Experts are claiming that this 2019/2020 flu season is turning out to be one of the worst they've ever seen, and folks who have gotten their flu shots are still managing to get the flu (though less severe). Thankfully, there are definitely quite a few products to get your family through the flu — with "products" ranging from medicinal to homeopathic, and even things you should already have at your home, like a bathroom with a shower or tub for steam.
Why is this year the worst experts have seen? Dr. Robert Hamilton, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and author of 7 Secrets of the Newborn tells Romper, "One of the major reasons for this is the annual flu shot — the vaccine that physicians recommend to all of our patients — is turning out to be a bad match for Influenza B, specifically the Influenza B-Victoria strain." So what does that mean for those of us who have been vaccinated? You can still potentially get the flu — but it will be less severe than if you didn't get vaccinated. "Statistics show that this year's flu vaccine is only 58% effective against Influenza B. In other words, if 100 individuals get the vaccine and are then exposed to Influenza B-Victoria, 58 of the 100 will be protected, while the other 42 will get sick," Hamilton says.
And this is why Hamilton warns parents to be on alert for their kids, even if they've been vaccinated. "If their child begins to have high, spiking temperatures, chills, headaches and body aches, the diagnosis of flu should be considered." So if you or your child do end up getting the flu, these products could potentially help make your lives a little bit easier while your body works itself through it.
1. Flu Shot
Dr. Gina Posner, a board-certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells Romper in an email interview, "My favorite ‘product’ is the flu shot! Why get the flu if you can prevent it?"
And even though this year's vaccine is turning out to be a "bad match" for Influenza B, "It should also be pointed out the this years’ vaccine is proving to be highly effective against Influenza A, H1N1, which, in the past, was a feared infection," according to Hamilton.
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"If you do unfortunately get the flu, humidifiers help with congestion," Posner says. Cold mist humidifiers loosen up the mucus in your nose, and if you don't have a humidifier, sitting in a bathroom with a hot shower running helps clear you out, too. The steam does wonders.
According to U.S. News & World Report, expectorants can help with flu symptoms by loosening up the mucus and phlegm from your lungs and force you to cough it all out. This is good so it's not just sitting in there becoming pneumonia.
If you have a dry cough, the website suggests using a cough suppressant. For what it's worth, the article has a poll on the best expectorant, and pharmacists voted Mucinex as the best one.
Hamilton says having a reliable thermometer is important when dealing with the flu so you can monitor the temperature.
Remember, the most effective thermometer for babies and toddlers is the rectal thermometer, per the Mayo Clinic.
5. Antiviral Drugs
"Anti-flu medications like Tamiflu are very effective at reducing the overall length of flu symptoms and also preventing the flu in other members of the family," Hamilton tells Romper. "If a parent suspects flu, their child should be brought to a pediatrician to verify the diagnosis."
For fevers and aches that come along with the flu, Posner says she recommends Ibuprofen. Hamilton also suggests Motrin and Tylenol as medications you can take at home for fevers and aches.
However, the Mayo Clinic says to keep in mind that you shouldn't "give products containing aspirin to children or teens recovering from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms, as these drugs have been linked to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition in some children."
7. Hot Tea & Honey
Hot tea and honey are great home remedies to treating a sore throat and cough, according to Posner. In fact, the Mayo Clinic noted that honey alone can be an effective cough suppressant, too. Healthline reported that some teas have antioxidants that can help fight illness, and honey is "a natural antibacterial" while the thickness soothes your throat. However, "honey should not be given to children under a year because of the danger of infantile botulism," the website noted.
8. Saline & Nasal Aspirator
When my son had an upper respiratory infection when he was an infant, his pediatrician recommended using the Little Remedies Saline Spray/Drops to loosen up the mucus and then using something to suck out said mucus. This helps him immensely and he can sleep and breathe much better. We personally love the NoseFrida because we could never get that bulb in his nose and suck it out fast enough. Using regular saline can help adults, too, by the way. It was a lifesaver when I was pregnant and couldn't take any cold medicine.
9. Hand Sanitizer
If one person in your family has the flu or you think you're getting it, make sure you have hand sanitizer on deck for everyone to use throughout the day and night. It definitely will stop the spread of germs. The CDC recommends using hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol in it to kill everything.
10. Fluids With Electrolytes
Hamilton says fluids such as Gatorade and Pedialyte are important to have on hand at home for everyone to help cope with the flu.
These two drinks help folks who have a stomach bug and become dehydrated from diarrhea or vomiting because not only are you getting fluids, but the additional electrolytes they have added in there help replenish what you've lost according to WebMD. In fact, some Pedialyte includes prebiotics, which is super important for gut health.
WebMD says that sucking on lozenges can moisten and coat a scratchy throat to help quiet your cough.
"Clinical evidence suggests that peppermint oil likely can help with symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. It may also help indigestion and prevent spasms in the GI tract," according to WebMD. So if you have an upset stomach from the stomach flu, sipping on some peppermint tea may help ease your symptoms.
I have personally had good luck with Pepogest, a tablet with peppermint oil, when I've had tummy trouble.
According to the CDC website, "Most studies have shown that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours after being deposited on a surface." So it's super important you clean and disinfect all surfaces of your home if you or someone in your family has the flu. You don't want it to keep spreading around and around.
"Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection," the website noted. "Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to lower the risk of spreading infection."
14. Chicken Noodle Soup
WebMD reported that several studies have found that chicken noodle soup seems to help fight colds and flu. "It helps clear nasal congestion as well as thin mucus so you can better cough it up. In addition, research shows it may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect than can help ease symptoms," the website noted.
In a Romper article about elderberry, Posner said, "A small study showed that it had some benefit with fighting the flu (not colds). This was a small study and hasn’t been repeated, so take it with a grain of salt. In the study it said that it kept the flu virus from replicating."
For what it's worth, another study was conducted in Israel, about the safety in taking elderberry syrup, and found that "symptoms were relieved on average four days earlier, and use of rescue medication was significantly less in those receiving elderberry extract compared with placebo."
For toddlers and children, my son likes the Zarbee's Naturals Black Elderberry Syrup, and I've found it to work well.
Most moms know that ginger is supposed to help with morning sickness, but it can obviously help with nausea that isn't related to pregnancy as well. "Scientists think ginger works by keeping your digestive function stable and blood pressure consistent, which can reduce nausea," Healthline noted. It's also an anti-inflammatory.
Gina Posner, MD, board certified pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.
Robert Hamilton, MD, FAAP, pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA and author of '7 Secrets of the Newborn.'