During this time of year, with back-to-school vaccinations and flu shots available, I see lots of parents in my office who are concerned about the side effects of vaccinating their children. In fact, a survey released by the Center of Disease Control in 2011 showed that more than 75% of parents were concerned about the side effects of vaccination.
Obviously, the choice of how/whether to vaccinate our children is a very personal one. And through my years of practicing medicine, I’ve come to appreciate the multitude of decisions that parents make about vaccination. It can be a daunting experience trying to wade through the difficult options. But if you do decide to vaccinate your child, you want the vaccine to be as effective as possible with the least amount of pain and side effects from the experience.
So here are some easy tips to help you navigate your child’s vaccinations:
Talk with your pediatrician about your concerns.
Every child is different and has different healthcare needs. Previous reactions to vaccines, certain food allergies, immune disorders, developmental delays and the child’s individual health should be considered. Talk with your pediatrician before your child’s scheduled vaccination so that there is plenty of time to make a plan that feels comfortable for everyone.
Get enough sleep.
A recent clinical study shows the importance of adequate sleep after vaccination. The test group who had uninterrupted sleep after being given a vaccine had double the immune response to the vaccine as compared to the test group with interrupted sleep after vaccination. Making sure your child has adequate rest after vaccination in the form of naps and a good nights’ sleep increases the effectiveness of the vaccine
Use acetaminophen or ibuprofen AFTER, not before.
Many parents give their little ones Tylenol, Advil or similar products before heading in for boosters to prevent fevers. But research actually shows that administering acetaminophen or ibuprofen prior to vaccination can decrease the response to vaccination. When our body has an immune response to an infection or a vaccine there are a ton of inflammatory molecules that are produced. These inflammatory molecules recruit white blood cells to fight the infection and often produce a fever. During vaccination you want some inflammation because that means the vaccine is getting a response from the immune system- but you don’t want too much inflammation either. A slight fever after vaccination can be a sign that the vaccine is getting an immune response but a fever with febrile seizures is too much of an inflammatory response. Research clearly illustrates the need to reserve acetaminophen and ibuprofen for after vaccination when your child experiences discomfort or fever. Either can be used after inoculation to address the pain and any residual fever but aspirin should never be used in children.
Studies show that breastfeeding for at least three months increases the infant’s immune response, making vaccination more effective. Breastfeeding is a wonderful tool to help with the pain and stress of injection immunizations. While breastfeeding is hands down the best thing you can do for a developing infants’ immune system, it might be worth it to delay nursing for 3 hours prior to nasal or oral vaccines. Recent studies have shown that a mother’s breast milk is so rich in immune factors that if nursing occurs around oral or nasal vaccination the response to the vaccine is mostly done by the immune factors passed on by mother rather than the infants’ own immune system. By delaying breastfeeding for a few hours prior to these nasal or oral vaccines the child’s immune system will respond to the shot making the vaccine more effective. Delaying breastfeeding is not suitable for infants who will experience physical, emotional or nutritional distess.
Make sure your child is healthy
Avoid vaccination if your child is ill or recovering from illness. Vaccination demands a lot from your child’s immune system. If your immune system is weakened because of a current infection it might not have all hands on deck to deal with the vaccine. It is best to reschedule the appointment for a time when your child is in good health.
Distraction and ice for pain
Distraction during vaccination, like ringing a bell, singing a song or entertaining antics, has been shown to decrease the pain associated with vaccination. Ice applied to the injection site has also been shown to decrease the pain of injection.
There is plenty of research out there about the impact of nutrition on vaccination. Vitamin C, E, D3, zinc and probiotics have shown remarkable results in their ability to influence the results of vaccination. Supplements like VacciShield can give your child the nutrition they need during immunizations. Sugary snacks or meals can decrease the body’s defenses for several hours so it is best to avoid these, especially the day of vaccination. Vaccination requires a lot from your child’s body so preparing them by tending to their overall health is a simple yet very effective way to prepare for shots.
Catherine Clinton is a board certified naturopathic physician currently practicing in Oregon. With the birth of her son in 2009, Dr. Catherine founded the nutritional supplement company WellFuture and released the first ever nutritional support for babies and kids during vaccination. For more info visit www.vaccishield.com