The flu shot: harmless, painless and just in time for the holidays
What's quick and painless and can save you lots of down time during the holiday season? It's the flu shot, of course, an annual rite for millions of Americans who want to stay active during a time of the year where the seasonal bug traditionally packs a powerful knockout punch.
If you are age 50 or older, it's best to get one according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For those age 65 or older, there are 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.
Under preventive provisions of the Affordable Care Act
, people enrolled 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.
"People often people don’t understand how risky the flu virus can be," says Bob Jackson, AARP Texas state director. "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. We have a lot of work to do."
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.
To guard against the flu, 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.
If you experience 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.