Seasonal influenza is a contagious respiratory infection caused by different flu viruses. The major symptoms are fever, headache, fatigue and body aches. New Year’s eve saw 67 people in the Portland, OR area alone, hospitalized suffering from a flu strain similar to the 2009 pandemic. Striking middle-aged people, this strain causes an almost comatose sleeping state for hours. It has been identified as a re-assortment of the Avian, Swine and Human strains. With lots of holiday travel and people contained is close quarters, germs can travel far. 1 Since the flu can sneak up on you, your flu emergency kit should include:
- Thermometer – a high fever is one of the first clues that you have the flu. Get a digital one and wash it before and after using. Watch out for a fever that goes away and then comes back. this could mean it has turned into a bacterial infection. Seek medical attention for children who have a fever over 1040F or for adults who have difficulty breathing, persistent vomiting, sudden dizziness or confusion.
- Keep your ibuprofen or acetaminophen up to date. These will relieve fever and muscle aches in adults and children over six months. Don’t use aspirin or aspirin containing medicine in children who have cold or flu symptoms. This can lead to Reye’s syndrome. For babies under six months, the CDC recommends only acetaminophen. Follow all label directions closely.
- Decongestant - Use this to treat nasal blockage. For children under age four consult your doctor before giving decongestants. Saline nasal sprays can be used in adults and children to loosen mucus. Decongestant sprays shrink nasal passages. Only use them for a few days and never in children.
- Cough Suppressant - Include this to take at night. Avoid taking this during the day, it is better to expel any phlegm. Be careful when mixing over the counter medications. Some may have the same ingredients, resulting in an overdose. Pediatric cough and cold formulas are not recommended for children under 2.
- Tissues and Hand Sanitizer - Stock up on these. Put every used tissue into the trash as soon as you are finished using it. Runny noses, sneezing and coughing are the main way that flu droplets spread germs. Always cover your coughs and sneezes with tissues and teach kids to do the same. If a tissue isn’t handy cough into your elbow instead of your hand. Wash your hands often with soap and water between tissue uses. Use hand sanitizer gel, if you can’t wash often. A good alcohol based sanitizer should contain 60% alcohol. Keep your hands away from your face. Germs have ready entry through your nose, mouth and eyes.
- Liquids - Stock up on water and other clear liquids. They help restore fluids lost from a fever and help keep mucus secretions flowing. Bottled water may taste better than tap water and may limit the use of glasses and cups. Don’t share it. You can add salt to water (1/2 tsp per 8 ounces) to make a gargle. Sports drinks contain electrolytes that will help avoid dehydration. Include herbal teas and soups. Hot liquids can be soothing. A bowl of broth based soup is easier on an upset stomach and the steam can help loosen mucus. If you’re sick, you probably will not feel like cooking.
- Lozenges - Throat lozenges can soothe a cough or sore throat, but they are not a cure. Many of their ingredients, like honey, herbs, or eucalyptus, have been used for years. Zinc can also help. Studies have shown if taken within 24 hours of symptom onset, it helps reduce the duration and severity in normally healthy individuals. Don’t take more than 50 mg per day.
- DVD’s - Include some comedy DVD’s in your emergency kit. Laughter can be the best medicine.
Influenza vaccines can help stimulate your immune system before you get the flu. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends all children, six months and older get a flu vaccine every year.
Billie Nicholson 2014