Young men are half as likely to seek out preventive care services as young women. And because they’re skipping doctors visits, many young men aren’t getting essential details about their vaccination status. It’s important to receive boosters and new vaccinations throughout your life to prevent a wide range of diseases. For Men’s Health Month, here are five you should talk to your medical provider about getting.
Flu: The CDC recommends all adults get a flu vaccine every year of their life. Even so, the vaccination rate for men in the U.S. ages 18 to 64 was only 32.9 percent in 2013, compared to 40.4% for women of the same age, and 58.6% for children aged 6 months to 17. If you’re young and healthy, influenza can still cause fever, fatigue, headaches, sore throat and body aches. Most importantly: You also might pass it on to someone in a high-risk category, like children, pregnant women and the elderly, where it can prove fatal.
HPV: It’s not just for women. Human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cancer of the anus, throat, and penis in men, yet only 5.9 percent of men ages 19-26 receive at least one dose of the 3-dose series. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the vaccine up to age 26, but it’s best to get vaccinated at age 11-12 before you’re sexually active. Even if you are already sexually active, the shot can still protect you against strains of HPV you haven’t been exposed to.
Tdap: The shot protects against three diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Even if you received a similar vaccine as a kid, you still need a booster shot as an adult. Tetanus can cause muscle stiffening, and diphtheria can affect breathing. Pertussis (known as whooping cough) is extremely contagious, and can cause violent coughing episodes, often lasting for weeks. A lot of adults with whooping cough don’t even realize they’re sick and can unknowingly spread the disease to small kids. All men should get the Tdap vaccine, along with a booster dose every 10 years of the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) vaccine.
MMR: This shot protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, three diseases with varying degrees of fever, coughing, and rashes. Measles was almost wiped out in the U.S., but falling vaccination rates in some communities have made it more common in recent years (remember that Disneyland outbreak?). If you missed the MMR vaccine as a kid, it’s not too late. Talk to a healthcare professional about how many doses you need as an adult.
Hep A and B: Both of these liver infections can cause long-term problems, including cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. If you’re planning to travel to South or Central America, Africa, the Middle East, or India, you should get the Hep A vaccine, since the disease is more common in those areas. Get Hep B if you’ve lived with an infected person, have sex with multiple partners, or have sex with other men, since these behaviors put you at greater risk for the disease.