Your COVID-19 and Flu Season Guide Plus Must-Have Items for Home Self-Care Kit
*Written by Dr. Shalaunda Gray, Medical Director at Lakemary Center
Part 1: COVID-19 AND FLU SEASON GUIDE
“I never get the Flu…”
If you are a person who brags about never getting the flu, you might just be surprised this year. According to the CDC, 5-20% of people in American get the flu annually. This coupled with COVID-19 cases rising in our communities, it’s even more important to make sure that you are prepared to care for yourself or your loved ones should you or your family become ill. This brief article will give you information about the Flu and COVID-19, and will help you stock up on items you may need at home to care for yourself should you or a loved one contract the flu or COVID-19.
INFLUENZA or the “FLU”:
As you know, the Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.
Influenza (flu) can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever (sometimes) or feeling feverish/chills
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle or body aches
- fatigue (tiredness)
- vomiting and diarrhea
It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever. Also remember that you may be able to pass the flu to someone else before you even know that you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
TIPS TO REMEMBER ABOUT THE FLU:
• People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.
• Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
• Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.
• Flu vaccinations are still your best defense at preventing the flu and preventing the severity of symptoms should you get the flu. Flu vaccines have been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick.
Kansas Department of Health and Environment states that “Persons confirmed to have influenza should stay home for five days following onset of symptoms or until fever-free for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications), whichever is longer, per Kansas requirement.”
Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
There are some key differences between flu and COVID-19. COVID-19 can spread 10 times faster than flu and can cause more serious illnesses in some people. It can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer. At this time, there is no vaccination against COVID-19. There is a vaccine to protect against flu. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus.
While more is learned every day, there is still quite a bit that is unknown about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it.
SYMPTOMS OF COVID-19:
The symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from no symptoms at all, to serious heart and lung conditions requiring hospitalization and even death. It is important to monitor your symptoms daily and notify your Primary Care Physician, and Supervisor immediately.
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
WHAT’S MY RISK?
There are some groups of people who are at Higher Risk for suffering from severe complications of COVID-19. These groups include those who have been diagnosed with:
- Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Asthma or COPD
- Adults over the Age of 65
- Nursing Home or Group Home Residents
- Autoimmune Conditions
- Kidney/Liver Conditions
Even if you are not in one of these high risk groups listed above, it is still important to take precautions and to protect those around by taking steps outlined below.
PREVENTION IS KEY
Although there is no vaccine available to prevent infection with the new coronavirus, you can take steps to reduce your risk of infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend following these precautions for avoiding COVID-19:
- Avoid large events and mass gatherings.
- Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with others. Avoid anyone who is sick.
- Stay home when possible and keep distance between yourself and others if COVID-19 is spreading in your community, especially if you have a higher risk of serious illness.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your face with a cloth face mask in public spaces, such as the grocery store, where it’s difficult to avoid close contact with others, especially if you’re in an area with ongoing community spread.
- Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue. Wash your hands right away.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, towels, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.
- Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics and counters, daily.
- Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick, unless you’re going to get medical care. Avoid taking public transportation, taxis and ride-sharing if you’re sick.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU BECOME ILL
Although we do our best to follow CDC protocols, some of us may still become exposed or sick from the FLU or COVID-19. So what do you do if you start to have symptoms?
- CALL IN SICK. Call your supervisor and let them know that you are not able to work because you have symptoms that are concerning for the Flu or for COVID-19.
- CALL YOUR PCP. Call your Local Family Physician or seek care from a local urgent care. It is not enough just to get tested for the flu or for COVID. You will need to see your doctor, so that you may receive evaluation and treatment for your symptoms. Your PCP will determine a safe return to work date for you based on their assessment of your symptoms.
- FOLLOW THE ADVICE OF YOUR PCP. It is important to follow the advice given to you by your primary care provider and by our HR and Medical Department. If you are told to quarantine, then stay home for the duration of the quarantine. Order grocery delivery. Call friends or family and ask that they deliver needed items to your porch. Do not have friends or family over. Do not leave your house during your quarantine or isolation except for medical appointments.
Part 2: MUST HAVES FOR HOME SELF-CARE KIT
With COVID cases on the rise in Kansas, and with Flu Season upon us, it is a good idea to stock up on certain items should you have to be quarantined for 2-4 weeks at home. This list will also help you in case of school closures. This list is not meant to make you panic buy – don’t do that. But use this list to make sure that you have everything that you would need if you could not leave your home for 2-4 weeks.
1. Keep a 14-day supply of food on hand
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some suggestions for what foods to stock up on:
- Dried or canned goods. Foods like soup, canned vegetables, and canned fruit are nutritious and keep for a long time.
- Frozen foods. Frozen meals, pizzas, vegetables, and fruits are an easy way to keep food around without worrying that they will go bad.
- Dried or freeze-dried foods. Dried fruit makes a great snack. While dried beans are cheap and nutritious, they can also take some time and effort to cook. For an easy alternative, you may want to keep a few freeze-dried foods on hand. (Instant breakfast powders, dried fruit and nuts, granola bars, etc)
- Pasta and rice. Rice and pasta are easy to cook and gentle on the stomach. They also keep for a long time, and they’re relatively inexpensive, so you won’t spend a fortune stocking your cupboards.
