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Immunizations: Fact and Fiction

vaccine

by Janet Craig, RN, MS, PNP
Clinical Nurse Specialist

Immunizations help prevent many common diseases. These include, but are not limited to: polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, rotavirus, hepatitis A and hepatitis B.

Many people think it’s better to get the disease naturally rather than be immunized. However, preventing a disease is better than trying to treat it. Why is this? First of all, getting sick is no fun, so why get sick if you can avoid it? How one responds to an illness is quite variable from person to person and cannot be predicted. Prior to the development of immunizations, children died from these “common” illnesses. Even now, many infants who contract pertussis can end up in an intensive care unit on a mechanical ventilator due to breathing problems. Some of these illnesses can leave residual defects that last a lifetime; for example polio can result in varying degrees of muscle weakness or paralysis.

Three Types of Benefits

There are three kinds of benefits to immunizations: personal, community, and future prevention.

  1. Personal benefits include protection from potentially serious diseases, thus avoiding suffering from the actual disease. If you choose not to immunize your child, you are gambling that your child will not be exposed to disease and/or your child will not get seriously ill. Also, the impact can be costly with doctor’s visits, potential hospitalization, and lost days from work carrying for an ill child (or children).
  2. Community benefits include “herd immunity.” This means that immunized children cannot get a disease thus preventing the spread of disease to others. And, if a sick child comes into contact with an immunized child, the disease will not spread. Infants are too young for certain immunizations and some children or members of the community cannot get immunizations for various reasons. (These reasons include–but are not limited to–select medications, organ transplantation, HIV, and certain cancers.) There are also people who have an abnormal immune system and they cannot fight off disease. If they contracted one of these diseases, they would become severely ill or possibly die. Therefore immunized children are helping to protect not only themselves, but their whole community. Unfortunately those who do not get their children immunized present an increased risk to the community.
  3. Future Prevention benefits include decreasing the incidence of disease and preventing diseases from coming back. One thing we know for sure is that once immunizations are stopped, the diseases they prevent return. Even a few cases can trigger a major outbreak.

How Immunizations Work

The immune system helps protect the body from disease or anything else that enters the body that should not be there (other than food). When something foreign enters the body, the immune system recognizes the foreign substance (antigen) as “non-self” (viruses and bacteria). The body develops antibodies against these antigens, thus fighting disease. Afterward, the body will “remember” the foreign antigen; so if your child is exposed to it again their immune system will rapidly produce more antibodies and your child will not get ill. What a great system! 

There’s only one problem … if your child is not immunized, the first time he or she is exposed to a new antigen, your child will get sick. That’s because your child’s body needs time to produce antibodies. But, this can be avoided with immunizations! That’s because they contain the same antigens that cause disease. Immunizations are weakened to the point that they don’t cause disease, but they are strong enough to stimulate the body to produce antibodies (just as if your child was exposed to disease). Therefore your child gets protection without getting sick! What could be better than that?

Common Misconceptions

Many parents have lots of concerns about immunizations. That is okay and you should chat with your pediatrician or primary care provider about these concerns.

Here are some common misconceptions about vaccines:

  • Better hygiene and sanitation will make diseases disappear. Well … yes and no. There is no doubt improved hygiene and sanitation has done a lot to improve health. Nonetheless, many infectious diseases spread no matter how meticulous we are. And these diseases will and do come back when people stop getting immunized.
  • It is better to obtain immunity “naturally” through disease than immunizations. This is false. Immunizations interact with the body the same way natural disease does. And immunizations do not cause disease, thus preventing the repercussions of disease and the disease won’t be given to other people.
  • Immunizations have severe side effects or can be fatal. This is very very rare. The most common side effects are a sore arm or a low temperature. If immunizations are not given, many more people will be seriously injured from the side effects of the preventable disease. For example: polio can cause paralysis; measles can cause a brain infection (encephalopathy) and blindness; tetanus causes painful muscle spasms with inability to breathe normally; diphtheria can cause obstruction of the airway.
  • Immunizations cause autism. This has been proven to be false. There is no evidence that immunizations, more specifically Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) immunizations, cause autism. The Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics have done extensive investigations of this claim and no link has been found between MMR and autism.
  • Giving more than one immunization at a time will increase the risk of side effects. This is false. This has been studied closely and there is no evidence to support this fear. Everyday your child is exposed to hundreds of foreign substances that can trigger an immune response. Combined immunizations mean fewer shots. And getting immunizations all at once mean fewer visits to the doctor or clinic, saving time and money.

vaccine2So What Should I Do?

