Preparing for sickness can make it easier

Planning to be Sick

by Lynn Bulmahn

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Act I: I'm single and live alone. I have the flu and there is no food in my apartment. Having recently moved to town, I don't know anyone to help me. I have gone without anything to eat all day. Despite my fever, I drag myself into my car to go to the grocery store. I black out, and total my car.

Act II: I have a really bad virus once more. I have the same symptoms with a similar situation. It's not influenza. I already had my flu shot. Still, I come home from work with fever and chills.

This time, I'm ready. I reach into the freezer, grab a large plastic container, and defrost the homemade veggie soup inside. It'll last several days. I've stockpiled over-the-counter medicines to take.

Now, all I have to do is crawl into bed. Later, when friends call and ask if they can help, I tell them everything's been done already. I relax and recover without any hassles.

The difference between the two scenarios? Preparation! Just as you'd make a disaster kit for a storm or earthquake, you should prepare for health emergencies. We all have them! Like other disasters, they may strike without warning. For people living alone, this is doubly important, as we may not have someone to help us.

Don't savor the idea of running to the 24-hour drugstore at 3 a.m. when you're ill? Then, you need to always be supplied. I keep remedies for all kinds of ailments. When I use up a product, I immediately replace it.

I have a special place for all the "medical" items. They range from cold and flu products to feminine needs. I also have First Aid items, such as bandages. If I use, say, allergy pills, I restock when the bottle is half empty. There's nothing worse than having an allergic reaction, which, in my case, means intense itching and finding you're out of antihistamine pills.

To save money, I rarely use name-brand over-the-counter medications or products. Store brands cost less. Usually, "Equate" brand medicines sold at Walmart are several dollars cheaper than name brands and other stores' in-house brands. Check the list of ingredients against the name brand item. Usually they are identical.

Medicine is not the only need. Make sure to have emergency meals ready. Whenever I make a big batch of veggie soup, I put some in the freezer. I also have some frozen foods (TV dinners) and canned goods that can easily be heated up in the microwave for a meal. Our old standby, Ramen noodles, also works. Never use the "emergency" eats without replacing them.

I stock non-perishable cans or bottles of fruit juice, so I don't have to go to the grocery for orange juice. I also keep lemon-lime soda and soda crackers on hand for a stomach virus. Again, the focus is on being self-reliant and having the needed items at home.

Just like preparing for an emergency by taking preventive action, I do all I can to prevent getting sick. I wash my hands often and use hand sanitizer. I also get my flu shot each year. I keep up with the news, and if doctors are telling us to take some other precaution, I do that, too.

I also keep handy a list of my health providers and their phone numbers. This way, if I need help, I don't have to thumb through the phone book. My list also contains my boss's direct line in case I have to call in sick and the numbers of several neighbors and nearby friends in case I need to be driven to the emergency room. Health insurance information is kept here, too. I have an up-to-date list of all my medications (both prescription and OTC) and herbal remedies. In an emergency, the doctor or paramedics will need to know everything I'm taking.

Gear up for illness like you would for a disaster. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. It's especially critical for singles living alone to do this. Preparing for sickness means you'll weather it better. Hopefully, these steps will help you get back on your feet a lot sooner.

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