Important: Immunizations Help Protect People with Diabetes from Infection

Important: Immunizations Help Protect People with Diabetes from Infection: Main Image
For those at high risk of developing complications when ill, including adults living with diabetes, immunizations are an important part of a health and wellness plan

Immunizing yourself and your loved ones can help protect against preventable, and often very serious, infections. For those at high risk of developing complications when ill, including adults living with diabetes, immunizations are an important part of a health and wellness plan.

The whys and whats

For adults with diabetes, even simple infections can lead to serious issues, including secondary infections, breathing problems, and fluctuating blood sugar levels. Keep in mind that most vaccines do not give lifetime protection from disease. As adults, we need to receive “booster” vaccinations for many of the shots we received as children, to make sure we are fully protected against disease.

Also consider that there are now vaccinations available that may not have been around in earlier times, such as the shingles vaccine for adults over 60, and the pneumococcal vaccines, which protect against bacterial pneumonia and ear infections.

Talk to your healthcare provider for guidance on which vaccinations you need, and consider the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC's) recommendations relating to immunizations for people with diabetes.

Vaccines checklist

  • Yearly influenza. The flu, or influenza, lands many people in the hospital every year. If you do get the flu after being vaccinated, the illness tends to be milder. Full effect takes several weeks, so get the vaccine early in the flu season, which is considered to last from October through March.
  • Pneumococcal vaccines. It is recommended that all adults 65 and older get these vaccines, which may protect against serious infections of the lungs, the blood, and the covering of the brain (meninges).
  • Tetanus/diphtheria/whooping cough. Even if you were vaccinated as a child, if you haven’t had a booster for these diseases, you may need one now that you’re an adult. Ask your doctor how often you should receive a booster, and be sure whooping cough is included, especially if you’re around babies and young children.
  • Hepatitis B. This virus causes serious liver infection, and permanent, often life-threatening liver problems. If you’re younger than 60, you may need this vaccination. It is a series of three to four shots given over six months, and most adults need to get a booster every 10 to 15 years for full protection.
  • Chicken pox. If you were born after 1980 and never had chicken pox as a child, you may need to be vaccinated against chicken pox; the infection tends to be more serious in adults.
  • Measles/mumps/rubella. Most adults need a booster of this vaccination, and recent years have seen a resurgence of some of these infections, making staying up-to-date extra important.
  • Shingles. If you’ve had chicken pox, the virus remains in your body, and later can reappear as a painful shingles infection. The shingles vaccine is generally recommended for people 60 years of age or older.

Others to consider

You may need other vaccinations as well. Your healthcare provider can help you decide what additional vaccines you should consider. This may include immunization against hepatitis A, human papilloma virus and meningococcal disease (for young adults), polio, and any diseases of concern where you plan to travel.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.; Vaccinations for Adults with Diabetes.

Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.

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