Have You Prepared a Flu Emergency Kit?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There are many unknowns as the fall cold and flu season draws near especially related to the threat of the H1N1 virus.

Of course, we all hope our families stay healthy and avoid any cold or flu illnesses this year. However, with children back in school, sports teams back in play and talk of pandemics throughout the news, we all may do well to follow the old Boy Scout motto of being prepared.

What if your entire family becomes ill and no one feels up to running to the local store to get what you need. What if home confinement was required to control the H1N1 virus spread rate? Would you have what you need on hand? Here are some basics for preparing a flu emergency kit.

The President has declared September 2009 as National Preparedness Month and encourages everyone to "recognize the importance of preparing for potential emergencies beforehand." To be prepared, we are all encouraged to have a three-day basic emergency supply kit in our home.

Here are some of the basic supplies encouraged for this kit.
  • Water – approximately a gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation.
  • Food – non-perishable food items and items to open foods and preparation containers. Foods such as packaged tuna or salmon, nuts and nut butters, crackers, dried fruits, soups or Ramen noodles, dry cereals and powdered milk ensures you will maintain a balanced diet that is nutrient rich during a stress-filled time. Don't forget baby formula, baby cereals, baby food and nursery water if you have babies in your home.
  • Battery-powered or hand cranked radio with a NOAA weather radio. Don't forget the extra batteries.
  • Hand cranked or battery-powered flashlight with extra batteries.
  • Whistle or air horn so you can signal for help or be located in a black out situation.
  • Dust masks or bandanas that can help reduce and filter air before inhalation.
  • Moist towelettes, personal hygiene products, disposable diapers and sealable garbage bags for personal sanitation.
  • Basic tools like a hammer, wrench and pliers
  • First aid kit including antihistamines for allergic reactions, pain relievers, bandages and tissues and any medications that must be taken. This recommendation can be difficult and it would be helpful to think about alternative plans should having an extra supply not be feasible. Perhaps keeping all necessary medications in a zip lock bag so they are easy to locate if an emergency arises is one idea. At the very least, make sure you have an up to date list of all medications and dosage requirements kept in your first aid kit so correct replacement medications could be obtained. If you take medications that require refrigeration, think ahead about how you will store it in the event that you have no electricity.
  • Make sure your cell phone has been programmed with ICE (In Case of Emergency) information. Most new phones have this option already included at the top of the contact listing. Make sure numbers and personal information have been updated. On older phones, set up an ICE listing in your contacts, including several numbers to be called should you need help and unable to direct whom should be contacted. This should be done for every cell phone in your family including those carried by children.

Consumer Reports has expanded this basic list to encourage preparedness in case the H1N1 outbreak is severe. They recommend having enough non-perishable food and water for your family for up to two weeks. A time of illness is not a time to worry a great deal about balanced nutrition. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself and your family.

Here are some foods for illness for your kit.
  • Canned broths and soups
  • Clear carbonated beverages and ginger ale
  • Clear juices
  • Decaf coffee or tea
  • Flavored gelatin with sugar
  • Honey for tea (should not be given to babies under the age of one)
  • Sports drinks or powders that contain electrolytes
  • Plain dry boxed cereals and saltine crackers
  • Applesauce and fruit leather

Once family members are feeling better and have been free of vomiting for 24 hours, the diet can progress to other more solid forms of bland foods. One important step toward fast recovery and taking care of yourself and your family is having what you need on hand when an illness strikes your home.

Other suggested items to consider keeping in your flu emergency kit includes:
  • Fever reducers
  • Cough and cold medications and lozenges
  • Hand sanitizers which contain at least 60 percent alcohol for times and places when soap and water are not available.
  • If you select a surgical mask, be sure it contains an FDA rating of at least N-95. If they are used, be sure to replace them often and dispose of them immediately after use.

Did you know September was National Preparedness Month? Do you have an emergency kit at your home? Will you consider creating an emergency flu kit this year?

