15 Flu Season Essentials People With Chronic Illness Swear By
Flu season can be miserable for even the healthiest of people – but for those who live with chronic illness, catching a cold or flu can truly wreak havoc on their bodies.
Many of those with chronic illness are at a higher risk of contracting an infection, such as a cold or flu, because their bodies don’t function as well as healthy people’s. Some people may take medication that suppresses their immune system, while others may have an illness that interferes with the body’s ability to fight off infections.
The symptoms of the flu also occur on top of any symptoms a person experiences regularly due to their illness – not to mention any flare-ups that may occur. Getting sick can of course be serious for anyone, but it may take a greater toll on the body of someone with chronic illness, and it may take longer for that person to recover.
That’s why it’s especially critical for those with health conditions to take preventative measures to try to avoid getting sick – and, if they do happen to catch something, to take care of themselves and give their bodies the tools they need to cope. So we asked our Mighty chronic illness community which products they find most helpful during flu season. Of course, if you think you’re coming down with something, be sure to see to your doctor to discuss which treatment options and home remedies are appropriate for you and your health. But if you’re curious what products other chronic warriors rely upon during flu season, check out their recommendations below!
1. Tissues Infused With Lotion and Vicks
I came across these tissues in my local Walgreens a few weeks ago as I was coming down with a nasty cold. They’re not only the kind that are super soft and have lotion in them, but they’re infused with the scent of Vicks (menthol, camphor, eucalyptus oil), which was a godsend while I was super congested. As far as tissues go, these are pretty magical.
Buy the box of tissues above for $2.49 from Walgreens.
When you’re sick with a cold or flu, tea can be helpful on several fronts. It provides critical hydration (see #11!) and you can choose ingredients and blends specifically geared toward boosting immunity, soothing a sore throat and cough, clearing your sinuses, and so on. Plus, what’s more comforting than a warm cup of tea?
“Hot water with honey and lemon for the really bad days,” wrote Emily Cole. “Sometimes I’ll add a little bit of fresh ginger or powdered turmeric. Also tea and lots of it! Love a lot of the flavors from DavidsTea.”
“I drink tea with Manuka honey which has tons of antibacterial properties and can soothe a sore throat or cold symptoms,” Cassidy Schod told us.
“Tea,” added Rose Meredith Meddows. “The one I have is to help strengthen the immune system.”
3. Portable Disinfectant Spray
Public surfaces aren’t always the cleanest – and if you know you’re going to be touching things that could very possibly have germs and bacteria on them, you may want to carry a portable disinfectant spray you can use to cleanse surfaces before coming into direct contact with them.
“Lysol,” said Patricia Hamel. “I have an immune deficiency, so it’s really important that I don’t get sick. I keep a travel-sized Lysol spray in my purse and take it everywhere with me. I spray down everything before touching it – shopping carts, door handles, public toilets, etc. I get sick a lot less often since I started doing this.”
Buy the Lysol spray above (4-pack) for $10.49 from Amazon.
Emergen-C is a powdered drink mix you can quickly dissolve in water for a fizzy and refreshing drink. It is packed with vitamin C, electrolytes, seven B vitamins, antioxidants and other essential nutrients, and is caffeine-free.
“Emergen-C,” Jade White said. “I have to take a large amount of vitamin C daily anyways and these little packets just make it easier than a pill to keep my immune system up.”
“Emergen-C,” wrote Elizabeth Habanec. “It has some other vitamins besides vitamin C and it makes me feel more lively.”
Buy the Emergen-C packets above (60-ct.) for $16.12 from Amazon.
Since dry air can help the flu virus live longer, having a humidifier may be helpful for introducing some moist air into your home. Slightly humid air may make it easier (and less painful) to breathe as well. As a bonus, some humidifiers (like the one featured above) double as essential oil diffusers.
Buy the humidifier above for $15.99 from Amazon.
