Protect yourself from the flu - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Protect yourself from the flu

We’re still in the midst of a severe flu season, but it’s not too late to help protect yourself and your family from getting the flu.

Flu, also known as influenza, is a serious disease that typically peaks in February and runs through March. About 5 percent to 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

The flu can cost the United States more than $87 billion annually and can be responsible for the loss of about 17 million workdays and substantial classroom time each flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unfortunately, the flu is not just a cause of missed work and school. Every year, thousands of people die from influenza and its complications,

imagesThe best way to protect yourself and reduce your chances of getting the flu is to get the flu vaccine, according to the CDC. Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get the flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated is especially important for people who have certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or chronic lung disease, and for pregnant women, young children and people 65 and older.

Despite the evidence and recommendations, many people won’t get vaccinated, which makes it more likely they will get and transmit the flu. That puts your own personal health and well-being at risk, and it could increase the chances of your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors getting sick, too.

Consider the following:

The flu vaccine is not expensive.

In most cases, the cost of a flu shot or nasally administered vaccine is covered by your health plan, whether you buy health insurance on your own or are covered through your employer, Medicare or Medicaid. However, be sure to check your benefit plan for specific coverage details. More employers are now offering free onsite flu shot clinics at the office.

Getting the flu vaccine is fast, easy and convenient.

Getting the flu vaccine generally takes no more than five minutes. Most neighborhood pharmacies offer walk-in options so you don’t need to make an appointment. You can also go to your primary care doctor or a nearby wellness clinic. To find a list of flu shot providers near you, visit and enter your zip code, or ask your health plan how to find a network care provider.

Different kinds of flu vaccines.

There are two kinds of flu vaccines. One is an injectable (killed) vaccine, and is available to everybody over 6 months of age. There is also a vaccine that is nasally administered. It may be given to children over two years of age and adults up to age 50 who do not have chronic diseases that place them at high risk. Children 6 months to 2 years of age, adults over 50, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases should receive the injectable vaccine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist which vaccine is right for you.

Young, healthy people get the flu, too.

Influenza does not discriminate against age or health habits. Just because you’re young or don’t typically get sick doesn’t mean you can’t catch the flu. You can catch the flu from someone who has yet to exhibit any signs or symptoms of being sick.

Take Preventive Measures

In addition to getting vaccinated, remember to take preventive measures like washing your hands regularly and covering your mouth when you cough to help reduce the spread of germs. And if you are sick with the flu, stay home to prevent spreading the flu to others.

Flu season typically peaks this month and lasts through March, so if you haven’t got the flu vaccine yet, make an appointment today. Now is the time to make your and your family’s health a priority.

About the author

Dr. Catherine E. Palmier

Catherine Palmier, M.D, is a Board Certified Pediatrician and a seasoned managed care physician. Currently she serves as Chief Medical Officer of the Northeast and Southeast Region for UnitedHealthcare. In this role she is responsible for health care of approximately 12 million members in these regions. Her experience in pediatric care includes work as a Pediatric Hospitalist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Academic Appointments and Faculty Practice at The University of Maryland and University of Texas. In addition she has served as the Medical Director of a Clinic for uninsured/Medicaid eligible children at the Southeast Texas Community Health Clinic in Beaumont, TX, for which Dr. Palmier received an award for Volunteerism in 1992 from TX Governor Ann Richards. Prior to joining UnitedHealthcare in 2002, Cathy worked with Aetna US Healthcare in Philadelphia, Dallas and Atlanta where she also served as the Regional Medical Director. While she has been at UHC she has worked with both National and Regional Initiatives and was a member of the class of 2005 for the President's Leadership Development Program (PLDP). In addition to her current work at UHC in NE and SE Region, she has continued to care for pediatric patients through the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Immediate Care Network. Cathy also serves as a volunteer for “Happy Tails”, an organization which provides Pet Therapy at local health care facilities along with her two Labrador Retrievers and French Bulldog. Contact the author.

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