On a mid-August morning two summers ago, Debbie Twenge started coughing. Just a cold, thought the resident of Dundee, OR, now 56. But the body-racking cough got worse--much worse. Over the next 6 weeks, Twenge had to make two trips to the emergency room. One particularly frightening evening, her daughter called 911 when Twenge's throat closed up during a coughing fit. "I thought I was going to die," she recalls.
By the end of September, her doctor was suggesting tranquilizers--"as if I was just a nervous female," Twenge says with outrage. That's when her husband read about a local outbreak of whooping cough, aka pertussis. A test quickly revealed she had it, but it took 6 months for her to recover from the lingering inflammation and injury to her breathing passages.
So it was with great interest that Twenge recently learned that the CDC now recommends all adults get a booster shot to protect themselves against this "childhood" disease. Health officials estimate that the vaccine could prevent more than 8,000 adult infections and 30 to 40 deaths each year. "If I had known what pertussis was like, I would have jumped at the chance to be vaccinated," says Twenge.
Chances are, when you hit adulthood, you figured that you were pretty much done with vaccines, except for the occasional flu shot. But it's time to roll up your sleeve. Experts say the right vaccines can prevent pain and misery--and could even save your life.
Still hesitant? Worried about side effects? Don't be. Here's the lowdown on the shots you need and when--and why you want them.
Get It Now
Tdap booster - Prevents whooping cough, diphtheria, and tetanus
You probably got a pertussis shot as a child, or maybe even had a bout of whooping cough, and think you're immune. But experts now realize that neither immunization nor infection provides lifelong protection. In fact, immunity wanes within 10 years, explains Anne Schuchat, MD, director of the CDC's National Immunization Program. That's a big reason there's been a massive resurgence of pertussis over the past 20 years--more than 25,500 cases in the United States in 2005.Protect yourself:
The next time you're due for your 10-year tetanus-diphtheria shot (Td)--and yes, you should be getting a tetanus booster every decade--ask for the Tdap booster, which includes protection against pertussis. Get the shot now if you're in close contact with a baby or someone whose immune system has been weakened by age, chemotherapy, or HIV infection--they might not survive if you pass pertussis to them. (You can get a Tdap booster as soon as 2 years after a previous Td vaccine.)
MMR - Prevents mumps, measles, and rubella