The flu season is here. If you’re not planning on getting a flu shot for your health, consider doing it for your wallet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that direct medical expenses from flu-related illness is around $10.4 billion a year, and an additional $16.3 billion in lost earnings annually.
On an individual level, medications and hospitalizations are the most costly.
Anti-viral medications, like Tamiflu, may run you anywhere from $50 to $100 . And you can count on some missed days from work.
“I think that on average, it would be at least two or three days for true influenza,” said Wilbur Chen, MD, MS, associate professor of medicine with the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health.
Dr. Chen is also an influenza expert. He said parents and the elderly will feel another financial impact.
“For older folks, for grandparents, oftentimes when they get influenza it's a longer recovery period and so that might mean they might have days, weeks, or even months where they're not as productive as before and a lot of times these grandparents are part of the social structure for taking care of kids,” Chen said.
The CDC found that caregivers of children sick with the flu had medical expenses ranging from $300 to $4,000.
To save money on over-the counter medications, be sure to shop around and compare prices. Dr. Chen also recommends pill alternatives for mild cases.
“You certainly can have symptomatic relief with humidified air so getting a humidifier, certainly staying well-hydrated while being ill is a key,” said Chen.
Vaccination is the single best way to prevent the flu.
Flu season runs through March with the peak sometime around January.
The flu shot is free with most insurance. Without insurance, it'll cost around $40 at major pharmacies.
Some area hospitals are offering free clinics throughout the community as well.
Free Flu shots:
- Multiple dates and locations: For persons 9-17 years old
- Saturday, October 13: Seven locations in Baltimore County
- Baltimore City Health Department: Children and adolescents that qualify