Vaccinations are life-saving medical tools recommended and used for the prevention of dangerous and deadly diseases. Vaccines work by introducing weakened or dead virus or viral fragment into the body, encouraging the immune system to create natural antibodies that will defend the body against possible future infections. Although children require the more complex vaccination schedule, immunization recommendations continue into adulthood to include an annual flu vaccination, periodic tetanus and, diphtheria vaccinations, varicella vaccinations, and other risk-based vaccines.

Did you know…

that immunizations have nearly or completely eradicated diseases in the U.S. that were once the cause of thousands of illnesses and many deaths every year? Nine diseases for which Americans are vaccinated against are 98 – 100 percent less prevalent than they were before vaccines were made available for them. Other diseases, such as varicella and pertussis, have been suppressed to affect approximately 90 percent fewer people every year.

Frequently Asked Questions

I am healthy. Do I need to be vaccinated?

Immunizations are highly effective for preventing disease and are recommended for the health of patients of all ages – including infants, children, teens, and adults. You should follow the vaccine schedule as recommended for you or your child’s age, as well as additional vaccines recommended when traveling internationally. Failure to vaccinate puts you or your child’s health at risk for dangerous, yet preventable diseases.

What should I expect when getting vaccinations?

Your doctor will ask you a series of questions about you or your child’s health to ensure the safety of administering the vaccine(s). If you have a record of previous vaccines, be sure to bring it with you to your appointment. Many vaccines are administered in combinations to reduce the number of shots you or your child will need at your appointment. As the vaccine is administered, your doctor will recommend relaxing muscles and taking deep breaths to minimize discomfort. You or your child may need to remain in your doctor’s office for several minutes following the immunization(s) to ensure there are no adverse complications, such as dizziness or allergic reactions.

What should I expect after I update my vaccinations?

Everyone reacts differently to immunizations, and there can be some side effects associated with vaccines. However, most symptoms are normal and inconsequential. They may include a light fever or soreness at the injection site. Contact your doctor if you have questions about post-vaccination symptoms.


Immunizations are a foundation part of preventive healthcare for children and teens. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control each has recommendations that suggest immunizing children starting at birth. The current vaccination schedule for children contains a list of 12 vaccines that protect against 16 dangerous diseases. The vaccines contain components designed to help the immune system develop antibodies that can fight against future infections. These components may be weakened or inactivated versions of a virus or bacteria or they may contain only parts of a bacterium combined with other proteins. Others, such as tetanus and diphtheria vaccines, do not contain the bacteria, but rather introduce an inactivated toxin produced by them.

Did you know…

that your child may need a modified vaccination schedule if you plan to travel outside of the country with him or her? According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 2 million children travel internationally every year. Those children are susceptible to diseases that are all but eradicated in the U.S. and Canada. For example, there has not been a documented case of Polio in America in 20 years, yet the disease still plagues many people in Africa and parts of Asia. If your child has not yet completed the recommended vaccination schedule, talk to your pediatrician about an accelerated schedule prior to travel. Other preventive measures, such as medications that help prevent malaria, may also be necessary depending on your destination.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should my child get an immunization?

Your child will probably get his or her first vaccination – the hepatitis B shot – in the hospital after birth. A second dose may be administered at the 2 month check-up, during which time your child may also receive immunizations for rotavirus, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, HIB, PCV, and polio. Additional booster vaccines will be necessary periodically. Beginning at age 1, your child will also start receiving vaccinations for chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella and hepatitis A. Vaccines for meningitis are not given until age 11 or 12. Be sure to speak with your child’s pediatrician about when to start administering annual flu shots.

How can I calm my child during a vaccination visit?

Vaccinations are not pleasant for children. Once children are old enough to associate shots with the doctor’s office, they may resist going. Try distracting your child with a favorite toy or book brought along for play in the waiting room. You can also comfort your child by holding him or her while the shot is administered. Finally, offer a reward your child can look forward to after the appointment, such as dinner at a favorite restaurant.

