Monthly Archives: January 2009

Ready or Not #32: Pandemic and Medications

I had a lot of time to think the other day as I was sitting in the emergency room -for S-E-V-E-N  HOURS!  Don’t worry, everybody is okay, but as I was sitting there and observing what was going on around us at the hospital, I got thinking about the pandemic again and what would happen if everybody, or if it-just-seemed-like everybody, was sick.

Dr. Osterholm, University of Minnesota, CIDRAP Business Source (September 11, 2008), stated that there are19 life saving drugs, most of which are generic (these include drugs you would find on a crash cart, insulin, etc.), but that 95% of those drugs are produced outside of the US and that the supply chain is very weak and could be disrupted in a variety of ways, but during a pandemic, the supply chain would be nearly non-existent.

During the pandemic, when the supply lines are cut off, or seriously curtailed, who will have access to these life saving drugs – those living closest to the delivery point or those with the most money?  For all of you insulin users out there, don’t take any chances – get extra insulin and the other necessary supplies, like needles and such, built up and stored for a time that sources are no longer available.

Insulin is not a controlled substance and it has a very long shelf life if kept cold.  I actually bought one of those little $50.00 – $60.00 countertop fridges just to store extra insulin.  My husbands diabetes coach said that insulin will last indefinitely under the right circumstances and if you have a year’s supply on hand, rotating the newer bottles with the stored supply, it will give you peace of mind and the diabetic in your life will have an easier time eating whatever is available (most likely simple carbohydrates) and not have to worry about diabetic shock or coma.

I know that it isn’t possible to store a year’s worth of controlled substances if you use them, but what prescription medications do you use that maybe you could store possibly two or three months worth?  Talk to your doctor about your concerns and what you need to do to be prepared.  I know that insurance companies are very particular about how often they will pay for certain medications, but for most medicines, insurance companies actually encourage you to purchase three months worth of medication at a time because it is cheaper.

Now that the obvious gotta’ have medications have been taken care of, lets talk about the OTC’s in your life.  Over The Counter medications are available to us unlike any other time in history.  We can even go to a local 24-hour gas station and get relief medicines for colds, flu symptoms, allergies and headaches.  We are even given a variety of choices: daytime, nighttime, children’s, adults, adults with high blood pressure, and on and on.  The point is, is that right now all of these choices are available to us and we should take advantage of that availability.

Think back and remember how many bottles of cough syrup did your family go through on the last round of colds?  Do you use zinc lozenges?  How about those wonderful Breezers™ lozenges that numb your throat and even taste good – how many packages do you need on hand?  Throat sprays.  You should always keep a bottle, or two or three, around for sore throats.  I would also suggest that you buy a big commercial size bag of Jolly Ranchers™ to have on hand.  When your body has plenty of cough medication, but you are still coughing and you don’t want to overdose, it is helpful to suck on Jolly Ranchers™.  A doctor told my mom that sometimes all we need to do is to keep the throat moist by swallowing and it will control the cough.  Jolly Ranchers™ works really well for this and the kids never complain about it tasting like medicine.

Another big concern, when people are sick, is fevers.  Do you have enough aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen?  Of course children can’t take the aspirin, but they can take the other medicines.  Look at what you are trying to control; are you trying to break a fever or just get rid of the aches and pains.  Get age appropriate medications and make sure that you use them for the right symptom.

It is important to have the medication to treat the fever, but it is equally important to have the right equipment to monitor the fever.  Before both of my children were two years old, they both had to have their tonsils out because they were so inflamed.  This inflammation caused extreme fevers, especially in my daughter.  She would routinely have fevers that were between 102 and 104 degrees.  This is very scary for a new mom, but I got really good at taking her temperature and learning how to bring it down, with medicine and other dramatic measures.  The doctor told me that with children that young, the rectal thermometer was the best thermometer to use.  You can also take a young child’s temperature under their arm, but trying to take a temperature from their mouth was out of the question.

What you need to know is how to take a temperature and what thermometer you need to use – and then make sure that you have them on hand.  Obviously an oral thermometer won’t work where a rectal thermometer should go or vice-versa; using the correct tool correctly is important, especially when it involves your health.  I also love the new electric ones that you point and click in your ear and the digital ones that you put in your mouth, but you have got to make sure that you have extra batteries stored in case they go dead.
I’m not too impressed with the ones that you tape on your forehead because I have heard that they aren’t too reliable, but if you have used them, and like them, then by all means have a bunch of them stored.  One good thing about that style is that they get thrown away and you don’t have to worry about sterilizing them.  If you have some of the newer cool electronic gadgets that help you monitor a high temperature, make sure that you have at least one good old fashioned glass/mercury thermometer as a back-up (If you can even find them anymore.)  Sometimes the most basic is the best.

