BATON ROUGE, La – Fall means cooler temperatures, which often cause a spike in colds, flu and other viruses. But this year, health officials are reporting above-average rates of children being hospitalized for respiratory illnesses before the winter months that are typically when hospitalizations surge.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana urges families to take steps to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
“One of the best ways to protect children from becoming very sick and needing to be hospitalized is to make sure they are up to date on their vaccines, including the COVID-19 and flu shots,” said Dr. Tracy Lemelle, a pediatrician and Blue Cross medical director.
Health officials recommend everyone age six months and older get a flu shot each year, ideally by the end of October. Most health plans cover flu shots at $0 or very low cost. The shots are widely available at doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, community health centers and other locations statewide.
“The flu can cause serious complications for young children, especially if they have asthma, diabetes or other health conditions,” Dr. Lemelle said. “Fall is here, so talk to your family doctor or pharmacist about scheduling your flu shot as soon as possible to have the strongest protection heading into the peak of flu season.”
In June, federal health officials recommended the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone six months and older. Children age five and older who have had the original COVID-19 vaccine series should get a booster shot when they are eligible.
Blue Cross covers the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters, including the recently updated booster shots that protect against newer variants of the virus, at $0 out of pocket for eligible members of individual and employer health plans. Eligible members of Medicare and Medicaid plans or uninsured patients also can get a COVID-19 booster vaccine at no cost. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires this no-cost coverage. If you have questions about vaccine coverage on your health plan, contact Customer Service at the number on your member ID card.
In addition to respiratory illnesses, make sure your child is up to date on vaccines to protect against diseases like tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, measles and Hepatitis B. Many of these vaccines should be given when children are infants through age 6. Older children need three vaccines at ages 11-12 to protect against meningitis and HPV and to get a tetanus/diphtheria/whooping cough (Tdap) booster.
“If you’re not sure if your children have gotten all of the needed vaccines for their age, schedule a checkup with your family doctor to ask about this. That’s especially important if it’s been more than year since their last visit,” Dr. Lemelle said.
Slow the Spread of Illnesses
Steps families can take to prevent spreading contagious illnesses include:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if washing isn’t an option
• Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough
• Wear a face mask in crowded, indoor places, especially in areas with high rates of COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses
• Don’t share plates, cups or eating utensils with others
• Clean high-touch surfaces like kitchen counters, bathrooms or desks frequently
• If you or your child have symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, congestion or sore throat, stay home and contact your health care provider
Remember that telehealth visits are a good option to treat non-emergency illnesses like cold or flu symptoms, pink eye, bladder infections or mild stomach viruses. Health care providers can write or refill prescriptions to treat most conditions through telehealth.
Blue Cross members can use BlueCare, the insurer’s signature telehealth platform, to have online doctor visits 24/7. BlueCare is available in all 50 states and works on a smartphone, laptop, tablet or computer. Other network providers also treat patients through telehealth. Ask your provider about options or check the online directory to find an in-network provider near you.
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About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past four years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media @BCBSLA.