Skip to main content
URMC / Encyclopedia / Content

Childhood Immunizations

The importance of vaccines

Vaccines are key to preventing disease. Vaccines benefit both the people who get them and the vulnerable, unvaccinated people around them. That's because the infection is less likely to spread through the community if most people are immunized. Plus, vaccines reduce the number of deaths and disability from infections like measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox.

Children get most of the vaccines. But adults also need to be sure they are already immune to certain infections and stay up-to-date on certain vaccines, including varicella, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), shingles, and the flu. Childhood illnesses, such as mumps, measles, and chickenpox, can cause serious problems in adults. 

About guidelines for routine childhood vaccines

Many childhood diseases can now be prevented by following these guidelines for vaccines:

  • Meningococcal vaccine. It protects against meningococcal disease.

  • Hep B vaccine. It protects against hepatitis B.

  • Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV). It protects against polio.

  • DTaP vaccine. It protects against diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), and pertussis (whooping cough)

  • Hib vaccine. It protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b, which causes spinal meningitis and other serious infections.

  • MMR vaccine. It protects against measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles).

  • Pneumococcal vaccine/PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate vaccine). It protects against certain causes of pneumonia, infection in the blood, and meningitis.

  • Varicella vaccine. It protects against chickenpox.

  • Rotavirus (RV) vaccine. It protects against severe vomiting and diarrhea caused by rotavirus.

  • Hep A vaccine. It protects against hepatitis A.

  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. It protects against HPV, which is linked to genital warts, cervical cancer, and other cancers. 

  • Seasonal influenza vaccine. It protects against different flu viruses.

A child's first vaccine is given at birth. Vaccines are scheduled throughout childhood. Many start within the first few months of life. By following a regular schedule and making sure your child is immunized at the right time, you are making sure that your child has the best defense against dangerous childhood diseases.

Reactions to vaccines

As with any medicine, vaccines may cause reactions. They often may cause a sore arm or low-grade fever. Serious reactions are rare. But they can happen. Your child's healthcare provider or nurse may discuss these with you before giving the shots. The risks for getting the diseases the shots protect against are higher than the risks for having a reaction to the vaccine.

You can help ease these mild reactions in children:

  • Fussiness. Children may need extra love and care after getting immunized. The shots that keep them from getting serious diseases can also cause discomfort for a while. Children may experience fussiness, fever, and pain at the injection site, after they have been immunized.

  • Fever. Do not give aspirin . You may want to give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce pain and fever, as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Also:

    • Give your child plenty to drink.

    • Clothe your child lightly. Don't cover or wrap your child tightly.

    • Sponge your child in a few inches of lukewarm (not cold) bath water.

  • Swelling or pain.Don't give aspirin. You may want to give your child acetaminophen to reduce pain and fever, as directed by your child's healthcare provider. Apply a clean, cool washcloth over the sore area as needed for comfort.

Aspirin and the risk for Reye syndrome in children 

Aspirin should not be given to children or teenagers because of the risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but potentially fatal disease. Pediatricians and other healthcare providers advise that aspirin not be used to treat any fever in children.

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if your child has more serious symptoms such as:

  • A large area of redness and swelling around the area where the injection was given. The skin area may be warm to the touch and very sore. There may also be red streaks coming from the initial site of the injection.

  • A high fever

  • Being pale or limp

  • Nonstop crying

  • A strange (high-pitched) cry that isn't normal

  • Body is shaking, twitching, or jerking

Medical Reviewers:

  • Barry Zingman MD
  • L Renee Watson MSN RN
  • Rita Sather RN