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Good information. Thank you Report
Good article. Just found out today that I got the Flu but I got to the doctor before it has turned full blown bacterial virus(?). Got me a shot from the Dr. and praying that it wipes this out before it can get any worse. Ugh, I have no time to be sick! I haven't done my Zumba for a few days and now I feel sick and fat. I hate not being able to work out I always feel blah if I don't get my cardio plus my self esteem drops and makes me just plain grumpy. Not to mention knocks me completely off track. Being sick sucks! *sorry needed to vent* Report
Thanks for the article. Report
I need to go thru my medicine chest, throw out oldies, and make sure I am prepared. Thanks! Report
Great ideas. Never thought about having an "illness" emergency kit. Report
Thanks for the tip.....i live in hurricane country...and have most of those items. However....as a single person...having a 'flu kit' is a good idea...for h1n1...or just the regular run of the mill flu!

I don't understand why the majority here are not aware of the Swine Flu pandemic that is about to hit mid-October. I've read news articles about how some cities are gearing up for Marshall Law to separate those vaccinated from those who refuse to be vaccinated.. I don't want to frighten you but please read up on it. I'm not sure how true most of the information is but I believe it is always better to error on the side of precaution than not. I'm going to stock up on food for my dog and bird too. Report
Hmmm . . . never thought of putting together a "Flu Preparedness Kit."
Sounds like an excellent idea!!!
Then again, we've never been put in the position where there might be a generalized "marshall law type of situation" where citizens might be restricted to their homes in the event of a pandemic outbreak of high magnitudes!!!!
Ready with full disaster supplies for all 300 neighbors. However, my four year old boxed water, finally wore out this year - there was water everywhere. I'm going to rethink water storage. My best suggestion is to know where you main water turn off it (usually by your hot water heater - rather than out in the street), so you can have all the water in your pipes available to you. Report
This is a good reminder. Luckily I was able to tick off in my head almost all the things on the list. Report
Having lived in "Earthquake Country," "Tornado Alley," and now "Hurricane Land," I do not take disasters too blithely. This article is an excellent reminder. Thank you. Report
Oh geeze. H1N1 is so over hyped it's ridiculous. Last time H1N1 showed up, more people died from the vaccine than the disease itself!!! H1N1 is just like any other flu. People who die from it die from other diseases that they didn't know they had in the first place! Report
Most of us Americans are pretty lucky and have not gone through a real emergency. But life can surprise us.
Think power outages, trees down, tornados, hurricanes, big fires, or major illnesses in the whole community. In most of the world today, and in most of the time of the human race, these major blips have occured. Earthquakes, volcanoes, winds, illnesses. Having an emergency bag is good- & I hope most of us have 'emergency contact spots' set up as well.
If I'm lucky, I'll never, ever need it. But having a small space to be prepared for a few days of emergency makes sense.
Thanks for the reminder. I grabbed some of my water leaving for a trip, & I need to replace it. Report
Wow! We've not thought about a lot of these ideas! Thanks! Report
Living in Pensacola, Florida where we deal with Hurricane's like IVAN, we are prepared. I really don't think the Swine Flu will be that big of a deal, though. Report
Last Christmas Dad gave me a bright orange backpack that was a commercial version of the kit. I took the list and adapted it to include my wind up combo radio/flashlight (instead of battery operated ones), a first aid kit, whistle, an emergency blanket, a battery clip light, leather safety gloves, disposable sanitary (rubber) gloves, a sponge, a water "bladder" and container of bleach (16 drops to a gallon of questionable water), my Swiss Army Card (sissors, tweezers, tooth pick, etc) biohazzard waste bags, one of those "Leatherman" all-in-one tools and two empty zipper tote bags - one to throw a couple changes of clothes in and the other to throw in whatever non-perishable food is in the house (I never got the hang of rotating emergency food so I just have stuff in the pantry). It may seem silly to some but, I live outside of DC. I figure if I'm ready for some sort of emergency, I don't have to think about it.

As far as a flu kit is concered, because I worry about expiration dates, the only things in my kit (another free tote bag) are the expensive facial tissues (I generally use handkerchiefs), a salve that I love when my nose gets sore anyway, some crystlized ginger and pepermints for nausea and a book I'm dying to read. Soup and saltines are always in the pantry and my filter water pitchers are always there.

