It’s cold and flu season! And not only is it flu season, but it’s one of the worst flu seasons we’ve seen in years. Boston declared a medical emergency, New York declared a health emergency, 49 states have recorded cases. . . Google even has a Flu Trend Map! So when Walmart asked me to come up with a “Winter Solution”. . . I came up with the Flu Survival Kit!
First off let’s state that I am not a doctor or medical professional in any way, shape or form. I got all of my information from sources such as WebMD, About.com’s Alt Health and other such reputable sites. I’ve linked to those sites where appropriate–read any information yourself and of course always consult a health care professional about any matters or questions relating to the health of your family. For information on the flu in general please visit Flu.gov, A federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
All of that being said, there are a lot of generally accepted over the counter medications and other easily purchased items that can make you more comfortable if you have the flu. Flu.gov describes the symptoms of the flu as a 100F or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever), A cough and/or sore throat, A runny or stuffy nose, Headaches and/or body aches, Chills, Fatigue, Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children). So these are the symptoms you would want to address. According to WebMD, there are several types of items you should consider having on hand for a personal Home Flu Survival Kit:
Fever and pain relievers
Cough syrups and drops
Fever and Pain Relievers: Flu often brings with it a fever, headache and body aches. The typical OTC pain relievers folks purchase to combat these are ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen. Please do a bit of research on how to correctly use these medications. Again, I’m not a professional, but I have read that many Americans take too much acetaminophen (which can cause liver damage)–both by exceeding the recommended dosage for the timeframe and by not realizing that other “combination” medications they are taking at the same time (think “Daytime Cold Capsules” etc) ALSO already include acetaminophen.
Coughing & Chest Congestion: Don’t just assume that you should always completely stop a cough. Sometimes you want to help your body cough phlegm out (using an expectorant with the ingredient guaifenesin–Mucinex is very popular) and sometimes you want to stop the cough (using a suppressant with the ingredient dextromethorphan). Talk to your health care provider to decide what is best for you. Also be aware–the latest recommendation is you should not give a cough suppressant to children under the age of 4–I would recommend consulting with your physician before giving any child a cough suppressant. For alternative relief consider using cough drops, eating a tsp of honey (not for children under 1yr), using a mentholated rub on your chest, running a humidifier or breathing in steam from a shower.
Nasal Sprays: Stuffy noses and sinus congestion are another common symptom of the flu. Non-medicated Saline nasal sprays and medicated sprays containing oxymetazoline are the most common OTC treatments.
Decongestants: to relieve congestion consider pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine (which are OTC but must be purchased at the pharmacy counter with a picture ID) . For alternative relief consider breathing in warm steam (via a hot shower or a steam bowl), applying a warm compress to your cheeks and sinuses, or using saline nasal irrigation such as the Netipot (note: always follow all instructions included with a nasal irrigation system very carefully!).
Fluids: Rehydration is very important when you have the flu. It not only helps to thin the mucus and ease congestion, but also helps combat any dehydration that might occur from being feverish. Of course you can drink plain water, sports-rehydrating drinks, children’s rehydrating drinks such as Pedialyte etc. Warm liquids can sooth a scratchy painful throat, so think herbal teas and chicken soup. A classic sore throat remedy is warm tea with honey and lemon!
The personal care aisle of your local Walmart will have all of these items and many more. If your store has a pharmacy, feel free to consult with the pharmacist about which over the counter (OTC) remedies are best to have on hand. They are more than happy to help–they aren’t just there for prescriptions you know!
There are also some alternative items, some of which I’ve already mentioned, that you might want to have on hand for flu & cold season.
As I already said, warm liquids can be very soothing and help to thin mucus when you have the flu. Soup–either dry mix or in a can–are easy to make when you feel awful, are warm and have nourishment. Peppermint tea naturally has menthol in it, which can help with congestion and Echinacea is reputed to have immune supporting benefits, so Echinacea tea is another option. Drink either with honey and possibly lemon (lemon & peppermint? Nah.). A warm salt water gargle is another old fashioned way to help a sore throat. Many people like Immune Support products that provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals during flu season. And finally a nasal irrigation system (used carefully according to manufacturers instructions) is a popular way to deal with sinus congestion.
If you live with others than you also want to consider how to keep from spreading the flu to everyone else in the house! Good hand washing is necessary–and antibacterial hand gels are a great way to keep your hands germ free without even leaving the sofa. Disinfecting spray or wipes can keep communally used items (like the computer keyboard, the house phone, doorknobs etc) germ free. And it can’t hurt to have some masks on hand either for someone who is visiting to well or for the sick person to wear to keep from spraying germs everywhere while coughing.
Now I know stocking up on all of those things–especially the medications sounds pretty expensive–but have you seen the $.88 generic OTC medications that Walmart has now? These $.88 generics frequently have a smaller volume of medication, but at that price it’s an easy way to stock up! I especially liked being able to pick up several of the $.88 Nasal Spray–once you’ve used the stuff you really don’t want to share it with anyone else so having multiples in the medicine cabinet is a good idea!
According to the FDA’s “Facts about Generics” webpage :
Generic drugs are required to have the same active ingredient, strength, dosage form, and route of administration as the brand name. . . Cheaper does not mean lower quality.
So by hitting my local Walmart and using the $.88 meds I not only stocked up my own medicine chest for flu season, but I also put together a Flu Season Survival Kit that I can give to any friends or church family members who are struck down with the flu:
Germ-X Antibacterial gel
Tussin for Chest Congestion
Best Health Sore Throat Lozenges
Best Health Mentolated Cough Drops
Multi Symptom Cold Relief (day & night)
Vaporizing Chest Rub
Salt (for gargling)
Great Value Chicken Noodle Soup
Lipton Cup-a-Soup chicken Noodle Soup Packets
Bigelow Mint Medley Herbal Tea
If you had the flu and a friend stopped by with this kit. . . wouldn’t you be thrilled?
And if you are stuck at home with the flu and can’t get out to Walmart–check out the online Walmart Cold and Flu solution section. On many of the cold and flu relief items you can get “Home Free” shipping on orders over $45. . . so order a few things and have it all delivered straight to your door.