The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine protects against HPV. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI). There are many types of HPV. Some types of the virus can cause genital warts. Other types can cause cervical or oral cancer and some uncommon cancers, such as anal and vaginal cancer.
Experts recommend that children age 11 or 12 get the HPV vaccine, but the vaccine can be given from age 9 to 26. If you are age 27 to 45 and have not been vaccinated for HPV, ask your doctor if getting the vaccine is right for you.
Children ages 9 to 14 get the vaccine in a series of two shots. Some children may need a third dose. Anyone age 15 and older gets the vaccine as a three-dose series. For the vaccine to work best, all shots in the series must be given.
The best time to get the vaccine is before a person becomes sexually active. This is because the vaccine works best before there is any chance of infection with HPV. When the vaccine is given at this time, it can prevent almost all infection by the types of HPV the vaccine guards against.
Having the HPV vaccine does not change the need for Pap tests. If you've had the HPV vaccine, follow the same Pap test schedule as those who haven't had the vaccine.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
How can you care for yourself at home?
- Common side effects of getting the vaccine include headache, fever, and redness or swelling at the site of the shot. Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), if you have any of these side effects after the shot. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Put ice or a cold pack on the sore area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
- If you are a parent of a child who's getting the shot, talk to your child about HPV and the vaccine. It's a chance to teach your child about safer sex and STIs. Having your child get the shot doesn't mean you're giving your child permission to have sex.
When should you call for help?
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
- You have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
- Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over your body.
- Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
- Trouble breathing.
- Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you may feel very lightheaded or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
- Severe belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
- A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
- Mild belly pain or nausea.
- You have a fever for more than 1 day.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.
Where can you learn more?
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