Nobody likes getting a shot. They can hurt, and it's weird knowing that the nurse
is about to jab you with that needle.
But shots called vaccines keep you from getting some serious diseases. These diseases
could make you very sick. The pinch of a shot isn't nearly as bad as those illnesses.
Shots protect you by giving you only a tiny piece of a disease-causing
germ or by giving you a version
of the germ that is dead or very weak. Giving a whole germ that's alive would give
you a disease (like measles or chickenpox).
But giving only this tiny, weakened, or dead part of the germ does not give you
the disease. Instead, just the opposite happens. Your body responds to the vaccine
by making antibodies. These antibodies are part of your immune system, and they can
fight the disease if you ever come in contact with that nasty germ.
When your body is protected from a disease in this way, it's called being immune
to an illness. It can't get you. In most cases, it means you won't get the illness
at all. But sometimes, you can still get a mild case of the illness. This can happen
with chickenpox. Even kids who get the shot to prevent chickenpox can still get a
case of it. The good news is that they usually don't get a very bad case of it. Milder
cases mean fewer spots and less itching.
Shots are given by injection with a needle. A syringe (say: seh-RINJ) holds the
liquid vaccine, and the needle has a hole in it for the liquid to squirt through.
Shots are usually given in your arm or sometimes your thigh.
The good news is that kids get a lot of the shots they need by age 2. So if you're
old enough to read this article, you've already had most of your shots! After that,
a kid doesn't need many more.
There are a few shots given when kids are between 4 and 6 years old. The next set
of shots isn't usually until kids are about 11 or 12 years old.
Most kids should have a flu shot each year. Some kids
can get the flu nasal spray instead of a shot (for example, if their doctor's office
runs out of flu shots). It's sprayed into the nose, so there's no needle. But the
spray hasn't yet been shown to work as well as the flu shot.
Why Do Kids Need Shots?
Shots are great for individual kids because it means that they won't get those
serious diseases. But shots are great for the health of the country and world, too.
How? When almost all kids have received these shots, it means that these illnesses
don't have much of a chance to make anyone sick.
Because most kids in the United States get all their shots, you rarely meet anyone
who has had diseases like measles or mumps. Your mom or dad has probably had to show
your school that you've had all your shots. Schools and camps do this because they
don't want the kids spreading or catching serious illnesses.
My Aching Arm!
OK, it's true. Getting a shot can hurt
a little. But the pain usually comes and goes pretty quickly. If you cry, don't worry
about it. Lots of kids do.
To make shots easier to take, try bringing your favorite teddy bear or asking your
mom or dad to hold your hand while you're getting a shot. Afterward, you may even
get a little treat if you're brave! Maybe your doctor gives out stickers or your mom
and dad will take you to the playground.
Sometimes after a shot, your arm will be sore, look red, or have a small bump where
the needle went in. You also could have a low fever. Your mom or dad can talk to the
doctor about any problems you have. Usually, the soreness and fever go away quickly
or after you take some pain reliever, like acetaminophen
It's OK if you don't like shots, but remember that they are your best shot
at staying healthy!