Health

January topic – Immunizations

Immunizations – not just for kids

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Seasoned Chocolate. In addition to the wonderful, thought provoking, entertaining, and informative articles you’ll find on this site, it’s my goal to provide you with important and relevant health information that you can use!

Since we’re kicking off a new magazine and a new year I thought we’d start our journey to wellness by reviewing some disease prevention recommendations, specifically adult vaccine recommendations. I know this isn’t a sexy topic and some of you may think it’s not a particularly interesting topic but I assure you it’s a very important topic.  My job is not only to discuss health topics but to also make them interesting. So by the end of this article you may still think that adult vaccines aren’t sexy…but hopefully you’ll see how important they are, and you may even think they’re pretty interesting!

In the coming months I’ll share information on cancer screening recommendations, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, kidney disease, nutrition, physical activity, dementia, depression,  and diabetes, just to name a few.  Check back regularly so you can be “in the know.”

Adult Immunizations

We all know that babies and children need immunizations, but did you know it’s equally as important for adults to get immunized. Here are the recommended adult immunizations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)….the CDC is my go to source for most things health related!

 

Seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine

  • It’s recommended that all adults get a flu vaccine every year
  • The flu is caused by the influenza virus (that’s why we call it the “flu”). The virus infects your respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs).  The flu is not the same as a cold. In fact, colds are caused by a different group of viruses so the flu is not just a bad cold. The flu can lead to very serious illness, hospitalization, and even death in vulnerable populations. Older adults (65 years of age and older) are considered a vulnerable population as are adults of any age with certain chronic diseases (asthma, diabetes, heart disease)
  • Okay….I’ve heard it before, you don’t get the flu vaccine because every time you’ve gotten the vaccine you’ve gotten the flu….so you’ve decided that the flu vaccine causes the flu! Well, I’ve got good news for you; the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.It has to do with the way the vaccine is made. One way the vaccine can be made is from inactivated influenza virus. Since the virus has been inactivated it can’t give you the flu, but your body can still make antibodies against the inactivated virus and those antibodies can protect you from getting the flu. The vaccine can also be made using parts of the influenza virus. Your body can make antibodies against those specific parts and that can give you protection against the flu. Since the vaccine is made from only parts of the virus, the vaccine can’t give you the flu. I realize that this may be more detail about the flu vaccine than you care about, but the bottom line is…the vaccine can’t give you the flu!
  • Now having said that, you may experience some side effects from the vaccine such as soreness at the injection site, a low grade fever, and some body aches. These symptoms are usually mild and only last a day or so. Trust me….they’re much easier to get through than the flu
  • Always check with your health care provider to see if you should get the flu vaccine and for recommendations on the type of vaccine that is best for you
  • For more information on the flu and flu vaccine recommendations visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/flu/public/index.html

 

  • Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine
    • This vaccine protects you against three different diseases: tetanus(commonly known as “lock jaw”); diphtheria (a disease that causes a thick membrane to form on your throat and can lead to breathing problems, heart problems, and even death). Thanks to a rigorous vaccination program, diphtheria is very rare in the United States; and pertussis (also known as “whooping cough”)
    • Most of us got a Tdap vaccine when we were children as part of our routine childhood vaccinations. If you never got a Tdap vaccine you should follow-up with your health care provider to find out if you should get one
    • If you got the Tdap vaccine when you were a child it’s recommended that you get a booster shot every10 years
    • Be sure to talk to your health care provider and find out if you need a Tdap vaccine or booster
    • Additional information on the Tdap vaccine can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/vis-statements/tdap.html

 

  • Pneumococcal vaccine
    • The pneumococcal vaccine protects against infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae (that’s a mouth full!).  It’s also called pneumococcus. In addition to pneumonia, pneumococcus can also cause ear infections, sinus infections, and meningitis (infection of the tissues that cover the brain and spinal cord)
    • Vaccination is the best way to prevent pneumococcal diseases
    • The CDC recommends that all adults 65 years of age and older receive the pneumococcal vaccine. Adults younger than 65 with chronic illnesses (heart, lung, liver or kidney disease), a weakened immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer) and other diseases or risk factors (like smoking) should also receive the vaccine
    • Talk to your health care provider to find out if you should get the vaccine and to discuss the timing and frequency of vaccination
    • For more information on pneumococcal diseases and the pneumococcal vaccine visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/pneumococcal/index.html

 

  • Zoster vaccine
    • The zoster vaccine protects against shingles also known as herpes zoster
    • The CDC estimates that 1 of every 3 people will get shingles at some point in their life
    • What is shingles? First let me ask “How many of you had chicken pox when you were a child?” If you raised your hand, then you are at risk for getting shingles
    • Chicken pox is caused by a virus, the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes shingles.  When you’re first infected with the varicella-zoster virus it causes chicken pox. Once you recover from chicken pox, even though the rash and all the miserable symptoms go away, the virus doesn’t go away. Instead the virus becomes inactive or latent (I like to think of it as “goes to sleep”) inside nerve cells in your spinal cord.  In most people (2 out of 3) the virus remains latent for the rest of your life. In about 1 out of 3 people the virus “wakes up”, reactivates, travels along the nerves from the spinal cord and causes shingles (a red, itchy, oozy, and very painful skin rash)
    • What causes the virus to “wake up” or become reactivated…no one really knows for sure. It’s thought that the natural immunity you had to the virus when you were first infected starts to fade making you susceptible to reactivation. Once the virus is reactivated as shingles, it can spread to someone who has never been infected with the virus or been immunized against the virus and cause chicken pox
    • The best way to prevent shingles is to get vaccinated
    • The vaccine is recommended for people aged 60 and older
    • As always, talk to your health care provider to find out if you should get the zoster vaccine
    • For more information on shingles visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/index.html

 

Well, this is all I have time, and space for this month. Before I sign off let me remind you of one VERY important thing. While I am a doctor….I’m not your doctor. Please discuss all recommendations and health related matters with YOUR health care provider. What I shared are general recommendations but the final decision about what is best for you is a decision that should be made in partnership with your healthcare provider.

 

I welcome your suggestions for health-related topics you’d like to know more about. I will work really hard to include them in future issues.

 

Until next time, stay well!

Kimberly C. Redding, M.D., M.P.H.