Whatever your kits are, I suggest you think of something that will make you feel normal. In the movie OhGod! George Burns tells John Denver to shave while they talk because it would make things seem more normal. Whatever it is, some knitting, a crossword puzzle book, some music, a bible; include something that will make you feel more normal. It doesn't have to be in the kit. Just save space and put it on the list taped to the outside of the bag. Report
I've already nursed my daughter through H1N1 and didn't have anything prepared. I'm already working on winter supplies and I'll make sure I have a kit ready this time. Thanks for the info! Report
I believe in the event of a pandemic flu where everything shuts down to control the spread of a deadly virus and your clinic doesn't even want you to come in to be seen without wearing a face mask, there are planners out there wanting us to prepare for the worst case scenario. If the flu increases in severity, they are telling people to stay home up to 7 days after a confirmed case of the flu. I would have a hard time doing that personally because you may not want to miss that much of your life ! If it would save other people's lives to stay out of public facilities while ill, we may have to go to those extremes. I hope everyone gets the flu shot and stays healthy.
Robyn Report
This is great info as far as natural disasters go. As far as having a kit prepared for H1N1 i would just say -remember Y2K. Get a flu shot - that's the most important thing. Report
I think half of it is really for the flu. The first half seems like it's for an emergency evacauation or something. Who needs tools and an air horn if you get the flu??

Like one of the previous posters, maybe I didn't understand the whole concept. But when the title is Flu Emergency Kit and it includes certain things for evacs and things of that nature, it seems to be on the over reacting side of things.

Some I may get together like the medications and certain food and drinks. I know I am low on that stuff especially medications. Report
I keep a Ready 1-2-3 bag in my home and try to stay prepared for emergencies. This blog is a great reminder to check my bag and make sure nothing has been used up or is getting ready to expire. I try to remind myself to check it every couple of months, but sometimes it gets away from me. I will be adding any items that related strictly to the flu.

Everybody, please know that the seasonal flu can be just as deadly as H1N1. Report
Did you know September was National Preparedness Month? No, I didn't know.

Do you have an emergency kit at your home? No, but I have most of the items on the list always on hand.

Will you consider creating an emergency flu kit this year? I will consider purchasing a few things on the list that I don't have in my house, but also plan to get a flu shot and encourage my hubby to do the same. I don't understand, though, why you need a battery radio, a flashlight, an air horn, and tools? I thought this was a flu emergency kit, but it reads more like a tornado emergency kit. Maybe I didn't understand the premise of the article.
Great ideas for anytime have had this kind of kit in our home for years just remember to rotate the items once a year as they do expire and get old it is best to be prepared but think sometime we get hysterical about it and overdo Get a flu shot for the entire family when it becomes available Report
This sounds amazing similar to our hurricane survival kit. It is bad enough to need it from June through October. Now we have to give it another name and use it the rest of the year. :( Report
I went to a seminar about this not too long ago. The speaker's suggestion was to have three canvas bags ready. One should contain a change of clothes including a warm jacket for each family member. One should have non perishable food and water and the third should be the first aid kit. They should be stored in an accessible place and be ready to be grabbed at a moment's notice.
Thanks for the good info. It doesn't seem to be available anywhere else. Report
What great advice for our times...thank you! Report
I don't have anything ready anywhere. I also do not have any and I mean NO extra storage space. We live in a very small apt. But I am going to stock as much as I can, under the bed, maybe under the kitchen table, whatever available space I can find.

Thank you so much for this list. I would have never thought of a number of the things that were listed. I saved it to my Spark Favorites so that when I get to the library (my printer is not working), I can print it out and start collecting.

I really appreciate the time that someone spent putting this together for all of us.