Plan on getting your child immunized and ensure their immunizations are up-to-date. Some immunizations require a booster (schedules are referenced below). If you have any concerns, speak with your pediatrician or primary care provider, particularly if you feel your child may have any contraindications to immunizations or may require special precautions. Your pediatrician can explore these concerns with you. Ensure you and your pediatrician keep a current record of all immunizations. Utah utilizes the Utah Statewide Immunization Information System (USIIS). This is a helpful secure, confidential, electronic immunization information system that will ensure an up-to-date record. To learn more visit USIIS.org.

Immunizations not only protect your child and family, they help protect your community and the world at large. Remember, you can pick up diseases at home and from afar. So don’t let children get sick if you don’t have to, and don’t let them pass on diseases to others.

Resources:

Immunization Schedules

Recommended Immunization Schedule from the AAP

Mexico/USA Binational Resource Tool from the CDC

Further Reading:

From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Vaccines and Preventable Disease

List of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

Why are Childhood Vaccines So Important?

Vaccine Safety and Adverse Events


Janet graduated from nursing school in 1976 and completed her Master’s of Science in Nursing at the University of California San Francisco in 1990. She went on to complete her Pediatric Nurse Practitioner course work at UCSF in 1992. She has worked as a PICU Nurse, Educator, PICU Clinical Nurse Specialist, and as a Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Nurse Practitioner. She is currently one of the Pediatric Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialists at Primary Children’s Hospital. She enjoys hiking, skiing, gardening, camping/backpacking and traveling.
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6 Ways to Beat the Back to School Jitters

backtoschoolby Sara Jackson, CSW
Center for Safe & Healthy Families

It’s common for children to feel some nervousness about returning back to school after a carefree summer away from homework, tests, and social challenges. Younger children who are going to school for the first time may worry about getting lost or what school will be like. Older children may worry that they won’t be able to handle the homework load or that they will be made fun of by others. Typically, children have anxiety when they don’t know what to expect or when things are unknown. Here are some tips for helping kids ease back into school and calming their worries:

1) Have a Conversation

  • Ask your child about his/her worries for the first day of school or for school in general.
  • Remind your child that other kids are probably just as nervous.
  • Remind your child that even parents can feel stressed about the first day of school.
  • Try to stay calm and positive; if you’re feeling stressed, your child can pick up on your anxiety.

2) Visit the School

  • Take your child to school to get to know the new building. This is especially important for first-time students who aren’t sure what to expect. (Many schools will have preschool orientations for younger children to come and meet their teacher and see their classroom before school starts.)
  • Make sure your child knows where the bathroom is, how to get to the cafeteria, etc.

3) Practice Going to/from School

  • Whether your child will be walking, taking a bus, or driven by you, practice the route he/she will take so he/she can feel more comfortable with the route. This will ease his/her anxiety about getting lost and familiarize him/her with the surroundings.

4) Get Organized for the School Year

  • Set a schedule for homework, bath time, relaxation time, etc. so your child will know what to expect during the school year.
  • Make sure your child has all the school supplies he/she will need.
  • Organize a tidy space for doing homework.
  • Make lunches the night before so you and your child won’t feel rushed in the morning.
  • Hang a family calendar in a common area where your child can see important upcoming events.

5) Arrange Play Dates

  • Set up play dates with your child to help him/her reconnect with old friends or to make new ones. This will reduce nervousness about having friends in class and will get your child back into the groove of socializing with same-aged peers.

6) Keep an Eye on Anxiety

  • If your child’s anxiety seems like more than back-to-school jitters or if you notice he or she has frequent temper tantrums, nightmares or a strong refusal to go to school consider contacting your child’s teacher or school counselor for additional help and resources.

