The best way to keep the flu at bay is prevention. Make sure you and your family members use your TRICARE benefit and get a flu shot. You can also adopt good practices to avoid the spread of germs. Flu viruses are serious, contagious viruses that can lead to hospitalization or even death. To combat the flu, take these three actions:
1. Get vaccinated.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting yourself.
- Children six months and older should get a flu vaccine every fall before flu activity begins since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. Getting vaccinated later during the flu season can still be beneficial.
- Certain groups of people have an increased risk of becoming very ill from or developing complications from the flu. These include pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions, people age 65 and older, and health care workers.
- TRICARE covers the flu vaccine.
2. Take basic health precautions.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if unable to wash your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick and stay home if you have flu-like symptoms. These include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.
- Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow, not into your hands. Throw the tissue in the trash after use.
3. If you have the flu, take antiviral drugs as prescribed by your doctor.
- It’s best to take antiviral drugs within two days of getting sick. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder, shorten the time you’re sick, and prevent serious flu complications.
- Speak with your provider to learn more about antiviral drugs.
You and your family can get the flu shot at no cost through either a military hospital or clinic, a participating network pharmacy, or a TRICARE-authorized provider. The pharmacy benefit covers free vaccines when given by a pharmacist at a network pharmacy. If a provider administers your vaccine at an onsite pharmacy clinic, it may not be covered and you may have to pay the entire cost. You can go to your primary care provider or TRICARE-authorized providerAn authorized provider is any individual, institution/organization, or supplier that is licensed by a state, accredited by national organization, or meets other standards of the medical community, and is certified to provide benefits under TRICARE. There are two types of TRICARE-authorized providers: Network and Non-Network. for the vaccine if the pharmacy has restrictions or the vaccine isn’t available. However, you may have to pay copayments or cost-shares for the office visit, but the vaccine will be no cost to you.
Take command of you and your family’s health this flu season by knowing your options and staying prepared with TRICARE.