Tag Archives: infection

Maintenance: body and mind

Notice something that needs doing, then do it before it starts to create other problems.”

The sentence above is a paraphrase from a recent post of mine, where it applied to our homes and our possessions, and it absolutely applies as well to our own selves, our bodies and minds. Prevention is another word for it!

Without it, we’re stuffed, frankly. Without your health, whether physical, mental or emotional, nothing else can make much of a difference to your life or the lives of those around you: look at any child carer of a disabled adult, or someone who carries around an oxygen tank to enable them to breathe, or a traumatised survivor of a terrorist attack, or a soldier who lives with flashbacks.

Self-care is something we’re continually exhorted to do by the NHS and by every other cash-strapped and resources-strapped organistion tasked with helping us. And as those organisations falter and become more and more overwhelmed, it becomes more and more important to actually take the steps they recommend to us. If we need help, it might be a very long time coming, and might not be in the format we’d choose for ourselves. Much better to carry out a bit of self maintenance, whether it’s prevention or healing, and that will also mean that whatever “dip” you go through probably won’t be as deep or as incapacitating.

So, what kind of things am I talking about? The kind of thing that’s all over the web, TV and radio over the New Year, and each of us needs different levels.


Sleep must be first and foremost – it’s crucial. Without it, you’ll die, eventually. And even if you don’t die, your lifespan, your health, and your quality of life, will all be less than they could have been.

Extra needs: pregnant women, convalescents, teenagers.


Humans can subsist on very little, but there are two cliches to remember, if you want to prosper: you are what you eat. And to live your best life you need to eat and drink well.

Extra needs: intensely active people, convalescents, pregnant women.


Yes, the 2 litres a day is not well researched, and I wouldn’t recommend that. But we certainly need to stay hydrated – to use our bodies, to flush toxins, to keep our brain functioning (ever had a dehydration headache? I have, especially before I was due to have a general anaesthetic. Not a good feeling).

Extra needs: intensely active people. People on toxic treatments.


Everybody knows we need exercise. A lot of the things a prepper does will help you to exercise: nobody needs to be a gym bunny, but we all need to stretch ourselves physically. Remember that flexibility, strength and stamina are different things and it really isn’t one size fits all.

Extra needs: newbies building up their strength and fitness; convalescents; older people; anyone who has a problem area: does anyone reading this have a bad back, for instance?

Weak Spots

You absolutely have to look after your own weak spots, building that into your own routine. Maybe it’s that bad back. Maybe it’s your eyes, or you sunbathed a lot as a kid and now your doctor has told you to look out for cancerous changes in your moles. You know your own weak spots, I’m sure you do: but what do you do about them? I was thinking how essential our vision is, in everyday situations and when we need our preps. How do you look after your vision, if at all? Here are some ideas:

  • wear sunglasses!

  • have a couple of eye-baths ready, and know what kind of liquid you can use in them: tap water, distilled, what?

  • eye exercises: both the muscles around the eye, and the focussing mechanisms within the eye.

  • learning to rest those same muscles. Experiment with closing your eyes when you don’t actually need to see what’s around you: like when you’re sitting on the toilet, for example!

  • there are good self-help websites out there for all sorts of maintenance issues: Seeing  and WebMD are two that are to do with eyesight, that can be really helpful.

After these basic four needs, I think that the other categories, although just as important, are based even more upon our needs as individuals, there’s such a wide variety in the amount each of us needs in terms of human contact, adventure, recovery time and so on.

Human Contact.

We all need people in our lives too, some more than others. I’m a pretty solitary person, currently living alone as well, but even I need to see people regularly. Without connection, we slowly sink down and lose ourselves.

Safety and Adventure.

We need both of these! Long term, we need safety – to relax, to have fun, to raise children, whatever. But we also need the buzz that adventure gives us, and if we can’t get it in real terms through battling sabre toothed tigers or climbing mountains, then we’ll get it from horror films and online gaming. Get your adventure in as positive a way as you can find, something that feeds you long term as well as giving you an adrenalin buzz. Though going on rollercoasters also has something to recommend it…

Purpose and Contentment.