Returning back to school can be stressful–not only for children, but for parents as well. During this time, it’s important to ask your children about their concerns and reassure them that these worries are normal. Follow the tips above to help children (and yourself!) return back to school with as little stress as possible.


Sara graduated with her Master’s in Social Work from Portland State University, and is a Certified Social Worker. She is currently working towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She moved to Salt Lake City and has been enjoying getting to know the Southwest. In her free time, she loves hiking, biking, running, taking her dogs to the park, speaking Spanish, learning about other cultures, cooking, and creating self-serve frozen yogurt creations.
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To the rescue! Primary Children’s staff go above and beyond to help a patient find his stuffed toy

liamThe past two and half years have been tough for 7-year-old Liam Wainwright. He battled and beat cancer, only to have it return last year. “It’s been emotionally more difficult for Liam this time around. The second diagnosis is tough,” said Emily Wainwright, Liam’s mom.

In an effort to ease some of the stresses of being in the hospital again, Liam’s family bought him a stuffed turtle from the hospital gift shop. His new friend, Spots, helped him through some difficult days filled with tests and a lot of medicine.

Several weeks ago Liam was having a particularly tough day, and all he wanted to do was curl up in bed and take a nap with his new friend. But Spots was nowhere to be found. The turtle had mistakenly been left on the bed that had just been changed.

“I was really sad Spots was gone,” said Liam. “I didn’t think I would get him back.”

wanted

Wanted sign spotted around the hospital

Our amazing staff went to work searching for Spots. Rhiannon Wentland, a patient tech in the ICS unit, searched the laundry bins. When that wasn’t successful, she suggested Liam make a wanted poster to share with other staff members. She also contacted Environmental Services to see if they could help.

“After seeing the flyer it really touched my heart,” says Randall Uria, Environmental Services Supervisor. “It made me think a few things: What if this was my child? What if my child was heartbroken missing their favorite friend? And what if, by just a small chance, that having this special friend near them would help with his healing process? After all our motto is, ‘The Child First and Always.'”

staffRandall and Arthur Gallegos, a housekeeping team lead, decided to check the laundry room, just in case it was still there. The pair dug through dozens of bags of dirty laundry. “When we found the stuffed animal it was a big relief,” said Arthur. “Anyone that has been back where we keep the linen knows how much the hospital produces and how heavy the bags are. But it was worth it. Anything I can do to help cheer up a child, I will. I took this vow when I got hired.”

“The special feeling we got seeing how happy this child was really touched my soul and was the best reward I could have received,” adds Randall. “To me this is what the job is all about – to lend a helping hand in a child’s recovery in any way possible.”

Both Liam and his mom were surprised and grateful for the efforts of the staff. “I think it was really nice of them,” Liam said.

“I had given up. I told them not to worry about it.” said Emily. “The fact that everyone kept trying was uplifting. It’s just a toy, but it matters.”

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Pool Safety Pointers for Parents

poolsafety3by Sara Jackson, CSW
Center for Safe & Healthy Families

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 260 children under the age of five drown in residential swimming pools and hot tubs each year. The hot temperatures and blazing sun in Utah make home and community pools commonplace. To keep the summer splish-splashy with fun, follow the safety tips below to ensure your child’s safety in and around pools and hot tubs.

  • Never leave children unattended near water, no matter how shallow the water may be or what the child’s swimming ability is.
  • Do not use flotation devices in place of supervision.
  • Children should be within arm’s reach in case of an emergency
  • Remind children to stay away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid entrapment.
  • Learn CPR and ensure that anyone who cares for your child also knows CPR.
  • Post CPR instructions and emergency contact information near the pool.
  • Keep rescue equipment by the pool.
  • Pools should be completely enclosed with a four-foot or taller fence, including self-locking, self-closing gates with vertical bars.
  • Remove steps to above-ground pools when they are not in use.
  • Keep toys away from the pool when they are not being used. Toys can attract young children who can accidentally fall in to the water.
  • Make sure that pool covers are completely removed before pool use.
  • Encourage safe pool play: no running around the pool, pushing/shoving, or rough horseplay.
  • If a child is missing, the first place you should look is in the pool or hot tub.

