by Tim Smith
We can be so busy running around buying food, water, batteries and toilet paper that sometimes it’s easy to forget one thing that is absolutely vital to our health: medication.
Stephanie Simons, the head pharmacist at Lindo’s, has witnessed first-hand how many families leave it to the last minute before trying to stock up their medicine as a storm approaches.
“Absolutely! All the time!” Simons says. “I think that in some way we enjoy that last-minute adrenaline rush.”
While Bermuda has been fortunate to have not had any serious storms recently, Simons says it’s a good idea to make up a survival kit at the start of hurricane season. Use any plastic container with a secure lid and put it somewhere easily accessible for when it’s needed.
“Every year the kit could be taken out, dusted off, contents checked and refilled as needed.”
Dr. Kyjuan Brown, the medical director at Northshore Medical & Aesthetics Centre, has seen the consequences of that lack of preparedness.
“When a hurricane hits, we can go without power or lose our infrastructure for a few days, so it’s important that we have all the medication we need in our homes,” he says. “Make sure you get everything you need. People come in with complications because they failed to prepare and end up running to the hospital for things like diarrhea or asthma.”
Dr. Brown adds, “Once you are down to your last month of your prescription, you should get some more. People come to me and say, ‘I’m on my last tablet,’ and sometimes it takes three or four days to find them an appointment so they can end up going without. You can take an empty prescription to the pharmacy and get a 10-day emergency supply, as long as it’s got your name and label on it. A lot of people don’t know that.”
Before a storm, Simons advises people to keep a two-to-four-week supply of their prescription medicine in case they have limited access to a pharmacy. “Having a current list of medications taken would also be handy in case of any emergency,” she adds.
Other items for your medicine cabinet include:
FIRST AID SUPPLIES
This includes bandages, gauze, antibiotic cream, burn gel, quick clot and antiseptics like Bactine or Dettol for cleaning any cuts and scrapes.
Dr. Brown says: “You might walk outside after the storm and get your foot punctured by a nail or something. You may be cutting down a tree and get a splinter. We see a lot of cuts, bruises and sprains.”
These come in so many different shapes and sizes, it can sometimes be confusing to work out which is appropriate for your condition. Simons provides the following advice:
Aspirin will reduce pain, fever and swelling.
Tylenol (paracetamol or acetaminophen) is recommended for people who might be allergic to aspirin, asthmatic or taking blood thinners. It will ease pain and fever.
Ibuprofen (Advil) and Naproxen (Aleve) are anti-inflammatory drugs. They will treat pain, fever and inflammation such as muscle pain, strain, stiffness and swelling.
Bear in mind that different family members, from infants to the elderly, require different types of painkillers.
All those extra chips, cookies and other comforting but unhealthy snacks, combined with your inability to cook your usual balanced diet, may take their toll on your digestion system.
“Oftentimes during a hurricane, we get constipated because we eat a lot of foods we are not supposed to,” Dr. Brown says. “Fibre is the more natural solution to constipation. A stool softener can be a good choice. It’s more gentle than something like Senna. You might not be able to get to a bathroom which could make things uncomfortable if you use a strong laxative.”
On the other hand, if your tank water supply becomes contaminated, you may need something to settle your stomach, such as Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, Tums or Diovol.
Dr. Brown warns against taking Imodium too frequently in normal circumstances, but adds: “You don’t want to be losing fluids and electrolytes, especially for seniors and children. After a hurricane, we are quite busy with people visiting us with upset stomachs or constipation. It could be as a result of not having what you need at home.”
Our bodies rely on minerals known as electrolytes which deliver fluids to our cells. When we lose them through sweating, it impairs our bodily functions such as blood clotting, muscle contractions, acid balance and fluid regulation.
Dr. Brown says: “During a hurricane, it’s usually the summer so it could be very, very hot, and your air conditioner might be off with the windows closed. You could be sweating and losing electrolytes.”
He says drinking water won’t necessarily rehydrate you. “When you are drinking water, you are diluting the electrolytes you have in your body, especially over a long period of time.”
Electrolytes come in little sachets, so you can get four or five per person just to have in your home. “I don’t recommend that we should drink them all the time, because normally we are going to get them from the foods and liquids we consume.”
Dr. Brown recommends keeping antihistamines, such as Zyrtec, in case you have an allergic reaction. People who need epi pens should make sure they are readily accessible and not expired.
“Make sure you have three,” Dr. Brown says. “You may need them to save your life and prevent anaphylactic shock. The trees may be down and blocking the road so you can’t make it to hospital.”
Dr. Brown has developed a range of supplements which can help boost immunity and support digestion. For more information, visit www. drbrownslaboratory.com.
A Pharmacist’s TOP TIPS
- Keep all your medicine in a waterproof box in a safe room that you can access at all times.
- Check all best before dates and replace medicines that have expired.
- Stock up on ice or instant cold packs if your medicine needs to be kept cold.
- Check on your neighbours, friends and relatives who might not be able to collect their own supplies.