Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Essential Vaccinations for Children

Much is written in the wilderness medicine literature about vaccinations (shots given to boost the immune system in order to prevent disease) for travelers. Diseases such as yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, and typhoid can be prevented to some degree by adequate immunization. However, we must never forget that less exotic diseases are also present worldwide, including in the U.S., and that these diseases cause "unnecessary" health problems, in the sense that proper immunization against them, mostly in childhood, would prevent their occurrence.

Here is a list of immunizations (vaccines) that are essential in childhood. These should be administered under the supervision of a pediatrician or other qualifed health care professional:

  1. Hepatitis B (virus) beginning at birth
  2. Polio (virus) beginning at age 2 months
  3. Haemophilus influenza type b, or "Hib" beginning at age 2 months
  4. Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough) [all bacteria], or "DTaP" beginning at age 2 months
  5. Pneumococcus (bacteria) beginning at age 2 months
  6. Measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles) [all viruses], or "MMR," beginning at age 1 year
  7. Varicella (chicken pox) virus beginning at age 1 year
  8. Hepatitis A (virus) beginning at age 1 year
  9. Meningococcus (to prevent illness, particularly meningitis, from the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis) for children at age 11-12 years. This vaccine (Menactra, Sanofi Pasteur, Inc., a tetravalent meningococcal polysaccaride-protein conjugate) was in short supply until recently, but is now available in adequate supplies for routine vaccination of all recommended groups, including children aged 11-12 years, and if not previously vaccinated, adolescents at high school entry (at approximately age 15 years), college freshmen living in dormitories, and other persons at increased risk for meningococcal disease
  10. Human papilloma virus (to prevent cervical cancer) for girls at age 11-12 years

In addition, influenza vaccine may be administered beginning at age 6 months. At age 5 years (and until the age of 49 years), the intransally administered, live, attenuated influenza vaccine is an acceptable alternative to the intramuscular trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine.

photo courtesy World Health Organization

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Tags: Just for Kids

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.