Being prepared and building up a supply of prescription and/or OTC medication is just smart.  When we are in a situation where up to 30% of all of the population could be sick, you will definitely want some medicinal help, but if you wait too long there is a good chance your friendly local pharmacist or doctor won’t be able to help you.  As with everything, rotate, rotate, rotate and make sure that you store the medicines in a cool dark place, watch the expiration dates and keep out of the hands of small children.

Of course the best thing is to not get sick in the first place and so we will talk about staying well next time.  Until then, get your water stored and stay hydrated!  Two gallons, per person, per day for a two-week period.

Ready or Not #31:Pandemic – Personal Preparedness

The difference between a regular flu outbreak and a pandemic outbreak is that for the regular flu (which is miserable) the CDC (Center for Disease Control) knows what strain of flu is most likely to break out and it is a known entity; with a pandemic they don’t.  When a known flu comes around, people will get sick, but most people will already have built up an immunity to the “flu of the month” and the vaccine will already be manufactured in anticipation of an outbreak.

A pandemic flu however is a new flu that has never circulated in the general public before, nobody has antibodies which can protect them and there is no backup vaccine. When a pandemic breaks out, the government’s Health and Human Services department anticipates 30% or more of the public will be affected – that is one out of every three people!

After the pandemic starts, and after they figure out an appropriate vaccine, it will take approximately six months to be able to produce enough vaccine to inoculate everyone.  The people who will have access to the first vaccine are those who need it most: health care workers, public safety workers, first responders (CERT members included), the very young and the elderly or infirmed.  So what do the rest of us do in the meantime?  Lots.

First, you do exactly what I have been telling you to do all along – store your water and get your food supply built up.  No kidding!  That instruction comes straight from the government.  They want you to have a two-week water supply for every person in your family.  They say one gallon of water, but I still stick with my two, especially if you are sick.  You need to make sure that you have enough to keep hydrated and to maintain good hygiene if something happens to the water supply.  (Two gallons, per person, per day for a two week period.) After all, hurricanes will happen, storms will cut electricity and earthquakes will still continue to shake the earth – no matter how sick we are.

Next, you need to store food – for two reasons actually.  The first is that when the pandemic hits, as I said before, the government anticipates that more than 30% of the U.S. population will potentially become ill.  That breaks down to approximately 90 million Americans that will get sick and a possible two million Americans that may die.  So with that many people getting sick and the rest trying to take care of them, and not get sick, who will deliver all of those perishable, canned or frozen foods to your local store?  Truckers and sailors get sick too and many supply lines may be tenuous at best and non-existent at worst.  And what about all of the people that are sick and are no longer able to unload a truck even IF it were to come in?

The second reason you want a large and varied food supply is because who wants to go out shopping when you feel miserable?  Also, you need to make sure that you have good nutrition so that your body has every chance to heal itself.  Even if we were able to get out, there may be nothing to buy and essential items, like medications, cough syrup and FOOD, may be in short supply.  You need to prepare your family with a well rounded food and sundry supplies because you may have to/want to stay home for an extended period of time.

My mother remembers the time, before antibiotics – which has only been around for a relatively short amount of time, when individual homes were quarantined if they had the measles, whooping cough, or any other communicable disease.  Nobody was allowed in or out of the house, except for a few select health officials, and the quarantine was strictly enforced.  That could happen again.  My mom said that if a house was quarantined that a sign or notice was posted on the door and the house and the inhabitants were off-limits.  If you wanted to leave a pot of get well chicken soup, you had to leave it on the doorstep and you were not allowed to get your dishes back when the inhabitants of the house were finished with the soup.
If that happened to your house or neighborhood, would you have enough to eat and keep your family from being malnourished or hungry?  You wouldn’t be able to rely on the charity of neighbors to bring you food because they might be in a worse situation than you.  Get prepared.

These are some of the questions that the Health and Human Services department and the Red Cross want you to ask yourself and then make a plan as to how to address the situation.
•    What if my children’s schools were closed?
•    What if a family member becomes seriously ill?
•    What if I could not go to work (either because you were sick or because you were taking care of family members who were sick)
•    What if I had to stay home for an extended period of time?  Do I have the food stores, water and supplies to sustain my family, even if they were ill?
•    Do I have enough money saved to carry my financial obligations for at least six months?
•    Do I have a supply of OTC medications and prescriptions?
•    Do I have medical histories on everyone in my family?
•    Do I have emergency contact numbers?
•    Do I have enough cleaning supplies to disinfect my house on a regular basis with or without sick people?

