Every year, many of us vow to eat right, exercise, stop smoking, or lose that extra weight. Those are great ways to become healthier, but don’t forget about the one thing that can help prevent diseases that could make you very sick: immunizations. Each year, many people develop illnesses that could be prevented if vaccination guidelines are followed. Children have a definite schedule for vaccinations, and in most states, children must have proof of immunizations to enter school. With the exception of health care workers and college students, there are no requirements for adults. It’s up to us.
Getting your flu shot is at the top of the list. This is one vaccine which should be received each year. Even babies as young as six months of age are recommended to have a flu vaccine. Keep in mind that the flu season lasts through the spring, so it’s still not too late! Below are some vaccines that don’t get as much attention, but are recommended:
- Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis- This combination vaccine is one we all need to remember, and a booster is needed every 10 years. Tetanus or “Lockjaw” is an infection that can be acquired through a cut, scratches, or a wound and can lead to tightening of muscles in the head and neck so you can’t open your mouth, swallow, or sometimes even breathe. Tetanus kills about 1 out of 10 people who are infected even after receiving the best medical care. It can be given in combination with Diphtheria (Td) or with Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap). Diphtheria can cause a thick coating to form in the back of the throat, which can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis and death. Pertussis or “Whooping Cough” causes severe coughing spells, which can cause difficulty breathing, vomiting, and disturbed sleep. It can also lead to weight loss, incontinence, and rib fractures. In newborns and young infants, pertussis is very serious, and oftentimes fatal. The Tdap vaccine should be given to those who have small children or come in contact with small children on a regular basis, such as day care
teachers or workers. In fact, it is recommended to be given to pregnant women with each pregnancy, regardless of the time between those pregnancies.
- Shingles- A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and lasts from 2 to 4 weeks. Its main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe, and other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. A single dose of shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 60 years of age and older.
- Chickenpox- This very contagious disease causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness and fever. This vaccine is routinely given to children, but it’s recommended if you’re an adult who missed the vaccine, or never had the illness. Chickenpox can be mild for children, but it’s very serious if contracted as an adult. Serious complications from chickenpox include pneumonia, infection or inflammation of the brain, and bone and joint infections.
- Pneumococcal Disease- can cause ear infections, and lead to more serious infections of the lungs (pneumonia), blood (bacteremia), and covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). PCV13 has been used for children, and has just recently been approved for adults. PPSV23 has routinely been given to adults. These protect against 13, and 23 strains of pneumococcal disease, respectively. These are mainly for adults 65 years of age and older. However, they are also recommended for anyone 2 through 64 years of age with certain long-term health problems, or a weakened immune system.
- Other immunizations routinely given to adults are Meningococcal, Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B. The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) series is recommended for young adults up to age 26.
As with any medicine, there is a chance of side effects with vaccines. These are usually mild and go away on their own, but serious reactions are also possible.
Travel vaccines are also important. Some types of international travel, especially to developing countries and rural areas, have higher health risks. These risks depend on a number of things including your vaccination history, current health status, when you are traveling, and your activities while traveling. The local health department can tell you which vaccines you’ll need for the country you are going to.
More information is available at the CDC website:
For more information about immunizations and recommendations, check with a healthcare provider or visit the CDC website using the following link: