This Year’s Flu Epidemic: Protect Yourself With the Essentials

This year’s flu season arrived earlier and stronger compared to previous years. Thus far, 24 states and New York City are reporting high levels of flu infections. The State of New York and the City of Boston have already declared public health emergencies because of the high number of hospitalizations and deaths from the flu and its complications.

Surprisingly, those who have already gotten the flu shot are also getting the flu. A recent CDC report revealed that this year’s flu shot is only 62% effective. Usually, that rate is higher, between 70% and 90%.

But one flu shot can’t cover every flu virus. Experts predict what strains of the flu virus we’ll need the most protection from. They do this every year by analyzing what type of flu virus afflicts common animal carriers, like migratory birds and pigs. Those experts were mostly correct; this year’s vaccine does cover the H3N2 virus, which is a major flu culprit this season. However, there are other strains that they did not anticipate, which are now affecting even those who got the flu shot.

Just because you won’t get 100% coverage this year, don’t let that deter you from getting a flu shot, if you haven’t gotten one already. That 62% of protection is better than no protection at all. Remember, after getting a flu shot, it will take your body at least two weeks to make enough antibodies to protect itself from the flu – you won’t receive instant protection.

During this flu season, it’s more important than ever to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. Get on the offensive against the flu with my flu essentials kit.

1.) Acetaminophen AND Ibuprofen

Yes, I want you to buy both. They both help to reduce a fever, but in different ways, so alternate doses. This also puts less stress on your kidneys and liver since these medications are both processed differently by your body.

Try two 325mg acetaminophen tablets every 4 to 6 hours, and alternate with 1-2 (200mg) ibuprofen tablets. Don’t give any to children without consulting a pharmacist first.

2.) Hand Sanitizer

Living in a bubble may keep you from getting others’ germs, but it would make it very difficult to drive, shop, or board a crowded bus in the morning. Keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer with you makes it easier to defend yourself.

Make sure to look for sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol, which are more effective for killing the flu virus. Look for ingredients with names like alcohol-ethanol, or isopropanol. Spread the gel all over your hands and in between your fingers and wait for it to dry to allow the gel to kill the germs on your hands. Make sure to supervise children under 6 while using this product to keep them from ingesting it.

Also, remember to wash your hands frequently as well. Even though sanitizers kill a majority of germs, there’s no replacement for proper soap and water.

3.) Elderberry Tea

Science shows that this tea is a natural defense against the virus, especially if you’re already sick. Compounds in the tea prevent the entry of the virus into your cells and shortens the duration of the flu. Try drinking 4 to 6 cups a day.

4.) Surgical Masks

They’re not just for the operating room anymore. With eight weeks left in the flu season, those with the flu should wear masks until one day after your fever subsides. You’ll still be contagious to others after that point, but less so. It may look silly to wear a mask in public, but it’s your responsibility to not spread the flu to others.

For more tips on how to fight the flu, check out my Cold and Flu Rescue Pack. You can also track the progress of the flu yourself by checking out Google Flu Trends, which tracks the number of people who search for flu symptoms every year and helped the CDC realize that 2012-2013 would be the bad flu season that it’s turning out to be.