For most of us, that means getting a booster shot for whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus about once every 10 years. Adults not already immunized should get vaccinated for mumps, measles and rubella, as well as chickenpox, especially if they didn’t have these illnesses as kids.
Elderly people, those who have compromised immune systems and people who work in certain industries might need additional vaccinations as well, in order to stay safe and up-to-date.
Julijana Botic, MD, an Avera Medical Group internal medicine physician, said adults are often great about making sure their children are immunized, but sometimes overlook their own vaccinations – which is easy to correct.
“Vaccinations are all a part of routine exams and an important part of overall wellness,” she said. “It’s a topic I encourage my patients to bring up with their doctors or providers when they are in for appointments.”
She said that while we all develop immunity to some illnesses if the body faces them when we are children, such as with chickenpox, there are some loopholes and situations where making sure makes lots of sense.
“If you were not born in the U.S., or you were born after 1980, or you did not have chickenpox as a child, it might be a good idea to get that vaccination,” Botic said. “If you can’t remember when you last had your booster for any of the illnesses we have for which we have vaccines, make sure to ask or to use the time you spend in the doctor’s visit to get answers to your vaccination questions.”
A good example of a much-needed booster is tetanus. A majority of the population knows about this disease and that it can often rise up when one is exposed to certain injuries, the classic one being “stepping on a rusty nail.” Many teachers, health care employees and people who work in high-risk exposure settings may want to have the vaccination at regular intervals, because tetanus is no laughing matter.
“Tetanus has declined tremendously in the era of vaccine, but we still recommend protection from it, because if encountered, it has a high rate of mortality. Some of the symptoms include muscle rigidity, spasms and pain that starts on the face and spreads throughout the body,” Botic said. “So if you can’t remember the last time you had your tetanus shot and you received a wound, especially in a less-than-clean setting, get this shot right away.”
Vaccinations for certain age groups also are important. You should get the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) if you did not receive it when you were an adolescent. Get that shot before you turn 26. People who are 23 or younger as well as people deemed to be at higher risk should consider the meningitis vaccine, too.
Vaccines for hepatitis A and B are also recommended, and Botic said the shingles vaccine is a good idea for her patients who are 60 or older.
“There is also a vaccination for pneumonia in people who are 65 and older as well as certain higher risk groups, and we recommend that people in that group talk to their providers about receiving it. Pneumonia can be a life-threatening illness for the elderly and immunocompromised,” she said. “Evidence shows that vaccines are cheap, effective and safe, and in most cases, you can get them easily at your doctor’s office or clinic. There are many that might help you live healthier and avoid a wide range of unpleasant and potentially fatal illnesses. We are here to help you avoid them with vaccines or to answer your questions.”