By Jeanne Millsap Correspondent February 26, 2013 2:36PM
Dr. Gary M. Trager
Updated: March 28, 2013 6:04AM
We tend to think of immunization shots as only for children, but there are several that are recommended for adults, as well. One reason is that our bodies’ immunity to a particular virus usually eventually wears out, even if we were vaccinated against that virus as a child.
Also, as we get older, we are more susceptible to some illnesses, such as pneumonia and shingles.
“The mindset for most of us is that vaccines are for kids,” said infectious disease specialist Dr. Gary Trager with The Family Medical Group in Joliet and Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center. “Our immunity does wear off. An example is tetanus.”
Trager said adults also need some first-time shots as they get older, such as the one for shingles. Every normal, healthy adult over the age of 60 should get a vaccine for shingles, he said.
Other shots recommended for adults are not just for their own health, but for the health of any babies in their lives. The whooping cough, or pertussis, vaccine booster is highly advised for those adults. Here are some of the vaccines most physicians recommend for adults. Check with your physician about the possibility of immunizing yourself against these diseases.
The CDC recommends everyone at least 6 months and older get the flu shot every year. They especially urge those who have or are around people with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung conditions get the vaccine. The shot uses an inactivated virus, so there is no danger of getting the flu from the shot.
Vaccination is the best protection against getting the flu, said Vic Reato of the Will County Health Department. It takes two to three weeks to build up the immunity after receiving the flu shot, Reato said, so a good time to get the shot is in early fall, before the major wave of the flu season hits. Our antibodies against the flu stay with us for nine to ten months, plenty of time to get us through the virus peak in January and February.
Whooping cough (pertussis)
In adults, whooping cough, or pertussis, can be mild and resemble a cold or bronchitis. However, it is highly contagious, and if an adult contracts it and passes it along to a young child, the symptoms can be much worse.
The narrowed airways and thick mucus it causes in babies can lead to coughing so bad it can crack ribs, cause a hernia, or even result in death. To protect the health of you and young children who you may expose, a whooping cough vaccine booster is recommended for adults.
Recommended for adults 65 or older and also for younger adults with heart or lung disease, liver disease, diabetes, cochlear implants, asthma, or who are smokers.
The vaccine for the herpes zoster virus is recommended for adults age 60 and older. Most of us already carry the virus in our bodies from previous infection, and for reasons not known, the virus can activate years later as shingles. About one in three people in the United States will develop shingles.
This disease is a virus caught by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with feces. The vaccine is recommended for high-risk adults, including people with liver diseases or clotting disorders, homosexual men and travelers abroad.
Also caused by a virus, this disease is caught through exchange of blood or other bodily fluids. The vaccine is recommended for adults younger than 60 who have diabetes, for sexually active adults not in a monogamous relationship, for adults with kidney disease, for some dialysis patients, for homosexual men, for health care workers, and for international travelers.
Human papilloma virus is a common virus and also the major cause of cervical cancer in women, as well as anal cancer and genital warts in both men and women. The vaccine against is recommended for women ages 19-26 and for men ages 19-21.
Meningitis is a very serious bacterial disease. About one in 10 who get it dies. Recommended for those 11-18 years of age, especially college freshmen living in dorms and military recruits. Also recommended for those with impaired immunity and some international travelers.
This is a serious disease, affecting the respiratory system. A Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster is recommended every 10 years for most adults.
Tetanus, or lockjaw, is caused by bacteria found in the soil, dust and in manure that enter the body through wounds. Ten percent to 20 percent of people who get tetanus die from it. The booster comes with the diphtheria booster and is recommended every 10 years for most.
Sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March of Dimes, Dr. Gary Trager, Vic Reato.