While “Have you had your flu shot?” is a common question this time of year, experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say there are other vaccinations that are important, including a pneumonia shot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 62.3 percent of adults 65 years and older have never received a pneumococcal vaccination. UAB Family Nurse Practitioner Program Manager D’Ann Somerall says that statistic needs to be much lower.
“Pneumonia can be devastating to older adults, especially those with co-morbidities,” said Somerall, a UAB School of Nursing educator and a nurse practitioner at the UAB School of Nursing Foundry Clinic in Bessemer, Ala. “Generally what happens when older adults get pneumonia is that it doesn’t clear for months. It can lead to immobility, primarily because they can’t breathe well.”
For a smoker 65 or older who is already compromised with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or has bronchitis or asthma, the risks a pneumonia infection can bring could be shattering.
“When people with those conditions get pneumonia, it’s so debilitating to them that we often are not able to get them well,” Somerall said.
Asking a physician about which vaccinations are right is important at any age, says Stephen Russell, M.D., physician in the UAB School of Medicine’s Division of General Internal Medicine.
“There are several immunizations that are valuable to people at different stages of their lives,” Russell said. “We recommend a tetanus booster every 10 years, for example. Since 2006, there is a new one with a whooping cough booster called T-Dap. Even though whooping cough is less an issue for adults, it is an issue for the children adults may be around. So when adults get this booster, they are also protecting their children from whooping cough.”
Russell says men and women in their 20s should talk to their doctors about the HPV vaccine. The CDC now recommends HPV vaccination for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12, as well as teen boys and girls who did not get the vaccine when they were younger. In fact, young women up to age 26 and young men through age 21 who have not been exposed to HPV are encouraged to get a vaccination.
As for older adults, Russell says men and women older than 60 should ask a physician about the shingles vaccine. Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox.
The CDC says nearly one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles, and the risk of getting the disease increases as a person gets older. In fact, about half of all cases occur in men and women who are 60 years of age or older.
“The pain and blisterlike sores that form can be excruciating,” Russell said. “The natural immune system wanes after age 65, so we now try to capture people at age 60 for the shingles vaccine.”
Somerall and Russell encourage everyone to schedule a yearly checkup with his or her primary care physician and ask about vaccination needs. They also advise people against waiting a long time before calling to make an appointment with a physician when they get sick — especially during cold and flu season.
“Patients should never hesitate to call a provider if they are sick,” Somerall said. “When you are 60 or older, your immune system just doesn’t enable you to kick the common cold as easily as you did when you were 30. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment and find out what’s wrong. Most conditions are much easier to tackle if treated early.”
News You Can Use
Homesickness and empty nest syndrome — coping with separation
UAB clinical psychologist Josh Klapow, Ph.D., provides tips for college students experiencing homesickness.What’s the deal with that bad breath?A UAB School of Dentistry faculty member talks bad breath — where it comes from and how to fight it.posted 23 days ago 2204 viewsEating for wellness: Can a change in diet improve your health?Developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with food is a lifelong pursuit, not a sprint to the finish line. Start by eating real foods that you enjoy, and feed your body in a way that optimizes your own health.posted a while back 3343 viewsThe warning signs of mental illness and addictionA UAB psychologist discusses addiction and recognizing the symptoms of mental illness in adults and children.posted a while back 1866 viewsAsteroid Day will draw eyes to the stars, but the more urgent threat may be under our feetKnowing when an asteroid could impact Earth would be nice, but learning more about super volcanoes might be more prudent.posted a while back 2514 viewsAvoiding and treating for contact with poisonous plantsWith these tips from UAB Emergency Medicine, know how to identify poison ivy, oak and sumac, protect yourself against allergic reaction, and treat exposed areas.posted a while back 1915 viewsSummer heats up our emotions, tooTempers will flare and the threat of violence is often not far behind as temperatures rise, says a UAB psychologist.posted a while back 1273 viewsThe blinding truth – fireworks and the dangers they pose to your eyesThousands of people, many of them children, suffer eye injuries from fireworks each year in the United States. UAB ophthalmologists at the only eye emergency room in Alabama provide safety tips.posted a while back 2405 viewsUAB surgeon cautions beware of vapingVape pens are catching on, but there is a hidden danger. They sometimes blow up, and a UAB burn surgeon says the results are decidedly unpleasant.posted a while back 16421 viewsFinding a primary care physician is an important step for millennialsUAB’s William Curry, M.D., explains the advantages for millennials to find a primary care physician and why it is a necessary step to take for their health.posted a while back 2472 viewsDebunking digital eyestrain and blue light mythsAdam Gordon, O.D., discusses blue light, including the lack of clinical evidence in advertisements overstating dangers, as well as the effects of blue light on sleep and eye discomfort.posted a while back 4206 viewsWhat to teach your children when politicians act like — childrenThe bullying, lying and lack of respect in this year’s political campaigning is teaching children all the wrong lessons, and parents need to intervene.posted a while back 2091 viewsProm? — Tips for parents for high school’s big nightProm night doesn’t have to come with pressure if parents provide the appropriate focus and perspective. UAB psychologist Josh Klapow, Ph.D., provides advice.posted a while back 2740 viewsSpring break water safety for childrenRemember the basics of water safety as you head to the pool, lake and beach.posted a while back 2924 viewsThe dangers and risks of binge drinkingExperts take an in-depth look into a favorite college pastime by understanding the dangers and risks of alcohol.posted a while back 4615 viewsDebate body language: what presidential candidates are saying without wordsNonverbal communication expert Mark Hickson, Ph.D., offers insight into the gestures and facial expressions displayed by presidential candidates during recent debates.posted a while back 3605 viewsUnited States presidential primaries: What you need to know about each candidate’s views on health care policy and prescription drugsUAB health care policy expert Leonard Nelson provides insight into the 2016 presidential candidates ahead of Alabama’s March 1 primary.posted a while back 3844 viewsKeeping your child’s mouth healthyUAB School of Dentistry’s Stephen Mitchell, DMD, provides tips for parents to promote children’s dental health.posted a while back 3533 viewsWill you be ready when the weather outside is frightful?Winter is coming — are you ready? Prepare for the worst with handy checklists from UAB Emergency Management for home, office and car.posted a while back 3742 viewsNavigating the holidays can be difficult for those with dementia and their familiesChanges in routine, including elaborate plans or scheduling special events, can have an adverse effect on someone suffering from any form of dementia.posted a while back 3887 views