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When I was five I took an apple from our neighbor’s tree without asking and ended up in the ER.
As it turns out, I was highly allergic to yellow jacket stings, and I learned in a matter of minutes how scary anaphylaxis can be. Needless to say, I also learned two other lessons that day: 1) Never knowingly take anything that isn’t mine, and 2) Our immune system is one powerful machine.
As the word implies, preventive care is a strategy used to prevent diseases from occurring in the first place. Examples of which include health screenings, immunizations, check-ups–and even counseling for high-risk behaviors related to diet, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption.
In my case, several years of venom immunotherapy enhanced my immune system to the point that my risk for developing anaphylaxis again is very low. But still, some people experience spontaneous anapylaxis, and that’s why still I carry an EpiPen.
Vaccines work in a similar way. The topic is somewhat controversial (probably because we no longer experience communicable diseases the way we once did in this country), but they do save lives. According to the CDC, “more than 15,000 Americans died from diphtheria in 1921, before there was a vaccine. Only one case of diphtheria has been reported to CDC since 2004.”
It’s equally important to remember that most diseases can never be completely eradicated. To date, smallpox is the only one that has, which means they can (and do) resurface periodically in those who haven’t been properly vaccinated.
With that in mind, in preparation for an upcoming trip to Belize, I met with my health care provider to make sure my immunizations were up to date. Evidently, because I’m an “adventurous eater,” adding the Typhoid vaccine to my repertoire was recommended. It seemed like a much better option than the risk of developing Typhoid Fever, with its accompanying fever, weakness, stomach pains, headache, rash, and loss of appetite.
Protecting ourselves against preventable diseases is a pretty important act of self-care. After all, getting a massage or haircut seems pretty moot compared to dealing an outbreak of Malaria or Hepatitis.
For more information about vaccines and immunizations, visit the CDC website or talk with your medical provider.