Do you remember going to the doctor or taking your children to get shots, or vaccines, for school or camp? Most of us think vaccines are for children. But adults need to keep up to date, as well. This is especially true when you are concerned with staying healthy with diabetes or you are older because older people are at higher risk for infections. And you can’t just ignore it because often, the results of an infection can be more serious—and even life threatening.
HOW DO VACCINES WORK?
Vaccines work by introducing a small amount of the virus that causes the illness into the body. Your body responds by making antibodies. Antibodies protect you by killing off germs that enter your body. Vaccines give you just enough of the virus to trigger the antibodies but not enough to make you sick. Once these antibodies are triggered, you are protected from the disease. The immunity from some vaccines lasts for a lifetime, but some vaccines may need some boosting for protection. The newest vaccine is to prevent herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles.
WHAT IS SHINGLES?
Shingles is a kind of painful skin rash. The symptoms of this condition develop in stages. Usually, you’ll start to have mild headaches and you’ll become more sensitive to light. After some time, you’ll start to itch and become irritated. Then, small rashes start to appear and turn to clusters of blisters. The blisters form on one side of the face or body, often on the rib cage. The pain and blisters can last from two to four weeks, depending on the severity of the condition.
WHAT CAUSES SHINGLES?
The virus that causes shingles is the same as the one that causes chickenpox. When chickenpox goes away, a small amount of the virus continues to live in the body. That small amount of the virus keeps you from getting chickenpox more than once. If this small amount of virus becomes active, shingles can occur. No one really knows what triggers the virus to become active. You cannot catch shingles from a person who has it.
SHOULD I GET THE VACCINE FOR SHINGLES?
A one-time dose of the shingles vaccine is recommended for people over 60. Even if it does not prevent shingles, your symptoms will be less severe if you ever do get shingles. There are very few side effects, but people with certain allergies (gelatin, neomycin) should not have this vaccine. Talk with your healthcare provider and ask if this vaccine is good for you.
WHAT OTHER SHOTS DO I NEED?
- Flu shots: Most experts suggest that people with diabetes should get a flu shot every year, usually in the fall or spring. Speak to your Walgreens pharmacist about when flu shots are offered at your local pharmacy.
- Pneumonia Vaccine: This shot is generally given once. Some people get a second vaccination five years later.
- Tetanus: This vaccine is usually given every 10 years to adults between the ages of 19 and 64. In children, it is usually given mixed in with vaccines for smallpox, diphtheria and whooping cough (TDAP). Because whooping cough is on the rise, a one-time booster shot of TDAP is a good idea for adults.
- Measles, Rubella, Mumps and Chickenpox: If you haven’t had any of these conditions yet, you may need a onetime catch-up dose, even if you were already given a vaccine when you were a child. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 50,000 to 70,000 people die each year from diseases for which there are vaccines. Getting these shots can protect you.