Make sure kids, teens are fully vaccinated for school
Sunday, 05 August 2012 by Keith Bahlmann
The beginning of the school year is a great time to make sure your children's vaccinations are up-to-date.
Informed parents know that immunizations save lives. But even those who vaccinated their babies and toddlers dutifully may not be aware that the recommended vaccination schedule continues through the later teen years.
Research published by the American Medical Association found that teenagers age 14 and older were much less likely to see a pediatrician than their younger-adolescent counterparts. But threats to health don't go away just because children are older.
"We live in a busy world and it's easy to forget to make appointments for an annual check-up," says Dr. Robert W. Block, MD, of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "Let the new school season be your annual reminder to protect the health of your kids."
Here are some crucial vaccination tips and facts for parents of older children and teens:
• Check your calendar. When was the last time your child saw a pediatrician? If it's been over a year, make an appointment as soon as possible. In advance of the appointment, talk with your child and draw up a list of any concerns or questions to discuss with the doctor.
• Store immunization and other medical records in an easily accessible place and be sure to keep the records current. Bring this information to the appointment. When you see your pediatrician, ask directly, "What vaccines does my child need at this point?"
• Be sure to ask about the HPV vaccine, which is recommended for both boys and girls. While protection is most effective for adolescents ages 11 to 13, older teens who haven't yet received the vaccine can benefit from it as well. This cancer-preventing vaccine will safeguard your teen's health in the future.
• If financial considerations are preventing you from taking your teen in for visits and immunizations, talk with your pediatrician. He or she may be able to point you toward resources that can offset the costs.
• All children ages 11 to 18 should be protected against meningitis, a deadly bacterial infection that's spread easily in close living quarters. If teens are going to boarding school, college or the military, do not delay giving them the vaccine.
• Every year, more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized because of the flu and its complications, and 36,000 die. An annual influenza vaccine is an important part of protecting your children. Health authorities including the AAP and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend annual flu vaccine for everyone starting at 6 months of age.
Your children's health plays an important role in their academic success. Make sure you take steps to keep him or her safe from life-threatening dangers and prepare for a healthy school year.