Flu season is here, and we want you to stay healthy this winter. Each year approximately five to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu and some are even hospitalized as a result. It is important for you to know how to prevent the flu and what is covered under your TRICARE pharmacy benefit.
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious, viral infection easily spread from person-to-person. Adults can infect others one day before even showing symptoms and as long as five days after getting sick. Symptoms range from mild to severe.
Flu season typically starts in the fall and peaks in January or February. Because you never know when you might get the flu, it’s important to get your flu vaccine as early as possible.
While everyone is at risk of getting the flu, some people are at an increased risk for flu-related complications, including: young children, pregnant women, people with asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, people aged 65 or older and people with compromised immune systems.
The flu is spread person-to-person by sneezing, coughing or contact with saliva. You can also get the flu by touching surfaces with germs on them and then touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Because it is easily spread, it is important make sure you take prevent measures to avoid getting or spreading the flu.
The first measure is to get vaccinated. The flu shot is the first and most effective way to prevent infection. While there are many types of flu viruses, the flu shot protects against three or four types identified to be common each season. You can get vaccinated at no cost to you. For more information, visit http://www.tricare.mil/HealthWellness/Preventive/FluResources.aspx.
Everyone six months or older should be vaccinated against the flu as soon as the shot is available in your area. It’s important for you to be vaccinated if you live with or care for high risk people. Infants who are younger than 6 months old are considered high risk, but are too young to receive the flu vaccination.
Getting the flu shot can reduce flu illness, visits to the doctor, missed school or work, as well as the possibility of a hospital stay. A flu shot can also lessen the severity of the illness if you do become infected.
You should also practice good health habits to help build your body’s resistance to infection.
A few ways build your immunity include: drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough rest and sleep.
In addition to keeping your body’s immunity levels strong, you should also follow additional common sense actions to help prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Avoid contact with sick people. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Cover your nose and mouth with tissues when you sneeze or cough. Don’t have a tissue? Sneeze or cough into the crook of your elbow. Stay home from school or work when sick.
Antiviral medication is also available for those who have or have been exposed to someone with the flu. These medications can make your illness milder and shorter. They are most effective if taken within two days of getting sick, but can still help if taken later, especially if you are at high risk for complications.
To learn more about medications covered by your TRICARE pharmacy benefit, visit www.tricare.mil/CoveredServices/Pharmacy. Seasonal flu is highly contagious and can affect anyone of any age group. Be sure to protect yourself this flu season.