Outsourcing the Flu

For the last 4-5 days I've been down with flu/respiratory crud, and along with that I've had the attendant exhaustion, achiness, weakness, congestion, and overall blahness that comes from being sick. We all know that this has been a tough flu season, and though it seems to be on the downswing, it's still pretty bad out there, no matter where you live.

When you're sick it's really great if you can outsource anything. I recognize that this requires having disposable time and or cash--it's not an option for the millions of people who don't have sick time and/or disposable income to cover the costs of deliveries, restaurant meals, or even basic cold and flu meds at the drugstore.

Back when I was in grad school (and we've established how it was the start of all my problems!) I had the second worst flu I've ever had. I lived in Los Angeles, not a city known for its affordability, and my graduate assistant stipend was just high enough that I didn't qualify for food stamps. Fortunately I had student health insurance and access to the student health center, but even so, there just isn't much you can do for flu besides treat the symptoms and rest. I had a roommate at the time, but she was away, and my boyfriend lived way across town and wasn't in a position to help me out. I made the difficult decision to spend my very small amount of disposable income on the delivery of extra strength Tylenol, cough medicine, and 3 cans of Campbell's from the Pink Dot convenience store a few miles away. That I remember it even now tells me it was the best decision at the time.

Now I'm a grownup with a comfortable income and, most fortunately, a spouse who works part-time from home. Which means he's been around to help during this current crud. We split a lot of household chores, but to be fair, he does most of the cooking and dishwashing even when we're all at full health. But this week/end he's done all of it, plus running up and down stairs to bring me any manner of stuff I need in my sickbed--Puffs plus with lotion, a hot pack, hot ginger tea with lemon, lentil soup and a mini grilled cheese--taking me to doctor's appointments, and cleaning up the hazmat area that is my sickroom. I really, desperately hope that he's immune to this mess and that we don't switch places a week from now because he doesn't deserve it.

While these aren't necessarily hacks, they are the things that get me through being sick, and I think they are worth sharing. I'm not a medical professional, so this is not gospel, but this stuff helps me feel better. If you or your loved ones haven't been where I am already, you may be in short order. Everything on this list can be found via Amazon or Drugstore.com, too, usually with free shipping, so stock up now, get it in a couple days if you have Shoprunner or Amazon Prime. Outsource for wellness, I say!



My bamboo sickbed tray with my sick day helpers.


Ricola LemonMint Sugar Free lozenges: with the number of throat drops you'll go through, your teeth will certainly thank you for the sugar-free version. Hall's also has great menthol sugar-free lozenges.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment: this is like heavy duty Vaseline, and it's quite soothing on chapped lips (which you'll have from all the mouth-breathing) and chapped nostrils (which you'll have from all the snot-blowing). It's also fab on dry cuticles and knuckles.

Puffs Plus: mentioned earlier. Tissues with lotion are a nose-saver.

Saline nasal spray: forget the Afrin or whatever your grandpa used to use. That stuff is kind of weird and apparently can be addictive. Also forget the Vick's menthol nasal spray unless you want a 12-hour brain freeze. Saline nasal spray is just what it sounds like, and it helps with both congestion and dry nasal passages. Prepare to be more snotty, but in this case, that's a good thing. You want it out of your face, right?

Vick's VapoRub: while I am anti-Vick's in the nasal spray department, I'm a big fan of the rub. I use it around my nostrils when I'm super stuffy. The menthol does seem to help open the airways.

Dr. Teal's Epsom Salts: whatever flavor you like. I prefer Relax, which has eucalyptus and spearmint. The soak helps your achy muscles and the aromatherapy (may) helps you breathe easier.

Digital thermometer: if you don't have one, why not? Foolproof, easy, virtually unbreakable.

Adult sippy cups: this is what I call my Camelbak bottle. Easier sipping when you've got a sore throat or stuffy nose. Also, tops for sipping when you're in a semi-reclined state. Which I don't advocate. And never do myself. But sometimes it happens.

Extended release cough syrup: in the past I thought that cough syrup with codeine was the only way to get a decent night's sleep when a miserable, hacking cough invaded. This year I've been using Delsym 12 hour cough relief and this stuff seriously works. I can't say it lasts a full 12 hours, maybe more like 9-10. But that's plenty enough to get some relatively undisturbed sleep.

Ginger honey tea with lemon: two years in a row we were fortunate enough to spend some time in Thailand, where we fell in love with ginger tea. I haven't been able to find the tea where I live, but I was able to order it from Amazon. There are a number of different brands and every one we've tried has been good. I don't think there's free shipping on these, and you may be able to find it in a well-stocked grocery store or Asian market. The tea itself is ginger and honey, I add a slice of lemon. It's hot, spicy, and soothing.

Bamboo bed tray: I don't know when or where we got this, but we've recouped our investment a million times over. Obviously it's perfect for bringing food and drink to the sickie, but it's also the perfect height to prop up a laptop for sickbed TV watching.

And of course, a good (or mindless) book and some fun TV will definitely help pass the cranky time. I watched the whole first season of 30 Rock once when I was ill. A friend is working her way into Buffy now. And some light and easy chick lit can be a boon. A re-read of Bridget Jones' Diary, perhaps?

Do you have any great suggestions for things I've missed? What makes your sick day a little easier?