Make sure you're prepared for whatever comes your way this winter. 

By Brigitt Earley
November 16, 2020
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As we enter a cold and flu season that coincides with spiking coronavirus numbers in many areas of the country, it's more important than ever to do what you can to protect yourself and your family. "By getting a flu shot and taking other proactive measures to improve general health and immunity, individuals can protect themselves against seasonal flu and other viruses, contribute to the overall health of the community, and minimize the impact on local healthcare resources," says Sarah Layson, Pharm.D., RPh and district leader at CVS Health. Not to mention, the CDC recommends quarantining for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19, so you'll want to make sure you have anything you may need in the event that you have to stay home.

In order to be properly stocked up for cold and flu season or a second wave of COVID-19, you need a wide range of items, from personal protective equipment, to monitoring devices, to at-home remedies to keep you comfortable should you get sick. Here, we take a closer look at pharmacist-recommended necessities.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

"It's important to follow CDC social distancing guidelines and safety precautions, such as wearing a face mask, to prevent the spread of viruses that may be circulating in your community," says Layson. Try disposable face masks ($6.29 for 25, amazon.com) or fabric ones ($25 for 5, citizensofhumanity.com). To help combat germs, regularly disinfect commonly-touched surfaces with household cleaning sprays or wipes and wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing, she explains. "Alcohol-based soaps and hand cleansers are an effective option when you are on-the-go."

Immune-Boosting Supplements

"Getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking adequate fluids, and eating nutritious food are all healthy habits that can help keep your immune system in top condition during flu season," says Layson. But there are also a number of products that support overall self-care, sleep, dietary, gut health, and immunity, she explains. Though it's important to note that these items can in no way fully prevent you from getting sick, they can help boost overall health. "Look for supplements containing ingredients such as black elderberry, vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc, which can be important for many functions of the body, including a properly performing immune system," says Layson. Consider Nature's Truth Sambucus Black Elderberry ($13.27, amazon.com), Emergen-C Vitamin C 1000 mg Daily Immune Support ($9.06, amazon.com), and CVS Health Airshield Adult Immunity Support Gummies ($11.29, cvs.com).

Monitoring Devices

"Those who do fall ill with either flu, a respiratory illness, or COVID, will present with a similar set of symptoms such as fever, cough, and body aches," says Layson. "Everyone should observe their health for these and other symptoms and use at-home tools, like thermometers ($9.59, cvs.com), to carefully monitor changes in their health." Another helpful tool, especially if you're concerned about COVID-19? A pulse oximeter ($24.95, amazon.com), which is a small device that slides onto your fingertip and measures the level of oxygen in your blood.

Home Remedies

"It's important to understand the preliminary symptoms of the flu, stay home if you are experiencing them, and get plenty of rest and fluids," says Layson. It's also imperative to check in with your doctor if you have any concerns about your symptoms, if symptoms worsen, or if you suspect you may have COVID-19, which comes with its own set of guidelines for both treatment and managing the spread of illness. Still, it doesn't hurt to stock up on some essentials so you're prepared. "While they won't cure a virus, over-the-counter products, such as fever reducers, antihistamines, decongestants, and cough medicines can be effective in helping you manage any symptoms." As for suggestions? Consider CVS Health Severe Cold & Flu Relief Softgels Combo Pack ($11.99, cvs.com), Amazon Basic Care Electrolyte Powder ($6.49, amazon.com), CVS Health Shower Reliever Effervescent Vapor Tablets ($4.69, cvs.com), or Genexa Saline Nasal Spray ($12.13, amazon.com).

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