Have you started your back-to-school countdown? Along with gathering classroom supplies and making sure your children’s school clothes still fit, this is a good time to make sure their shots are up to date.

You can save yourself time and trouble by double-checking their records before the school tells you something is missing. But beyond staying on top of the paperwork, making sure your children receive their immunizations is an important step toward keeping them healthy.

If your children don’t have their shots, they are at increased risk for diseases. They can also spread those diseases to their friends and teachers.

What Shots Do School-Age Kids Need?

We all know babies and young children need a lot of shots, so they may be easier to remember. But all children need vaccines to stay healthy, including those they should receive during the busy preteen and teenage years. Your doctor may remind you about them during an annual well-child visit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends boys and girls receive vaccines against serious diseases when they are 11 or 12 years old. Some of these include:

  • Meningitis: Certain bacteria can cause infections of the lining of the brain, spinal cord and bloodstream. Meningitis can be very serious and even fatal.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV): Some strains of this sexually transmitted virus can cause deadly cancer. All boys and girls should receive HPV shots before their 13th birthday.
  • Tdap: The letters are short for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Your child will usually receive this vaccine at age 11 or 12.
  • Flu: Most people ages six months and older should get an annual flu shot. It’s especially important for children who have chronic health conditions such as asthma or diabetes.

Be sure to check with the doctor if you’re not sure that your child’s shots are up to date. They may need to catch up on the vaccines they missed.

During and After Your Visit

Some children fear shots more than others. If your kids are anxious, you might encourage them to take deep breaths to help them with their fear or pain. You could also tell a story or find another way to distract them. Whatever method you use, don’t scold a child for being fearful.

After the shot, ask your child’s doctor for advice on using a non-aspirin pain reliever. Sometimes children feel mild reactions from vaccines, such as pain at the injection site, a rash or a fever. These are normal and will soon go away.

Consider these tips to help identify and minimize mild side effects:

  • Review any fact sheets your doctor provides you. The sheets will outline the normal side effects.
  • Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce pain and swelling where the shot was given.
  • Reduce any fever with a cool sponge bath. If your doctor approves, you can use non-aspirin pain reliever.
  • Give your child plenty to drink. Many children eat less during the 24 hours after they get a vaccine.
  • Pay extra attention to your child. If you see something that concerns you, call your doctor.

Vaccines are also available for adults to prevent serious diseases such as flu, pneumonia and tetanus. Others help fight shingles and hepatitis A and B. What you need depends on factors such as your age, lifestyle, health issues, job and prior vaccines.

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Keep the whole family healthy.

Want to know more about what immunizations and screenings you and your family need? Check out our wellness guidelines for adults in English or Spanish and children in English or Spanish.