What Is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It can cause genital warts and changes in the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer. It can also lead to cancer in other areas, such as the penis, anus, vagina, vulva, and throat. Recent research suggests it might be linked to cardiovascular disease in women.

HPV Immunization Schedule

The vaccine is recommended for girls and boys 11 or 12 years old, and for older kids who aren't yet vaccinated. If needed, kids can get the vaccine starting at age 9.

The vaccine is given as a series of shots:

  • Children ages 9–14 get the vaccine in 2 shots over a 6- to 12-month period.
  • Teens and young adults (ages 15–26) get it in 3 shots over a 6-month period.

Why Is the HPV Vaccine Recommended?

HPV can cause serious problems such as genital warts and some types of cancer. The vaccine is an important way to prevent infection and the spread of HPV. It works best when given before someone becomes sexually active.

The HPV vaccine doesn't protect against all types of HPV. So people who are sexually active should always use condoms. Girls and women should see their gynecologist regularly and get pap smears as recommended (usually starting at age 21).

Possible Risks of the HPV Vaccine

The most common side effects are mild fever and tenderness, swelling, and redness at the injection site. Dizziness, fainting, nausea, and vomiting also can follow a shot. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are rare.

When to Delay or Avoid HPV Immunization

The vaccine is not recommended if:

  • Your child is currently sick. But simple colds or other minor illnesses should not prevent immunization.
  • Your child had a serious allergic reaction to the first dose of HPV vaccine or has a yeast allergy.
  • Your daughter is pregnant (she can get it after she gives birth).

Caring for Your Child After HPV Immunization

Your child may have a fever, soreness, and some swelling and redness in the area where the shot was given. Check with your doctor to see if you can give either acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain or fever, and to find out the right dose.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the doctor if:

  • You aren't sure if the vaccine should be postponed or avoided.
  • There are problems after the immunization.
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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2020 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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