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Not Just for Kids: Vaccines for Adults

Many adults wrongly assume that the vaccines they received as children will protect them for the rest of their lives. Immunity can begin to fade over time, and aging can make us more likely to get a serious illness caused by an infection like the flu or pneumonia. In addition, there are specific immunizations recommended for older adults.

Below are a few adult immunizations you should be aware of. For more details and additional vaccination information, view the Immunizations for Adults information from the Immunization Coalition .

Shingles. A vaccine now cuts the risk of developing shingles, a painful rash that can appear on the face or body years after a person has had chicken pox. This vaccine is currently approved for adults 60 years of age and older. Since it was approved, this vaccine has reduced the risk of shingles by about half (51%).

Mumps. Mumps is a virus that leads to painful swelling of the salivary glands and can result in deafness and arthritis. Before there was a vaccine against it, mumps was a common childhood disease in the U.S. Now, because most children and adults are vaccinated, there are normally only a few hundred cases of mumps every year.

A recent outbreak of mumps has spurred a new recommendation for adult vaccinations. Risks for mumps include being a college student, international traveler or health care worker. Exposure to a community outbreak also can increase your risk.

Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (DTaP). The DTaP vaccine protects adults against pertussis—also called whooping cough—as well as tetanus and diphtheria. Adults ages 19 through 64 should receive this vaccine.

Diphtheria: Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that can lead to breathing problems, heart failure, paralysis and even death. Before the vaccine was widely available in the 1930s, there were 100,000 to 200,000 cases in the U.S. per year. The vaccine is 95% effective in preventing diphtheria.

Tetanus: The effectiveness of the tetanus shot is nearly 100% -- it is extremely rare for a person who is fully immunized and whose last dose of the tetanus booster was in the last 10 years to contract tetanus. Learn more about tetanus.

Pertussis: Before a vaccine was available, pertussis was a universal disease. Between 1940-1945, there were as many as 147,000 cases of whooping cough in the U.S., resulting in about 8,000 deaths. The vaccine is 59-89% effective in preventing pertussis. Learn more about pertussis.

Keep a record of your vaccinations and talk with your doctor about them during your next office visit.

View an immunization schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep on top of vaccinations.

This article is not meant to replace a doctor's advice. Be sure to talk to your doctor about immunizations you may need.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Immunization Coalition, Krames Staywell

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