With the Omicron subvariant BA.2 nearly doubling every week in the US over the past several weeks, it is again possible that an increased number of cases may be on the horizon. As we learned throughout the pandemic, when surges in case numbers occur certain supplies can suddenly be difficult to obtain.
That does not mean CLL Society is suggesting it is time to hoard cases of toilet paper! But it is a good idea to stay prepared. Once you are in an isolation or quarantine status, you want to be able to sustain your daily living under restricted circumstances, especially if you are not feeling well. CLL Society’s COVID-19 Action Plan is an excellent resource to help with preparations, but it is also important to think about what types of supplies you need to keep on hand in case you or someone within your household develops COVID-19.
Consider gathering a two-week supply of the following items:
Make sure you have a good supply of high-quality, tightly fitted N95 masks available. Should anyone within your household have known exposure to COVID-19 or test positive, everyone in the household should plan to wear one. Not only are they good for your own protection, but they can also help stop the spread of COVID-19 within your home. The government is giving out three free N95 masks to every person that requests them at participating pharmacies and retailers (like CVS, Costco, and Walmart).
2) Rapid Antigen COVID-19 Home Tests
As a CLL/SLL patient, it is essential to have multiple rapid antigen COVID-19 home tests on hand due to all current therapies needing to be started within the first 5-7 days of symptoms to be effective. Keep in mind, oral antiviral treatments can be started based on a positive home test. These tests can be ordered through online stores (Target, Walmart, Amazon, etc.), and up to eight tests per month are now reimbursable through your health insurance plan. They can also be ordered for free (up to four tests per household per month) through the US Government’s Department of Health and Human Services website. Many state governments also supply COVID-19 home tests free of charge to their residents.
Purchase reliable digital thermometers to keep in your home. Consider buying an inexpensive thermometer for each member of the household to help prevent spreading the virus to others. If you cannot purchase one for each member of the household, be sure to thoroughly clean the thermometer between each use with an alcohol-based wipe or solution.
4) Oxygen Monitor
For those who need to monitor their COVID-19 symptoms from home, an oxygen monitoring device called an oxygen (or O2) pulse oximeter is an essential tool that will help you monitor how well you are oxygenating. Inexpensive O2 pulse oximeters can be bought online (through Target, Walmart, Amazon, etc.,). For more on pulse oximeters, see our article: Do I Need a Pulse Oximeter?
5) Cold and Cough Medicine
According to the CDC, the most commonly reported symptoms of the Omicron variant include cough, nasal congestion, and runny nose. These symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter medications taken for other cold and flu illnesses. To be prepared best, it is wise to keep some of these medications on hand.
6) Headache, Fever, and Pain Reducers
Other useful over-the-counter medications to have on hand in case of COVID-19 infection are acetaminophen (Tylenol) and/or ibuprofen (Advil). Acetaminophen and ibuprofen help decrease other common symptoms such as headaches, body aches, and fever. Please be cautious when taking acetaminophen in combination with many common over-the-counter cold/cough medications. Many medications can contain acetaminophen as an ingredient, and you do not want to exceed the maximum daily recommended dose. Talk to your healthcare provider about the use of these medications, especially ibuprofen, which may need to be avoided if medications such as “blood thinners” are being used and when other medical conditions are present (such as gastritis or renal disease).
7) Cough Drops
During the Omicron surge I personally tried to find cough drops here in the Midwest, and they could not be found at a single grocery store or pharmacy within 50 miles! I even checked on Amazon, but they were sold out as well. Since cough and sore throat are two of the most common symptoms of Omicron infection, grab a bag or two of cough drops to calm an ailing throat. Honey, or cough drops containing honey, may also help soothe coughs and sore throats.
It is important to stay hydrated when you have any respiratory illness, especially with COVID-19. It may be helpful to have soups, teas, bottled water, and other fluids with electrolytes on hand to help you remain hydrated during this time.
9) Vitamin Supplements (Vitamin D, Vitamin C, and Zinc)
Taking Vitamin C and Vitamin D supplements during respiratory illnesses can be helpful, especially taken on top of a healthy diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Zinc has become one of the most popular suggestions for reducing symptoms of coronavirus. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new vitamin supplements.
In addition to the nine items listed above, it is always wise to try and have at least a week’s worth (preferably two) of prescription medications, toilet paper, tissues, soap, disinfectant/cleaning supplies, medical supplies (such as blood sugar monitoring equipment), pet food, and nonperishables on hand. It is also important to revisit your COVID-19 Action Plan from time to time to make sure it is still up-to-date as new variants of concern arise, as well as to reassess the supplies you have on hand as your family’s needs change.
Keep learning and stay well.
Robyn Brumble, MSN, RN
Director of Scientific Affairs & Research