Stocking Up for (Swine) Flu

It’s important to keep the household well-stocked for emergencies, but what do you stock up on to address any household incidence of Swine Flu?

There are certain items to keep in event of sickness, but this is especially important with this flu season.  Swine Flu – H1N1 – is expected to make inroads into the Northern Hemisphere starting in the next several weeks after a jaunt through the Southern Hemisphere, which is ending its fall/winter cycle.  This is in addition to the flu variants with which many already have some immunity, so some authorities anticipate that in the event of a worser case scenario, hospitals will be busy, if not completely full.  By itself, having Swine Flu doesn’t mean that you have to have a special set of supplies but it does mean that there could be greater stress on the family and society.

The saddest part to H1N1, which thankfully so far hasn’t been as deadly as some have feared, is that it predominantly strikes children and younger people.  And this means that school districts across the country are preparing contingency measures to close schools in the event of flu outbreaks.

While this doesn’t mean that martial law is going to be declared and tumbleweeds will roll through the streets, it does mean that you need to be ready to take care of some very sick children.  So you may not have the latitude to get to the nearest grocery should you run out of something.

So What To Keep On Hand?

There are three general categories:  cleaning supplies, basic medicine and certain foods/drinks.

Cleaning Supplies.

  • Hand sanitizer and handsoap.  You’ll have to take greater care to assure that little Milo washes his hands after sneezing, coughing, wiping a runny nose or using the bathroom.  Don’t expect a seven year old to remember since it’s a royal pain in the neck, so it’s your job to do so.
  • Disinfectant wipes.  They aren’t a panacea, but they are a much easier way to wipe down common surfaces than lugging around a spray bottle and paper towels.  Keep the spray bottle and use, but it doesn’t have to be on everything.
  • Spray disinfectant and paper towels.  Wipes are great for smaller areas but won’t touch a larger pile of vomit or excrement.  For that matter, kitchen sinks and wide area countertops are better served by the paper towels.  Just remember to read the disinfectant label to determine how long the cleanser has to sit on the surface to truly disinfect it.
  • Disposable latex gloves.  These can be used to clean up the truly nasty messes.  While having a sick child increases the likelihood that you’ll catch it, there’s no reason to guarantee it by snorkeling in contaminated body fluids.
  • Boxes of tissues.  They’re more durable than toilet paper and won’t aggravate the skin of the nose as readily as paper towels.
  • Disposable cups.  Many kids grab a drink in the bathroom, so letting the kids throw them out to stop the germ spread makes sense.

Basic Medicine.

  • Extra supply of childrens’ ibuprofen and childrens’ acetaminophen (childrens’ Tylenol).  These help to control higher fevers and limit discomfort, but they don’t actually cure the virus.  That said, if you have one or more kids sicker for a longer period, then you can kill a bottle faster than you can kill the virus.

Food Items.

  • Pedialyte and Gatorade.  Children with flu might have to be hospitalized for no other reason than to address dehydration, so working to avoid this is imperative.  And while additional amounts of water at home might provide hydration, the water doesn’t replenish the electrolytes and minerals lost to volume vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Clear broth, weak soups and applesauce.  Even if nausea has relented, the wrong kinds of foods can aggravate the stomach and cause a recurrence.  Cream based soups – those with dairy content – and those with lots of solid ingredients could create problems, so it’s best to stay with bouillion and weak soups.
  • Apple juice.  It’s not a thick or highly acidic fruit juice that could exacerbate nausea and vomiting and is helpful to mix with Pedialyte, which some kids find to have an unpleasant taste.
  • Plain crackers, such as saltines.  It’s easy to run out of bread, but a package of crackers can last among sick kids for much longer.
  • Clear carbonated drinks, such as ginger ale and Sprite. 

This isn’t a comprehensive list and doesn’t address every last contingency.  But it can provide a basic level and a departure point for families to consider.


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