Quick GuideChildhood Illnesses: A Parenting Guide to Sick Kids
What are the vaccine-preventable diseases?
- This vaccine protects against infection with the Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria.
- These bacteria cause meningitis (an inflammation of the covering membranes that surround the brain) and may cause brain damage. Also these bacteria can infect the blood, joints, bones, muscles, throat, and the cover surrounding the heart. This is especially dangerous for babies. Before the vaccine era, this was an extremely common cause of acquired brain injury in children and infants.
The D in DTaP stands for diphtheria.
- Corynebacterium diphtheriae is a bacterium that attacks the throat, mouth, and nose. This is a very contagious disease (easy to get), but occurrences have been rare since the vaccine was created.
- Diphtheria can form a gray web that may completely cover the windpipe and cause someone to stop breathing.
- Also, if this disease is not treated right away, it could cause pneumonia, heart failure, or paralysis.
The T in DTaP stands for tetanus.
- Tetanus is an infection caused by a type of bacteria found in dirt, gravel, and rusty metal. It usually enters the body through a cut.
- Infection with tetanus bacteria causes the muscles to spasm (move suddenly). If tetanus attacks the jaw muscles, it causes lockjaw, which is the inability to open and close your mouth.
- Tetanus can also cause the breathing muscles to spasm, with potentially fatal consequences.
The P in DTaP stands for pertussis.
- Bordetella pertussis is the type of bacteria which causes whooping cough. It infects the airways and destroys the cells responsible for clearing mucus and other debris. This results in an infection associated with a severe prolonged cough and typical "whoop." The cough can last for more than two months and typically causes severe illness in the very young and very old. Recently recommendations were added to administer boosters to adolescents.
- Polio is caused by a virus. It can cause paralysis of the legs and chest, making walking and breathing difficult or impossible.
- The first symptoms of polio are fever, sore throat, headache, and a stiff neck. Polio is very rare in the United States since the vaccine became available; however, it is still somewhat common in other countries.
The first M in MMR stands for measles.
- Measles is a highly contagious (easy to get) virus that causes a high fever, cough, and a spotty rash all over the body. It may also cause ear infections and pneumonia.
The second M in MMR stands for mumps.
- Mumps is a virus which causes painful, swollen salivary glands, which are under the jaw, as well as a fever and a headache.
- Mumps also may cause serious problems, including meningitis or hearing loss. It can cause inflammation of the testicles (orchitis) in males.
The R in MMR stands for rubella.
- Rubella, also known as German measles, is caused by a virus. It is most dangerous for women who are pregnant. Rubella can cause a mother to have a miscarriage or deliver a baby with heart disease, blindness, hearing loss, or learning problems.
- Rubella is a fairly mild disease in children.
Hepatitis B vaccine
- Hepatitis B is a virus which causes inflammation of the liver. Signs and symptoms are extreme tiredness and jaundice (all the white parts on your body, like your eyes, teeth and nails, turn yellow). It may cause the liver to stop working and has been associated with lifelong infection, liver failure, liver cancer, and even death.
- Varicella is a virus which causes chickenpox. It causes an itchy rash and a fever. You can catch it from someone who already has it if you touch an open blister on that person's skin or if that person sneezes or coughs around you. Varicella infection, though usually believed to be mild, also causes pneumonia (lung infections) and encephalitis (brain infections).
- Streptococcus pneumoniae is a bacterium which causes ear infections, pneumonia (lung infection), sepsis (blood infection), and meningitis. It is very dangerous to the very young and very old.
Hepatitis A vaccine
- Hepatitis A is a virus similar to hepatitis B. Transmission occurs by coming in contact with contaminated food or drink. Early symptoms of the disease are nonspecific and may include fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It causes acute liver disease. It can affect anyone at any age, and in the United States, it can occur as isolated cases or even in epidemics.
- Neisseria meningitidis is a bacterium which causes meningitis (brain infection), sepsis (blood infection), and other infections. It is very dangerous infection and can cause seizures and death. Often outbreaks occur in epidemics.
- Rotavirus is a virus which causes severe diarrhea in very young infants. It causes over 55,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States and over 400,000 deaths worldwide. Children with this virus develop vomiting and watery diarrhea, which causes them to become dehydrated.
Human papillomavirus vaccine
- Human papillomaviruses cause genital warts in men and women and cervical cancer in women (the cancer diagnosed by regular Pap testing). Annually, over 11,000 women develop invasive cervical cancer.
- Influenza is a virus which causes severe respiratory illness. There are two major types, A and B. Each year, a new influenza vaccine is required because of the virus' tendency to mutate (change). The flu, as the disease is commonly called, causes the most severe illness in the very young and the very old.
Portions of the above information have been provided with the kind permission of the Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov).
Medically reviewed by Margaret Walsh, MD; American Board of Pediatrics
United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Recommended Immunization Schedule for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years -- United States, 2014." <http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/child/0-18yrs-trifold-schedule.pdf>.