Fall marks the start of the 2019-20 flu season, predicted to be the most severe yet with H3N2 as the dominant strain—the same one that killed nearly 80,000 people last year, resulting in the longest flu season in a decade and one of the deadliest.

Regardless of the strain, the flu is a potentially serious disease that can lead to more severe complications—sinus and ear infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia—and worsen long-term medical conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

Flu-related complications often lead to higher levels of outpatient clinic and emergency room visits, hospitalization, and even death. Individuals who are especially at risk for complications include:

  • Adults over 65
  • Children six months to four years
  • Adults and children with heart or lung disease
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Pregnant women

While healthy habits like covering coughs and hand-washing can help stop the spread of highly contagious germs like the flu, the single best defense is through yearly vaccinations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are used to make the vaccine.” Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record and have been a key factor in flu prevention for 50 years.

Contrary to what many believe, it is not possible to get the flu from a flu vaccine—the virus in the vaccine is either inactive or it’s a particle designed to mimic a flu virus. However, some people develop flu-like symptoms following a flu shot, most likely related to a reaction to the vaccine, a mismatched vaccine-to-virus, exposure to the flu during the two-week period before the vaccine takes effect, or other unrelated illnesses. Serious side effects are rare; mild side effects usually go away within a few days. If you’re skittish about needles, ask your doctor if you’re a candidate for the nasal spray vaccine (not recommended for children under two or people over 50).

Check with your doctor before getting a flu shot if:

  • You’re allergic to eggs
  • You’ve ever had a severe reaction following a flu shot

While the flu shot can reduce the risk of getting the flu, there’s no guarantee you’ll sidestep the virus. If you start showing flu-like symptoms, it’s important to get tested immediately so you and your physician can start treatment with antiviral medications and diagnostic tests, if necessary, to stop the progression and prevent spreading the virus.

But, be prepared. Lab and imaging providers can vary in cost by hundreds or even thousands of dollars; costs that contribute to the more than $10.4 billion annually (on average) that Americans spend on flu-related medical expenses. Researching care options now—before you’re sick—will save you time and money if you get zapped by the flu.

Bluebook can help offset the costs of flu-related treatment and lower your out-of-pocket expenses by guiding you to affordable care. Our easy-to-use price and quality transparency tool helps you prevent overpaying for services by enabling you to locate and compare fair-priced high-quality providers near you.

With the 2019 flu season underway, it’s time to take preventive action by washing your hands often, covering coughs and getting a flu shot—available through a variety of providers and typically covered 100% by most insurance carriers. Regardless, the cost of a flu shot is minimal compared to the cost of treatment for flu-related complications.

But, if the flu knocks you off your feet, don’t let the cost of treatment burn a hole in your wallet, too.

Learn how Healthcare Bluebook can guide you to affordable options for high-quality healthcare today.