I know what you're thinking: it's only the second week of September. Why worry about flu season yet? Well, the CDC is already warning people that we might be in for a nasty flu season. Now is the time to get your shot and start prepping for the sickest time of the year.
Before you or one of your family members winds up sick, here are ten products you should keep on hand. Some of them will help combat illness while others are helpful to have once someone falls sick. Either way, you'll want to keep your medicine cabinet well stocked from now until next spring, just in case.
1. Hand sanitizer. Although washing your hands with warm soapy water is always the best way to reduce your risk of contamination, the CDC says that using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is still a good idea in some situations. Keep a bottle in your car and at your desk or workplace. Try to use the product whenever you're about to eat or touch your face to decrease your risk of spreading viruses.
2. Disinfectant spray. Generally, the flu cannot survive for long without a host body, but it can survive for up to 24 hours on a hard surface. Using a disinfectant spray to clean your desk, doorknobs, floors and counters is an excellent way to minimize your risk of contracting the virus from a secondhand source.
3. Reusable water bottles for everyone in the family. One study recently found that drinking-fountain handles were among the most contaminated places in children's schools, sometimes event spreading strains of influenza. In fact, some claim that public water fountains can be dirtier than a toilet. Keep your family away from these germ-infested areas by providing them with their own water bottle they can refill somewhere safely.
4. Clorox wipes. Like the disinfectant spray, decontaminating wipes can kill viruses that are lingering on your belongings. Clorox products, including wipes, can help kill up to 99.9 percent of the flu virus that can be found throughout your household, as well as other viruses and bacteria.
5. Decongestants. If someone in your family does contract the flu, it's important to monitor their congestion and make sure that their breathing problems aren't turning into something more serious, like a bad sinus infection or even pneumonia. Over-the-counter decongestants like Sudafed or Mucinex can improve the sick person's comfort and keep other serious problems at bay.
6. An accurate thermometer. It's not uncommon for flu victims to run high temperatures, so keep a working thermometer on hand to assess the severity of the fever. A high temperature is often the first sign of the flu, and if the fever rises about 103, you may need to seek medical treatment at a hospital or urgent care.
7. Tissues. This one seems pretty straightforward, but it's important to realize that tissues aren't just for your benefit; they protect those around you from your contaminated sneezes and sniffles. Keep a box nearby whenever the flu or other illnesses strike.
8. Disposable face masks. Don't worry: I'm not telling you to wear a face mask around for the duration of the flu season. However, scientists have shown that wearing a mask around people infected with flu-like illnesses can decrease your risk of contamination by 80 percent. If you're going to be interacting with someone who is already sick, it might be a good idea to cover your face.
9. Ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Getting the flu means dealing with everything from painful headaches and body aches to high fevers. Keeping pain relievers stocked will ensure that you can alleviate pain and lower fevers if someone should fall prey to the virus.
10. Gatorade. The influenza virus can substantially increase your risk of serious dehydration. Many people are even hospitalized due to dehydration during flu season. Fortunately, electrolyte drinks like Gatorade can help combat the loss of fluid and keep you hydrated, even if you have no appetite or are feeling nauseous. Go ahead and stock up now before someone exhibits the first signs of illness.
What products do you like to keep on hand during flu season? Let us know in the comments!