Flu Season Is Here! Are You Ready?
It may start with a sudden sore throat and runny nose. Then come cough, aching muscles and often a feeling of fever or chills. It’s seasonal flu, and as many as 20% of Americans will get it this year. In the U.S., most seasonal flu activity occurs between October and May, with a peak between December and February.
Influenza, commonly referred to as “flu,” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. While people may think of flu as an inconvenience—usually clearing up in a few days to two weeks—prolonged cases can cause more serious illness or death. Complications can include bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
Because colds and flu share many symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. In general, the flu is more severe than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches and cough are more intense. The bottom line is that if you are concerned, or if you have symptoms that hang on for an extended period, you should seek medical attention.
Am I at Risk?
You might think of the flu as being more of an issue for the very young or the elderly. However, everyone—even an extremely healthy adult—is at risk of getting sick from seasonal flu and spreading it to others.
Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of others nearby. You might also get the flu by touching a surface that has flu virus on it and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
How to Avoid the Flu
There’s no guaranteed way to avoid getting the seasonal flu, but there are steps you can take to improve your chances of making it through to spring without getting sick.
- Get a flu shot. Getting a flu shot is your first line of protection. Fund benefits cover flu shots at 100% in network. Flu vaccines are developed before the flu starts spreading, so their effectiveness can vary. However, this year’s vaccine is an extremely good match for the strain that’s going around. That means getting the shot will likely prevent you from getting the flu, or greatly reduce its severity if you do get sick.
- Wash your hands. Frequent hand washing is the gold standard of prevention. Whether you realize it or not, you touch your face multiple times every hour. Each of those touches is an opportunity to transfer bacteria and viruses to your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Stay away from sick people. This may be difficult when you’re sharing a house with a sick spouse or children, but avoiding those who have the flu is essential to not getting it yourself. Be sure to disinfect common areas and surfaces in your home that your sick spouse or child may have touched.
We’ve got you covered!
Our 4th District IBEW Health Fund medical plan covers flu shots at 100% when received from an in-network provider. If you do come down with the flu, your doctor may prescribe anti-viral medications; those are covered under the plan’s prescription drug benefit. Remember that you can save money by asking your doctor to prescribe a generic drug.
The Member Assistance Program offers a comprehensive Seasonal Flu Resource Guide. Simply sign in, search for “flu” and follow the featured link to the Guide. Another valuable resource for complete news and information about seasonal flu is the federal government’s flu.gov website.