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Flu Survival Kit: A Self-Care Kit for Your Home

Keep these medicines and remedies on hand in case the flu bug bites.
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If you're one of those people who brag, come flu season, that you "never, ever get sick," be aware: The odds may catch up to you. Every year, about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents get influenza, according to estimates from the CDC.

Taking certain antiviral drugs within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms can shorten the duration of the flu, but that involves recognizing you have the flu, getting in touch with your doctor, and going to the pharmacist before the 48 hours is up.

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Swine Flu and Pregnancy

Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized and are at higher risk of death and complications from flu, including swine flu and seasonal flu, than the general population.  As scary as that sounds, experts say that most pregnant women who become ill with H1N1 swine flu will not have a serious problem. If you are pregnant, here's what you need to know.

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Just in case your number is up this year, consider assembling a simple home care kit for help in surviving the flu. If you are not only in denial but too busy to shop for a flu survival kit, take heart: it might just be an assembly job.  "Most of the supplies are routine medicines you have in your medicine cabinet anyway," says Jim King, MD, a family physician in Selmer, Tenn., and president-elect of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Here’s a short list from King and other flu experts of what you may need to treat the most common flu symptoms: fever, headache, cough, muscle aches, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose. 

  • Fever and pain relievers
  • Cough syrups and drops
  • Nasal sprays
  • Decongestants
  • Thermometer
  • Fluids
  • Tissues

(Some caveats: Before giving any medicine to children; consult their pediatrician. Cold and cough syrups can be dangerous especially when given to children under 2 years old.  Adults with chronic problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease should check in with their doctor or pharmacist before taking any flu remedy, too.)

Fever and Pain Relievers for Flu Symptoms

What to Get: Choose ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol) or naproxen (Aleve), suggests Richard Roberts, MD, JD, a family physician in Belleville, Wis., and a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

What They Do, How to Use Them: All three types of medicine help reduce fever and pain from muscle aches that can accompany flu. Most people under-dose themselves with these medicines, Roberts says. For generally healthy adults with flu, he suggests alternating Tylenol with either ibuprofen and naproxen throughout the day (but not alternating between ibuprofen and naproxen, since they work the same way.)

Pay heed to the manufacturers' warnings about maximum doses, says Vibhuti Arya, PharmD, a resident at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy, Minneapolis, and a media spokeswoman for the American Pharmacists Association. Never take a higher dose without checking first with your doctor or pharmacist. (Higher doses than what is recommended by the manufacturer may be acceptable for a short period of time, but only with your doctor’s approval, she says.)

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