One of the most important preventive care steps you can take is to follow your doctor's advice on vaccinations against infectious diseases.
Children should be vaccinated against childhood diseases according to your doctor's schedule. You may not think common childhood diseases such as mumps or measles are dangerous.
However, children in the U.S. and many more around the world die each year from these easily prevented diseases.
Vaccinations are safe and protect not only your child, but also the community.
In addition, vaccinations for severe diseases such as polio, smallpox and others provide a safety net that has all but vanquished these killers in the U.S.
Vaccinations are not limited to children. Your doctor can recommend age-appropriate vaccinations for a variety of diseases.
For example, seasonal flu kills approximately 36,000 people each year and hospitalizes several hundred thousand.
A simple vaccination provides most people protection from whatever virus is circulating.
The outbreak of H1N1 Type A influenza in the spring of 2009 highlights the need for extraordinary steps at times.
The H1N1 flu was highly contagious and spread around the world in a matter of a few months. The seasonal vaccine at that time did not offer protection from this form of flu.
A special vaccine was readied and distributed to high-risk groups first and everyone else subsequently.
Thankfully, the H1N1 flu was not as deadly as many feared. Although there were deaths around the world, the number of fatalities was low compared to the seasonal flu.
Do yourself, your family and the community a favor: get the vaccinations your doctor recommends and see that everyone in your family does the same.
Vaccinations are not the only steps everyone can take to stay healthy and reduce the chances for serious illness.
Here are some other important preventive care steps:
- Vehicle safety – Always wear appropriate safety restraints (seat belts, shoulder belts, and so on) any time you are in a vehicle. Wear a helmet and proper riding gear when on a bicycle or motorcycle. Buckle up all children and make sure young adults buckle up too. Place small children in an approved car safety seat that is properly tethered to the vehicle.
- Food safety – Food borne illnesses are a major health hazard. Care for produce, dairy and meat in a manner that eliminates or discourages contamination and cross contamination. Follow suggested cooking times and temperatures, especially for meat and eggs.
- Eye care – Your age and any vision concerns may dictate the appropriate schedule for eye examinations. In addition to vision checks, examinations should include screening for eye diseases or conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts.
- Dental care – Dental care includes regular visits to your dentist for examinations and cleanings. You should also practice good dental hygiene at home based on your dentist's recommendations. Regular care will help avoid problems such as periodontal (gum) disease and oral cancer.
- Proper nutrition – Eating healthy foods gives your body the nutrients and other benefits it needs to protect you. Healthy foods (not necessarily those items labeled healthy the grocery store) provide you with a balanced diet. You may live longer and enjoy a high quality of life by adopting a healthy-eating lifestyle.
- Exercise – Daily exercise can do wonders for your health and sense of well-being. Before beginning any exercise program, check with your doctor to determine the proper level of exercise considering your health risks.
- Alcohol – Use alcohol in moderation, if at all. Your doctor can set guidelines consistent with your health risks.
- Illegal drugs – Avoid all illegal drugs, including misuse of prescription medications.
- Safe sexual practices – Practice safe sex within the limits of your moral or religious beliefs. Your doctor is a good source of information on safe sexual practices.
Your doctor may have additional guidance depending on your age, gender, medical history and other factors.