Will my child experience any side effects as a result of immunizations?

Although vaccines are considered safe by the AAP and CDC, there is a possibility of side effects. Of those children who do experience side effects, most have only minor symptoms, such as a low-grade fever or soreness at the site of the injection. Other temporary symptoms may include joint pain, headaches, nausea, cough, diarrhea and upper respiratory infections. The risk of serious or severe side effects is very low but you should discuss them with your child’s pediatrician prior to getting vaccines.

Back-to-school is a busy time of year filled with books, class schedules, school supplies, and shopping for new clothes. It is also the time of year when students head to the doctor for school physicals. Though not always required, school physicals are a way of monitoring a student’s general health and physical abilities, as well as to detect any underlying conditions that could hinder classroom and athletic performance.

Did you know…

that some schools insist on mandatory physical exams before the start of a new school year? This is especially true of students who participate in certain activities, such as sports or marching band. You may be required to provide proof of your child’s physical and submit a doctor’s statement of your child’s eligibility to participate in extracurricular activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does my child need a physical before starting a new school year?

Yes. School physicals vary from your child’s annual check-up. This is an opportunity to ensure that your child’s vision and hearing are healthy and that your child is in good physical health to participate in athletic activities. School physicals are also the time to review vaccination records and update your child’s immunizations.
What should I expect during a school physical?

What should I expect during a school physical?

During your child’s school physical, you will be asked to complete a history of his or her health and family health. The doctor will examine your child’s general health, reflexes, flexibility, overall physical fitness, hearing, and vision. Based on the information gathered during the exam, your child’s doctor will discuss potential risks of injury and provide suggestions for treatment if applicable.

When should I bring my child to the doctor for a school physical?

Most parents bring their children to the doctor for school physicals in the weeks prior to the start of a new school year. However, you may find that other times throughout the year are appropriate as well. For example, many parents opt for student health exams before spring training begins or before their children leave for summer camp.

Children’s physicals function to monitor developmental progress, identify potential health complications and provide medical interventions and counseling that help prevent disease and injuries in the future. Also known as well-child exams, children’s physicals are endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as an opportunity not only to oversee a child’s health and development but also for parents to discuss questions and concerns they may have about expectations for physical, emotional, academic and social development. Parents work together with their children’s doctors to achieve optimal pediatric and adolescent health.

Did you know…

Do that immunizations play an important role in children’s physicals? It is during this time – when a child is visiting the doctor in good health, rather than sick – that vaccinations are administered to prevent dangerous diseases. The AAP’s vaccine schedule is updated frequently to reflect the latest recommendations, which include vaccines to protect against diseases like hepatitis, measles, influenza, and the chicken pox. Because children experience rapid physical development and also require the most vaccinations in the first few months of life, most kids will visit a doctor for a children’s physical approximately 10 times between birth and age 2.

Frequently Asked Questions

My child seems healthy. Do I really need to bring him to the doctor for a physical?

Yes. Even if your child seems healthy, a doctor can identify possible underlying problems, such as high BMI or developmental delays. The American Academy of Pediatrics has very specific recommendations for children’s physicals. Kids visit every few months until age two, and then annually between ages 2 and 6. After age 6, well-child exams are every other year until age 10, when an annual recommendation resume.

What should I expect during my child’s physical?

Your child will be measured and weighed, and the doctor will conduct various screenings to ensure your child’s health and development are on track for his or her age. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions, and your son or daughter will receive immunizations based on the schedule recommended by the AAP.

Will I need to follow any special instructions in caring for my child after our visit to the doctor?

Possibly. If your child’s doctor finds any underlying health problems, you may be advised to take steps to manage your child’s diet, sleep, and activity levels. Depending on the results of the exam, your child may also require additional screenings, tests, procedures or medications.

