With the start of the school year, making sure your child’s vaccinations are up to date is a smart move for kids entering close classroom quarters, and may even be a requirement for some local school districts.
School-aged children should already be protected from the most common virulent diseases, but it may be worth double-checking immunization records against some of the more easily spread illnesses that are making a comeback. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that whooping cough (pertussis) is on the rise with an estimated 20,000 cases and nine deaths having already been reported in the U.S. Earlier this year, several schools in the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia areas reported outbreaks of the disease, which causes uncontrollable, violent coughing episodes and breathing difficulties.
Chances are good that your child is already protected from whooping cough if they’ve received the DTaP vaccine, which also protects from diphtheria and tetanus, but protection from childhood vaccines fades over time – one reason outbreaks occur more frequently at middle and high schools. A booster shot, called Tdap, is recommended for 11 and 12 year olds, with subsequent boosters every 10 years thereafter.
Another disease that spreads easily in school environments and is making a comeback is measles. Young children who are at a higher risk for serious complications from the illness have probably already received the MMR vaccine in infancy to protect against measles, mumps and rubella, but a second MMR vaccination is required for children around 4 or 5 years of age before starting school.
Chicken pox vaccines for young children have become routine, but several other optional vaccines could help protect young children from potentially fatal illnesses. Rotavirus and pneumonia (PCV) vaccines are two that can protect children from unnecessary physical distress, cutting down the risk of serious health complications.
Vaccinations aren’t just for babies and younger children – older children and teenagers are also at risk for certain diseases. In fact, if your child is heading off to college this fall, something to keep in mind is that diseases like meningitis spread easily in crowded dorms, which is why some universities require proof of vaccination before allowing students to move into on-campus housing. If your college-aged student has already had the meningococcal vaccine, but it’s been more than five years, they’ll need a booster to update their immunization records. It’s also a good idea to have immunization records on hand so that you don’t miss registration deadlines.
As always, annual flu vaccines are always recommended for anyone over 6 months old to curb potential transmissions and cut down on the number of sick days this school year.
Making sure children of every age stay up to date with vaccinations is the best way to protect our communities and schools from outbreaks, and get off on the right foot this school year.
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