10 Frugal Ways to Fight the Flu

How to Fight Flu Frugally

By Donna Freeman

It's well-nigh impossible for the average person to avoid the influenza virus. You have no idea who touched that doorknob or keyboard before you did, and one person coughing on the subway could make you mighty uncomfortable over the next week or two.

Worse, you could unwittingly transmit this potentially devastating disease to those you love. Elders, those with chronic illnesses and/or weakened immune systems, and infants younger than 6 months face the greatest risk.

No. 1 tip. Getting a flu shot is the No. 1 way to protect yourself and your loved ones. No, it's not foolproof. But, according to Consumer Reports, the immunization will prevent the illness about 80 percent of the time in people younger than 60 and about half the time for those 65 or older.

No need to overpay for your shot, though. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson lays out facts and figures in the video below. Once you've watched it, read on for more ways to fight the flu frugally.

2. Use those benefits! The Affordable Care Act has made flu shots free to those with insurance. Those with Medicare Part B can also get vaccinated at no charge. Just make sure your insurance is accepted by whichever venue you choose, whether that's a drugstore or a doctor's office. Otherwise you'll have to pay upfront and apply for reimbursement. Who needs that?

3. Get a free shot from Walgreens. No insurance? Walgreens is offering 400,000 free-shot vouchers to those without coverage. The freebies are available on a first-come, first-served basis, so call 800-925-4733 right away.

4. Shop around. If you can't get a voucher or don't live near a Walgreens, you'll have to look for the best price. In a post on 20Something Finance, blogger G.E. Miller said he found that the two cheapest places were Costco ($14.99) and Sam's Club ($15). You don't have to be a member; just tell the checker at the door that you're coming in to get something from the pharmacy.

Retailers such as Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, CVS and Target offer shots from $25 to $31.99, the blog post notes.

5. Look for a shot clinic. Can't afford even $15? We hear you. Your city, county or state health department may offer vaccination clinics, possibly on a sliding scale. Contact those entities or call 211 to find shot clinics in your region. Incidentally, they may pop up at senior centers, places of worship and temporary clinics like the ones offered free in the St. Louis area by Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

6. Find a health center. Federally funded centers provide care on a sliding scale, so your shot might be free.

7. Try a charitable clinic. The National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics has a searchable database.

8. Wash your hands! One of the simplest ways to prevent the flu and a number of other illnesses is to wash regularly and thoroughly. Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in case you find yourself far from soap and water. Consumer Reports recommends a brand with at least 60 percent alcohol (ethanol or isopropanol).

9. Keep those hands down. Get out of the habit of touching your eyes, mouth or nose during the day, since all three make great entry ports for viruses and bacteria. Again: The last person who opened the apartment building door may have been as sick as a dog.

10. Eat right. What's on your plate may help you ward off the flu. Foods rich in protein, zinc and vitamins A and C, plus certain types of tea, can help your body fight off invading viruses. See "5 Flu-Fighting Foods" for more tips.

Bottom line: It's a virus-laden world out there. Protect yourself and your loved ones by fighting back against the flu. Protect your wallet by doing it frugally.

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