Winter, spring, summer, fall—we all have our favorite season. But “flu season”? No one likes that. Flu season runs from October through May. The good news is that you can protect yourself from the flu by getting your annual flu shot. The flu shot is a harmless vaccine. So you need to ask yourself, what would you prefer: spending weeks feeling lousy or getting a quick painless shot in the arm?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a seasonal flu shot every year for people 50 or older. For people 65 or older, you have two options — the regular-strength flu shot or Fluzone High-Dose, a vaccine that creates a stronger immune response to combat age-related weakening of the immune system. Your health care provider can help you decide which dosage is better for you. As part of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive benefits, people in Medicare and Medicaid can get an annual flu shot at no cost and both flu vaccines are covered. For everyone else, many insurance plans provide coverage for the flu vaccine. It is best to double-check on your co-pay or responsibility for payment.
“I am concerned that people don’t understand how risky the flu virus can be. Statistics show us that approximately 40,000 Americans die each year due to pneumococcal infections, with seniors representing the largest group of fatalities. Yet, only 58% of Americans over 65 receive the influenza vaccine,” says Morie Smile, State Director.
Where to Get a Flu Shot?
Flu shots are available in many locations such as your doctor’s office, work places, supermarket, or drugstore. Because costs may vary it’s a good idea to first check with your insurance provider about coverage. To find where you can get the flu shot, visit http://flucliniclocator.org/ or call the CDC hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO for help.
Prevent Catching or Spreading the Flu
You can catch the flu if you’re around an infected person who coughs or sneezes. You can also pick up flu germs from touching a surface that someone with the flu has touched, such as a telephone or doorknob, then passing the germs from your hand to your nose or mouth. Take these steps to protect your health:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Remember, if you have flu-like symptoms such as a fever, chills or body aches, be sure to see your doctor. For more information, visit www.aarp.org/flu.
Nicole Duritz, is Vice President of Health at AARP, leads the Association’s member and consumer health education and outreach program, which includes work on issues such as Medicare, new health care law, prescription drug affordability, long term care, prevention and wellness, and wise use of medications.
[Photo courtesy of sun dazed/flickr]