When you first become a parent, one of the things people don’t warn you about is the deluge of information you will NEED to acquire at lightning speed in order to keep up with your child’s development.
Your child will be growing in a blink of an eye and going through milestones so quickly that a popular parenting saying “the days are long but the years are short” could not be more true.
So while you’re scrambling to parent and juggle the overwhelming task of raising a child, there will be areas that will be neglected.
However, one prime area that parents should never neglect is the health of the family. But how do you find out what you should know about the family’s health when there’s just too many things to handle?
We’re here to help.
Diseases To Look Out For And Protect The Family Against
There are so many dangerous diseases that continue to plague the human population and cause fatalities on a daily basis.
But you don’t need to be a walking medical encyclopaedia for you to be able to protect your child and family.
Some of the diseases that you need to keep an eye out for, for the whole family, are pertussis (more commonly known as whooping cough), rotavirus, influenza, hepatitis A and B, diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (also known as chickenpox), Meningococcal, and pneumococcal.
Depending on the age group of your family member, there will be different diseases that affect some more than others.
While we won’t go into detail for every one of these diseases, here are some diseases you need to be wary of as the protector of the family.
Whooping cough is a highly contagious infection that attacks the respiratory tract, and is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis. It can be spread by coughing or sneezing. If you have a little one at home, you need to be extra cautious because infants are at the highest risk of catching it and dying from it. If your child has caught it, the symptoms can include a mild fever, runny nose and cough, which might gradually develop into a hacking cough followed by whooping (hence the name whooping cough)1.
Influenza, which is more serious than just a common cold, is an acute viral infection of the respiratory tract caused by a group of viruses. It starts with a sudden fever, then cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and also a runny nose. It can cause severe illness or death, especially in people at high risk2.
Rotavirus is a virus that causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines, which results in diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. Rotavirus affects infants, young children and close relatives. But symptoms are more severe for the younger age groups. Rotavirus is often found in faeces and can spread when you are changing your baby’s diaper and it gets onto your hands or onto any surfaces. If someone in the family contracts rotavirus, the symptoms may not show up for about 2 days, then they will present with a fever, vomiting and stomach pain. Diarrhoea will follow after these symptoms fade3.
Though Hepatitis A is not as prevalent in Malaysia now, 50% of Malaysians below 30 are estimated to not have any antibodies against it. While Hepatitis B affects an estimated 1 million Malaysians4. Someone with Hepatitis A will suffer from an inflamed liver that can cause mild to severe illness and would have likely caught it through ingestion of contaminated food and water, via close contact with an infected person, poor personal hygiene or oral-anal sex5.
Hepatitis B, on the other hand, is a viral infection that attacks the liver. It can cause both acute and chronic disease. Most commonly, it is transmitted from mother to child during birth, or through contact with blood or other body fluids during sex with an infected partner. It can also be passed on via unsafe injections or exposures to sharp instruments6.
How To Help Protect My Child And Family From Dangerous Diseases?
There are many ways to protect your family from getting infected with these diseases.
Diseases like rotavirus can be found on surfaces (if your child’s poop has rotavirus and you wipe it off, the virus can get onto your hands and when you touch surfaces, it may linger)3, while influenza2, measles, mumps and rubella can be spread through droplets or close contact with an infected individual (when they cough or sneeze)7, so keeping the house clean, washing hands, using hand sanitisers and wearing a mask is important to protect the family from these diseases.
If your child’s daycare has a chickenpox outbreak, it is best to keep them at home. Considering we don’t know the medical status of everyone we come into contact with, parents need to take every precaution they can to prevent the family from contracting these diseases.
That is why parents should talk to the family doctor about getting vaccinated against these diseases if it is suitable to be taken. Since there are vaccines available for all of these diseases mentioned, parents would have more peace of mind when their whole family is protected.
What To Consider When It Comes To Vaccinations
There are many vaccinations currently listed in our National Immunization Programme and offered at the local government clinics, however, this does not cover the full list of vaccinations.
The ones not available in the NIP would be influenza and rotavirus, to name a couple as examples.
But they are equally important for you to consider getting for your family to help protect them from these diseases.
It can be overwhelming to think about which vaccines you need for which stage of life. For instance, it is compulsory for you to take the Meningococcal vaccine if you plan to travel for Hajj & Umrah as instructed by the Saudi Arabia Government8.
Or if you spend a lot of time in a closed space, such as an office or a school, you will benefit from vaccination against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis9.
It is also very important for pregnant mothers to take this vaccine during their third trimester to protect their infants from diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
Should you happen to run a home business in which you handle food very often, then you may want to consider vaccination against typhoid to help prevent becoming infected by the Salmonella typhi virus10.
If this sounds like a little too much to take in, fret not.
Use This Tool To Help Protect Your Family
Since we know how busy parents are, we need as much help as we can in gathering the right information at the right time. We’re often not just caregivers of children, but also our elderly parents and most importantly, ourselves!
The H.A.L.O. (Health Age Lifestyle Occupation) quick quiz will help you identify some of the diseases to vaccinate against, and consult your doctor for yourself and your family*.
For instance, it helps to recommend vaccinations if you’re caring for small children or adolescents, or if you’re pregnant, or if you have elderly parents to care for and also for yourself.
It takes into account whether or not you’re trying to conceive and if you are immunocompromised. It also briefly asks if you’ve suffered from any chronic diseases, then goes into your age and if you travel often.
It also asks some other lifestyle questions, like occupational circumstances, that can help to shape the outcome of what you might need to vaccinate against.
Then with all of the information that you input (which should not take you more than 5 minutes!), you’ll have a rather comprehensive list of things to look into for yours and your family’s health from this authoritative tool.
If you want to try this tool out yourself, you can visit THIS website or scan the QR code here!
*Disclaimer: The H.A.L.O. checklist acts as a guiding tool, but is not a conclusive decision-maker in yours or your family’s personal vaccination needs. Always consult with a doctor to finalise the list of required vaccines for yourself and family.
GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical Sdn Bhd (3277-U)
This educational material is brought to you by GSK
©2022 GSK group of companies or its licensor
For further information please contact your doctor
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). Pertussis. World Health Organization. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from www.who.int/health-topics/pertussis#tab=tab_1.
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). Influenza (seasonal). World Health Organization. Retrieved December 10, 2021, fromwww.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)
- WebMD. (n.d.). What Is Rotavirus? Causes, Treatment, and Prevention. WebMD. www.webmd.com/children/guide/what-is-rotavirus.
- Raihan R. Hepatitis in Malaysia: Past, Present, and Future. Euroasian J Hepato-Gastroenterol 2016;6(1):52-55. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29201726/#:~:text=Malaysia%20is%20a%20country%20of,with%20hepatitis%20B%20in%20Malaysia.
- World Health Organization. (27 July 2021). Hepatitis A. World Health Organization. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-a
- World Health Organization. (27 July 2021). Hepatitis B. World Health Organization. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-b
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) – Health Encyclopedia – University of Rochester Medical Center. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2022, from www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=P02250#:~:text=The%20measles%2C%20mumps%2C%20and%20rubella,of%20persons%20with%20the%20viruses.
- The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Hajj and Umrah Health Requirements | The Embassy of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2022, from www.saudiembassy.net/hajj-and-umrah-health-requirements
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, August 10). Tdap (pertussis) vaccine and pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 10, 2021, from www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pregnancy/hcp-toolkit/tdap-vaccine-pregnancy.html.
- World Health Organization. (n.d.). Typhoid. World Health Organization. Retrieved December 9, 2021, from www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/typhoid.
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