These two are also connected, I feel. A deep long term purpose in your life is bound to help you feel contented, even if you don’t fully accomplish your goal. Contentment is very different from happiness, by the way. You can work at doing things that help you feel contented, but you can’t work at being happy. Even the American Constitution acknowledges this: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Not just happiness, but its pursuit. Without some sort of purpose, sooner or later a human will drift into a negative spiral of some description.

Recovery time, and Healing

Yep, these get their own category! They can be just as crucial as sleep, in some ways, as far as prepping is concerned.

Physical: you rest your muscles somewhat, after strenuous labour. You also need to clean your teeth regularly. And protect your eyes from injury and eyestrain. You’ll have your own focus for this – respect your own body and your own needs.

Emotional: when you survive an armed robbery, a mugging, a flood, a house fire, and a thousand other stressful situations, you need to deal with the after-effects and the consequences, to bring you back up to speed. One particularly important thing about emotional maintenance is that some types are helpful to some or even most people, but are actively destructive to others. It’s especially important to respect individual wishes here, though that may have to be overridden in extreme situations when it conflicts with the safety of the rest of the group. For instance, when someone traumatised by seeing something terrible refuses to accept help, and instead acts out with drunkenness and violence.


I hope this helps: and if anyone has any self-care, or maintenance steps that they take, I’d love to hear about it.

RICE: a new-to-me medical acronym

I can’t emphasise enough that this is about a small medical experience of my own – it’s not medical advice.  That said, please keep reading …

I needed to pop over to my GP’s last week, and luckily I was able to squeeze in to their “clinic” – which seemed to mean “you don’t get an appointment, just turn up at midday and we’ll see you when we can”.  Fair enough – I was seen at about 12.20, in and out in a few minutes.


I’d been chopping back brambles during the previous weekend – which is most definitely a prep, clearing a garden so that you can plant edibles – and at the end of the day, noticed a bright red area.  A bite?  A bramble puncture?  Who knows, I’d have to have a time machine to find out.  But 24 hours later, there was a big problem, a huge swelling, that increased the size of my ankle by maybe 40% . Not great, not great at all.

Since it was still there two and a half days later, I went to the doc.  After looking at the NHS website, I was concerned there might be an infection, especially an infection of the cellulitis variety, which can be horrendous.  But although it was bright red, it wasn’t sore and it wasn’t tender, so I was hopeful it was something easily sorted.

And it was! I was given the acronym RICE: rest, ice, compress, elevate.

REST: let your body heal a bit.  Not so relevant to me this time, but important at other times. Apparently, it’s best to take 1 or 2 days rest, if indicated by a doctor.

ICE: to take down the swelling, and help the area heal faster.  Don’t put the ice directly on the skin, wrap it in a towel or just use the classic bag of frozen peas, wrapped in a tea towel.

COMPRESS: to help limit the swelling to the injured area, and to give support.  It’s crucial not to compress too much, if you cut off the blood supply to the affected area, you could then give yourself a life-changing, totally avoidable injury.

ELEVATE: elevating to ease the pressure on the wound, and to help gravity with the healing.

More detail on all of this is available on this website, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which is the only one I could find, oddly.  There’s a WebMD page too.

Because of the particulars of my little wound, I was also advised to use an antihistamine, and an antiseptic cream such as Savlon. Job done.

It did start me thinking about wounds like this in relation to prepping, however.  If it had been an infection, that would have depended upon antibiotics to cure it – and antibiotic useage is in deep trouble right now, as all the drugs we have are becoming less effective, and resistance has recently been discovered even to the antibiotic of last resort, as described in this BBC report from the end of last year.  And everyday gardening is mentioned in that report, incidentally.

Once I’ve been wearing my heavy duty gardening gloves, I’ve become pretty cavalier about protection whilst gardening: that’s going to change.  Ankles are vulnerable too, even in sturdy sandals like mine, there are plenty of openings that leave you vulnerable to problems.  I really don’t fancy becoming a statistic in the Antibiotics Apocalypse, even though that phrase is only a marketing headline, it does sum up what could well be a severe problem in the future.

