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Avoid the Flu and Don’t Miss Out on Holiday Fun

12/24/2013

When it’s cold outside and holiday spirit is in the air, so are germs. Many people neglect their health and forget preventive actions to keep themselves safe from the flu virus. However, staying cautious and vigilant, especially during flu season, will make sure no fun is missed.

During holiday parties, most everyone is smiling and hugging or shaking hands and many forget that basic rule for staying healthy: wash hands frequently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands with soap and warm water, but alcohol-based hand sanitizer will work in a pinch. There is a right and wrong way to wash hands and it's not simply sticking them under running water. See proper hand washing techniques at www.cdc.gov/handwashing.

The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get the annual flu vaccine. TRICARE covers both the flu shot and flu mist. Beneficiaries may be able get their flu vaccine, at no cost, from a military treatment facility, hospital or from a pharmacist at one of the 45,000 network pharmacies that administer vaccines to TRICARE beneficiaries. Find a participating pharmacy at www.express-scripts.com/tricare/pharmacy, or by calling Express Scripts at 1-877-363-1303. Even though flu season has been underway for several months, getting vaccinated is still important and can improve a family’s chances of staying healthy.

In crowded parties or at the mall, many coughs and sneezes go uncovered. If someone needs to cough or sneeze, they should avoid contact with their nose and mouth. For a visual of how to cover coughs or sneezes hands free, see CDC’s “Protect Others, Protect Yourself” sign.

During the holiday season, stores are crowded and it’s more difficult to avoid contact with others who may have the flu. They may not show symptoms, yet still be spreading cold or flu germs. According to CDC, the typical incubation period for influenza is one to four days, with the average being two days. Adults shed influenza virus from the day before symptoms begin through — five to 10 days after they get sick.

Anyone with flu symptoms should stay home. Going to work or other public places increases the risk of spreading the flu virus. To prevent the virus from spreading at home, designate one caretaker of the sick person and one room as the “sick” room.

Many people in the United States remain unprotected from the flu going into the holiday season. Get vaccinated early, wash hands frequently and avoid sick people – these can help make sure the holiday season remains enjoyable and free of the flu. For more information about preventing and treating the flu, visit www.tricare.mil/flu.

Last Updated 4/15/2014