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6 flu essentials when you're already sick or trying to avoid it

A doctor lists products that can help.

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There are products to help you feel better or avoid getting sick in the first place.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

While the world is preoccupied with the spread of coronavirus, you can also get a common cold or the seasonal flu this time of year. But it doesn't have to be that way. With some preparation, you can help shield yourself from germs.

If you haven't done so already, your first line of defense is to get a flu shot. Also, be sure you are properly washing your hands after going to the bathroom, handling food, coming home from work, or touching any potentially contaminated surface.

Even if you think you can't get sick, you owe it to your fellow humans to stop the spread of germs. You may be able to get over the flu after a few days in bed. But some people with compromised or weak immune systems, including babies and the elderly, could die after contracting the illness. So taking any sickness seriously and taking adequate steps to protect yourself and others is more helpful than you may realize.

Read more: The best thermometers for cold and flu  

To help you avoid getting sick with colds and flu, we've consulted a doctor on the best products when it comes to flu essentials. Use the following products to prevent the flu, help you feel better faster, and keep others healthy.

Target

Hand sanitizer has become a scarce item since coronavirus arrived on the scene. But as soon as it's actually available, stock up.

We all know that germs and bacteria can hang out on objects like doors, subway rails, credit card machines -- really any surface that many people touch every day is going to be teeming with germs. It's not always realistic to completely avoid touching every potentially contaminated surface, so it's smart to carry around hand sanitizer to use immediately after touching things or to use frequently if you are coughing or sick. Both spray and gel hand sanitizer work, so long as they're alcohol-based.

"The CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol," Dr. Jennifer Caudle, a family medicine physician, tells CNET. "This will help reduce microbial counts and kill many harmful germs that could infect you with cold and flu viruses."

EM General

Face masks have also become hard to find in the wake of the global spread of coronavirus. Health officials aren't advising for most people to get face masks. But if you are already have a fever, sore throat or cough and need to visit the doctor, wearing a face mask can help prevent the spread of illnesses.

If you're caring for someone who is sick, have them wear a mask. You can wear one as well as a preventive measure. Surgical or disposable face masks cannot completely protect but can still be helpful. N95 respirators are more protective and robust when it comes to blocking germs in the air from entering your nose and mouth. However, health care workers are the ones in the most dire need of these and are nearly impossible to purchase right now.

Walgreens

Using tissues when you're sick or have congestion is the most sanitary option. You can cough, sneeze or blow your nose into them and then throw them away. Avoid using your hands or sleeve because that can encourage the spread of germs. 

"I always try to keep pocket pack tissues on me, as well as tissues at my desk at work and in my home in case I start to get the sniffles," Dr. Caudle says. If you're plowing through lots of tissues, you can try tissues with lotion like Puffs Plus. These will keep your nose from getting that awful raw, sore feeling. These will keep your nose from getting that awful raw, sore feeling that comes from blowing your nose from the seasonal flu, a cold or allergies.

Amazon.com

For most colds, medications and other remedies can't cure you, but they can offer some relief from symptoms, such as a scratchy throat or congestion, while your body fights the virus.

If you have a cold and cough, taking over-the-counter medicines can help relieve the symptoms. Look for a medicine that has a pain reliever for body aches or headaches, and one that can also help with cough, sore throat, congestion, aching muscles and other symptoms. Products such as Dayquil and Nyquil don't prevent the flu, but are made to treat multiple symptoms.

Sleep and rest are important to help you get better, so if you're having trouble getting a good night's sleep, you can take nighttime version of the medicine. 

If you have the flu, your doctor might prescribe Tamiflu, an antiviral medication. But it must be taken very early on.

Amazon.com

Disinfecting wipes are another tough-to-find item right now, but they will hit stores again at some point. 

"I am huge on wiping down any and everything," Dr. Caudle says. "I always keep Lysol wipes on hand to disinfect surfaces to kill germs and help prevent the spread of cold and flu viruses." Wiping down surfaces in your home is especially important if someone around you is sick because it prevents the spread of germs to others. 

Focus on common areas that get a lot of traffic, like the kitchen and bathroom, as well as objects like doorknobs, light switches, banisters, remote controls, phones and car interiors. Also keep wipes at your workspace.

Read more: 7 hand soaps to fight germs, from cheap to luxury   

Walgreens

Hand sanitizer is great to use when you're on the go, but washing your hands frequently is your best bet when it comes to getting rid of germs that make you sick. "Be sure to wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds each time," Dr. Caudle says. "Use hand sanitizer if soap and water is not available."

Keeping your hands clean is important, but also try to avoid touching your face, nose, eyes or mouth throughout the day. This prevents you from picking up a virus and transmitting it to someone else.

Read more: 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.