August is National Immunization Awareness Month


Birth to age 6 – A healthy start begins with on-time vaccinations
Immunizations can save your child’s life. Vaccines give parents the safe, proven power to protect their children from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old. Most parents choose the safe, proven protection of vaccines and are vaccinating their children according to the recommended immunization schedule. Following the recommended schedule offers the best protection. Most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like measles or whooping cough can have on a family or community. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional to make sure your children get the vaccinations they need when they need them.

School-age children – Check those vaccine records
Back-to-school season is here. It’s time for parents to gather school supplies and backpacks. It’s also the perfect time to make sure your children are up to date on their vaccines. Many vaccine-preventable diseases can easily spread in child care and school settings. Protecting your children from preventable diseases will help keep them healthy and in school. Talk to your child’s doctor to find out which vaccines are recommended for them before going back to school.

Preteens and teens – Ensure a healthy future with vaccines
Some of the childhood vaccines wear off over time, so preteens and teens need shots to help stay protected from serious diseases like tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). As children get older, they are at increased risk of getting certain diseases like meningococcal disease and infections that can lead to HPV cancers. Specific vaccines, like HPV vaccine, are given during the preteen years (ages 11 to 12) because they are needed before being exposed to the virus. Vaccines do more than protect your child. Some diseases, like whooping cough and the flu, can be deadly for newborns or babies who are too young to be vaccinated themselves. You can help protect our littlest community members from being exposed to vaccine-preventable diseases by making sure your child gets all the recommended vaccines.

Adults – Vaccines aren’t just for kids
Vaccines are recommended throughout your life. Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, you may be at risk for other diseases due to your age, job, lifestyle, travel or health condition. In addition, the protection from some vaccines can wear off over time. For example, adults need to get vaccinated for protection against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (Tdap), even if they were vaccinated as a child or have been sick with any of these diseases in the past; neither provides lifelong protection. All adults need vaccinations to protect against serious diseases that could result in severe illness requiring medical treatment or even hospitalization, missed work and not being able to care for family. These diseases include influenza (flu), shingles, pneumonia, hepatitis and whooping cough. Adults who aren’t up to date on their vaccines are at greater risk of getting and spreading certain vaccine-preventable diseases. It is especially important for older adults and those with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes to get vaccinated because they are at increased risk for complications from diseases. Talk with your health care professional or local health department about which vaccines are right for you based on your age, health, job, lifestyle and other factors.

Pregnant women – Protect yourself and pass protection to your baby
Get off to a healthy start by making sure that your immunizations are up to date before becoming pregnant. There are two vaccines routinely recommended during pregnancy: flu (to protect against influenza) and Tdap (to protect against whooping cough). Vaccines protect you against serious diseases and prevent you from passing diseases on to your baby. The vaccines you get during pregnancy will provide your baby with some disease protection (immunity) that will last the first few months of life before babies are able to get their own vaccines. Your pregnancy is a good time to start learning about the safe, proven disease protection that vaccines can provide for your baby. Many vaccine-preventable diseases, rarely seen in the United States, are still common in other parts of the world. A pregnant woman planning international travel should talk to her health care professional about travel vaccines.

Community immunity – vaccines protect all of us – Don’t Wait, Vaccinate
Protecting our children and ourselves also protects our community. Some babies are too young to be completely vaccinated. Some people may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, weakened immune systems or other reasons. To help keep them safe and protected from vaccine-preventable diseases, it is important that you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones.

Denise Hagan, RN, BSN, MA, is public health services coordinator for the Macomb County Health Department. Information in this article was also taken from the National Immunization Awareness Month website.

Back-to-school infection prevention
On avoiding infections and contracting illnesses, Dr. Anthony Ognjan, an infectious diseases specialist with McLaren Macomb, urges vaccinations and hygienic best practices.

“This time of year, with back to school and the older kids heading up to college, we tend to see an increase in infectious illnesses,” he said. “This is directly related to our kids living and studying in close proximity—prime conditions for the spread of germs and other disease-causing pathogens.”

Dr. Ognjan recommends vaccinations as doing more than anything to prevent infections.

So can good hygienic practices, especially in close-quarter conditions such as college dorms and daycare centers.

Major points of entry for infection of the body include eyes, nose and mouth—both through inhalation and contaminated food.

“Wash everything and avoid sharing,” Dr. Ognjan said. “Practice good personal hygiene—washing hands frequently, staying home if you have a respiratory infection and not sharing food if you have an infection of any kind.”

Anything that has possibly been exposed to respiratory germs, avoid until it has been thoroughly cleaned. Don’t share drinks or food, wash your hands and face diligently and frequently, especially right after coming into contact with something or someone that might have been exposed.

David Jones is a media relations representative for McLaren Macomb.

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