully protected.

At what ages will my child get vaccines? — Different vaccines are given at different ages. Most babies get their first vaccine at birth, when they get their first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine. After that, most healthy children follow a set vaccine schedule (table 1). Even though doctors follow a set vaccine schedule, children can get certain vaccine doses at different times. For example, children can get their third dose of the polio vaccine any time from 6 to 18 months old.

Some children will follow a different vaccine schedule. Children might be on a different schedule if they:

Have certain medical problems

Started getting their vaccines later than usual

Started getting their vaccines on time, but then missed doses and fell behind schedule

Your child's doctor or nurse will recommend a vaccine schedule that is right for your child.

Do vaccines cause side effects? — Often, vaccines cause no side effects. When they do cause side effects, they can cause:

Redness, mild swelling, or soreness where the shot was given

A mild fever

A mild rash

Headache or body aches

Most of these side effects happen within 1 to 2 days of getting the vaccine. But they can happen 1 to 2 weeks after getting the shot for chickenpox or the shot for measles, mumps, and rubella. These side effects do not mean your child is sick, just that their immune system (infection-fighting system) is responding to the vaccine.

Vaccines also sometimes cause more serious side effects than those listed, such as severe allergic reactions. But serious side effects are rare.

Ask your child's doctor or nurse what side effects to expect each time your child gets a vaccine. If your child has a reaction or a problem after a vaccine, let the doctor or nurse know.

What if my child is sick, and they are supposed to get a vaccine? — If your child is sick and supposed to get a vaccine, let the doctor or nurse know. Depending on the type of vaccine and your child's symptoms, the doctor or nurse might give your child the vaccine or wait until your child is better.

Should I keep track of my child's vaccines? — Yes. It's important to know which vaccines your child has gotten and when they got them. Many schools and day cares need this information before they let a child in. Ask your child's doctor or nurse if they can give you a list. They might also be able to show you how to access this information online.

Is there a benefit to delaying vaccines until my child gets a little older? — No. Some parents think it helps to let children get older than the recommended vaccination ages before giving them too many vaccines. The truth is, studies show that delaying vaccines could actually have downsides. For example, 1 study found that children who got their first MMR vaccine later than they were supposed to had a higher risk of fever-related seizures after getting the vaccine. The vaccine schedules doctors recommend have been carefully studied. Do not delay your child's vaccines.

Can I do anything to help with my child's pain? — Getting a shot can hurt, but usually the pain goes away quickly. There are also things you can do to help reduce your child's pain. These are listed in the table (table 2).

More on this topic

Patient education: What you should know about vaccines (The Basics)
Patient education: Chickenpox (The Basics)
Patient education: Hepatitis B (The Basics)
Patient education: Flu (The Basics)
Patient education: Pneumonia in children (The Basics)
Patient education: Meningitis in children (The Basics)
Patient education: Whooping cough (The Basics)
Patient education: Vaccines for children age 7 to 18 years (The Basics)
Patient education: Giving your child over-the-counter medicines (The Basics)

Patient education: Vaccines for infants and children age 0 to 6 years (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Why does my child need vaccines? (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Vaccines for children age 7 to 18 years (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 01, 2023.
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