Share these safety instructions with family, friends and neighbors and model pool safety for others.

For more pool safety tips, check out these additional resources:

Water Danger Information from Primary Children’s Hospital Child Advocacy Department

Pool Safety Resources from the Consumer Product Safety Commission

Water Safety Tips from the American Red Cross


Sara graduated with her Master’s in Social Work from Portland State University, and is a Certified Social Worker. She is currently working towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She moved to Salt Lake City and has been enjoying getting to know the Southwest. In her free time, she loves hiking, biking, running, taking her dogs to the park, speaking Spanish, learning about other cultures, cooking, and creating self-serve frozen yogurt creations.
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Story Lines: Doctors Collaborate with Hometown Hospital for a Seamless Transition

Alexander catches some sunshine on the patio

Alexander catches some sunshine on the patio.

by Susie Scarlatos
Alexander’s Mom

At the end of March, our family visited Park City from Winter Park, Florida over spring break. On Friday, March 21st, while skiing down a run, my son Alexander ran into a pole. Several members of the Ski Patrol took him down the mountain and into the medical clinic. Alexander kept losing consciousness, and while there were no outward signs of injury, they quickly surmised he had some internal injuries.

The clinic staff mentioned a hospital in Park City, but the attending doctor strongly encouraged us to go to Primary Children’s Hospital. We rode to the hospital in an ambulance, where Alexander was immediately treated in the ER.  He stayed in the ICU that night and then moved to a non-critical floor the next afternoon. He stayed there for a week until he was released and able to fly home to Florida.

It was the longest, most agonizing week of our lives, but the staff made all the difference in the world. We were met with an incredible kindness, professionalism, and caring demeanor from everyone we came in contact with. The staff never rushed Alexander, but only gave him words of encouragement. We were put at ease knowing he was in very capable hands.

While in the ICU, Dr. Douglas Barnhart met with us several times and took the time to speak with the head of Nephrology at Nemours Hospital in Orlando, Florida. They spoke via conference call about the surgery Alexander needed and his present state of health. Dr. David Skarda also spoke with the doctors at Nemours throughout the week to keep them updated on Alexander’s progress so that he would have a seamless transition going home. Knowing that the doctors at Primary Children’s would accommodate us by communicating with our hometown hospital gave us an enormous comfort during an unbearable situation. The doctors were very patient with us and tolerant of the many questions we had.

Recently, Alexander had a CT scan with contrast. He is left with 1/3 of his right kidney, but it is functioning properly. There are no traces of a urenoma or aneurisms. He is healing and I know that his progress is in large part to God, but also to the wonderful and expert care he received from the doctors that treated him and from the nurses and techs who helped nurture him while he was in the hospital. We are so blessed that Alexander is recovering and will heal in time.


Story Lines is a feature on Play Ground telling the personal stories and experiences of people cared for at the hospital. If you would like to share your experience on the blog, please contact us.

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Story Lines: A Liver Transplant Gives New Life for Cohen

By Aubrey Ashleyteeganandcohen
Cohen & Teegan’s Mom

Our transplant story started one month after my second son, Cohen, was born. That’s when he was placed on the list for a liver transplant. Cohen was born with a metabolic disorder called propionic acidemia (PA). PA is an inherited metabolic disorder where patients lack an enzyme in the liver to digest certain proteins.

It is extremely difficult to have a child who can’t eat a lot of protein, as it seems protein is in almost everything. However, our family is used to dealing with special diets and doctors appointments. Eleven years ago we were blessed with our first son, Teegan. He also has propionic acidemia and was diagnosed at Primary Children’s Hospital when he was one month old.

It is truly amazing how far medicine has come in the last eleven years. Teegan was a pioneer of this disorder and has been through a lot in his life because of it. When he was one month old, Teegan had a metabolic stroke that left him unable to walk or talk. We feed him a special formula through a G-tube that he will eat for the rest of his life. Teegan is an amazing person and is loved by everyone in he meets. He is such a strong young man that goes through life with the most beautiful smile.

After our experience with Teegan and PA, we were surprised that a liver transplant was a possibility for Cohen. He received his new liver on June 27, 2013. Cohen has done amazingly well with his new liver and is now a happy, healthy 19 month old boy.

