Protecting your children is a big part of your job as a parent. Doing what you can to prevent your children from getting sick is one of the ways you protect them. You can protect your children from several major illnesses through immunization.
Babies are born with a certain amount of immunity from their mothers, but this doesn’t last past the first year of life, and they then become susceptible to a number of diseases. Fortunately, in Canada, we have free vaccinations available to protect our children against diseases such as polio, measles, mumps and whooping cough.
When we get sick, our body makes antibodies infection fighting protein molecules in blood or in fluids made by the body. Antibodies fight the illness and help us to recover. Then, the antibodies stay in our bodies, preventing us from getting the same illness again. We then will have an immunity.
Immunization – What Is It?
Immunization is when a vaccine is given to a person to provide immunity to certain kinds of disease. A vaccine contains weak or “dead” versions of the bacteria or viruses that cause a particular disease or group of diseases. When the vaccine is given (usually by needle injection, but sometimes by a liquid taken by mouth), the vaccine tricks the body into reacting as though its being attacked by a disease. Then it makes the antibodies that fight that disease. If your child is immunized against a disease, she will not get the disease if exposed to it.
What Diseases Can My Child Be Immunized Against?
- Pneumococcal disease
- Influenzae type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis B
- Measles (red measles)
- Meningococcal disease
- Tetanus (lockjaw)
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- Blood infection
Why Is Immunization So Important?
When children who have not been immunized come into contact with someone who has one of the diseases listed, they may get very sick. In some cases, they may die. When children are immunized, their bodies have the chance to fight off these diseases.
How Does My Child Get Immunized?
- Ask your doctor or a public health nurse for the immunization schedule for your province or territory. They can also tell you which vaccines are covered by your provincial or territorial government. Also ask where and when you can get your child immunized.
- Ask for a written record to help you keep track of your child’s immunizations. This is helpful to have when you visit your child’s doctor for a check-up.
What About Side Effects?
Minor side effects may include fever, or swelling and tenderness at the spot where the vaccine was given. Ask your doctor, pharmacist or public health nurse if your child can take children’s acetaminophen to help reduce these side effects.