Patient education is part of GAPNA’s mission to promote excellence in advanced practice nursing for the well-being of older adults. The mission of the National Institute on Aging (NIA) is to discover what may contribute to a healthy old age as well as to understand and address the disease and disability sometimes associated with growing older.
In pursuit of these goals, NIA’s research program covers a broad range of areas, from the study of basic cellular changes that occur with age to the examination of the biomedical, social, and behavioral aspects of age-related conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease. The NIA has many resources on health and aging for older patients.
As we get older, healthcare professionals may recommend vaccinations (shots) to help prevent certain illnesses and keep us healthy. Talk with a healthcare professional about which of the following shots you need. And, make sure your vaccinations up to date.
Flu (short for influenza) is a virus that can cause fever, chills, sore throat, stuffy nose, headache, and muscle aches. Flu is very serious when it gets in the lungs. The flu is easy to pass from person to person. The virus also changes over time, which means you can get it over and over again. That’s why most people (age 6 months and older) should get the flu shot each year. Get your shot between September and November. Then, you may be protected when the winter flu season starts.
Pneumococcal disease is a serious infection that spreads from person to person by air. It often causes pneumonia in the lungs, and it can affect other parts of the body.
Most people age 65 and older should get a pneumococcal shot to help prevent getting the disease. It’s generally safe and can be given at the same time as the flu shot. Usually, people only need the shot once. But, if you were younger than age 65 when you had the shot, you may need a second one to stay protected.
Tetanus and Diphtheria
Tetanus (sometimes called lockjaw) is caused by bacteria found in soil, dust, and manure. It enters the body through cuts in the skin. Diphtheria is also caused by bacteria. It is a serious illness that can affect the tonsils, throat, nose, or skin. It can spread from person to person. Both tetanus and diphtheria can lead to death.
Getting a shot is the best way to keep from getting tetanus and diphtheria. Most people get their first shots as children. For adults, a booster shot every 10 years will keep you protected. Ask a healthcare professional if and when you need a booster shot.
Shingles are caused by the same virus as chickenpox. If you had chickenpox, the virus is still in your body. It could become active again and cause shingles. Shingles affects the nerves. Common symptoms include burning, shooting pain, tingling, and/or itching, as well as a rash and fluid-filled blisters. Even when the rash disappears, the pain can stay.
The shingles vaccine is a safe and easy shot that may prevent the disease. Most people age 60 and older should get vaccinated, even if you already had shingles or don't remember having chickenpox. Protection from the shingles vaccine lasts at least 5 years.
Measles, Mumps, and Rubella
Measles, mumps, and rubella are viruses that cause several flu-like symptoms, but may lead to much more serious, long-term health problems, especially in adults. The vaccine given to children to prevent measles, mumps, and rubella has made these diseases rare. If you don't know if you’ve had the diseases or the shot, you can still get the vaccine.
Side Effects of Shots
Common side effects for all these shots are mild and include pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given. Before getting any vaccine, make sure it’s safe for you. Talk with a healthcare professional about your health history, including past illnesses and treatments, as well as any allergies. It's a good idea to keep your own shot record, listing the types and dates of your shots, along with any side effects or problems.
Shots for Travel
Check with your healthcare professsional or local health department about shots you will need if traveling to other countries. Sometimes, a series of shots is needed. It’s best to get them at least 2 weeks before you travel. For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or call the information line for international travelers at 1-800-232-4636.