When the pandemic does start, the officials figure that the first round of sickness will last at least six to eight weeks.  Put another way – THAT IS TWO MONTHS.  They also said that the pandemic flu will go several rounds and could possibly last for several years.  Remember the Bubonic plague the first time around?  It lasted 150 years!  The second time around it lasted six years.  Mutations will happen with the new virus and the government suspects that it will rear its ugly head a couple of times.

I don’t want you to start running around crying that the sky is falling, but you can no longer just ask how you will react and how well prepared you and your family will be for a disaster; you also need to know how well prepared your family will be when a pandemic happens and nobody can step in to help you.  What is your plan and how will you take care of each other?

The government has made it known that they can’t help us individually or even community wide when a pandemic strikes.  They are depending on us to get prepared ahead of time… and so for goodness sakes, get your water stored and build up your food storage!

Ready or Not #30: Pandemic

Pandemic.  It even sounds scary if you say it out loud – pandemic.  Secretary Leavitt, President Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, said that the word pandemic actually comes from the Greeks.  Pan means all and Demos means people, so pandemic means all people.  He went on to say that, “Pandemic at its very essence, in its very name, is something that involves all people, something that concerns everyone.”

It is fitting that the Greeks came up with the word pandemic because the first recorded pandemic was in Athens about 430 BC and from what historians have gathered, they think that they were suffering from typhoid.  By the time this hideous disease ran its course, nearly 25% of their society was dead.  Fun topic huh.

I have wanted to address this topic for quite some time because it is so important and it is not a matter of if, but when we will suffer another pandemic.  The difference between the 21rst century and 430 BC is that we are so much more mobile and we have a global society.  Athens isn’t the only place that will be affected so to speak; it will not be contained in one small area of the world.  When it does happen it will happen globally.  Granted, it will be more devastating in some areas than others, but it will still affect everyone, and I’m just talking about the actual health issue.  We’ll address the potential economic collapse later.

We have actually had 10 pandemics just in the last 300 years and three of those have been in the last 100 years.  One that we are all familiar with has a child’s ditty that goes along with it, “Ring around the rosy, pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes, we all fall down!”  The first part of the song refers to the symptoms of those infected with the Bubonic plague.  The second part talks about the flowers that people carried in their pockets because the stench of the dead and dying was so bad.  The last part was about the people who died and were burned to ashes because there were so many dead and they didn’t know how else to dispose of all of the bodies and keep the disease from spreading even more.

The first time around, the Bubonic plague lasted 150 years and wiped out half of Europe during the 6th century.  When it re-visited as the Black Death in the 1300’s, more than 25 million people died within a six-year period.  There are some people who are still alive today that lived through, and remember, the devastation of the 1918 pandemic known as The Great Influenza; 50 million people died at that time.  Between the two pandemics in 1957 and 1968, more than 100,000 people died just here in the United States.

A pandemic is coming; we don’t know where it will start or when, but the government has stated that it is inevitable.  History will repeat itself.  I don’t want to be a casualty and I’m sure that you don’t want to either – and the government certainly doesn’t want us to become another statistic.  That is why the Federal government’s department of Health & Human Services is trying to educate the public on what we can do to protect ourselves and get prepared before it happens.  For the next few articles I am going to pass on information about what they want us to know and what we must do now to be prepared.  Oh, by the way, they want you to get your water stored (told you so – two gallons of water, per day, per person, for a two week period.)

I am getting my information, about the government’s concern for its citizens being prepared for the pandemic, from a webinar (a webinar is an interactive educational/informational type program hosted live or pre-recorded on the Internet) which is sponsored by the Health & Human Services department.  This particular webinar,, and several like it, address different areas of concern about pandemics, and other potential disasters, is available for you to watch and learn about how to protect your family, to know what to expect, and to think about things that you might not have considered.  The government knows that it doesn’t have the resources to “take care of us.” They need us to learn to take care of ourselves.

Secretary Leavitt made the observation that “…when a pandemic strikes that it will be like having 5,000 Katrina’s.”  But during a pandemic, medical personnel and volunteer emergency trained first responders are going to stay at home.  They won’t be out helping you in your distress.  They will stay at home to protect their own families from getting sick.  Something to think about.

We all saw the pictures and heard the stories of hurricane Katrina.  Envision that scene being played out nationwide without all of the help coming to bail you out of your misery.  Scary thought, but one that must be addressed and talked about.  That is exactly what I am going to do – I’m going to talk about it, give you information to help you get prepared, and to empower yourself to take care of yourself and your family.

While doing research about pandemics, I ran across a very interesting article that you might be interested in reading.  It talks about Avian Flu virus and how the government is keeping a close eye on it’s many mutations and how it is still migrating.  Click here to read the entire article. Don’t get scared, just get prepared!