June and July we have the scent of freshly-mown grass. Long, delicious, velvety evenings with the sound of buzzing mosquitos in one’s ear (slap!). Farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Splashing in a nearby sparkling body of water. Laughter and shouts of glee as children frolic late into the evening chasing fireflies.
In August, we have happy-faced, jubilant children luring us to shop for school supplies in ongoing ad campaigns. (Sure, that’s realistic.) Busy shopping centers with students eagerly spending parent’s money on the coolest back-to-school outfits. School orientations to help quell anxious students’ uncertainties about the upcoming year. News reports about vicious disease outbreaks at universities.
Reports concerning an outbreak of mumps on the campus of University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana hit the media suddenly this week. In-coming students are urged to be vaccinated against this unwelcome virus before gracing the campus with their presence. After all, there are parties to attend, new BFF’s to meet, oh, and a little learning to be had as well.
But, really, what are the odds your child will need medical care for these diseases? They’ve been fine so far, right? Hummm. Let’s have a conversation….
Seriously…Is this necessary?
When your gifted and amazing child was born, it was – and still is – required to receive a multitude of immunizations, with few exceptions. It seemed like every couple months you routinely bundled up Junior and dragged him/her/other to the doctor for yet another round of pin-cushion practice. Of course, it was always worth it to hear the healthcare providers gush about the unique beauty of your precious one. But deep down, the urgent cries of the most important being in your world were a wee bit distressing.
I trust your child has been given the vaccines necessary for elementary and high school attendance. Most schools will not allow them in the building if they have not received them. I used to be the friendly school nurse who would make the agonizing phone call to busy parents notifying them their child must be picked up from school – on the very first day – due to noncompliance. There were a lot of sad faces, and not just on the parents.
There’s this thing called herd immunity.
Let’s say you do not feel your child is at risk for a particular disease. You have heard some strange and scary rumors that if your child is given a certain vaccine, their hair will turn purple and their nose will fall off. My suggestion is …. don’t believe everything you hear and read on the internet, from celebrities, or from endorsed talking heads. Know your sources of information, know the science, talk to your physician.
Are all vaccines always risk-free? Of course not. Check out the number of reported side-effects and investigate exactly what those effects are. Trust me on this one – the disease hurts worse than the immunization. Having said that – ALWAYS talk with your doctor. Your child may have some underlying health concern for which a vaccine could have a negative impact on their health. These situations are very rare, but they DO need to be addressed with your healthcare provider.
With herd immunity, the idea is to vaccinate as many people in the population as possible so that the transmission of disease will not become prolific. Some individual’s health are compromised and cannot benefit from vaccines. These individuals are depending on the healthy population to become vaccinated so diseases are unable to take hold in communities. When you vaccinate yourself and your children, you are helping prevent nasty diseases such as small pox from resurfacing. In other words, you are being a responsible and admirable citizen of the world and teaching your child to do the same. (Applause)
But, there haven’t been (insert any disease here) outbreaks in years!
Why should we continue to vaccinate ourselves?
Guess WHY there have not been outbreaks of (the inserted disease) in years? VACCINES.
World travel to all corners of the earth has contributed to the spread of diseases that have been nearly eradicated, such as small pox and polio. Not all countries have such extensive and readily available immunization programs or requirements. If a few unvaccinated or infected people visit from another country, or we visit them…whoosh! We have an outbreak among unvaccinated people. Remember the measles outbreak last year? Ebola? Yeah, I thought so. If there was an Ebola vaccine, would you ask for it? Probably. However, there is a flu vaccine available yet most people do not bother even though it causes more deaths each year than Ebola. (Pause here to contemplate what you just read.)
What the heck is a mump?*
The vaccinations your child needs as they embark on their future as (sorta) adults in the college world include, but are not limited to, the immunizations listed in red below.
MMR: Measles, Mumps, Rubella.
This immunization is given a couple times, at one year of age and then around kindergarten. However, college kids need to make sure they still have immunity against measles, mumps, and rubella. If not, they need a couple more shots – about 28 days apart. This is the immunization U of I is urgently requesting students check into before school starts – so hurry up.
Let’s break it down.
Highly contagious virus.
Lives up to 2 hours after being spewed from a body by coughing, sneezing, etc.
Contagious four days before and four days after the rash appears.
If not immunized there is a 90% chance, after exposure, that you, too will become ill.
You will become very, very sick. No parties for you.
Highly contagious virus.
Spread by coughing, sneezing, touching, and even talking. (Did you know we spew saliva when we talk?)
Contagious before glands appear swollen and up to 5 days after.
You will become very, very sick. No parties for you.
Rash, fever, swollen glands, can affect an unborn baby.
