Happy kind after getting a vaccine

Child Immunizations: What, Why, When

We all want to make the best choices for our children and keep them safe. Friends and family, social media, and news reports may have a lot to say about vaccinations for children, but do you have the facts? What are vaccinations, why should your child get immunized, and when do they need them?

Let AltaMed take the mystery out of vaccinations so you can protect your child from preventable diseases and help protect those around you.

What Are Vaccinations?


Modern childhood vaccinations have been around for about 60 years. They were developed to stop the spread of infectious diseases that once killed thousands of people each year.

By injecting a small amount of weak or inactive germs into the body, a child’s immune system learns to recognize the disease and develops antibodies (proteins that fight viruses, bacteria, and other harmful substances) to eliminate the threat of illness. This prepares the immune system to protect a child’s body if they ever come into contact with that disease again.

Why Should I Vaccinate My Child?

Child Being Vaccinated

Getting your child vaccinated between birth and six years of age protects them from 14 deadly diseases including measles, mumps, and polio. Vaccinating your child also helps protect your friends, family, and neighbors who are at greater risk of disease and cannot get vaccinated themselves because they are too young or have certain health problems.

Children are most vulnerable when they are born, and they depend on you to make the right choices to protect them. It is critical to stick to the vaccination schedule provided by your child’s doctor. No matter the age, preventing dangerous diseases outweighs any possible side effects such as slight pain, swelling, or low-grade fever that your child may experience. Take the proper action to build your child’s immune system during their critical developmental stages.

How Safe Are Vaccinations?

Lab Doctor

The short answer is very. Vaccines are constantly re-evaluated and studied by scientists and researchers. Serious reactions to vaccines are rare, occurring only once in every million doses. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Immunization Safety Office, the current vaccine supply in the United States is the safest in history.

Are There Rules or Laws About Vaccines?

Medical Utensils

The state of California requires all children attending public or private school to receive the doctor-recommended immunizations for vaccine-preventable diseases. This mandatory vaccination helps keep overall immunity levels high and protects the community members, including other schoolchildren, who cannot receive vaccinations.

Vaccinating Babies & Children

Child Being Vaccinated

The recommended immunization schedule that promotes immunity for infants and children begins at birth and carries through to age six. There are 10 vaccines for babies and children for 14 diseases. Although babies are typically born with strong immune systems—and also receive some protection from their mothers through the transmission of antibodies during breast feeding—they still need help fighting bacteria, germs, and viruses.

Even the most cautious parent cannot stop a child from being exposed to disease 100% of the time. Whether it’s from unvaccinated friends, neighbors, or family, or from public places (day care, the grocery store, the park), unvaccinated children under the age of five are at risk of getting sick from a disease.

Vaccinating Adolescent Children

Adolescent Being Vaccinated

The CDC recommends four vaccines for almost all children ages 11-12: meningococcal, human papilloma virus (HPV), the collective Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), and influenza (the flu). Meningococcal diseases are rare but are spread by sharing food and drinks or kissing. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause genital warts, and is associated with cervical cancer in women, and other types of cancers in both men and women.

The Tdap vaccine is a booster for the children’s DTaP vaccine, necessary for older children because the effectiveness of the first vaccine wears off over time. Doctors recommend that all children six months and older receive the flu vaccine every year because the flu virus changes each year.

It is Free!

Baby Being Vaccinated

We encourage you to follow the immunizations schedule into their adolescence, so they are protected during every stage of their life. Here at AltaMed, all the vaccinations the CDC recommends are available free of cost! We provide childhood, adolescent, and HPV immunizations for patients 0-17 years of age.

Visit an AltaMed location near you or contact us at (888) 499-9303 to schedule an appointment with your provider to stay on track of your child’s immunization timeline.

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AltaMed two Kids Brushing their Teeth

Keeping Your Child’s Smile Healthy

Seeing your child smile is a great feeling. Keeping that smile healthy can take some work. Children’s dental health can be easy to overlook, but the truth is it’s essential to their overall wellbeing. Pain or infections caused by tooth decay can lead to serious physical and mental complications down the road. Check out these helpful facts and tips to keep your child, and their mouth, feeling good.

A Mouthful of Facts

Kid Smiling
  • Cavities (tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic childhood conditions in the United States.
  • Roughly 20% of children ages 5 through 11 has at least one untreated cavity.
  • Tooth decay can cause extreme discomfort or disease that could lead to difficulty eating, speaking, and learning.
  • 69% of Americans get fluoride through local drinking water, which can help protect teeth. Most bottled waters do not contain fluoride.

First Steps: Dealing with Baby Teeth

Baby Showing Teeth

It’s important to begin monitoring your infant’s teeth as soon as they come in. Check for consistency in coloring and alert a dentist if you notice any stains or spots. Clean with a soft washcloth or baby-specific toothbrush. Around the age of two, you can begin using a regular, fluoride toothpaste.

