How to put together a flu survival kit

Pharmacist Ira Katz has been through 37 flu seasons behind the counter at Little Five Points Pharmacy, an independent drugstore in Atlanta.

Katz says this is one of the busier flu seasons he has experienced.

Every day about 20 to 30 people either call or come by his store complaining of flu symptoms.

With widespread flu outbreaks in all 50 states, the CDC admits even people who got a flu shot this year may still catch the virus.

To be prepared, Katz recommends putting together at-home flu kit of over-the-counter medications to ease your symptoms.

But first, he says, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

Katz says if you have a sick child or you're someone with a chronic health condition like high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, always ask either your pediatrician, doctor or pharmacist before you use any flu remedy because some medications are not safe for kids or those with certain health issues.

Read the directions and the ingredients, Katz says, and be very careful about mixing medications that contain acetaminophen, with can be dangerous in high doses.

To start your flu kit, Katz recommends a fever and pain reliever, like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin).

"I typically tell all parents to keep ibuprofen on hand, and when the fever is like 102 or higher, give them the ibuprofen," Katz says. "For lower-grade fever, you can use just acetaminophen."

Katz says if you're using a liquid pain reliever, shake it well before you give it to a child, and use only the recommended amount.

Next, you'll need a thermometer to track your fever.

"There are digital thermometers, ear thermometers, temple thermometers," Katz says.

Katz recommends checking your temperature at least twice a day.

You'll also want to push fluids.

"Hydration, hydration, hydration, is critical," Katz says. "There are a lot of people when they do get the flu, they're not going to eat, they're not going to drink. You really do need to do that."

He recommends drinks to replenish lost electrolytes, like Pedialyte for children and sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade for adults, although Katz says they're high in sugar.

He prefers electrolyte packets that are sugar-free and can be added to a glass of water.

Your flu kit should also contain something for a chest congestion, like an expectorant.

Katz recommends a Mucinex, or something with guaifenesin, to help you cough up phlegm in your chest.

And, while you're at it, he says, grab nasal decongestant that can help with a stuffy nose and sinus pain.

"The Sudafed, or the equivalent, pseudoephedrine, behind the counter, I do recommend that, in a lot of cases," Katz says. "It's a nasal decongestant. Taking an antihistamine will dry up (those symptoms) for some people."

For a runny nose, postnasal drip, or watery eyes, a non-sedating antihistamine like Allegra, Claritin or Zyrtec can help, Katz says.

If you just want to simplify things, there are now all-in-one flu medications.

He picks up DayQuil and NyQuil combination.

"This is short and sweet and very simple," Katz says. "The difference in the DayQuil and the NyQuil is, the DayQuil does not have an antihistamine. The NyQuil does have an antihistamine. That's why it's expected to be taken at night. They all have acetaminophen in it."

Finally, grab some tissues and some disinfecting wipes to stop the spread of germs.

Flu typically lasts 1 to 2 weeks, although some symptoms may linger.

If your symptoms become severe, or, if you seem to be getting better then take a sudden turn for the worse, seek medical help.

You may have a secondary infection like pneumonia, which may require treatment.

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