Mother wiping young daughter's cheek with cool washcloth.

How to prepare your home for unexpected illness

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has taught us a lot of lessons that should be part of our daily lives, even when there is no crisis. Good hand hygiene is the one we hear the most.

Avoid getting sick

> Get your flu shot

Several other lessons can be wrapped up under one heading: Be prepared.

That doesn’t mean we need to build a private bunker or stockpile enough toilet paper to last till the end of time.

But when the pandemic subsides, people will continue to come down with colds and flu. You can be prepared for the flu season by getting your annual flu shot. But when illness happens, you can also be prepared by keeping household staples that can help you avoid making an emergency run to the store.

Planning, not hoarding

“Preparedness boils down to being ahead of the curve,” said Troy Erbentraut, director of preparedness and response for OSF HealthCare. “You don’t really have to buy an amount outside what you normally do. Preparedness means you always keep a few of these items around so you don’t have to run to the store at midnight.”

Pain relievers in home medicine cabinet.

An easy way to do that is to purchase one extra unit as a backup, then replenish when your primary supply runs out. As Troy puts it: “Buy two and rotate it through.”

Take the notorious toilet paper, for example.

“If you normally go through a four-pack in a week, then buy one extra pack,” Troy said. “Buy another pack when the first runs out. You don’t need to go crazy. You don’t have to buy the most you can find. Typically, outside a doomsday scenario, what world are we in that we can’t get back out in a week? A week should give you plenty of buffer.”

Basic medical supplies

So, what should you always have on hand, in case you get sick?

Start with basic medical supplies, Troy said:

  • Prescriptions. “Never let them run out. When your supply gets down to a week or 10 days left, get them refilled. Don’t wait for the last pill.”
  • Over-the-counter medications. “Watch the expiration dates, and make sure you keep a supply that will last a few days.” Examples:
  • Thermometer. “If your fever reducers aren’t working, you need to know. When fever kicks in, you’re usually contagious. If your temperature is 100 degrees or higher, you need to stay in and not put others at risk. Have a thermometer.”
  • Facial tissues. They help contain your coughs, sneezes and nose drips. “They don’t expire, and they don’t cost much. They’re easy to keep on hand.”

Food, drink and cleaning agents

Cleaning supplies in a box.Other items that should be part of your household stock:

  • Disinfectants. “Any virus-related illness can live outside the body for a period of time, so it’s important to keep door handles, work areas, countertops and things like that clean. Always have Lysol, or something like that.”
  • Hand soap and hand sanitizer. Enough said.
  • Food and drink. “Having food in the pantry means I don’t need to go to the store. It’s easier to stay home and recover. I don’t need a deep freezer stocked with half a hog, but canned soup, some decaffeinated tea or hot fluids are good for you.”
  • Laundry detergent. “Don’t let that run out. If something happens, I can always wash my sheets and clothes.”

Help yourself – and others

Being prepared to cope with routine illnesses is not only important to each individual, it’s important to our communities.

“One thing that hurts us is that we don’t stay home when we’re sick,” Troy said. “When we don’t stay home, we increase recovery time and put others at risk. The marker is, you should stay home until you’ve gone 24 hours without a fever, not using meds.

“Being prepared creates a level of safety and security that you don’t need to go out right now. That means you won’t infect someone else. It also means shorter lines at the stores. Mitigating those downstream effects is what this is all about.”

About Author: Kirk Wessler

Kirk Wessler started work as a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare in January 2019. A Peoria native and graduate of Bradley University, he previously worked for newspapers in Missouri, Texas and most recently at the Peoria Journal Star.

Kirk and his wife, MaryFrances, have five sons, four daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. He’s on a quest to master playing guitar and golf. He also loves to travel, especially driving back roads.

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Categories: General, Wellness