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How to Prevent Getting the Flu and Save Money While Doing It

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This is a nasty flu season, but you don’t have to spend big to avoid it.

Each year, the flu sidelines millions, sends thousands to the hospital and proves deadly to thousands more. A solid hit from the flu can keep you at home and out of work for days or even weeks. What we fail at is how to prevent getting the flu.

If you haven’t gotten your flu shot, it’s not too late, urges the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[1] The season can run well into May. While it may take two weeks for the full power of the vaccination to kick in, it remains the strongest defense amid the nation’s nastiest flu season in years.[2]

And your bank account can rest easy with these ways to save money while figuring out how to prevent getting the flu. Watch this quick video and read on for more details…

Insured? Your shot is free

Health insurance companies are required by the Affordable Care Act to cover the cost of a flu shot or other vaccines.[3]

They can’t charge a co-pay or coinsurance. They can, however, tell you where you can or can’t get that shot — and bill you if you go somewhere else. So check with your insurer to see if you have to head to the doctor’s office or if the nearest pharmacy will suffice.

Not insured?

More than one in every 10 Americans, or about 3.2 million people, are uninsured. A free flu vaccine is harder to find if you don’t have insurance.[4] But not impossible.

Look to your employer. Some large companies offer free vaccines on-premises. If you’re a student, check out the college or university clinic.

Have school-age children who need their shots? Check with their school. The CDC recommends everyone six months or older get one, and some school districts offer them for free.

County health departments may offer free shots at a walk-in clinic or they may send a mobile clinic to a spot near you. Some county clinics open the door to anyone needing a shot, others offer the vaccines only for those most at-risk: children, seniors and those with compromised immune systems.

Headed for the pharmacy? Look for deals

When the bloggers at Cheapism went shopping, they found flu shots going for between $20 and $40 at retailers including CVS, Kroger, Sam’s Club, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart.[5] Costco came in with the best deal at $19.99 for members and nonmembers alike.[6] It also had the best deal for seniors who want a high-dose vaccine: $43.52.

If you need your children vaccinated too, call ahead. Not all pharmacies administer the flu shot to those under 18.

Are you looking for prescription savings? If you lost your flu battle head over to GoodRx. You can save as much as 80 percent on prescription drug costs and Gold Members save even more. All you have to do is show your coupon.

Get rewarded

The best reward for getting vaccinated is warding off the flu’s fever and aches. But some retailers are prepared to give you a financial incentive too…

Target (CVS): Get a shot and get a $5 coupon through March 31, 2018.[7] (Apologies to those in Arkansas, New Jersey, and New York, you don’t get this deal.)

CVS: A shot earns a $5 coupon off a $25 purchase.[8] Adolescents to seniors can go to the pharmacy. Children will have to get theirs at a CVS MinuteClinic.

Safeway: Get 10 percent off groceries when you get vaccinated at an in-store pharmacy.

Invest in hand soap, save on paper towels — a no-brainer on how to prevent getting the flu

The flu virus is spread when someone infected with the illness sheds the virus into the air as they speak, cough, or sneeze. Nearby unwitting victims may then breathe in the virus or get it on their hands. Touch your eyes, nose or mouth, with germ-laden hands and those germs will go to work on making you sick too. One of the best flu defenses is to wash your hands.

That’s why the CDC is robust in describing the art of handwashing.[9] In a nutshell: Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry. But don’t neglect the finer points…

  • Wet under running water, not potentially contaminated standing water.
  • Use soap. It helps lift germs.
  • Lather because all that scrubbing also lifts germs. And don’t rush: Sing the Happy Birthday song to get you through the recommended 20 seconds.
  • Rinse with running water.

The CDC actually weighs in on the advice that you should then grab a paper towel and use it to turn off the faucet. It’s not proven to help and tends to waste paper towels and water, so skip that.

To mask or not to mask?

The CDC has dedicated a webpage to the mask debate too.[10] In hospitals and doctors’ offices, it’s a good idea to put the mask on the person who’s sick and then isolate them quickly so they don’t spread the virus. And the practice is good for the healthcare professionals, working best in combination with gloves and sterile gowns, the CDC concludes.

One study in 2008 did indicate that if you’re in a houseful of sick relatives, a mask could cut your odds of getting sick by 80 percent, Medical Daily reported.[11] But the medical website also noted that the science was less certain when it comes to wearing masks in public and how to prevent getting the flu overall.

The CDC doesn’t recommend it. People aren’t good at putting them on snugly and don’t wear them long enough.

During the 2009 swine flu outbreak, CDC officials did concede one advantage of wearing a mask in public during an NPR interview: Wear a mask and people will keep their distance.

And if you wear a mask it tends to remind you not to touch your face. Make sure to take these steps on how to prevent getting the flu so you can not only stay healthy but also save money on costs that are associated with the flu.


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