By Dr. Bilal Shirazi | 09 Apr 2020

How to prepare your household for COVID-19

As many of us around the world are being forced to self-isolate as governments take more stringent measures to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, this week’s blog looks at what you need to do to ensure your household is prepared.


As many of us around the world are being forced to self-isolate as governments take more stringent measures to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, this week’s blog looks at what you need to do to ensure your household is prepared.

Stay informed

Firstly it’s important to stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 advice from public health officials and local authorities.

Know where to go for up to date information in your area. Below is a list of some of the key government resources to check. You may also want to create a list of local organisations you and your household can contact in case you need access to information, healthcare services, support, and other resources.

Stock your larder

While we should avoid panic buying and taking more than we need, it is important to make sure you have sufficient food and drink to get through the lockdown.

Many governments are mandating that people stay home completely or only go out when absolutely necessary. This means you want to avoid a situation where you don’t have sufficient supplies and are forced to leave the house to buy groceries on a regular basis. What’s more you want to make sure your household is prepared should you fall ill and have to self-isolate. The advice is to have sufficient supplies to last two weeks, as 14 days is the length of most self-isolation periods.

So what should you stock up on?

  • Tinned Food: Where possible you should buy food that doesn't need to be kept in the refrigerator and has a long shelf life. This includes canned foods and juices, rice, dried beans, granola bars, preserves and dry cereal. 
  • Fresh Fruit and Veg alternatives: It's important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet during the pandemic. If you may not be able to access to fresh and fruit and vegetables for a while, consider canned or frozen alternatives.
  • Comfort Food: You may also wish to stock up on comfort food that you prefer to eat should you fall ill, such as soup and energy drinks.
  • Baby Food and Pet Supplies: Remember when stocking up on food supplies that you will also need to purchase sufficient food for your baby and any pets, if this applies to your household. 
  • Cleaning Products and Toiletries: Don’t forget to also buy non-edible supplies such as cleaning products and toiletries, including soap and tissues.

Consider your healthcare and medication needs

Of course we are all focused on our health at this time, and it's crucial that your healthcare needs form part of your contingency planning. 

  • Prescriptions: If you have a regular essential prescription, make sure you stock up on a few weeks supply so you don’t run out if you become ill and have to self-isolate. If you’re unsure how to access your medication, contact your doctor or local pharmacy by phone for advice.
  • Cold and Flu Medication: You may also want to make sure you have sufficient supplies of over the counter medication in case you do fall ill. This should include medication you would normally take for managing a fever, such as ibuprofen, or a cough such as throat lozenges.
  • Medical Procedures: If you have a medical procedure planned, you should contact your doctor to see what the arrangements are. In some countries medical professionals are being asked to delay elective, non essential surgery to prevent further spread of the disease. Other regular health checks-ups such as dental and optician appointments may also need to be delayed, but if this is the case, you should make sure you don't forget to rearrange them for a later date. 
  • Health insurance: Finally, you should consider how you will pay for medical bills should the worst happen and you fall ill. If you already have health insurance in place, make sure you know what you are covered for and where the relevant paperwork is kept. For example if you do fall ill, do others in your house hold know where to access your health insurance details?

Prepare for possible illness

It can be difficult to contemplate the worst, but it’s vital that you plan ahead in case you or a family member does fall ill.  

  • Know how to self-isolate: Make sure you know how to self-isolate effectively, including what you need to do if you are caring for a sick member of the household. Check the recommended advice from local authorities; this usually includes allocating a room in your home where the sick person can be isolated if necessary (including a separate bathroom where possible), leaving food outside their door so the infected person does not need to access the kitchen, avoiding sharing personal items, maintaining good personal hygiene and keeping surfaces disinfected regularly.
  • Make an emergency contact list: Make a list of everyone who you need to notify if you do fall ill. The CDC advises families to create an emergency contact list including family, friends, neighbours, healthcare providers, teachers, employers, the local public health department, and other community resources. If all of your household has to self-isolate, do you have a friend or neighbour that can help drop off supplies at your door if necessary?
  • Check arrangements with your employer: You should also make sure you know what emergency plans your employer has in place for COVID-19, including the sick leave policy and who you should inform if you do show symptoms.

Make childcare arrangements

As many schools and nurseries around the world have been closed due to the pandemic, it’s also important to make contingency plans for childcare. We know that disruption to your childcare routine can be extremely difficult for many families, particularly if both parents works, so it’s important you have this conversation early on and consider the various options. 

Make sure you know what your child’s school or childcare facility emergency plans are and discuss arrangements with your employer if necessary. You should also consider what to do if both parents fall ill and are unable to look after the children temporarily.

Prepare your family mentally

While it can be difficult to contemplate the worst happening, it is useful to host a family meeting to discuss what you would do should one of you fall ill, and what the different needs of each person will be, including those that are more vulnerable to the virus. Having a practical conversation about how you will support each other can help to alleviate any anxiety and concerns.

It’s also vital that you plan some fun activities together to help lighten the mood in what may be a very challenging time. Whether it’s a weekly board game night, getting your children involved in the cooking, or a regular virtual catch up with friends and family, there are plenty of ways you can help keep children entertained while stuck indoors.    

Consider how you can help others

Finally, as well as preparing for your own family, it’s important to check in with family and friends who live alone — especially those with chronic diseases that may be more vulnerable than you. You may want to ask an elderly neighbour if they need someone to help buy groceries or collect medication for them; we all need to support each other during this difficult time.

By taking these simple steps you can better prepare your household to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. By planning ahead you can help to keep your family safe and secure, and reduce unnecessary stress and anxiety. We encourage you all to stay home and stay safe, and don’t forget to wash those hands!