It’s that time of year when we’re squeezing in the last moments of summer fun before the start of a new school year. But if you have older kids heading off to college or other new adventures in life, here are a few health tips I would encourage you to share with them, so they stay healthy and ready to learn, work and play.
Immunizations are important throughout our lives. Decades of research tell us these shots are effective at reducing certain contagious and dangerous diseases. This time of year we often talk about required immunizations for kids going back to school (K-12), but there also are vaccines that prevent serious health issues among young adults to keep in mind.
College students — particularly those first-year students living in close quarters in dorms or residence halls — should get Meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MenACWY). Some people had this vaccine before they were age 16, but a booster shot is recommended. The vaccine protects against bacterial meningitis, which is extremely contagious, acts quickly, and can cause death.
Young adults age 19 and older should get Tdap vaccine, if they did not get it while they were teenagers. Typically, Tdap is given around age 11 or 12. This vaccine helps prevent against Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis infections, which can make you extremely sick or cause death.
Young women and men also should have the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine, which protects against cancers caused by infection with the human papilloma virus. The HPV vaccine series can be given as two doses if started by the age of 9 and up to the age of 14. For those older than 14, a three-dose series is recommended for complete protection.
There are a few different ways to get the needed immunizations. Young adults who have a health care provider should talk with them about getting these important vaccines. If that is not an option, many local pharmacies provide vaccines to adults. Contact your provider, or local clinic, to find out more.
Over the past decade, the number of residents who have health insurance has increased tremendously. Young adults should consider taking advantage of the rules that allow parents to keep kids on their health insurance until the age of 26. If this is not an option for your family, young adults can apply for insurance through the Washington HealthPlanFinder. Having health insurance helps improve access to immunizations and a range of other health services that are important for young adults.
It can be hard to send our young adult children out into the world to make their way, but at least there are ways we can help protect their health, even when they’re no longer under the same roof.
Reach Dr. Rachel C. Wood, health officer for Thurston and Lewis counties, at 360-867-2501, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ThurstonHealth on Twitter.