6. Hand Sanitizer
Again, public surfaces are typically not spotless and germ-free. Portable hand sanitizers can be a great thing to carry in addition to some disinfectant spray so you can really double up on the protection. If you buy a pack of them, as featured above, you could put them all over the place – in your purse, in your car, at your desk, in your backpack, in your room – to make sure you always have one on hand!
Katrina Cox Orr recommended, “Hand sanitizer (3M makes one with lotion pocket size that works really well), and learning not to touch door handles or elevator buttons with my bare hands if possible. No touch = no contamination.”
“I keep hand sanitizers everywhere – in my purse, in my coat, in my desk at work, in my pants pocket, clipped to my book bag, in the car – everywhere I can put one, I do,” added Sara Wilson. “And I use them frequently. If someone sick approaches my desk, I go behind them with Lysol.”
Buy the hand sanitizer above (8-pack) for $11.80 from Amazon.
7. Face Masks
During flu season, many people may choose to wear face masks to help prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses. Studies have suggested masks may not be 100 percent effective at stopping the spread potentially harmful airborne particles, but they can help reduce the risk of contamination.
It’s important to note that there are two main types of masks: face masks and respirators. Face masks cover the nose and mouth, but are looser-fitting and don’t seal completely. They are designed to be a barrier against droplets of fluid, such as coughs or sneezes, that may contain viruses, but they don’t prevent the spread of airborne contaminants. Some face masks are disposable while others can be washed and reused. Respirators also act as a barrier, but they are considered more effective than face masks for preventing the spread of viruses because they form a perfect seal (if worn properly) and filter out 95 percent of airborne particles, both large and small. (For more information, head here.)
“Using a mask,” wrote Elisabeth Wheeler. “[I’m] immumocompromised so wearing a mask is my best way to protect myself.”
“Masks and antibacterial wipes!” said Shelley Fowler. “I get my masks from ChronicallyBrave on Etsy. They are beautiful and give me the confidence to go out during flu season.”
Sarah Elizabeth Carr explained, “I have two brain conditions and an autoimmunity disease where my antibodies don’t fight off anything properly so I have to have infusions and have been advised to wear masks as getting sick could irritate my brain issues too! Instead of wasting money on disposable masks I found these great masks that you can wash by hand, are antimicrobial, and are cute!!”
“My masks from MasKrade on Etsy that are so cute and give me the confidence to go out with my friends during cold and flu season,” added Allie Marie Love.
Buy the face mask above for $16 from Breathe Healthy.
For more recommendations from our community, check out these 10 fashionable face masks that help them avoid getting sick.
8. Vicks VapoRub
Vicks VapoRub is a topical cough suppressant and analgesic with medicated vapors containing menthol, camphor and eucalyptus oil. Many people like to rub it on their chest while sick to soothe coughing and help with congestion.
“When I am congested, I put Vicks rub on a wash rag, lay it on my chest in a hot bath and breath in vapors,” explained Elizabeth Whitehead Osborne. “Also hanging eucalyptus from [the] shower head helps a lot too. Please keep rag away from eyes… it will sting.”
Buy the Vicks ointment above for $4.79 from Amazon.
9. Sinus Rinse
If you’re struggling with congestion, headaches or sinus problems, doing a nasal rinse may offer a bit of relief. A nasal rinse involves using saline solution (always use distilled or sterilized water) to flush out the nasal passages. There are several methods of nasal irrigation, such as the Neti pot (featured above), in which you tilt your head sideways, pour the solution into the upper nostril and let it drain out the lower nostril (head here for more information on using Neti pots).
AnneMarie Greenfield told us, “Nasal rinse, bleach wipes for doorknobs, light switches, doors, etc… face mask, flu shot, homemade chicken soup or stews. I don’t get the stomach kind just the one that turns to bronchitis or walking pneumonia. But using the wipes and flushing my nose has kept me from getting it bad for years.”
