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Five Vaccines Most Adults Don't Know They Need

We all know that doctors encourage vaccinations in newborns and children, and the effectiveness of a yearly flu shot is far from a secret, but did you know that there are other vaccines designed to keep you one step ahead of preventable diseases that can occur in adulthood? These five important vaccines should be readily available in most areas of the U.S. and may be administered by doctors or nurses in hospitals, regional clinics and doctors' offices.

  1. Chickenpox can be annoying and unpleasant in childhood, but adults who contract the virus can find themselves on the business end of a very serious disease. Varicella zoster, the chickenpox virus, can spread very easily from an infected to a healthy person. You shouldn't need this vaccine if you had chickenpox when you were younger, since the body builds up natural immunity to the virus in recovered sufferers, but the shot should be readily available if you avoided the disease as a child.
  2. Shingles is a painful rash condition that's also caused by the varicella zoster virus, but this time it's recovered chickenpox sufferers who are at risk. Approximately one in three Americans will develop the disease, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control. Adults over the age of 50 are encouraged to look into vaccination. A weakened immune system or an allergy to gelatin can make a shingles vaccine inadvisable.
  3. Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) is a vaccine engineered to prevent three separate highly contagious diseases with nasty symptoms. People born before 1957 are generally considered to be immune to mumps and measles, but look into your immunization status if you were born later. World travelers and people who work with children tend to have the greatest need for protection against these diseases.
  4. Tdap is another multi-condition vaccine and one that needs continued administration throughout your adult life. Also known as DPT, the shot protects against tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria and acellular pertussis (whooping cough), three bacterial diseases with particularly severe symptoms and considerable rates of mortality in severe cases. Tdap is given only once, but Td boosters (tetanus and diphtheria only) are needed every 10 years.
  5. Pneumococcal vaccine protects the body against the various ravages of the pneumococcus bacteria, most notably the lung infection pneumonia. Other pneumococcal infections can occur in the ear, sinus cavity, spinal cord, bloodstream and brain. Older adults, cigarette smokers and people with weaker immune systems tend to be more susceptible to these infections than others. One or two doses may be all that's necessary for adults 19 to 64. A fresh dose is sometimes recommended for adults over 65.

Adults with certain conditions -- immune function disorders in particular -- should pay special attention to their potential need for these vaccines. Health care providers, technicians and other professionals may also find themselves at risk of exposure to the diseases that these vaccines help prevent. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and find out if your immune system could use a shot in the arm.

Sources

"Chickenpox (Varicella) Vaccine for Adults," Vaccines Health Center, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/chickenpox-varicella-vaccine-guidelines-for-adults

"Immunization Schedules for Adults in Easy-to-read Formats," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaccines & Immunizations, http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/adult.html

"MMR Vaccine for Adults," Vaccines Health Center, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/adult-mmr-vaccine-guidelines

"Pneumococcal Vaccine for Adults," Vaccines Health Center, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/pneumococcal-vaccine-schedule

"Shingles Vaccine," Vaccines Health Center, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/shingles/shingles-vaccine

"Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis Vaccine for Adults," Vaccines Health Center, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/tdap-vaccine-for-adults?page=2

"12 Reasons Why Adults Need Vaccines," Pamela Babcock, Vaccines Health Center, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/vaccines/features/why-adults-need-vaccines

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