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Immunizations and Well-Checks Should Top Back-to-School List

Summer months are great time to take care of vaccinations and paperwork needed for school

DAYTON, Ohio (July 2, 2013) – Scheduling a visit to a child’s primary care physician is an important step for good health, as parents plan for going back-to-school this fall.

Caregivers need to remember the old adage “the earlier the better” whether it comes to completing medical paperwork for a teenager involved in sports or getting a preschooler immunized in order to enter kindergarten. Both happen more smoothly when a child’s medical care hasn’t experienced any interruptions – such as missed immunizations, according to Tracie Bolden, MD, of Fairfield Road Physician Offices, a Premier HealthNet practice.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of timing requirements with these vaccinations and it is not uncommon when I will see a child (for vaccinations), we will discover that something was missed, often because an appointment was missed,” Dr. Bolden said. “So, it is always important for the parent to inquire about whether their child is up-to-date and if they will be able to get the needed vaccinations in time to enter school.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), making sure that children of all ages receive on-time vaccinations is one of the most important things parents can do to ensure their children’s long-term health – as well as the health of friends, classmates, and others in the community. It also helps protect against disease outbreaks that can create unnecessary deaths in the community, the CDC said.

Kindergarten is the most common time for children to update their immunizations since a record is required before a child can attend school. At that time, children receive booster shots for vaccinations they received in previous years. Those include a vaccination for DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), Hepatitis B, varicella (chicken pox), measles, mumps and rubella. Still, vaccinations should remain a priority as children grow up since immunization schedules and requirements evolve over the years, Dr. Bolden said.

For instance, children entering junior high school are now encouraged to receive another DTaP booster because that particular vaccine helps guard against the whooping cough, an illness that has been on the rise in recent years. And the Gardasil vaccine – given to teenagers to help protect against certain cancers – is an example of a newer immunization recommended for this age group.

“It’s important for children to receive their vaccinations because things are always changing,” Dr. Bolden said. “There have been so many shots where boosters have been added. You see kids who only received the one chicken pox vaccine and then they end up getting the disease. So the bottom line – the whole point of the booster – is to help get your immune system back up to par so that if you are exposed to the disease you already have the antibodies to help keep you healthy.”

Unfortunately, misconceptions still remain over the importance of vaccinations. Some parents don’t see them as necessary since they help guard against diseases that are very rare. However, outbreaks still happen. According to the CDC, preliminary data through late July 2012 showed that more than 20,000 cases of whooping cough (pertussis) had been reported in the US. Outbreaks of pertussis at middle and high schools can occur as protection from childhood vaccines fades, the CDC said.

Another disease that can spread easily in a school environment, according to the CDC, is measles. In 2011, the number of reported cases of measles was higher than usual – 222 people had the disease in the U.S. Measles can be serious, causing hospitalization and even death.

Dr. Bolden encourages parents to use the months leading up to a new school year to schedule well-checks for their children. It’s during those visits that immunizations can be brought up to date and that paperwork often necessary for involvement in upcoming sports can be completed. After all, a clean bill of health ought to be just as important as finding that perfect backpack to sport on the first day back into the classroom.

View frequently asked questions about pediatric health

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