Last week, the Buncombe County Health Center offered me one way to prepare for the coming flu season. Health officials are predicting a double-edged sword of Damocles this fall, as conditions ripen for the spread of both annual flu and H1N1 flu viruses (H1N1 is better known as swine flu).
The center suggests organizing a “flu home-care kit.” While being prepared won’t totally resolve my anxiety, it’ll give that sword hanging over my head some extra support (in the story of Damocles, the sword hangs by a single horse hair — I’d like to add several horse hairs, or at least some twine, to mine). So, in addition to telling my kids to wash their hands 50 times a day, I decided to prepare my own flu home-care kit.
Buncombe County suggests stocking emergency supplies including soup, crackers and fever reducers. If you or your kids get a fever, the health folks want you to self-quarantine until everyone’s been fever-free for 24 hours (without the help of fever-reducing drugs). This means folks could end up stuck at home for a week or longer. At this point, the viruses are mild enough that health officials are recommending home treatment for most people.
I Googled “swine flu kit” and discovered a number of companies trying to cash in on flu paranoia. Most of their kits contain items such as latex gloves, face-mask respirators, goggles, shoe covers and hospital-grade hand wipes. Some even contain full body disposable coveralls (I first read this as full body “disposal” coveralls. As in, “Bring out your dead!”) On-line kits retail from $25 to more than $100.
These kits seem over the top, even to me. I fully expect that, if one person in my family contracts the flu, we probably all will, and dressing up like a character from Scrubs while dispensing acetaminophen to the kids isn’t going to keep me healthy.
So here’s what I bought for our home flu kit:
• Several boxes of tissues: Flu equals congestion. I figure noses will need blowing.
• Fever reducing-drugs for both adults and kids: Chewable Motrin and Tylenol for kids. Tylenol caplets for adults. Alternating Motrin and Tylenol seems to reduce fever well in my kids, although acetaminophen products sometimes make them vomit.
• Theraflu and Nyquil Cold & Flu for adults: Over-the-counter decongestants don’t really work for kids, but they can help adults, especially sick adults who need to care for sick kids.
• Honey: A natural cough suppressant and good way to get a few calories into feverish children (the darker the honey, the more nutrients it contains). Don’t give honey to babies under a year old, though. It can contain botulism spores that their immature immune systems can’t handle.
• Electrolyte-containing drinks: I typically avoid these, but when the kids are sick and their throats ache, Gatorade seems to go down easier than water (apple juice also works and is more gentle on tummies than other juices). You also can purchase popsicles that contain electrolytes. These rocked after my kids’ tonsillectomies.
• Extra food: Bland, easily digested foods for both kids and adults, such as veggie bullion, pasta, crackers and apple juice. The Centers for Disease Control also recommends storing extra water to get through a flu outbreak. We drink filtered tap water so that’s unnecessary. However hurricane season is upon us, and ever since the remnants of Hurricane Ivan knocked out Asheville’s water supply in 2004, I’ve kept 10 to 12 gallons of water in the basement.
• Below are a few other items that, while less essential than the above, may be important if we’re stuck at home for one to two weeks:
• Extra pet food: I realized that if I’m sick, I don’t want to be forced to find a respirator mask in the basement and wear it out in public to purchase cat and dog food. Nor do I want to have to open cans of tuna to get my cats to leave me alone.
• Extra prescription medicine: Luckily, there’s only one of these at the moment, but I plan on keeping that pill bottle at least half full.
• Books/DVDs: I always have a pile of books to read, but I’m stockpiling extra books for the kids. And while we have lots of kid-friendly DVDs, the second someone sneezes, I’m ordering the first season of True Blood for myself.
So, what have I left out? What do you feel is essential for dealing with being stuck at home with a debilitating fever?
Notice how organizing a home-care kit keeps me from dealing with some of the larger questions around the flu, like what’s going to happen if a large number of people suddenly can’t work for a few weeks? And what if the virus becomes more deadly?
As I was perusing cold meds, my girl said, “Mom, stop stressing about the swine flu.”
I said, “Just let me prepare. Because I’m a good Girl Scout.” And giving some extra support to my imaginary sword of Damocles helps me chill out.
Anne Fitten "Edgy Mama" Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.
Read more articles in:A + E