Immunisation for Your Baby

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Immunisation saves discomfort and distress – and can save lives.

The effectiveness of immunisation was demonstrated when parents in the UK became concerned about a possible link between autism and MMR injections (measles, mumps and rubella vaccines combined in a single injection). Many parents decided not to have MMR immunisation for their babies – resulting in a significant rise in cases of measles and mumps.BabyHealth6

When vaccinated, baby is given a weakened form of a disease, and this encourages the body to naturally produce antibodies, which remain to fight the disease if he or she comes into contact with it when older. There is still a chance of contracting the illness, but symptoms will be very mild and harmless. Your baby will not get a full version of the disease from the vaccine.

Vaccines are usually injected, using a small needle, into baby’s thigh. The surprise of a sudden little pain may upset baby, but with a cuddle (or a little breast feed), it will soon be forgotten. The area may be red, and possibly swollen, and baby may be fretful or develop a raised temperature (over 37.5C/99.5F) during the following day or two. Age-appropriate pain relief is usually advised. On rare occasions, the temperature may be more than 39C/102F, or a baby may have a fit or convulsion – seek medical advice if this happens with your baby, or if you have any other concerns.

Diseases that can be immunised against, and the age at which this is usually done…BabyHealth17

Tuberculosis:

  • Immunisation at birth will be offered if a baby is at risk of TB.

Hepatitis B:

  • Immunisation at birth is offered for a baby whose mother is hepatitis B positive.

Pneumococcal infection:

  • A common cause of meningitis; can also cause pneumonia, severe sinus and ear infections, or bronchitis.
  • Immunisation by a course of single injections – at around 2 months, 4 months, and 12 months of age.

Diphtheria:

  • Rare, but potentially fatal. Severe breathing difficulties when a membrane forms at the back of the throat and nose. Heart and nervous system damage can also occur.
  • A single combined injection (with tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Hib) at 2 months, 3 months and 4 months, then a single combined injection (with tetanus, whooping cough and polio) at 3-5 years of age.

Tetanus:BabyHealth7

  • Rare, but potentially fatal. Affects the nervous system, with painful muscle spasms and possible breathing difficulties.
  • Single combined injections – see Diphtheria.

Whooping cough (pertussis):

  • Can be fatal in a baby under 12 months old. Bouts of severe, choking, coughing. Can lead to ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, or convulsions and even brain damage. Highly infectious.
  • Single combined injections – see Diphtheria.

Polio:

  • Becoming quite rare, but still a risk in some countries. Can cause permanent paralysis of muscles.
  • Single combined injection – see Diphtheria.

Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b):

  • Mainly affects children under four years old. A very serious form – Hib Meningitis – can cause other health problems, hearing loss, or brain damage. Can be fatal if not treated promptly.
  • A single combined injection (with diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio) at 2 months, 3 months, and 4 months, then a single combined injection (with Meningitis C) at around 12 months.BabyHealth5

Meningitis C:

  • Potentially fatal meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) from group C meningococcal bacteria.
  • Single individual injection at 3 months and 4 months, then single combined injection (with Hib) at around 12 months.

Measles:

  • Can cause ear infections, bronchitis or pneumonia; also brain inflammation and convulsions. Can be fatal.
  • Single combined MMR injection (measles, mumps, rubella) at around 12 months of age, then at 3-5 years old.

Mumps:

  • Often relatively mild, but can cause deafness. 25% of boys over 12 years old who get mumps develop inflammation of the testes – this can lead to brain inflammation, meningitis, or infertility.
  • Single combined injection (MMR) – see Measles.

Rubella (German measles):

  • A fairly mild disease, but if she has not been immunised as a child, a woman may contract it when pregnant, and this can cause severe harm to her unborn baby.
  • Single combined injection (MMR) – see Measles.

Find out what immunisation programme is available in your area, and where they are given. Ask what baby is being immunised against and any possible side effects, keep a note of when each one is done – and make sure they are recorded in baby’s medical records. For many diseases, protection is built up gradually by a course of vaccinations, so it is important that the course is completed. Don’t worry if baby misses one though – it will not necessarily mean that you have to begin all over.

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