“Medline sinus rinse,” recommended Sarah Ceasar. “Clears out any stuffiness and head pressure. Also helps during allergy season.”
“A Neti pot,” added Leanne Barbee.
Buy the Neti pot above for $11.99 from Walgreens.
10. Incontinence Pads
If you struggle with incontinence, having a cold or flu may exacerbate your symptoms. It might help to stock up on some extra pads (or whatever products you rely on) when you feel yourself coming down with something.
Bailey Sonday said, “Embarrassingly a symptom of my chronic illness is stress incontinence. I use heavy pads to catch my accidents, and they’re imperative when I cough and sneeze during flu season.”
Buy the incontinence pads above (84-ct.) for $23.74 from Amazon.
For more recommendations from our community, check out 12 products people with incontinence swear by.
11. Hydrating Fluids
You’ve probably been told time and time again by doctors and family members to “drink lots of fluids” whenever you come down with the flu. Staying hydrated is always important, but having a cold or flu can cause you to become dehydrated more easily (if you have a runny nose, or are sweating a lot due to a fever, for example). Drinking plenty of fluids – be it water, tea, broth, electrolyte drinks, etc. – can help your body fight off the infection.
“Flu shot, hand sanitizer, Gatorade and lemon water,” Deborah Paleczny suggested.
Donna-Jean Isnor told us, “Over a week now I’ve been down and out with this cold/flu. My best friends have been Gatorade and Jell-O. I haven’t had much of an appetite so, particularly the first few days, they have kept me going.”
Buy the Gatorade above (8-pack) for $4.99 from Amazon.
12. Antibacterial Wipes
Antibacterial wipes are another great option for cleansing your hands after coming into contact with other people or public surfaces. Or, as Shelley Fowler writes below, you could also use them as a barrier!
“I always have [antibacterial] wipes on hand,” wrote Shelley Fowler. “I do not touch my skin to any public surface. (Door handles, elevator buttons, etc.). I use my handy antibacterial wipes as a barrier!”
Buy the antibacterial wipes above (10-pack) for $13.30 from Amazon.
13. Essential Oils
Essential oils can provide multiple benefits for those struggling during cold and flu season. Depending on the oil, you could reap its benefits by:
- Diffusing essential oils to help cleanse the air (cinnamon, rosemary and clove can help clean surfaces and air)
- Adding essential oils (diluted in a carrier oil) to hot water and inhaling the steam to open up your nasal passages (such as lemon or peppermint)
- Applying essential oils (diluted in carrier oil) topically, as some have antiseptic, antiviral and antibacterial properties (such as oregano, thyme and eucalyptus)
“I use my diffuser and essential oils when I am sick during flu season. They help me feel like I can breathe better,” Katie Karl told us.
“Flu shot. I also have an immune essential oil roll on and blend for my diffuser,” added Shanleigh Rice.
Amber Grace recommended, “doTERRA On Guard. I use the hand wash and diffuse!”
14. Air Purifier
An air purifier can help eliminate airborne allergens and other particles such as smoke, dust, mold, pollen and pet dander, allowing you to breathe cleaner air. The purifier featured above includes a pre-filter, a HEPA filter and an activated carbon filter to remove 99.97 percent of airborne particles.
“Air sanitizers,” wrote Catherine Pierpont. “I have six of them running 24/7 during winter.”
Buy the air purifier above for $89.99 from Amazon.
15. Hand Soap
Washing your hands frequently (especially after coming into contact with others and touching communal items like door handles or money) is a simple but important way you can reduce your risk of catching the flu. The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds – or the time it takes you to hum the “happy birthday” song twice.
“I know it’s kind of obvious but Method hand soap (it’s gluten-free and cruelty-free). I wash my hands all the time. Every time after I use the bathroom, before I eat, after I get back from being out, and I wash them especially a lot if someone in my house is sick,” Ada Kennedy told us.
Buy the Method hand wash above for $3.54 from Amazon.