Flu Survival Kit: A Self-Care Kit for Your Home
Keep these medicines and remedies on hand in case the flu bug bites.
What to Get: Two types of cough syrups are useful for surviving the
flu: an expectorant (which contains the ingredient guaifenesin) and a
suppressant (which contain the ingredient dextromethorphan).
What They Do, How to Use Them: Expectorant cough remedies should be
used when you have chest congestion and are trying to cough it out, says
Jonathan Arroyo, PharmD, the pharmacy manager at Texas Road Pharmacy in
Manalapan, N.J., and a member of the American Pharmacists Association. When you
are taking these cough syrups, be sure to drink eight glasses or more of water
and other fluids a day, he says. The fluids help clear congestion.
Suppressant cough remedies are best to use when the cough is dry and you
have no mucus, Arroyo says. (But if you are trying to sleep, and the cough
prevents you from rest, Arroyo sometimes suggests taking a suppressant
cough syrup before bed.)
Menthol cough drops can help soothe the throat soreness. They can be used
with expectorants, Arroyo says.
Nasal Sprays for Stuffy Noses
What to Get: Saline nasal sprays (nonmedicated) and oxymetazoline
(medicated) nasal sprays such as Afrin or NeoSnyephrine.
What They Do, How to Use Them: Saline nasal sprays can help clear out
the nose and the stuffiness that can accompany flu. "It might help you
breathe better," Arroyo says.
Nasal saline sprays can be used even a couple times an hour, says Roberts,
the family physician.
Medicated nasal sprays can be used by healthy adults, but Roberts advises no
more than three days of use. Longer use is associated with "rebound
Decongestants for Flu Symptoms
What to Get: Options include decongestants in pill or oral forms such
as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Contac) and phenylephrine (such as Sudafed). Some
states require you to talk to a pharmacist before buying over-the-counter
medications with pseudoephedrine, as the drug is used in illegal production of
What They Do, How to Use Them: Decongestants help in your
surviving-the-flu efforts by narrowing blood vessels in the nose lining,
reducing blood flow to the area and allowing swollen tissue to shrink and air
to flow more easily.
Thermometer to Check for Fever From the Flu
What to Get: Options include a standard mercury thermometer, a
digital oral or ear thermometer, or, for infants, a rectal thermometer.
What to Know, How to Use Them: Taking your temperature can help you
keep tabs on your fever. "With flu, 100.4 degrees or higher is
generally regarded as a fever," Roberts says. For better accuracy, don't
take your temperature right after drinking hot or cold liquids, he says.
"The oral digital models are better generally than the ear models,"
Roberts says. In one study, researchers compared ear and rectal thermometers in
children and found that ear thermometers failed to diagnose fever in three or
four of every 10 children with a fever. Another study found that 5% to 31% of
children with fever were misdiagnosed as not having a fever when ear
thermometers were used.