By Susan Beane, MD
It's back-to-school time, when parents are busy making sure that their children have everything they need to start the school year on the right foot.
If you’re like many other parents, you probably have a checklist of things you need to do or purchase before your child returns to school. But one thing parents often neglect to check is whether their children are up-to-date with their immunizations.
In addition to buying pencils, pens, books, backpacks, and new clothes, you should also make sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations. Vaccines are the best way to keep kids healthy and protect them against life-threatening illnesses, including mumps, measles, rubella, influenza, and many others.
A large population of unvaccinated people – many of them children and teens – has caused some of these diseases to become a growing threat. For example, measles outbreaks were four times greater in 2011 than in previous years.1 And, pertussis (whooping cough) has been on the rise in 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that as of July 5, 2012, 37 states have reported increases in pertussis compared with the same time period in 2011. 2
By neglecting to schedule an immunization, you could be putting your child at risk for a serious health problem. Because the diseases requiring immunizations tend to be highly infectious, leaving your child unvaccinated also puts other children at school and in your community at risk.
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to taking the guesswork out of determining whether your child’s immunizations are up to date: contact your pediatrician. If you don’t have a pediatrician, be sure to visit a health clinic in your community and discuss childhood immunizations with a doctor there. You should also check with your school to see if it requires your child to have any immunizations before returning to the classroom.
Making sure that your child has all the necessary immunizations may be the most important item you need to check off on your back-to-school checklist.
Dr. Beane is Vice President and Medical Director at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthfirst Healthy Living website at www.hfhealthyliving.com.
1. WebMD. Children’s Vaccines Health Center. http://children.webmd.com/vaccines/news/20120419/us-measles-cases-outbreaks-quadruple-in-2011
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Outbreaks. http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/outbreaks.html/