It can begin in the early fall, but notoriously starts ramping up in November and December when cold temperatures are common and many of us are in close quarters where germs readily spread. Yes, we’re talking about flu season.
While the common cold can be an annoyance, the flu can be debilitating, and even deadly, so prevention and treatment should be high on the priority list. Particularly the very young and very old, as well as those who live and work with them, need to be concerned about avoiding the flu if at all possible this year.
For employees without health benefits, what options are available if you’re uninsured? Are you doomed to suffer with the flu again this year?
The best prevention: Get vaccinated
The flu vaccine is reported as being effective this year in its injectable form. Some people have heard stories of people becoming ill after receiving the flu shot, or having some other kind of adverse reaction to it, and it’s led many to decide to take their chances with the flu itself than receive the vaccination.
According to the CDC, with extremely rare exceptions, most people should get the flu vaccine: “Children younger than 6 months are too young to get a flu shot. People with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine should not get the flu shot. This might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients.”
Savings Tool for the Uninsured:
One of the best arguments for getting the flu shot is that it’s affordable! During the first several months of flu season, most doctor’s offices, clinics, and pharmacies will have some sort of free, or very low cost, flu shot opportunity. Take advantage of it!
Another vital prevention: Keep yourself healthy
"It’s important to maintain good healthy habits through flu season even though the weather may not always cooperate with you."
While getting your flu vaccine is extremely important, it’s not as helpful if your immune system is already run down. The vaccine works by helping your immune system to fight the flu off better than it would otherwise and to help identify the latest strains so your body can produce antibodies to fight it.
But if your immune system is compromised, you may still get hit with the flu. So, it’s important to maintain good healthy habits through flu season even though the weather may not always cooperate with you.
Savings tool for the uninsured:
Consider downloading one or more free applications that are designed to help you maintain a healthy diet and stay active even when you can’t get outside or have limited time available to you.
MyFitnessPal is a popular food tracking app that can help you eat a balanced diet. There are literally hundreds of different workout apps that focus on bodyweight workouts you can do from home, as well as yoga, pilates, and more.
Final prevention: Practice good hygiene
The flu is spread through the air and on common surfaces people touch. But, knowing that, how many of us actually wash our hands more often during flu season than at other times?
That’s one really simple way to prevent the flu: wash your hands regularly throughout the day with warm water and soap. Also, keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you for those times when it’s not possible to wash your hands.
Another part of hygiene that may get even less attention during flu season is our oral hygiene. It’s also an important part of maintaining an overall strong immune system and potentially preventing a bad case of the flu.
For one thing, your mouth houses more bacteria and germs than almost any other part of your body. And, with every breath you take, you’re potentially breathing in germs - including the flu virus. So it’s vital to maintain excellent oral hygiene habits like regular teeth brushing and rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash to keep your mouth as clean as possible.
Also, because of the prevalence of bacteria in the mouth, gum infections are fairly common. Any time your body needs to fight off an infection like gingivitis, it has that much less capacity to take on a bad germ like the flu. So, not only should you be brushing and flossing daily, but it’s important to schedule a professional cleaning and have the dentist examine your teeth and mouth regularly.
Saving tool for the uninsured:
Obviously, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, and floss are inexpensive staples to have in your house at all times. But a regular visit to the dentist doesn’t always come cheap - especially if you have no dental insurance.
If you’re in that position, consider a dental discount program. It’s an affordable monthly or annual fee and it provides 20%-50% off the normal retail cost of both general and advanced dental services, including cleanings and exams.
Don’t let your finances hold you back from staying healthy and protecting yourself from the flu this season!