I’ve decided how to make my next million… selling “flu” survival kits. My family was hit hard by the flu bug this week. Strangely enough, I was unprepared and realized after the fact that we had no juice, no chicken noodle soup, no freezies and no popsicles. I managed to find some jello and saltines tucked back in the cupboard, and the saving grace, a bottle of gingerale hidden in the refrigerator. It seems so silly now that I look back on it. My daycare has been in “outbreak status” since early November when several children were sent home with diarrhea. I should have considered stocking the house with “flu foods” the minute I heard the report. But instead, I simply hoped my kids wouldn’t get it. If you are a “seasoned parent” you are probably smiling in sympathy right now. I’ve learned my lesson. Just as we keep Tylenol, Advil and cough syrup in the medicine cabinet, I am now vowing to keep a “flu survival kit” properly stocked in my pantry. It’s not really rocket science, but having some simple items on hand can make a world of difference if you get taken off guard in the middle of the night, which is when it almost always seems to happen.
There are the few obvious additions to your survival kit mentioned above: Gingerale, juice, chicken broth, jello, freezies, popsicles and saltines. The main medical advice whenever you have vomiting or diarrhea is – push the fluids! One of the most immediate dangers of having the flu is becoming dehydrated – especially for young children. Having a good variety of flavors on hand is essential for the picky palate of a nauseated patient. If fluids are not appealing, then a switch to ice chips, freezies, popsicles and jello can be helpful. If you have children, you must invest in a box of “Pedialyte freezies”. Pedialyte is a drink used in hospitals to help rehydrate pediatric patients (children). It has the perfect mix of sugar and salt to help fluid get absorbed quickly, even when the stomach is irritated. They have cleverly packaged it into brightly coloured, fruit flavoured freezies to be more enticing to children. Now that is an invention worth a million. You’ll find them in most pharmacies. There aren’t cheap, but worth every penny.
Gatorade is another smart beverage to keep in your “flu kit”. This sport drink also has a balance of easy to digest sugar and salt to aid absorption. An electrolyte drink is actually better than drinking plain water to rehydrate when you are sick. The sugar acts as a fuel to “pump” the salt into your cells and the water then follows by osmosis. More information than you probably need, however it helps to know there is a scientific reason why products like Gatorade and Pedialyte work.
On the opposite spectrum there are a few fluids to avoid if you are fighting the flu. Avoid coffee if possible. Coffee is a stomach irritant as well as a source of caffeine. Even though it may be a comfort beverage for you, in times of illness it may exacerbate the diarrhea, nausea and dehydration. Tea is much more soothing and lower in caffeine. A good substitute until you are back on your feet.
For kids and adults, you may want to delay the reintroduction of milk products until symptoms calm down. Milk contains a carbohydrate called lactose that can be difficult to break down when the stomach has been irritated. You can end up with some gas, bloating and even diarrhea if you take too much dairy too quickly after stomach flu. A suitable alternative in the meantime is fortified soy milk. It has all the calcium, vitamin D and protein with none of the lactose. So don’t make the same mistake I made. Most of the “Flu survival kit” items mentioned above are non-perishable and easy to hide away until needed. Similar to carrying an umbrella on cloudy days – if you’re prepared, maybe it won’t rain on you.