Edgy Mama: Preparing swine flu ‘survival kit’ can ease worries

Pandemic flu, global climate change, hurricanes, antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections — these are some of the life-changing phenomena that haunt me as a parent.

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.


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18 thoughts on “Edgy Mama: Preparing swine flu ‘survival kit’ can ease worries

  1. Asheville Dweller

    The regular flu claims more lives every year then Swine Flu. They symtoms are virtually the same, you have more to fear from regular flu then the swine flue.

    But panick, panick, panick thats the key, And there is a cure for the Swine flu its called your immune system. Before loading up on drugs and getting prescritions wait a couple of days before seeing the doc, let nature take over before freaking out. Everyone in this town loves to talk about the “Natural” thing and when it comes to sickness its no different, lots water, keep warm and let your immune system do what its designed for.

  2. tatuaje

    And while we have lots of kid-friendly DVDs, the second someone sneezes, I’m ordering the first season of True Blood for myself.

    Let me help you out with this one, EM. We’re in a recession for Shad’s sake.


    laissez bon temps roulez

  3. Oh, I forgot to put t.p. on this list. Trust me, you don’t want to be home sick with the flu and run out of toilet paper.

  4. EM, be careful, for true blood is entirely addictive and all-consuming. i salivate for the sunday night episodes–before you know it, you’ll be obsessed too!

  5. Marissa,
    I read the first five Sookie Stackhouse books in a frenzy at the beginning of the summer, then rented the first four episodes of Season One when I was laid up. This is one of those rare cases where I think I like the TV show better than the books. The TV writers have smoothed out some of the rough edges and pulled plot lines together cleverly. But the books are well worth reading.

    Warning to folks reading this thread: True Blood is an HBO series, so there’s lots of sex and violence.

  6. Beth

    I’ve got 6 out 7 seasons of West Wing as my go-to back up.

    And don’t forget the Chinese herbs – Yin chao is great for a cold and general immunity. Don’t know what it’ll do for the H1N1.

  7. Piffy!

    this is just fear perpetuated by the tissue industry. dont be a pawn EM!

  8. That Elder Flower link is interesting, tat.

    A friend also told me about a homeopathic, Oscillo, which may help alleviate flu symptoms.

    I don’t know much about herbal or homeopathic remedies, though I’m willing to learn.

    Tissues are overrated, PFKaP. I used a hanky for years. But my kids can be snot machines. During which times, I’m thankful for tissues.

  9. Piffy!

    Oh, so now you think your better than Ken? That your children can wipe themselves on him?

    fresh Garlic does wonders, too. And all the ‘italian’ herbs like oregano, thyme, rosemary are anti-viral. Fresh Yarrow.

  10. tatuaje

    That Elder Flower link is interesting, tat.


    I didn’t have time to find a better one so I relied on Google.

    But the photo at the top was what sold me.

    I don’t know much about herbal or homeopathic remedies, though I’m willing to learn.

    Homeopathic I’m not so in to, but I know enough herbalists to realize the power of plants.

    Heck, that’s where the pharmy industry gets all of their wacky pills.

    I make my own elder flower tincture from flowers I harvest just up the way. I take it anytime I feel flu-like symptoms coming on (like I did a few days ago), or if I have a fever, and have had good success with it.

    If you feel intimidated by making your own, Greenlife actually has a pretty good selection and some knowledgeable people to help you out.

    Plants fucking rule.

  11. Piffy!

    Tat, I had this weird fever and ache a couple days ago, and your post reminded me i had some elderflower concoction in the fridge (it was an elderflower syrup). i took a big drink of it, went to bed, and felt like a champ the next day.


  12. katjohn

    Don’t forget that this flu has been associated with diarrhea. My kids just got over some kind of nasty flu. Not sure if it was swine flu or not, (they aren’t testing for it anymore) but they did have the runs with it. Anyway, remember the BRATTY diet; bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, tea, and yogurt. It’s very helpful for sick kids dealing with regular flu symptoms on top of stomach problems.

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