He has minor delays but is progressing every week with physical therapy. He is able to sit up and walk in his walker. He eats all of his food by mouth and has a bright future because of his transplant. With his new liver, the doctors have more confidence in his inability to produce high levels of ammonia–the byproduct of the liver that causes metabolic strokes. Cohen is the first PA patient in the western states to receive a liver transplant.

Having walked down both forks of this road, we are thankful for Teegan’s contribution to our lives and hopeful for Cohen’s outcome! We thank all the doctors and staff that made this possible, especially Dr. Linda Book and Dr. Nicola Longo. And of course, a very special thank you goes to our donor family, who helped turn a tragic event in life into a beautiful miracle for our little boy.


Story Lines is a feature on Play Ground telling the personal stories and experiences of people cared for at the hospital. If you would like to share your experience on the blog, please contact us.

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My Dad, the Horse, And I: How to Create a Culture of Safety

safetyby Janet Brooks
Child Advocacy Manager

One day in my early youth, I wanted to ride our family horse. Bay Scoot was a huge bay gilding with a mind of his own. My dad, a very experienced “cowboy” and father of seven, agreed that I could ride but he was also in a bit of a hurry. He hoisted me up into the saddle and led me around the corral for a few minutes and then left the reigns to me.

Shortly after, he headed to the house to freshen up for an evening of work selling life insurance. He said that I would be fine riding alone but emphasized the need to keep Bay Scoot in the corral and to not let him head into the barn. I did my best to obey my father but my “ride” had a different goal in mind – FOOD! Very quickly Bay Scoot turned for the barn where hay and oats stood ready for his evening meal. Try as I might, I could not keep him out of the barn that had a very low, corrugated metal roof. It was plenty high enough for Scoot to enter but not with a rider (me) on his back! In he trotted, ready to engulf a hearty meal. All the while, I tugged on the reins as hard as I could and bent as far forward over the saddle horn as possible only to be rewarded with a deep layer of flesh peeled from my back by the edges of the sharp metal roof!

Now, as a professional in the injury prevention world, I look back on that day and liken it to thousands of other people’s experiences where children have been injured. The questions always flood forth after a tragedy or even a minor incident as to how and why it occurred and what could have been done to prevent it? It is generally easy to understand how things happened, but the “why” is the operative word.

Most people assume that injury is a routine part of growing. But I would like to suggest an entirely different approach on the whole matter. Creating a “culture of safety” is a conscious effort to make safety a priority in my family and society. Taking complete ownership of my environment and making it safe for those in it is now an uncompromising priority. That environment may be my home, yard, vehicle, open space, or where ever I am. Supervising my children, grandchildren and those around me is the number one priority. My caregiver strategies now include:

  • Knowing that unexpected and bad things happen and could happen to me.
  • Active supervision. This means being physically and mentally present, and may include holding a child or holding their hand.
  • If a child is missing, check around water sources first, and in the vehicle second.
  • Not assuming that others feel the same way about safety that I do. Provide all of the safety devices (car and booster seats, life jackets, helmets, etc.), instructions and expectations, and other resources that will keep your family safe whether you are present or not.
  • Remembering that SUPERVISION goes hand in hand with SAFETY and should trump all else when it comes to fun and simply living life to the fullest!

I don’t want to be too critical of the wonderful dad and the spunky horse I had. Now, as an adult, I can look back on my impressionable experience and understand several things that could have been done differently to prevent my scary (and painful!) mishap. Hindsight is always present after close calls and our thoughts are often filled with “what ifs.” I will simply conclude that perhaps my father thought I was far more capable of something than I was. His constant supervision, my better riding skills and good body armor could have prevented my injuries. Do I love dad or Bay Scoot any less for what happened? Goodness no! I just need to remember that horses love food more than kids!


Janet has worked as the Child Advocacy Manager at Primary Children’s for 17 years. She manages the Hold On To Dear Life® educational and advocacy campaign. Janet is a Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor and an instructor in transporting children with special health care needs. She enjoys spending time with her family, including her husband, five children, three in-laws, and six beautiful grandchildren.
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