Check out some more quick pointers for keeping their first set of teeth in tip-top shape:

  • Avoid leaving your baby with a bottle at night or during naptime.
  • Never cover pacifiers with sugary substances like honey.
  • Start healthy habits early by skipping sugary drinks and juices and go for water instead. This is a great way to help fight childhood obesity, too.
  • Around their first birthday, teach your child how to drink from an open cup.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends scheduling your child’s first visit to the dentist once their first tooth appears, or no later than their first birthday.

Tooth Care for Tots, Teens, and Everyone in Between

Child Brushing His Teeth

Once their adult teeth start coming in, children should start caring for their teeth like adults, too. Establishing a routine will make it easier for them to remember and learn lifelong healthy habits.

  • Brush with Fluoride Toothpaste

The National Institute of Health recommends using toothpaste with fluoride for best results. Studies have shown that fluoride toothpaste is 33% more effective at preventing tooth decay. Dentists recommend brushing for a full two minutes, alternating between different areas of the mouth. It’s important to supervise your child’s brushing habits until they are old enough to brush on their own.

  • Be Consistent

Children should brush their teeth after every meal to remove potentially harmful bacteria. At a minimum, kids should brush in the morning before school and at night before bedtime.

  • Floss

While brushing will help get rid of food buildup on the surface of their teeth, be sure to have you children floss in the evening as well. Flossing will clean the hard-to-reach areas between teeth and at the start of the gum line, removing plaque before it becomes harmful. Flossing is recommended for everybody from young children to teenagers.

  • Visit the Dentist

According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists, most children need two scheduled checkups per year to maintain a healthy smile. Can’t remember the last time your child visited the dentist? It may be time to pick up the phone.

  • Avoid Whitening Toothpaste

A shiny, white set of teeth may sound ideal, but don’t risk your child’s health trying to get them. Many active whitening toothpastes contain harmful chemicals that can wear down enamel (your teeth’s protective outer layer). Be sure to stick with regular, fluoride toothpaste instead.

  • Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

If your child begins to experience any unusual pain, such as a toothache, seek professional help as soon as possible. Strong discomfort can often signal an infection which may spread to the jaw, neck, or head.

Don’t Forget to Smile!

Little Girl Smilling

By following these steps, you can rest easy knowing your child’s smile is happy and healthy. If you’re not sure of the last time you or your children went to the dentist, schedule an appointment at AltaMed. Our dental offices are conveniently located inside the same locations that provides medical care, women’s health services, and all the other care you and your family need to grow healthy. Find one today.

Multicultural kids laughing

5 Ways to Promote a Positive Body Image for Kids

We live in a world that is obsessed with looks. No matter how much we try to protect kids from unrealistic expectations, they are still exposed to it through TV and movies, in magazines and online, at home with family, and at school among friends. You can help the kids in your life havea healthy body image with these five tips.

Start with You!

Runner Woman Flexing Her Arms

Before you do anything else, look at your own beliefs, actions, and behaviors. Do you have an unhealthy relationship with food or dieting? Be mindful of the message that you are sending about your attitude toward your own body and appearance. This includes criticizing yourself in ways that communicate that what you look like is more important than who you are.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds us that kids will always pick up on the negative messages we send about ourselves. Be positive about your own body first, and then you’ll be able to help your child.

Inspire a Healthy Relationship with Food

Mother and Daughter Shopping at the Supermarket

Encourage children to eat a healthy variety of foods, in moderate amounts. Food shouldn’t be treated as either a reward or a punishment, but simply a method for satisfying hunger. Kids should not be focused weight, calories, or rules. Remind children to pay attention to their bodies’ hunger cues, and eat tasty, healthy snacks that will fuel their bodies through their favorite activities.

Get Active

Kids Playing a Soccer Match

Part of a healthy body image is the feeling of being fit and strong. Encourage your children to play! This could be through organized team sports like soccer or softball, or solo activities like riding a bike or swimming. The American Heart Association encourages children to practice physical activity daily for strong hearts, better sleep, more energy, and healthy muscles, bones, and joints.

Build Self-Esteem

Group of Kids Smilling

A National Institutes of Health study found that children learn about healthy and unhealthy body images and self-esteem from friends and family. It’s important that the message kids receive is that self-esteem should not be tied to being “perfect.” Kids should be encouraged to focus on what their bodies can do—not what they look like. Bodies that can play, run, dance, jump, and climb are bodies that should be appreciated. Children that feel good about their bodies are more likely to have higher levels of self-esteem.

Be Supportive

Family Sitting on a Couch Talking

Children who feel safe and supported are often healthier, better adjusted, and less likely to be unhappy with their body or self-image. Parents and grandparents should aim to create an environment where children feel comfortable asking questions and sharing uncomfortable thoughts. Kids whose family members listen to their concerns and discuss how real value is found in character and not appearance, will have better self-esteem, and are less likely to fall into the negative body image trap.

For other ways to reinforce a healthy body image for kids, consider enrolling in AltaMed’s 12-month STOMP Wellness and Family Nutrition Program. Through classes and activities, your family will get tips for healthy eating, family fitness exercises, and participate in fun challenges! You and your family could even win prizes!

Call us for more information on STOMP:

Child Immunizations: What, Why, When