You can just picture it, can't you? You're up to your elbows in tape and tissue paper, transforming your son into a spaceman for the school costume party, and you don't feel quite...right. Your back aches, you feel like your brain is slowing down, and...is it chilly in here? Two hours later, you have a temperature of 102º F and climbing, everything hurts, and you can't stop coughing. This is no ordinary cold. Most likely, you have influenza (the flu).

Influenza is a virus that generally makes the rounds in the United States between the months of October and May. You can contract the flu at any time of the year, but the likelihood of infection goes up during the colder months for a variety of reasons, from the fact that we spend a great deal more time indoors and in close proximity to others to the virus's adaptations that allow it to survive longer in colder temperatures. There is reason to believe that cold, dry air makes airborne transmission more likely, as well.

You may have heard stomach and intestinal disturbances referred to as "the stomach flu" or "24-hour flu," but that name is incorrect. While influenza symptoms can include stomach pain, usually in children, generally, the flu is characterized by a high fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pains, headache, coughing, and fatigue.

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If you have ever had the flu, you know it can wipe you out for several days or even weeks. The virus and its symptoms can range in severity from mild to life-threatening, depending on the strain of the virus and a patient's existing risk factors.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend an annual influenza vaccination (also known as a flu shot) for protection. However, we understand that there are various schools of thought concerning vaccines. Liberty HealthShare encourages you to talk to your physician about any questions or concerns you might have and to make an informed decision with them. If, as a Liberty HealthShare member, you decide to get vaccinated, don't forget that the cost is eligible for sharing and is not subject to your Annual Unshared Amount. If you elect not to get the shot, take the usual precautions (avoid close contact with others who are sick, wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose after touching surfaces or other people).

So what is your best course of action if you do contract the flu? Although this is more likely for those who forgo the flu shot altogether, it is possible (though rare) for you to get the flu even if you have been vaccinated. Let's say you or one of your family members find yourselves in a scenario like the one above. You run through the list of possible symptoms and you have most, if not all, of them. Are you doomed to succumb to this virus and hope you can return to work, parenting, and all your other responsibilities when it's finally over?

It used to be that you had no option but letting the flu run its course. Fortunately, in recent years, antiviral medications have been successful in shortening the length of this illness. But at a time like this, do you really want to fight through the phone prompts to get a doctor's appointment, load yourself (and possibly your small kids) into the car, drive to the doctor's office, sit in a waiting room with other sick people, see the doctor, get the prescription, drive to the pharmacy, wait there, and then drive back home to get some relief? If you are a Liberty HealthShare member, there is a way to see a physician from the comfort of your own home, making it significantly easier to get the care you need, when you need it.

Telemedicine is a way for patients and physicians to interact by phone or other technological means. Last year, Liberty HealthShare began partnering with VideoMedicine, a telemedicine company, to offer its services to members at a discount. VideoMedicine makes it possible for you to interact with a provider via video using your phone or tablet. If the physician determines you require a prescription, he or she can call it into your local pharmacy. It's that simple.

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If you find yourself in the downward spiral of flu symptoms this fall or winter, we recommend you give VideoMedicine a try. Keep in mind that, for the greatest effect, antivirals need to be administered within 48 hours of flu symptom onset. If you have the symptoms of the flu, you shouldn't wait. Fortunately, with VideoMedicine, you don't have to.

For more information about VideoMedicine for Liberty HealthShare members, click here. To register as a Liberty HealthShare member, click here. Visit the App Store or Google Play to download the VideoMedicine app.

Liberty HealthShare is committed to putting control back in your hands as you access the healthcare system. VideoMedicine helps make it possible by helping you get affordable care when and where you need it most.