Nutrition plays an important role in a healthy childhood and can set the foundation for wellness in adulthood. A balanced and nutritious diet helps facilitate growth among children during a time in their lives when they are developing at a rapid rate. Education is an essential part of teaching parents and children about the importance of nutrition. Your child’s pediatrician can be your greatest resource in ensuring that your child lives healthfully from birth and into the adolescent years.

Did you know…

that obesity has become an epidemic among American children? Currently, more than 1 in 3 children are overweight due to poor diets and lack of physical exercise. More and more children and teens are developing the risk factors of cardiovascular disease as a result of being overweight. Other complications associated with being overweight in childhood include pre-diabetes, sleep apnea, and joint problems.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I begin giving my child solid foods?

Your child should be breastfed or formula-fed exclusively for the first few months of life. Formula or breast milk should continue to be available until the age of at least the first birthday, although parents may begin introducing solid foods gradually and individually beginning at approximately 4 to 6 months of age. Before introducing solid foods, your child should show interest in food and be capable of holding his or her head up alone.

What types of foods should my child be eating?

Children need balanced diets full of vitamins and nutrients. Although babies younger than 1 should not be given certain foods like honey, it is important to ensure that no major food groups are being excluded from an older child’s diet. Toddlers and young children need at least 2 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, as well as 4 servings of whole grains, 3 servings of dairy and 2 servings of protein. School-age children follow similar guidelines, only doubling the servings of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Make an effort to restrict processed foods, high sodium foods, and foods high in sugar when possible.

Is there anything else I should know about teaching my child to live healthfully?

Yes. Exercise is good nutrition’s best friend. What better time to teach your child about the importance of exercise and physical activity than during childhood. Remember, children model what they see their parents do, so make exercise a family activity. Play tag, ride bikes together or go swimming. Exercise can be fun!

First Visit

Having a baby usually means that the near and distant future will be peppered with plenty of doctor’s visits, starting just days after birth. In fact, most babies meet their pediatricians before being released from the hospital for the first time. A pediatrician is a parent’s partner in health, wellness, and prevention for their children. It is important to maintain all pediatric appointments, which serve to evaluate a child’s growth and development, as well as immunize babies and children against dangerous diseases.

Did you know…

that it is normal for a new baby to lose some weight between birth and the first pediatrician’s visit? In fact, nearly all newborn babies lose weight during their first week of life. Pediatricians monitor this weight loss at initial appointments to ensure babies are feeding properly and adequately. Generally, a breastfed baby can lose as much as 7 to 10 percent of birth weight in the first week without causing alarm. Formula-fed babies, on the other hand, should lose no more than 5 percent of birth weight.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I take my child to the pediatrician?

Your child’s pediatrician will probably schedule a visit sometime between 3 and 5 days after birth. However, it is important to wait no more than one week to schedule an initial pediatric visit. This is a crucial time – especially for babies who were discharged from the hospital at less than 48 hours old. This first visit, which is arguably the most important, is when your pediatrician checks your baby for jaundice and health conditions that may not have been detected in the hospital, such as congenital heart disease.

What should I expect during our visit?

Your first visit may be one of the longest. If your child did not receive the hepatitis B shot at birth, it will be administered in the office at the first visit. Your child will also be measured and weighed, and the pediatrician will conduct a physical exam. Be prepared to answer questions about your child’s eating habits, including how frequently your baby is feeding and how long. Your child’s pediatrician may spend time talking with you about related topics, such as developmental milestones, teaching a child to sleep through the night, and baby-proofing your home and car.

How often will I need to return to my child’s pediatrician?

Most parents schedule subsequent pediatric appointments before leaving the office at each visit. After your child’s initial visit, he or she will need to return for wellness check-ups and immunizations multiple times over the next two years, and then once annually after that. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pediatric check-ups at 3-5 days after birth, 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, 30, 36 months of age and then once a year afterward. Your schedule may vary slightly from the AAP’s recommendations but should keep the same general timeline.