Spread by coughing and sneezing. (See a pattern here?)
You may become very, very sick. (About half do not show symptoms, but they still share the virus.) No parties for you.
In conclusion, f you want a guaranteed way to prevent your kids from partying, not being immunized may work. However, you might become a caregiver – which means no parties for you, either, Mom and Dad.
HPV Vaccine: (Gardasil and Cervarix)
The HPV virus, or Human Papillomavirus, is spread by engaging in sex – any kind of sex. Oral, vaginal, anal. Can cause cancer, especially cervical and throat. Also warts. On the genitals. There are lots of strains of HPV, but our dedicated researchers have come up with a couple vaccines to decrease the odds of people suffering from these ailments.
Guys, girls, people who identify as neither or both….there is a series of three vaccines that should be given around the age of 11-ish. (We need to catch them before they are sexually active, otherwise it may be too late.) I will be honest, a lot of people complain it hurts around the injection site. But seriously, get over it. It is better than the genital warts and cancer.It may be hard for parents to believe that their child may have sex in college. Or ever. And you may be correct. (I’m silently laughing.) Be on the safe side, and start working on the series of three injections to keep your child healthy.
There are a few different vaccines for meningitis, depending on the culprit. Talk to your healthcare provider to discuss the options. Usually students have been vaccinated by high school, but check to make sure your child is. In fact, they probably won’t let your child into college without it.
Meningitis is fast-moving and deadly. It is an inflammation of the meninges, a protective layer surrounding the brain. Bacterial meningitis is the most serious, but with a quick diagnosis and antibiotics, there is a cure.
Highly contagious. Spread by coughing, sneezing, kissing, sharing stuff…yawn…you know the drill.
Hepatitis B causes liver damage, which isn’t fun. It is spread through blood and body fluids. So if your daughter wants to borrow the razor of her roommate for a quick “touch up” and knicks herself…RISK! Not everyone has symptoms…but that doesn’t mean the virus isn’t doing it’s damage. It only means you don’t know who is spreading it.
Tdap stands for: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. It is likely your child has already had this vaccination to attend school, but a booster of Tdap is to be given every ten years. Yes, even for you mom and dad.
Tetanus (Lock-Jaw): Caused by a bacteria entering wounds, basically. Causes muscles to tighten. Example: your non-partying child stepping on an old beer can.
Diphtheria: Bacteria spread by coughing and sneezing. Causes difficulty breathing due to a thick vicious coat on the back of the throat. Yes, and you can die from it – breathing has been scientifically proven to keep humans alive.
Pertussis (Whooping Cough): This one is really making a comeback as well. Caused by a bacteria which causes fits of coughing. This coughing is so intense a person cannot get air into their lungs – when they finally do, it sounds like a “whoop”. And not a joyous one, etiher.
This is for everyone including you, mom and dad.
Some people mistakenly believe that the “flu shot” protects against something commonly referred to as the “stomach flu”. However, as Caitlin E. Cook, MPH (who specializes in infectious disease and vaccinology) stated, “People generally misuse the term “stomach flu”. The illness they are referring to is very rarely caused by influenza virus, and is an unrelated illness. Influenza virus – the true “flu” most commonly causes headache, fever, and cough – and generally not nausea and vomiting.”
We are talking about the knock-down, drag out, in-bed -for-two-weeks kind of illness. Just ask my brother, who pinky promised me (well, not really) that he will get the flu shot this year after being dragged through the dark days of influenza last year. This can be a very deadly illness. It kills 36,000 people every year and 200,000 hospitalized according to Harvard Medical School.
Granted, sometimes you may end up with influenza despite having the vaccine, however it will lesson the duration and severity of the symptoms. Take note, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in, so if you come down with the virus within two weeks of being poked, you were exposed before you were protected.
Yes, you need to be immunized each year because the virus changes every year.
Just do it. It rarely costs more than $20, and often it is free at your neighborhood clinic or drug store. All it takes is a few minutes of your time. According to the CDC, it decreases your chance of needing medical care by 60%. Plus, think about all the good you are doing in the world by offering herd immunity to those who are physically compromised and could die if you do not get the shot.
So, there you have it. The list of vaccines your brilliant, college-bound genius should have before they grace the classroom (or party house) with their presence are.
Of course, always talk with your healthcare provider about your child’s special health concerns.
Saying goodbye to your child as they head off to college can be difficult. Taking precautions to enhance their health now and in the future will allow you to sleep better at night and know that they are healthy and having fun. Maybe a little too much fun.
*So, just what IS a mump? Mump is an Old English word used to describe a grumpy, grimacing face. Therefore a person suffering from the mumps has a mumpy face because of the swelling and discomfort that accompanies the virus.