Day 21~ Preparing for Illness and Pandemics

This is a continuation to the last post about Preparedness in light of current global concerns.

What a fun topic, eh?  Truthfully, if you are a mother or a father, this is something we have to face sooner rather than later.  It is late October and I have already heard of and seen a few people who have come down with some nasty coughs and colds. No one likes to be ill. We do our best and think we’ll be able to avoid the germs that inevitably come our way.  But unless you’re a hyper-vigilant OCD type, you’re likely going to pick up viruses.  How your body challenges those viruses has a lot to do with how prepared you are.

First of all, I’m not trying to do any fear-mongering here.  We all have seen what even a hint of panic does and in no way am I trying to stir up panic.  I’m also not a doctor or nurse but I am a mother of 4 and I’ve dealt with enough illnesses in the past 4 decades to know that there are some things that make sense when it comes to flus, viruses and all types of contagions.  A couple of years ago we saw a world wide pandemic of H1N1 which actually turned out to be not nearly as bad as I was scared into believing.(I did go for my shot).  We’ve also seen the SARS virus of a few years ago wreak havoc with how we perceive the transfer of viruses over the ocean, via air, from one country to another.  So, knowing that the next pandemic is likely going to happen in the next year, or 5 or certainly 10, what do we do to prepare?

Immunizations.  I realize that there are people who are vehemently opposed to immunizations.  I totally understand where you’re coming from.  I, too, have my reservations, especially with babies and toddlers who do not have a chance to buffer up their own immune systems.  I actually stopped immunizing my kids when my first child was only 14 months.  The rest of them?  We waited until they started kindergarten and caught them up with only a couple of visits to the public health office.  I still think we shoot up our kids way too much early on(but that is not a debate for today).   HOWEVER, I am pro-vaccine for the rest of us.  My great-grandmother lost 4 babies in the span of a couple months in 1908 from the worldwide flu pandemic.  There were no vaccines back then.  10 years later, she died of the worldwide Spanish flu epidemic.  I am sad for our family, sad for my grandma who grew up without a mother, sad for so many families who lost children and parents at young ages.  It was senseless, needless.  Years later, in the 1950’s, my dad was hospitalized for contracting polio. He was very weak and to this day has a lame leg.  He then suffered with a terrible flu in 1957 and was hospitalized for 2 months. He was so frail and thin that the nurse could carry him around on her hip at 10 years of age.  During his hospitalization, his little sister died and was buried~ before he could say good-bye. It is stories like these that make me well aware how privileged we are to have the opportunity to vaccinate our children and protect them from life-long illnesses, disease and death.   In the US, there is currently a new wave of whooping cough(pertussis) among school age children as well as babies and even senior citizens.  People, this is a disease that we have nearly wiped out!! Why are we seeing it come back? Because people have neglected to immunize against it.  Polio is also on the rise.  It is so sad to me that these once, nearly extinct killers , are coming BACK!   So this is your homework:  call your public health office.  Find out what vaccines are available at no cost and which ones you will have to pay for.  If your community is offering free flu shots~ take them!!  Even chicken pox; if you or your child who is over 10 has not had chicken pox, get the shot!  And if it’s been more than 10 years since you had shots, you may want to consider getting caught up.

Medicine ~  What medications do you typically need or use on a weekly or monthly basis?  Do your children have allergies which require the use of inhalers or epi-pens? What about basic antihistamines and pain relievers?   Ask yourself this question: If we had an ice storm, earthquake, tsunami(not here of course), massive power failure or some other regional emergency which caused the stores to close down for even a few days, would I have what my family needs?   If your answer is no, then you have to take stock and fix this problem.  Tomorrow I will talk about even the threat of some catastrophe causing panic buying and why you should be proactive rather than wishing you had.   For now, let’s make a list of the possible things that you might want to get on hand in the next week and then continue to build up your supply.

  • Pain relievers: Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Kids Motrin(best for pain and fever relief) (watch for expiry dates and try your best to get the ones with the furthest away date)
  • Cold and Flu Medications: Tylenol Cold, Tylenol Flu, Tylenol Cold and Sinus…or whatever brand you normally go to
  • Vitamins!  Get yourself the most important for immunity: Vitamins Bcomplex, C and D. Multi-vitamins do not have the dosage quantities necessary to boost your immune system in times of stress and illness so it’s good to have these on hand. Also, do some research on other immune-boosting herbs and vitamins. I keep herbal teas in the house. Of great importance is garlic to fight colds as well as lemon juice(real) and honey~ combined in hot water is a great tonic for sore/swollen throats.
  • Good old chicken soup!  I always tell my family and friends to keep at least a couple of utility chickens in the freezer during cold/flu season.  Boil a chicken, add some onions, whole peppercorns and grated carrots and you have a very soothing soup/broth.  Great served on egg noodles too.
  • A digital thermometer.  ~ actually, get 2. Necessary to know if someone has a fever and when it’s the dangerous kind. There are some that have the disposable tip covers but that can get costly so I suggest you keep it with alcohol wipes to clean it after each use.
  • Pepto Bismol, Tums or Gravol(I realize that Americans cannot get Gravol for anti-nausea but Canadians can)
  • Antihistamines~ much like pain killers, these are necessary to have on hand in case of those unknowns: mosquito bites that swell up, food allergies, hay fever, and even reactions to medications!
  • Vicks vapour rub~ hey, there’s nothing quite like that Mentholatum feel on a congested chest!
  • Surgical face masks~ may or may not be necessary, but if you’re cleaning up after 4 sick kids, you’ll be wishing you had some. It’s not a 100% guarantee against getting infected by viruses but it helps~ a lot.  And now, you can get them by the pack in dollar stores~ so stock up!! Now!
  • KLEENEX! ~ you can never have too much and it never expires so shop those sales now!
  • Toilet Paper~ Well, you know…if you have the flu, you’re going to need a lot of this so….stock up!
  • Prescriptions~ this is a bit of a tricky one because many pharmacists will not let you keep a reserve supply of your medication.  If you can get a 2 or 3 month supply in case of emergency, do it.  If not, keep your pharmacist’s and doctor’s numbers in a safe location(with other important documents) along with a copy of all your prescription information. This is critical, especially for those with diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
  • Ginger Ale~ It may seem insignificant but it has saved the day in our house, especially when stomach trouble rears its ugly head and makes the rounds.  Sometimes, all a person can keep down is a bit of g-ale. Room temp is best when you’re sick anyways so don’t worry about refrigerating it.
Did I forget anything?  I’m thankful for healthy kids and for the most part we keep the basics on hand.  But I’m sure those of you with more complicated health issues can attest to being uneasy anytime there’s a power outage or storm.   It is worth your peace of mind to be prepared.
You love your family.  You want to make sure they’re healthy, safe and well cared for.  This is part of it. A very important part.
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