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Vaccinations: For Kids of All Ages

Immunizations protect infants and children from serious illness. Over time, that protection can wear off. So-called childhood illnesses can hit teens and young adults hard. Here’s an update on immunizations:

Flu

Young children with influenza endure five days of fever and misery plus three weeks of cough. Ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia often follow. Annual flu shots are strongly recommended for all children 6 months to 5 years of age, and older children with chronic illnesses such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes.

Rotavirus

Rotavirus infection triggers severe vomiting and diarrhea, posing a real threat to infants and young children. A new rotavirus vaccine offers welcome protection. It is given by oral drops at 2 months, 4 months and 6 months of age.

Chicken pox

Research shows that anyone who received a single chicken pox vaccination during childhood, and never developed chicken pox itself, is due for a booster. Many teens and young adults fall into this category and need another “varicella” vaccination.

Dipththeria, Pertussis and Tetanus

The incidence of whooping cough (pertussis) has steadily risen among teens. If their younger siblings are exposed to this highly contagious respiratory illness, the results can be serious or even fatal. The new combined tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is the first to offer adolescents protection against all three diseases, and replaces the standard tetanus boosters throughout adulthood.

Meningitis

The meningococcus bacteria causes meningitis (inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and blood infections. Teens and young adults – especially college freshmen – are at greatest risk. Meningitis can have severe health consequences and is fatal in 10 to 15 percent of cases. One vaccination between 11 and 18 years of age provides years of protection against the most common strains.

HPV infection

A new vaccine, called Gardasil, protects against the four types of human papilloma virus (HPV) that cause most cervical cancers. The vaccine is recommended for all females 9 to 26 years old. Females who are not yet sexually active stand to gain the most from HPV vaccination. Studies show that the vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing cervical cancer among women never exposed to the four virus types. Even with HPV vaccination, however, regular Pap tests remain important to detect cervical cancer in its early stages. The American Cancer Society recommends Pap testing approximately three years after a woman becomes sexually active, and no later than age 21.

WEB EXTRA! The Truth about Tetanus. Rusty nails aren't the only way to get tetanus. Working in your home garden also puts you at risk of getting this deadly and incurable disease. Listen to or download this audio podcast.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 2/1/2007