Kristi Yamaguchi: Going for the gold in fighting the flu
Not only can the body aches, headaches and fever that accompany the flu be painful, but they can be expensive if you have health insurance — and particularly if you don’t. About 226,000 people are hospitalized for the flu every year in the United States, and those hospital bills easily can climb into the thousands of dollars.
Kristi Yamaguchi, who captured the Olympic gold medal in women’s figure skating in 1992, has some easy-to-follow advice for staying away from the flu and staying out of the hospital: Get a flu shot. The U.S. flu season runs from November to April. Many health insurance plans cover flu vaccines; even without health insurance, the vaccine costs about $25.
For her part, 40-year-old Yamaguchi can’t remember the last time she had the flu. What’s Yamaguchi’s secret to skating around it? Her mom.
“My mom made me get a flu shot every year since I was a young athlete training for the Olympics,” she says.
|Figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi says she has been flu-free since her teens because her mother insisted on yearly vaccinations.|
In 2005, Yamaguchi teamed up with the American Lung Association on the “Faces of Influenza” campaign to help others understand the seriousness of the flu. Here’s why Yamaguchi — who you may remember for her victory on “Dancing with the Stars,” says she’ll never go without a flu vaccine.
InsuranceQuotes.com: When was the last time you had the flu?
Kristi Yamaguchi: I’ve been getting flu shot since I was a teenager, so it was definitely before then. I don’t remember how old I was; I was young. But I do remember how awful having the flu was. The aches, pains and all-over horrible feeling were awful. Knock on wood, getting immunized every year prevented me from experiencing that again.
InsuranceQuotes.com: How did vaccines play a role in your career as an athlete?
Yamaguchi: Vaccines played a huge role. My mom was very active in getting all three of us (Yamaguchi and her two siblings) vaccinated, which was a very good thing. She became vigilant about us having a flu vaccine after 1988 when a friend of mine missed competing at the Olympics because of having the flu the very day of competition. That was a hard lesson to learn and one my mom didn’t want to happen to me. So since then, she made sure we got a flu shot.
InsuranceQuotes.com: As a now that you’re a mom, are you following in your mom’s footsteps and getting your kids vaccinated?
Yamaguchi: The flu is a serious disease that sends over 200,000 people to the hospital every year. As a mom, that gets my attention. I don’t want my family to become part of that statistic.
That’s why I’ve had my (two) girls receive the flu vaccine since they were old enough to be immunized against the flu. I think as a mom, it became more important than ever to protect my family.
InsuranceQuotes.com: How do you overcome common fears about vaccines?
Yamaguchi: I have a good relationship with all of our doctors. And when it was time to have my kids vaccinated, I talked to the doctor about benefits and risks. I would encourage all parents who have questions to turn to your health care provider for answers.
InsuranceQuotes.com: Do you have any tricks to ease kid’s fear of receiving a flu shot?
Yamaguchi: That’s a hard for a mom because you don’t want to see your child in pain. Before their first shot, I told them, “Mommy doesn’t want you to get sick, and this shot will help you stay as healthy as possible.” I always remind them that it’s really quick, too. Now that they’re older, they know the routine and that it’s fast.
InsuranceQuotes.com: Besides flu shots, what else do you do to keep your family healthy during flu season?
Yamaguchi: I think it’s important to look after your overall health. So we try to eat a healthy diet that has plenty of fruits and vegetables, get daily exercise, and practice common-sense things like washing our hands frequently and coughing or sneezing into our sleeve instead of a hand to prevent the spread of germs.
It’s hard to battle germs when your kids are in school; they’re bound to come across different viruses. That’s why we all get flu shots. Avoiding the flu is one less thing to worry they’ll come home from school with.