Immunizations not just for kids

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Adults often ignore immunizations after the children grow up and leave home, but it's important for adults to protect themselves from infectious diseases, too. Some people avoid getting immunizations because they fear side effects, or because of the misconception that immunizations cause illness. Immunizations trigger the body's immune system to make antibodies that will safeguard against active viruses. However, mild discomforts such as headache, low-grade fever, or soreness at the site of the injection are sometimes mistaken for the flu.

Why is it especially important for older adults to be immunized?

  • The immune system function becomes less efficient with age.
  • The central nervous system is less sensitive to immune signals and doesn't react as quickly or efficiently to infections.
  • Adults 70 and older are more likely to produce auto-antibodies, which attack the joints and arteries, than to produce infection-fighting cells.
  • Older adults are often nutritionally deficient.
  • Older adults experience depression and stress that suppress immunity.

The sixth leading cause of death in the United States is infection of the lungs caused by bacteria (pneumococcal pneumonia) and complications of influenza (flu). There are vaccines for both of these deadly illnesses. In flu epidemics, 8 of 10 who die are over 60 years old. The U.S. Public Health Service's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Family Physicians both recommend an annual flu shot for adults 50 and over. The protection provided by the flu vaccine begins about two weeks after the vaccine is administered. In addition, the U.S. Public Health Service recommends that every adult over age 65 get the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine.

Talk with your health care provider to determine which immunizations are recommended for you. Don't risk getting preventable diseases. Immunizations combined with sound nutrition and an active social life all contribute to improved health and reduced medical costs.

For more information, contact the CSU Moffat County Cooperative Extension Office, 824-9180.

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