- Peanut butter and jelly. Easy and kid-friendly – enough said. J
- Bread, cereal and crackers. These keep for a long time.
- Shelf-stable milk. Refrigerated milk is fine too, but if you’re worried about it going bad before you can get through it, try looking for milk or non-dairy milk in aseptic packaging.
As you make your purchases, be mindful of what you can realistically go through in 2 weeks. Buying only what you need right now will help make sure there’s enough to go around.
2. Stock up on sick day essentials
If you get sick, you’ll need to stay home unless seeking medical care. Stock up ahead of time on anything you think you may want or need while sick. That could mean:
- Pain and fever reducers. Both acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) can be used to relieve pain and bring down a fever. Depending on whether you have a cold, the flu, or COVID-19, your doctor may recommend one over the other. Talk to your doctor about which may be right for you, and be sure to have some on hand.
- Cough medications. These include over the counter cough suppressants (medication to stop your cough) and over the counter cough expectorants (medications to loosen your cough, and thin out mucus secretions that you cough).
- Thermometer. Options include a standard mercury thermometer, a digital oral or ear thermometer, or, for infants, a rectal thermometer. Taking your temperature can help you keep tabs on your fever. With the flu, 100.4 degrees or higher is generally regarded as a fever.
- Fluids to Rehydrate When You Have the Flu. What to Get: Plain water with or without Crystal Light Flavoring, bottled water, sports-rehydrating drinks, children’s rehydrating drinks such as Pedialyte, ginger ale, flat soda, and chicken soup. Staying hydrated during the flu or COVID is important.Stay away from milk and orange as citrus and milk and citrus can aggravate nausea.
- Tissues/Kleenex. Preferably disposable tissues.
- Bland food. Some people find that the BRAT diet is helpful when sick. BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast)
- Tea, popsicles, broth, jello and sports drinks. These can help you stay hydrated.
3. Prepare your home
As with food, it’s a good idea to keep some home cleaning essentials on hand. Again, the idea is to make sure you have what you need if you’re sick and unable to leave your home.
According to the CDC you should focus on items related to cleaning/disinfecting your home, such as:
- Soap. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Hand sanitizer. Washing with soap and water is the best way to clean your hands. If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Cleaning supplies. Use diluted bleach, alcohol, or a product that meets the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19.
4. Get your medications in order
- If you take prescription medications of any kind, ask your provider for a refill now so that you have extra on hand if you’re unable to leave your home for 2-4 weeks. If you can’t obtain a 30- day prescription now, it may be a good idea to ask for a mail-order prescription. This is especially important if you’re part of an at-risk group listed above.
- Make a list of your medications, dosages, physicians, and pharmacy information. You may also want to write down any allergies that you have and all of your medical history (surgeries, etc). Give a copy to a trusted family member or friend.
- Create an emergency contact list including family, friends, neighbors, carpool drivers, healthcare providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, and other community resources.
5. Pick up child and baby supplies
If you have kids in your home, you’ll want to make sure you have any kid- or baby-specific supplies on hand, too. If you regularly use diapers, baby food, wipes, or formula, make sure you have a 2-4 week supply of these items. You may also want to purchase children’s cold medicines and toys, games, or puzzles to keep kids busy.
6. Choose a quarantine or isolation room/area in your home.
Choose a place in your home where someone can stay if they get sick with COVID-19. If a person you live with gets sick, they should stay separate from others. If possible, the sick person should use a separate bathroom as well.
PROPHYLAXIS Medications/Vitamins FOR COVID-19
EVMS (Eastern Virginia Medical School) developed a prophylactic approach to COVID-19 based on the best and most recent literature. They update the guideline as new information emerges.
From EVMS: The information provided in this protocol is primarily to provide information to physicians on a protocol that we found to be highly effective in damping down the hyperinflammatory cytokine “storm” that is the cause of mortality and morbidity in COVID-19. Our guidance should only be used by medical professionals in formulating their approach to COVID19. Patients should always consult with their physician before starting any medical treatment.
While there is no Level 1 evidence that this cocktail will prevent COVID-19, EVMS believes there is significant supportive evidence indicating the efficacy of these agents.
Here is the protocol to take daily:
- Vitamin D3 1000-3000 IU/day. Vitamin D insufficiency has been associated with an increased risk of acquiring COVID-19 and from dying from the disease. Vitamin D supplementation may therefore prove to be an effective and inexpensive intervention to lessen the impact of this disease, particularly in vulnerable populations, i.e. the elderly, those with chronic medical concerns, people of color, and obese.
- Vitamin C 500 mg twice daily
- Melatonin. 3-10 mg at night
- Zinc 30-50 mg/day (elemental zinc).
- B complex vitamins
As a family, you can plan and make decisions and preparations now that will protect you and your family.
Article Sources: WHO, CDC, Healthline. WebMD