I’ve been sick for over a week. Spending most of that time lying on the sofa, wrapped in a lap robe like some tubercular Victorian lady gave me plenty of time to ponder my medical preparedness should the world be hit with a pandemic. Should you not have a bout of illness to convince you of the need for such preparations, I suggest you devote a gloomy Sunday to reading The Coming Plague by Laurie Garret. It’s over 600 pages of the most terrifying reading you are likely to ever come across. It will have you running out for hand sanitizer in short order.
I put pandemic preparations into four categories. The first is comfort foods followed by OTC (over the counter) medications, prescription medications and hardware such as thermometers and stethoscopes.
Comfort items: We all have food and drink that we turn to when we aren’t feeling well. During normal times stocking up means a quick trip to the supermarket but in the event of a pandemic, the last thing you want to do is leave your home. What do you crave when you feel awful. chicken noodle soup, Jell-O, ginger-ale, tea, these items are all shelf stable and easy to acquire so stock up.
OTC medications: You need something for pain and fever reduction for both adults and children. I don’t take much over the counter medication but many people swear by decongestants, anti-nausea and anti-diarrheals, and sore throat lozenges. Pick your favorites and get them now. Have a few on hand and replace at least once a year. We use a lot of herbal medications from a local practitioner. Fall is the time to be sure your herbal pharmacy is well-established.
Prescription medications: This one is tricky. I was a mighty sick cookie until I got some Azithromycin in me. In a pandemic, getting some will be difficult and maybe not even possible. Some people buy this kind of thing from on-line suppliers. You need to examine your own comfort level with this. I know folks who stock quite a pharmacy and others who wouldn’t dream of such a thing. Remember your regular medications. It might not be a bad idea to keep extra on hand if it’s shelf-stable. Powders and pills usually are but check with your pharmacist to be certain.
Medical hardware: There are lot of possibilities with this. A stethoscope is a good idea if you know how to use one and have a way to treat what you find. You will need a good thermometer. Non-latex gloves are important part of caretakers staying well but less important than hot, soapy water and proper hand-washing technique. I want to say something about facemasks. The doctor’s office was passing them out but I was underwhelmed by them. Viruses enter your body through your eyes, nose and mouth. Gaps around the masks let them float right in with every cough and sneeze. I prefer the Masks I got from Pleasant Hill Grain. These are one-size fits all and form a tight seal around your nose and mouth. One will last for a day and be a first-line offense against inhaling viruses. If you do have to venture out, at least make sure you protect yourself. Have a way to dispose of things like tissues and a way to sanitize dishes and linens. Bleach will work for this. The sanitation ratio is 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. A hot water wash and using your clothes drier will take care of germs on sheets and towels. Some first-aid training for all of the adults in the house is a prudent thing to explore.
This is one of those places where community preparedness is so important. You probably have medical people in the neighborhood. If you know who they are it may be possible to form a neighborhood medical center and care for the ill there.
The best offense calls for the best defense. Your best defense is a well-nourished body and the ability to self-quarantine. We prepare for flu season with elderberry tincture and extra vitamin C along with some specialty tinctures we begin at the first hint of illness. Sometimes it works and sometimes we get sick anyway because we went out. This time 3 of the 5 of us fell ill. Fortunately, we could access good medical care and we all recovered quickly. Who knows about next year.