Prepare your student for school with vaccinations

Aug 20 2013 - 12:08am

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LAYTON -- With school starting up this week, doctors are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against several preventable diseases, so they can have a healthy year.

Dr. Jason Hoagland, a pediatrician at Tanner Clinic and chief of pediatrics at Davis Hospital and Medical Center, said kids starting kindergarten most frequently need their boosters for DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough), polio, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and varicella (chickenpox). Some of these can be given together in combination vaccinations.

Occasionally, some children are behind on their vaccine schedule and need additional vaccines before school starts. Kids starting

junior high, Hoagland said, most frequently need their Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough) booster, which is for older children and adults.

"Many have not received a second varicella booster. I recommend getting their flu vaccine, meningococcal vaccine (meningitis) and gardasil (cervical cancer and other benefits) vaccine, which is the only vaccine proven to prevent a cancer," Hoagland said.

Although the peak age for meningococcal meningitis is during the college years, Hoagland said there are kids in high school and younger who die from it as well. Hoagland said he encourages the vaccination as soon as they start

junior high school, but they can get it as young as nine months of age.

"I love any opportunity to prevent a disease instead of having a child or parent suffer through a disease," Hoagland said.

That's why he strongly recommends kids getting the influenza vaccine.

"True influenza disease is a really bad disease. So many think it is a disease that just causes diarrhea and throwing up. Flu contributes to the death of 20,000 to 30,000 people a year, mostly small children and elderly. It isn't just a stomach bug, but a severe respiratory infection that will keep children out of school for a week and cause parents to miss a week of work."

Hoagland said flu vaccines are amazing when they match up with the circulating strain of flu that year, and still help you not get as sick if it is not a great match.

"So many people want to avoid vaccines because of the potential for complications. I equate this to not wanting to wear a seat belt out of fear that you would drown if you could not get the belt off if you ever crashed into a lake," he said.

"Has that ever happened? Yes, but the much greater concern is not wearing the seat belt for the everyday crashes, where you could have prevented injury or death, against the uncommon or rare possibility that the vaccine causes more problems than benefit. I believe choice is a gift, and I completely support parents' choices, but I work to advocate to help children, including receiving all immunizations."

Hoagland said every choice has a consequence, so he tries to help parents understand the benefits of the vaccine as well as the potential consequences of leaving a child vulnerable to a disease, despite whatever the latest celebrity on TV says.

Aside from vaccinations, what is the best way for kids to stay healthy this year?

Hoagland said so many of the diseases kids get are spread through contact and the air. Through no fault of the school, schools can be real cesspools of germs.

"Kids come to school sick, and they shed a lot of virus through their runny noses and sneezing. Sneeze in your elbow. If kids are sick, have them stay home," he said. "So many kids come to school sick with pressure on attendance or parents having to miss work to take care of them at home."

Hoagland said to make sure each child has some hand sanitizer in his or her backpack for frequent hand hygiene. He also encourages teachers to allow students to use any classroom-supplied sanitizer often.

Also, get the kids outside to get their vitamin D levels up, limit screen time to no more than an hour a day and make sure they are exercising an hour a day -- something that gets them sweaty and that they enjoy, he said.

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