The cold and flu season doesn’t have to hit us hard. Stay healthy with common sense flu prevention tips and try frugal remedies and treatments to get us through a sick patch.
With the arrival of Google Flu Trends, one of Google.org’s projects, I started thinking about what I can do to stay healthy this flu season. In addition, I’d like to look at some ways to treat the flu if it strikes here, so how about hopping into the Anti-flu DeLorean with me?
The first line of defense for many people is the flu vaccine. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that the vaccine is made to protect against the three main strains of the flu (for a given year), and that the season doesn’t reach its peak until January or February in the U.S.
Who should get the flu shot? In particular, the CDC recommends the shot for:
- children aged 6 months to 19 years
- pregnant women
- people with certain chronic health conditions
- those of us older than 50
- healthcare and nursing home workers
- and those who live with or care for people at high risk for the flu.
Do check with your doctor to see if you’re at risk.
Where to Go For Flu Shots
Health Centers: Unlike a few years ago, when our country dealt with a flu vaccine shortage, we should be able to find providers in a variety of locations. For example, the Tulsa Health Department offers the vaccine for free at health centers around my county. It may be worth a call to your local county health department to see what’s offered.
Local Pharmacy: Another source for the flu vaccine might be your local pharmacy. Walgreens has their In-Store Flu Vaccination Program. In the Tulsa area, the vaccine’s $30. It’s offered subject to availability, so call before you head over to your pharmacy. Don’t forget to ask if your insurance will cover the charge, because the pharmacy person I spoke with said that they didn’t accept our insurance.
Your Doctor: Of course, you can always try to make an appointment with your physician and pediatrician for the vaccine. While waiting for a family member to finish an appointment a month ago, I noticed a good number of people coming in for their vaccines.
Schools and Offices: Some schools and offices may also provide access to flu shots for students and employees. There are companies that will offer flu shots for free, as part of the overall benefits they provide their workers.
Also, some health care providers may sponsor health programs to spread education and information on flu prevention. An example of this is Oklahoma’s Hillcrest HealthCare System, which sponsors the Don’t Bug Me program: the goal is to help kids understand the importance of washing their hands to prevent the spread of the flu. The program has a jingle that younger members of your family can try to sing, which can serve as a cute reminder for getting rid of those nasty germs (just don’t vow retribution on me if the song sticks in your head long after the end of flu season). There are many other ways to watch your hygiene to help dial down infections.
Is It The Flu or Cold?
Sometimes, it may be hard to tell the difference between the flu and a cold. However, WebMD says that the flu is a viral infection with symptoms like fever, body aches, a dry cough, and your throat might feel sore or dry. In contrast, a cold lasts for less time, with milder symptoms. If you’re ill and in doubt, do check with your doctor or health care provider before you attempt to treat yourself, as the flu can lead to serious complications like pneumonia and others.
Stay Healthy With Remedies and Treatments
At the beginning of this year, one of my family members came down with the flu. I made a fast trip to the store and got me some TheraFlu, the over-the-counter treatment we typically use, for which there’s this manufacturer’s coupon. On the advice of another family member, we also tried out some Tylenol products for congestion and coughs; you can sign up to get coupons for them, too.
Of course, all those medicine bottles can punch out your bank account pretty fast, so you should check out other ways to find relief. There are some pretty frugal remedies out there, including some recommended by the Mayo Clinic. Some good suggestions to help a flu patient alleviate his or her symptoms include getting enough rest, drinking lots of liquids, using pain relievers as necessary, and enjoying chicken soup. Not just for colds, chicken soup from a recipe at a site like Cooks.com can help ease congestion. Why not make some ahead of time and store it in your freezer? Add some matzoh balls or noodles and see what fun dish you can come up with!
Last year, Trent from The Simple Dollar listed a few ways he’s treated his sore throat and cold in a frugal manner. His suggestions may also help with similar flu symptoms. I, for one, have been treating any sore throat I get with some simple salt-water gargles, and they’ve been pretty effective.
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: the best time to prepare for the flu is before anyone gets sick. Since I’m a reluctant nurse, I’d like to prepare for the next bout of illness with a basket filled with tissues, some hand gel like Method’s to help prevent the spread of infection, and a couple of Sudoku puzzles to keep our brains occupied.
And if things turn really gloomy, I can always turn on a few favorite Michael J. Fox videos until we feel better. What about you? Tell us your favorite ways to fight the flu!