AMARILLO – Shots … say the word and watch the look of dread come over a child’s face.
Shots – vaccinations or immunizations – are a part of life for school children in this country. Kids don’t like them, but shots are designed to provide protection from certain diseases.
Many adults don’t realize it, but the same is true for them, said Andrew Crocker, Texas Cooperative Extension gerontology and health specialist in Amarillo.
“Try to remember the last time you were immunized,” he advised. “It has probably been a while.”
But adults are also affected by communicable diseases and need protection, Crocker said. And it doesn’t have to be as painful as you think.
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have some tips for adult immunizations,” he said.
Pneumonia and influenza the flu together count as the fifth-leading cause of death for older adults, Crocker said. Vaccinations against both of these illnesses are available.
“The pneumococcal vaccination requires a one-time injection,” he said. “The influenza vaccine requires an injection once per year due to the changing nature of the influenza virus.” That’s why a yearly flu shot is advised for older people and those in fragile health.
“Medicare Part B provides for you to receive these two vaccinations once for pneumococcal and annually for influenza,” Crocker said.
Remember getting a cut by something rusty and having to get a tetanus shot? Remember hearing horror stories about diphtheria? Remember getting a combination shot every few years to protect against those dangers? Those hazards don’t go away just because children become adults.
Although less than 50 cases of tetanus are reported in the United States each year, Crocker said, they cause about five deaths. “Most of these deaths occur in adults over the age of 60,” he said.
As for diphtheria, this contagious disease is potentially fatal, Crocker said. In fact, nearly 10 percent of those who contract diphtheria die from it, he said.
“For these reasons, the CDC recommends that adults receive a tetanus/diphtheria booster once every 10 years,” he said.
The one-time vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella has been around since 1956 and usually provides lifetime protection against these illnesses, Crocker said. However, since these “childhood diseases” can strike adults too, anyone who has not had either the diseases or the shots should be immunized, he said.
Other immunizations can be helpful in certain circumstances. “Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, chicken pox and meningitis may benefit certain individuals,” Crocker said. People at high risk for these conditions include health workers, people with weakened immune systems and those who have close contact with people who are infected, he said.
Frequent travelers also may need extra inoculations. “These persons should check the CDC Web site for vaccination and medication recommendations for various travel destinations,” Crocker said. Go to http://www.cdc.gov/travel for more information.
Keeping immunizations up to date is not something that’s outgrown, he said.
“It is estimated that each year in the United States, about 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications,” he said. “Talk with your health provider about updating your immunization record.”
Visit the Centers for Disease Control Web site at http://www.cdc.gov/.
For more information on this and other health issues, visit Extension’s Family and Consumer Sciences Web site at http://fcs.tamu.edu or contact an Extension agent.