Before your kids went back to school this year, you
checked to make sure they were up-to-date on their vaccines. . .but what about
yours? There are now many vaccines to prevent diseases in adults and children
that not only weren't required when we went to kindergarten, they weren't
yet developed! The best thing to do is to ask your doctor if you're up-to-date
on the standard shots and if there are other vaccines that would be in your
We think of vaccines as being given once for life, but those for pneumonia
and the flu must be given annually. The best time for Americans to get
their flu shot is October or November; while December is not too late, sooner
is still better. Traditionally, we've emphasized those at highest risk getting
vaccinated, but in reality, the flu shot is for anyone over 6 months of age
who doesn't want to get the flu! Certain vaccines also need boosters every
10 years or so, like the tetanus shot. Have you had chicken pox?
If not, you may want to consider the chicken pox vaccine. While this is
generally a mild and self-limited illness in children, it can be a serious infection
in an adult, especially pregnant women. Are you at risk for Hepatitis
B? You may be surprised: childcare workers and all health care workers
have been added to the list of those who should receive the 3-part vaccine.
The smallpox vaccine is currently only being offered
to certain medical and military personnel, although there are also ongoing clinical
trials in which insistent civilians may consider enrolling.
World travelers may have specific vaccine issues to consider, whether it's
as simple as remembering that flu season is the opposite time of year in the
southern hemisphere than in the northern hemisphere or as complicated as figuring
out which specific vaccines may be required or recommended for safari or jungle
adventurers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov) is a good place to
look for additional specific information about vaccines for travelers.
Created: 9/24/2003  - Donnica Moore, M.D.