August is National Immunization Awareness Month
With children returning to school, students going to college and healthcare workers preparing for flu season, now is the perfect time for everyone to catch up on their vaccinations.
Your immune system is an amazing disease-fighting machine, but sometimes it comes across stronger viruses and bacteria that spread through your body faster than it can fight them off. Some viruses are so strong that they can hide from or overpower your immune system. In these cases, vaccinations can make the difference.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines help prepare your immune system to fight a disease. Traditional vaccines include a small amount of a virus or bacteria that has been killed or weakened and can no longer make you sick. After receiving a vaccine, if you are exposed to the actual disease, your immune system has developed the antibodies to fight it. A vaccine may not totally prevent the disease, but it will reduce its severity. Some vaccines only need to be given once, while others require “boosters” every few years to continue their protection.
Getting your annual flu vaccination
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year. While everyone should get a flu shot each flu season, it is especially important for those individuals considered to be at higher risk for developing complications from the flu. High risk individuals include children 6 months to 5 years old, pregnant women, adults 50 years of age and older, people with certain chronic medical conditions and those living in a nursing home or long-term care facility. People who live with or care for those at high risk should be vaccinated as well.
Other vaccines you may need
The vaccines you need as an adult depend on your age, sex, overall health, lifestyle and the immunizations you received as a child. Speak to your doctor about the ones that are appropriate for you and to establish an immunization schedule.
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