No one wants to be ill but I think it pays to be prepared for it. Before you or anyone in your household catches the latest bug, take the time to create a cold, flu & Covid kit. Having needed medications and other items on hand will help you avoid a trip to the drugstore when you are ill and allow you to begin treating symptoms right away. Plus, you’ll avoid exposing others to your germs!
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Cold, Flu & Covid Kit
Illnesses to prepare for…
Start creating your kit by making a list of the illnesses you and your family are most likely to experience. Colds, flu, Covid, RSV, and stomach viruses are the most common ones to consider. But there are others.
For instance, I have asthma so I want to be sure to have inhalers, albuterol for my nebulizer and a round of steroids just in case.
My husband has occasional bouts of gout and last year had kidney stones. We keep medications on hand for those conditions.
Symptoms to consider…
Since there is some overlap in symptoms between colds, flu and Covid it’s helpful to think in terms of individual symptoms when making a list of medications to have on hand. Here is a list to get you started:
- sore throat
- chest congestion
- runny or stuffy nose
- general aches and pains
Looking at that list of symptoms, consider medications and/or supplements to help alleviate them. Here is a potential list:
- cough syrup or lozenges
- Mucinex (Guaifenesin)
- anti-emetic (to reduce nausea/vomiting)
- throat lozenges
- stool softener/mild laxative
Be sure you know what is safe for you to take if you have any health problems and/or take prescription medications. For instance, people with high blood pressure need to be cautious about taking decongestants.
There are many multi-symptom cold and flu medications available over the counter. These are okay if you have all of the symptoms they relieve but I prefer single ingredient meds for more targeted relief. For instance, Nyquil contains acetaminophen (for fever and mild aches), dextromethorphan (cough suppressant) and doxylamine succinate (an antihistamine). You may or may not need all three. In fact, there is evidence that a low grade fever helps fight viruses so it might be best to skip fever reducers if it’s not very high (unless you have a history of febrile seizures).
The other issue with multi-symptom remedies is the possibility of overdose. Don’t take additional acetaminophen along with Nyquil, for instance. Again, I just find it safer to stick with single ingredient medications. That’s the over-cautious former R.N. in me, I suppose. My husband, on the other hand, loves a good dose of Nyquil when he has a cold. 😉
There is still much to learn about the safety and efficacy of vitamins, herbs and other supplements. Keep in mind that there can be drug interactions and other potentially serious side effects so check with your doctor first. Here are several supplements that *might* deserve a place in your medicine cabinet.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Zinc lozenges
- Emergen-C or Airborne
- elderberry syrup
Even a simple cold can make you miserable. Here are a few items that can help.
- hot/cold wrap
- heating pad
- warm socks
- cuddly blanket
- tissues with lotion
- lip balm
Food and drink:
It’s important to stay hydrated and well-nourished when ill. I like to be sure my pantry is stocked with a good selection of the following items before anyone is sick. I suggest keeping these on a separate shelf or perhaps tucked away in a box somewhere. I have re-bought ginger ale repeatedly because apparently my husband likes it even when well. Ha!
- orange juice (good source of vitamin C)
- pineapple juice (contains bromelain which may help reduce cough – I like to buy the little 6 oz. cans.)
- chicken soup (Homemade is best but it’s handy to have a few cans in the pantry.)
- tomato soup (another source of vitamin C)
- ramen (easy to prepare; add hot sauce or sriracha to help clear sinuses)
- applesauce (individual cups are handy)
- canned or frozen fruit (good for smoothies)
- Greek yogurt (good source of protein and for smoothies)
- tea (especially green tea)
- ginger ale/7-Up
- hydration fluids (Gatorade, coconut water)
- frozen meals (stock your freezer with a few casseroles for sick days)
- high quality masks
- Covid tests
- pulse oximeter
- blood pressure machine
- HEPA filters for central heat/air
- room size air purifier for sick room
- hand sanitizer
- kitchen and bathroom disinfectants
- serving tray
- disposable plates and cups
- plenty of trash bags
If you have a baby or young child ask his/her pediatrician what medicines and remedies are safe for YOUR child and make sure you understand dosages. Also know danger signs and when to seek treatment. There are some nasty viruses making the rounds which can be extremely serious for babies and toddlers especially. When in doubt, call your doctor or go to the emergency room or urgent care.
Having some meals in the freezer can be a real sanity saver when dealing with illness in the household. The “Eat at Home” meal plan subscription includes a 1-hour “freezer stash” every month along with a whole month of meal plans, 15 minute meals for busy nights, color-coded lists, printable recipes, Instant Pot recipes and more. Take a peek at all you get for one low subscription price:
I found this video very helpful in explaining the treatment of Covid at home and especially what to watch for:
In the show notes there is a link to a very handy spreadsheet for tracking vital signs, symptoms, medication times, food and liquid intake.
I think it is wise to consider in advance what your personal Covid treatment plan will be. Discuss treatment with your doctor. Do you qualify for an antiviral such as Paxlovid? If so, it needs to be started within the first 5 days. Know where you can access it. Your written plan should include phone numbers of your doctor, local hospital/E.R., urgent care and pharmacy. You don’t want to be scrambling for any of this information.
So tell me, do you keep a well-stocked medicine cabinet and pantry for illness? Is there something I left off my list that you recommend? Let’s all share in the comments. And I hope we all stay well and don’t need any of these things!
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