Dr. Oz’s Five Flu Kit Essentials

The flu is officially an epidemic. Here's how you can fight the flu and recover faster.

By Rachael Anderson

The flu has officially reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., pushing many of our nation's hospitals to the brink. Health experts say this year's strain -- the H3N2 virus -- is exceptionally easy to catch and spread. And in a perfect storm of contagion, there's a highly infectious stomach bug going around and the worst outbreak of whooping cough in 60 years.

What can you do if you come down with the flu? Mehmet Oz, MD, reveals his top flu essentials to stop the spread of the virus and help you recover faster.

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Essentials #1 and #2: Ibuprofen and acetaminophen
Dr. Oz recommends you alternate between the two. "This combination of drugs targets different receptors and delivers a one-two punch to fevers," says Oz. "And by alternating them, you actually protect against overloading your kidneys or your liver." Oz recommends you take acetaminophen first. Four to six hours later, take two ibuprofen. Four to six hours later, take a dose of acetaminophen, and so on. Be sure not to exceed the maximum dosage for a 24-hour period, as indicated on the package.

Essential #3: Hand sanitizer
"These sanitizers are important to make sure that if you do have the virus on your hands, you don't pass it along, even if you feel fine," says Oz. "Make sure you spread the gel in between your fingers, too." Oz recommends buying a sanitizer that's at least 60 percent alcohol; those products are the most effective at killing the flu virus.

Essential #4: Elderberry tea
Drinking tea when you're sick is a no-brainer, but Oz recommends elderberry tea. "I happen to think this is really effective," says Oz. "It seems to help block the entry of virus particles into your cells, shortening the duration of the flu." Oz recommends you drink four to six cups a day when you're sick.

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Essential #5: Surgical mask
It might sound like a crazy thing to do, but according to Oz, it's your obligation to wear a mask when you're sick. "These are important to use at home to keep germs away from healthy family members," says Oz.

When you have the flu, here are a couple of other things Oz wants you to remember:

  1. Sneeze into your elbow. "When you sneeze, the flu virus sprays up to six feet, traveling at 90 miles an hour. So make sure when you cough or sneeze to do so in your elbow." Once the virus is on your hands, whether you shake someone's hand or touch your clothing, the germs will spread and people in your life are going to get sick.
  2. Stay home. Even if you feel better, you're still contagious for up to a week after symptoms start. If your child is sick, he or she is contagious for two weeks. It's your responsibility not to spread the virus and infect others.

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