When children are very young, it’s easy to keep their vaccinations top of mind, but many life-saving vaccines are given at later ages and it’s easy to miss a dose here or there once a child becomes more independent.
Prevention is key
Thomas Phelps, M.D., a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s, said it’s important for teens to be up to date on vaccines if they’re heading to college to keep them safe from life-threatening illnesses.
“These things are very rare, but if you have that immunity when your body ever sees it and it’s in stress from whether you’re out playing a sport, you’re sharing water bottles, or you’re going into a college dormitory where there are a hundred people who live and share restrooms; it’s important to prevent them from getting exposed to that,” said Dr. Phelps.
One of the most dangerous preventable diseases that can impact teens and young adults is bacterial meningitis.
Bacterial meningitis is a serious infection of the brain and nervous system that tends to be communicated between people living in close quarters – such as dorms.
It is most common in people between the ages of 16 and 21 and also young infants.
Bacterial meningitis can be spread through intimacy, but also common actions such as sharing a drinking glass.
Symptoms of meningitis can arise quickly and become serious very quickly, leading to neurological problems, loss of hearing, amputations and even death.
The meningitis vaccine is given in two doses and protects against four different strains of the disease.
Another vaccine that young adults need protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV).
The HPV vaccine protects against the strains of virus that are most likely to cause cervical cancer.
Dr. Phelps said HPV is more common than most parents think.
“Some studies say 75 percent of people have had HPV at some time in their lives,” said Dr. Phelps. “So if anyone is going to be sexually active in college they’re likely to be exposed to HPV.”