Health, Mind & Body

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Immunizations important for adults, too

New parents can easily become overwhelmed by the number of pediatrician visits their children need. By the time a child celebrates his or her fifth birthday, he or she has seemingly been administered dozens of immunizations. But even though people get the majority of their vaccinations while they are very young, that does not necessarily mean they can't still benefit from immunizations later in life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that humans never outgrow their need for vaccinations. Although certain vaccinations may no longer be necessary, others may be necessary into adulthood.

Certain vaccinations, which can safeguard individuals from long-term illness, hospitalization and even death, are now recommended for all adults. The following are some of the immunizations you may need as you age.

Influenza

According to the CDC, roughly 226,000 people are hospitalized in the United States due to influenza, while thousands more die from the flu and its complications. Flu vaccines protect against various strains of the flu virus, and the vaccine is recommended for just about everyone between the ages of six months and older, including middle-aged adults. People age two and older are now advised to get the nasal mist version of the vaccination. However, adults age 50 and older should not get the mist. Individuals who are severely immunocompromised, not feeling well or those who have an allergy to eggs should speak to their doctors before getting a flu vaccination.

Pneumococcal disease

Pneumococcal disease is an illness caused by bacteria that can spread from the nose and throat to the ears or sinuses. If the bacteria spreads to other areas of the body, like the lungs, it can cause pneumonia. Pneumococcal disease also can cause meningitis if it affects the spinal column. Adults 65 and older need one dose of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine followed by the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine.

Shingles

Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Individuals who have had chickenpox are at risk for developing shingles later in life. The virus can cause a painful skin rash and blisters. Other symptoms include chills, pain, fever, and even loss of vision. Because shingles most often occurs in people age 50 and older, the shingles vaccine is recommended for those in this age bracket. People who have medical conditions that weaken the immune system or those who take immunosuppressive drugs also may benefit from the shingles vaccine.

Pertussis (whooping cough)

The CDC estimates that there are between one and three million pertussis cases in the United States each year. All adults between the ages of 19 and 64 need a one-time whooping cough booster vaccine, particularly if they will be in close contact with infants younger than 12 months. Adults are the most common source of pertussis infection in infants. Whooping cough for adults can last for several weeks or even months, causing unnecessary discomfort and leaving sufferers gasping for breath.

HPV

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is a common virus spread mostly through sexual contact. Few may know they have the disease, as it rarely produces symptoms. However, certain types of HPV can cause cervical cancer, genital warts and cancers of the penis, anus and throat. The HPV vaccine is recommended for both males and females between the ages of 17 and 50.

Vaccinations are not just for kids. Adults should discuss their immunization records with their physicians to determine which vaccinations they need to maintain optimal health.