Childhood vaccines offer protection from serious or potentially fatal diseases. Here's what you need to know to make sure your child's immunizations are up to date.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Given the schedule's complexity and frequent updates, it can be challenging to understand which vaccines your children need and when. Find out how to stay on top of your child's vaccines.

The vaccine schedule is designed to ensure that children receive vaccines at the optimal time to protect them from infectious diseases. The schedule is updated every year, and changes range from the addition of a new vaccine to tweaks of current recommendations. To determine exactly which vaccines your child needs now and which vaccines are coming up, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendations (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/child-adolescent.html).

If your child has health issues, such as HIV, or if you're planning to travel outside the U.S., talk to your doctor about whether your child needs to follow a different vaccine schedule. If you're ever unsure about which vaccines your child needs, don't hesitate to ask the doctor.

You can request an immunization tracking card from your child's doctor or your state health department. Bring the card with you to all of your child's doctor visits. Ask your child's doctor or nurse to record the vaccine given, date and dosage on the card. You might also note on the card which doctor's office provided the vaccine, in case you need official records down the road.

If your child misses a dose of a vaccine, ask your child's doctor about scheduling a catch-up vaccination as soon as possible.

Immunization requirements — as well as allowable exemptions — can vary by state, and might be regularly updated or changed. If you're not sure of your state's requirements, check with your child's school or child care facility, your child's doctor, or your state health department.

May 05, 2014