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These Are the Vaccines Your Kid Needs Before Going Back to School

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Before our children begin the school year, there are certain vaccinations they should have, depending on the grade they’re starting. While no one’s really a fan of shots, we know they’re for our kids’ own protection as well as the protection of others. Some of these are mandatory while some are strongly suggested by pediatricians.

It can be hard to keep track of who needs which vaccine and when, especially if you have more than one child. SheKnows spoke with pediatricians who let us know the shots your child needs before they start school, why and what to look out for as far as side effects.

Before starting kindergarten or pre-K

There are several booster vaccinations that are needed prior to entering school for kids between ages 4 and 6, Dr. Mildred F. Carson, a board-certified pediatrician with over 15 years of experience in outpatient and inpatient practice, tells SheKnows. These include diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough (pertussis), polio, measles, mumps and rubella and chicken pox (varicella). 

Where are vaccinations available?

All these vaccinations are readily available at your child’s doctor’s office or health clinic, Carson says. They keep track of the vaccinations your child has had as well as when they are due for their next ones, but it’s important that parents and guardians keep an eye on this as well. It may be a good idea to ask your doctor or nurse to print out a list for you for easy access.

Possible side effects

Vaccinations do have common side effects that usually do not require intervention, Carson explains. These side effects could include irritability, fever, swelling, restlessness, decreased appetite, fussiness and discomfort or pain and/or redness at the site of injection. Your child’s pediatrician will warn you of these and most likely give you a handout walking you through what to look for.

These symptoms usually begin within 24 hours of the shots and "can last up to seven days at most but usually last three to five days," says Carson.

While most children tolerate vaccines without much difficulty, Carson says occasionally there can be some adverse reactions. If your child has a fever of over 104 degrees F, trouble breathing, swallowing difficulty, convulsions, severe weakness, difficulty waking, high-pitched crying lasting greater than an hour or nonstop crying for more than three hours, Carson says that parents should immediately seek medical attention.  

Optional vaccinations

Dr. Tania Elliott, an allergist and internist, recommends kids also get the influenza and pneumonia shots before entering school to help protect them from coming down with these conditions. She notes, however, that these vaccines are not mandatory.

Older kids

Dr. Barbara Pahud, the associate director of the vaccine unit at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, tells SheKnows that last summer, National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers issued a statement voicing support for the HPV vaccine for children.

Although the recommended age for the HPV vaccination is 11 to12 years of age, Pahud recommends that kids get the vaccine by the age of 9 “because, like any other vaccines, parents should want their children protected long before exposure.” Pahud believes receiving the HPV vaccine as early as possible is critical because it produces a more “robust immune response in preteens” than in older teens before exposure to HPV.

Shots aren’t fun for the kids or the parents, but they are essential to keeping everyone safe from outbreaks that are preventable.

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