I will be getting the flu shot (as usual) and also the H1N1 shot because I have heart problems and chronic bronchitis with emphysema. Report
Living in a remote part of the world, this is a normal thing. It is good to think through ahead of time since the times are changing. Report
One of the joys of living in a hurricane probable area is having to do this twice a year or so. Nice to know some of the staples I keep in case of disaster might come in handy for flu season. One of the fun things is using up some of ths stuff from time to time. Thanks to SP I'm including more caliric dense, yet healthier geared items as part of this routine. Though when it comes down to really bad times I want as much calorie bang for the buck as I can handle. All you have to do is spend 12 hours clearing dead trees and the like to understand why this make sense. MRE's etc. :)

Good combo article btw. Report
i am glad to see some people paying attention to the need to be prepared. Report
I've been especially good about keeping items on hand for emergencies since the regional electrical blackout hit a few years ago, including water for flushing the toilet. I keep a few bottles of fitness water by my bed, plus have more in a nearby room. Remember to rotate stored foods by using the oldest first. I have foods such as protein bars, nutritional drinks, and soups that don't require cooking or refrigeration. I also keep at least 1/2 tank of gas in my car, and several extra gallons in the garage. That blackout of several days was a very good practice session. I've gotten my flu shots every year for a long time, and intend to do that this year as well. Report
I have all of these items in my house. I just really need to put them all in one storage tub. Report
I think this is a good idea, but honestly, I barely have storage space for food necessities for non emergency, let alone extra space for all this. Perhaps I will downsize the list a little and hope for the best. Report
Nope. Not for flu anyway. I have always taken preventative measures to not get the flu in the first place. I think the last time I had the flu was in 1989!!!!! Report
we definitely keep these things on hand, but it never hurts to be reminded...

for those wondering where to keep it, just make sure your pantry has enough food to get through a week without going back to the store and that you have a couple of boxes of meds on hand - not that much space. 5-gallon water jugs can be stored in the garage or back yard, or if you don't have that, store them in the coat closet floor space. also, the fluid in your canned goods counts as fluid toward your day, and most (MOST) emergencies don't interrupt the water supply, so store some, but know that if you have a little less than 1 gallon/person/day, you'll likely be just fine. www.ready.gov has TONS of good information... Report
We keep emergency supplies, but I think it will be a good idea to have a supply in case of flu as well. Report
i keep this "kit" year round - old habit i learned from my mother - always be ready for illness, I work in healthcare and am amazed at how many people do not take these "bugs" and "flus" seriously -- it is far to dangerous not to be prepared. The idea on cleaning with vinegar is one I grew up with -- but added a flow up wash with perioxide is great too. Report
Great ideas...but it seems like an awful lot of stuff and can get pricey but I guess we have to start somewhere! Time to go shopping and add a few things each week! Report
Winter storm season is approaching. Thanks for the reminder and the shopping list.

I keep the kit in the travel trailer, out of the way, and out of sight of raiders. Report
Good info, thanks. Report
Thanks for the list i have most of those items at hand already, since i live where we power outages that can sometimes last for days. Its great having a list to go by i will add a few more items to my emergency supply. Report
No I didn't know. We already have some of these things on hand but with five people in our house, where are you suppose to keep all of this stuff? Report
For me, every month is Emergency Preparedness month. I have a 72 hr kit in my car, at work and at home near the front door. I have cold and flu supplies always on hand. Report
Thanks for this list - so easy to forget things. Time to get prepared! Report
I didn't know it was NPM . It is a good idea to have some cold meds on hand and hand sanitizer. thanks for the info. Report
Sure it's important to take care of preparing for the FLU but I feel the most imporatnt message is for every American to have food and water long enough to last them Labor Day Weekend!! Everyone - please get your little back pack or rolly suitcase and fill it with foods, medicines, water!!!! and documents that you will need in an emergency. It would shock you to know how many people have no plan at all - even after the years and years of flooding, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, etc. I'm not a crazy gal running around screaming the end is coming, but common sense tells us to "be prepared". Do I sound like a Boy Scout or what? Report
Great information! Thanks so much for helping to keep folks informed and prepared. Report
Except for the coffee/tea, it is amazing how many of the illness items we already keep in the house for babysitting the toddler grandson. Thanks, kid! Report