It’s that time of year again – flu season. Time for you and your family to get flu shots. Not only will you significantly lower your chance of getting the flu this winter, but you can make an important contribution to public health by limiting the spread of this dangerous disease.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states “flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe.” All family members, six months and older, should be immunized every year, since the flu virus changes slightly season to season, requiring yearly vaccinations. This is especially true for people at high risk of catching the flu or with a risk of flu-related complications, such as children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma. A complete list of people at higher risk of complications is available at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website: www.cdc.gov/flu/groups.htm.
Some people worry flu shots don’t work. It is possible to get the flu, even after getting immunized. There are different strains of the flu virus in circulation, meaning you can be exposed to a version of the virus you’re not immunized against. Some even believe the flu vaccine causes the flu. This is incorrect. Flu shots contain only pieces of killed flu virus that cannot infect the body. Some recipients report mild flu-like symptoms, which result from antibodies your body produces that help fight off the actual flu.
Getting a flu shot is easy and inexpensive for TRICARE beneficiaries. You can get your flu vaccine from any military medical clinic or hospital at no cost to you, or from your pharmacist at one of 45,000 network pharmacies that administer vaccines to TRICARE beneficiaries. Find a participating pharmacy near you at www.express-scripts.com/tricare/pharmacy, or by calling Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303.
You can also be vaccinated by your doctor, or at one of the retail health clinics found inside many pharmacies. Keep in mind this is considered a “medical visit,” so you may have cost shares or copays. Generally, if the pharmacist administers the vaccine, it is at no cost to you. If another healthcare professional administers the vaccine, it is a medical visit and you must pay the associated copays.
Although getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the flu, there are additional steps you can follow to avoid the flu. One of the most important is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when those are not available. Here are some other tips from www.flu.gov:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Minimize close contact with sick people.
- Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw your used tissue in the trash.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine).
It’s important to get a flu shot every year – your chances of staying healthy this winter increase dramatically if you do. For more information on this year’s flu season, visit www.cdc.gov/flu. To learn more about TRICARE coverage of flu shots, visit www.tricare.mil/flu.