Your baby’s first vaccinations at 2 months marks the beginning of a vaccination programme that will protect him from a whole variety of nasty conditions and diseases. If you’re feeling a bit wobbly at the thought of a needle piercing that perfectly soft skin, here’s some info on the illness those all important vaccines will protect your little one from….
The illnesses behind your child’s vaccinations
Vitamin K helps blood to clot. Very rarely, babies are born with too little vitamin K, which can lead bleeding into the brain. For this reason, most hospitals routinely administer vitamin K to newborn babies, either orally or by injection, straight after birth. Discuss the best method for your baby with your midwife. There has been some controversy over a suggested association between vitamin K and childhood leukaemia and other forms of childhood cancer. However further retrospective studies disproved this. If you do not want your baby to receive vitamin K, you should say so on your birth plan.
Diphtheria is a potential fatal illness affecting the upper respiratory tract resulting in a sore throat and low fever. In the 1920s there were an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 cases of diphtheria per year in the United States, causing 13,000 to 15,000 deaths. Children represented a large majority of these cases and fatalities. Boosters of the vaccine are recommended for adults since the benefits of the vaccine decrease with age.
Tetanus is a medical condition generally contracted through wound contamination, and often involves a cut or deep puncture wound. As the infection progresses, it causes severe muscle spasms, most commonly in the jaw, hence the name, lockjaw. This is followed by difficulty swallowing and general muscle stiffness and spasms in other parts of the body.
Whooping cough (pertussis) is still a very serious disease when it occurs in children under the age of one year old. Before the vaccination against whooping cough was introduced, three out of four children caught the disease and some died every year. Whooping cough is caused by a very contagious bacterial infection, Bordetella pertussis Although infants who are breastfed are usually protected against most common childhood infections, they receive no protection against whooping cough. This is why early immunisations are recommended.
Polio (also called poliomyelitis) is a contagious, historically devastating disease that was virtually eliminated from the Western hemisphere in the second half of the 20th century. Polio is a viral illness that, in about 95% of cases, actually produces no symptoms at all. People who have abortive polio or non-paralytic polio usually make a full recovery. However, paralytic polio, which occurs in 0.1% to 2% of cases, causes muscle paralysis and can even result in death.
Haemophilus influenzae b (HIB)
Haemophilus influenzae type b disease, also called HIB disease, is an illness that can cause a potentially fatal brain infection in young children. Until recently, HIB disease was an important cause of serious, often deadly, infections in children under age 5. The most common and severe manifestation of HIB disease is meningitis causing inflammation and swelling in the coverings of the brain and spinal cord, fever, weakness and vomiting. HIB can also cause infection of the lungs, blood, joints, bones, throat, and covering of the heart.
MMR – Measles
Measles is a highly contagious infection of the respiratory system. An uninfected person can get measles simply by breathing the air in a room where an infected person has been. The virus can live in the air for 2 hours after an infected person leaves a room. Measles symptoms usually show up in two stages. The first stage begins with a runny nose, cough, and a slight fever. As the infection progresses, the person’s eyes become red and sensitive to light, and the fever rises. The second stage begins after 3 to 7 days when the fever reaches 103oF-105oF, and a red blotchy rash appears. The rash usually starts on the face and then spreads to the chest, back, and arms and legs, including the palms and soles of the feet. The rash lasts for 4 to 7 days. Small white spots might also appear on the gums and inside of the cheeks. Pneumonia occurs in up to 6 percent of reported measles cases and accounts for 60 percent of deaths from measles. Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) can also occur. Other complications include middle ear infections and convulsions (seizures). Infants under age 2 years often require hospitalisation. School-age children have a 3% to 5% chance of serious complications.
MMR – Mumps
Mumps is a very contagious infection of one or more of the salivary glands. These glands are located on either side of the face, below the ears. Mumps is spread from person to person through direct contact with saliva and discharges from the nose and throat of infected persons. Mumps can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or even talking. The main symptoms are severe swelling and soreness of the cheeks and jaw. Mumps usually starts with neck or ear pain, loss of appetite, tiredness, headache, and low fever. About a third of persons infected with the mumps virus have no symptoms. Severe complications are rare however, mumps can cause hearing loss, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), and inflammation of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Swelling of the testicles occurs in 15 percent to 25 percent of infected males.
MMR – Rubella
Rubella is a mild but very contagious disease. Other names for rubella are German measles and three-day measles. Rubella is dangerous because of its ability to harm unborn babies. Infection of a pregnant woman can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or serious birth defects. People get rubella by breathing in droplets that get into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Rubella can also spread by direct contact with fluids from the nose or throat of an infected person. Most cases of rubella are mild. About half of people infected with rubella virus get a rash that looks like small, fine pink spots. The rash first appears on the face and progresses from head to foot, lasting about 3 days. Children usually develop few or no other symptoms. Adults can have mild fever, headache, reddened eyes, swollen glands behind the ears, tiredness, and joint pain.
Group B Streptococcus (GBS)
Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is one of many bacteria that normally live in our bodies and usually cause no harm. However, GBS in pregnant women is the most common cause of life-threatening infections (including meningitis and scepticcaemia) in newborn babies in the UK. Most GBS infections can easily be prevented by administrating intravenous antibiotics at the onset of labour. Oral antibiotics can also be given although they are considered less effective. GBS is no longer routinely tested for in the UK even though approximately one quarter of pregnant women carry the bacteria. Speak to your midwife about how to get tested privately (cost between £35 to £50 all inclusive). For further information on GBS go to the Group B Strep Support website.