What immunisations should you get?
We all need to make sure we're up to date with routine vaccinations, and you can also opt to be immunised against the flu.
"It's most important to follow the vaccination schedule, and most children are very well protected by 12 months for the most common childhood illnesses," says Dr Eydis Konradsdottir, a Sydney GP and mum to three boys. "If someone has missed their vaccinations, then they need to develop a catch-up plan." Making sure you're up to date protects both you and your children, as well as any newborn babies and vulnerable people you come into contact with.
Even if you think you're up to date, there may be some illnesses you're no longer protected from, such as whooping cough. Immunity from the whooping cough vaccine lasts only up to 10 years. The good news is, a free whooping-cough vaccination is available to pregnant women in many states and territories of Australia, which helps – from birth – to protect their babies.
More good news: the flu vaccine is safe for both children and adults, including pregnant women. If only there was a vaccine against the common cold, right? Especially because children can catch as many as 10 colds a year (compared with only two to four for adults). "There are too many different viruses that cause the common cold – 250 – and it's too hard to make a vaccine that covers them all," says Konradsdottir.
Why do you need them?
Immunisation is a simple, safe and effective way to avoid the flu and other diseases that can make you seriously ill and sometimes cause death. For example, in addition to whooping cough, some of the other common diseases routinely immunised against, such as rubella (German measles), measles and mumps, can all have a serious impact on health. And nobody wants that!
Some people think of the flu as a bad cold, but it's much more serious – it causes thousands of hospitalisations every year. "It's important for kids to avoid getting the flu because it can make children (especially immunocompromised children) extremely sick," says Konradsdottir.
When enough of us are immunised, we stop the disease from spreading and can eventually wipe it out for good in Australia (like we did with the smallpox vaccination).
When do you need to get them?
The immunisation schedule tells us when children should have their routine immunisations, and they can have the flu vaccine after six months of age.
To get the most protection from the flu vaccine, get it as soon as it's available each year or in autumn, before the flu season (which starts in winter and continues in spring). After you get the vaccine, it takes up to two weeks to protect you, so the sooner, the better.
How often do they need to be updated?
Although many of the routine vaccinations protect us for decades, Konradsdottir says we need the flu vaccine every year, as each flu season brings different strains of the virus. "A lot of studies have shown that you do get some accumulated protection from the flu vaccine, and the more regularly you get it, the better protected you are."
What if immunisation leads to fever?
After an immunisation, about 10 to 15 per cent of children develop a mild fever. It doesn't mean they're sick, but it shows that their immune system is learning how to recognise and destroy the virus or bacteria they were immunised against.
However, the fever can make children uncomfortable. "[In this case], giving simple analgesia is appropriate," says Konradsdottir. A product containing ibuprofen, a common analgesic, may be just what the doctor ordered. Nurofen for Children* contains ibuprofen and helps reduce your child's temperature. It also helps relieve any pain they might experience at the immunisation injection site. If they're very unwell, check with your doctor.
Although immunisation can't help protect us from colds, this modern miracle does help protect our children from many distressing and serious diseases. Keeping up to date with immunisations helps our families stay healthy during the cooler months – and all year round.
*Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. Consult your healthcare professional if symptoms persist. Do not give to babies under 3 months. Seek medical advice for children less than 1 year.
This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional.