It appears this year’s flu outbreak is rapidly spreading across the United States, and we have yet to reach the traditional peak period later this winter.
It is not yet clear if this year’s strain differs significantly from those for which many Americans were immunized, but what is clear is that many urban population centers are seeing an overwhelming number of patients seeking medical care.
In a full-blown pandemic, one of the most important things you can do to avoid contracting the virus is to avoid contact with large numbers of people.
This likely means no shopping, no movie-going, and perhaps even no school, etc.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to stock up on certain supplies necessary for treating yourself and others now.
Most people suffering from flu are afflicted with a nasty cough, often projecting phlegm and other airborne particles which may carry the flu virus. For this reason, it’s a good idea to wear the following protective items when treating an infected person, and to have the infected person wear them when in contact with caregivers (use 1 per contact with infected patient):
1. Disposable N95 respirator. Look for products that meet NIOSH and CDC guidelines for TB exposure.
2. Disposable gown. Provides increased protection against fluid and bacteria. Look for products with elasticized cuffs.
3. Disposable gloves. Wear gloves when caring for patients, cleaning up “sick rooms,” bathrooms, etc, and when taking out trash bags that include soiled tissues, etc.
4. Goggles. Sanitize after each patient contact.
Medicines and Medical Supplies
While prescription anti-viral medications do exist for reducing the intensity and duration of a bout of flu, over-the-counter medications will be heavily relied upon in a widespread flu outbreak, particularly if stockpiles of anti-viral medications run dry. Be sure you have adequate supplies on hand of each of the following types of medication and medical supplies:
5. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen. Doctors may recommend alternating doses to control fever and body aches. Tylenol may negatively affect your liver in large doses, so this is another good reason to alternate doses with ibuprofen.
6. Sports drinks. Drinks with electrolytes are good at helping flu patients avoid becoming dangerously dehydrated. Consider adding water to make a 50/50 solution as many sports drinks include a lot of sugar which may upset stomach. If patient it too weak to drink large quantities, try oral rehydration packs.
7. Thermometer. For monitoring fever.
8. Anti-viral medications. Prescription anti-viral medications will not lessen your level of contagiousness, however they may be effective at shortening the flu virus’ duration and lessening the symptoms.
9. Guaifenesin (Mucinex). Guaifenesin, an expectorant, helps break up phlegm to make coughs more productive and help clear airways.
10. Cleaning materials. Lysol, bleach, and alcohol are good for sanitizing surfaces and eliminating germs.
11. Anti-bacterial soap. Don’t skimp; look for hand soaps that advertise anti-bacterial properties.
12. Hand sanitizer. Be sure the brand you choose contains at least 60% alcohol.
13. Trash bags. Change trash bags often so dirty tissues and other supplies don’t become a biohazard.
14. Two-way radio or baby monitor. Great for communicating with a patient quarantined in another area of the house, but too weak to constantly dial a cell phone, etc.
15. 30-day supply of food water. At a minimum, aim to have a 30-day supply of food and water on hand. Again, to prevent exposure to the flu, and to prevent sharing flu with others once you are affected, it’s a good idea to avoid places like stores.
Please consult your doctor if you begin to show signs of flu symptoms, or if someone in your household comes down with flu. Be sure to check with your doctor before taking any medications to treat flu. Ask a health care professional which medications are most effective to treat flu, if there any side effects (particularly any side effects due to interactions with other drugs you take), etc.