What are Immunizations?
Immunizations, also referred to as vaccinations are specifically designed to help protect you and your child from certain diseases. These immunizations are administered as shots which consist of tiny amounts of dead, weakened organisms (viruses or bacteria) that cause the disease. It causes the immune system to produce antibodies that will attack the organism if you are exposed to it. While immunizations do not completely prevent disease, if you have been vaccinated, you will experience milder symptoms.
Benefits of Immunization
Immunizations have a number of benefits and these include:
- Protects you and your child against certain diseases
- Helps the immune system build resistance against disease
- Minimizes the spread of disease to others and prevents epidemics
- Cost effective way of getting treated for diseases
- Often required for entrance into daycare facilities, school, college, employment or travel to another country
- If you are planning to get pregnant or if your partner is pregnant, it is necessary that your vaccinations are up to date to protect the baby
- Fewer side effects
The childhood immunization schedule outlines the following immunizations and booster shots and these include:
- Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (also known as whooping cough)
- Measles, mumps, and rubella.
- Hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis A.
- Bacterial meningitis
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, or Hib disease
- Pneumococcal disease
- Flu (influenza)
When should Immunizations be administered to my child?
A series of immunizations and booster shots are given at 2, 4 and 6 months of age and then again, at 15 and 18 months. Children between the ages of 4 and 6 years of age will also receive vaccinations. Although fewer immunizations are needed after the age of 6, older children and adolescents should also receive vaccines.
A specific childhood immunization schedule is outlined every year and it is recommended that children are given their vaccinations as soon as possible so that they are protected against diseases. Very often it is a pre-requisite to produce proof of your child’s immunizations when enrolling them in a day care environment or school. Proof of immunizations may also need to be produced when traveling or enrolling at a college.
Adults are often unaware of the importance of immunization and believe that it ends at childhood. Immunization that is needed as an adult depends on factors such as age, gender, lifestyle, type and locations of travel, overall health, and previous vaccines you had as a child. An adult immunization schedule is available each year from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your physician will review your medical and immunization history to decide what shots you may need.
Immunization administered during adulthood includes:
Additional immunizations may be necessary for people whose risk of exposure to disease may be increased and these include:
- Meningococcal (MCV4 or MPSV4, depending on your age)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) for women
What are the side effects of Immunizations?
There can be side effects from immunizations as it entails injecting a virus into your body. If serious side effects such as severe allergic reactions, difficulty breathing or a fever over 104.5F do develop, it is important that you consult with your health practitioner immediately.
Common reactions that may occur include:
- Mild pain
- Swelling, soreness or redness on the area where the injection was given
- Muscle ache or joint pain after a measles-mumps-rubella shot
- Mild rash after chickenpox or measles-mumps-rubella shots for about 7 to 14 days
- Slight fever
- Fussiness (often seen in babies)
- Loss of appetite
Problems with immunization
There has been great controversy with regards to conventional immunization due to the possible link between immunization and autism in young children. People have expressed concern that mercury-containing thimerosal (used as a preservative) may be responsible for causing autism. Preliminary studies indicate that there is no link between immunization and autism, but more research is needed.
Natural remedies can go a long way to provide a safer and gentler alternative to conventional immunizations by strengthening the body’s natural resilience to disease. Certain herbs and homeopathic ingredients help protect against viruses and bacteria, and with regular use can also prevent certain diseases. Herbs such as Hypoxis Rooperi, Agathosma Betulina (buchu), Mentha Piperita, Solidago Virgaurea (Goldenrod) and Viscum Album boosts the immune system, overall health and vitality.
Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceous, Inula helenium and Withania somnifera also support a developing immune system, especially in children, and promotes circulation and good health. In addition, the homeopathic version of the flu vaccine contains ingredients such as Influenzinum, Bacillinum, Gelsemium and Nux vomica to protect the body against the current flu viruses.
There are several preventative measures that can be taken together with the recommended immunizations to reduce your risk of contracting certain diseases:
- Eat a healthy well balanced diet containing fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meat and fish
- Drink plenty of water – at least eight glasses per day flush to detox your system and flush toxins from the body and keep it hydrated
- Practice good hygiene habits such as washing your hands thoroughly before eating, preparing food, handling pets and being outside
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze to prevent germs from spreading
- Exercise regularly to benefit your overall health
- Avoid sharing personal items such as eating and drinking utensils with someone who has the flu
- Increase your intake of multivitamin supplements
- Ensure that you have a good night’s rest
- Manage your stress effectively by going for a brisk walk, playing a sport, listening to soothing music, meditating or practicing deep breathing exercises
- Stop smoking and cut back on excessive alcohol consumption