Ponds – front garden and otherwise!

The more I read about ponds, the more I think that they’re a really good use of otherwise wasted space in the front of the house: done well, they’ll look merely ornamental, but actually be extremely useful. And that’s just for the plants, let alone the possibility of breeding your own fish (to be eaten!). PFAF has a good general article about edible water and bog gardens.

Of the useful cropping plants in ponds, duckweed springs to mind first of all: it’s very common and in large ponds it can be difficult to keep under control, so regular cropping would be excellent news all round. It can be used as a survival food, but it has a lot of uses in the garden as well, as a green manure, a mulch and food for animals and fish.  For a brilliant site about it’s many uses, you can’t do better than go here.  The scientist who runs this site, Tamra Fakhoorian, is also what we’d call a smallholder or part-time farmer maybe, in Kentucky, her breadth of knowledge is inspiring.  As an example of what can be done, here’s a large pond local to me adapted for angling, with a healthy crop of duckweed too:


Water cress is also a brilliant crop, and is already used for humans, of course.  Water chestnut too.   Source the plants from a reputable nursery, and off you go.

Plants that provide cover and food for small animals are a good idea too – frogs will eat slugs and other garden pests, for instance. Plant pickerelweed and wild rice (the seeds are edible for humans too) as well as hornwort and elodea to help them. Hornwort can be eaten by humans, and elodea is said to be an emetic (causes vomiting) – so do your homework about exactly what plants you want!

If you have any sort of pond at all, you’ll need a sloping edge to at least part of your pond, so that those valuable, pest-reducing little insects and animals can get out of your pond, if they fall in.  This one is ideal, and the ducks think so too:


There are all sorts of opportunities going begging: the picture below shows a few of them.   The drainage pipe that feeds it has become blocked, the water is stagnant, a tree has grown up inside the pond itself.  The structural elements surrounding it (and this is indeed somebody’s front garden) are obviously well maintained, but the pond element itself has been abandoned.  Very sad.


One word of warning, especially if you also go foraging for any of these plants – liver flukes are a real danger, being picked up from contaminated water, undercooked fish or raw plant material from infected sites. Care should always be taken on matters of hygiene, of course, but common sense will help you here: the fluke life cycle is complex, needing both snails and fishes before it can infect mammals. E. coli can be found in waterplants too, occasionally.

What about breeding your own fish? Carp are a genuine possibility in the UK, with a firm headquartered in Scotland breeding them in Devon, for aquaponics systems. There are quite a few fish farms breeding carp for fisheries – some local investigation will help you find one nearer.  The British Aquaponics Association is listed below.

The North American preference is tilapia, again for aquaponics systems – not really the sort of pond for the front garden, but certainly something to think about for the back garden, as a less obtrusive option. Whatever you do, if you have livestock of any description, fish included, a lot of research and commitment is necessary, to avoid unnecessary suffering and to safely maximise production.


Water features need childproofing – especially in the front gaden. Exuberant passers-by under the age of criminal responsibility may trespass. They shouldn’t, but they do – and you may have children of your own, or visitors with children.

Basically, RoSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, recommends best practice of “a rigid mesh or grille” able to support the weight of a child up to age 4 – 5, and remain above the water at all times. That age cut-off is because it’s only then that children are aware of what warnings about danger might mean. If such strong mesh is impossible for your pond for some reason, mesh that’s strong enough to support a two year old toddler is a basic preventative measure.

If you’re growing crops in a water feature that’s only three inches deep or something similar, then that’s probably overkill – but bear in mind that something that shallow is going to freeze during most winters in the UK, and that’s going to be useless for fish, unless …. Tamra at Duckweed Gardening has some great ideas about transplanting crops into indoor containers – her weather issues in Kentucky are pretty different from ours in the UK, of course, but they can be adapted to our needs. Transplanting fish, however, is a tricky situation, and not something that I’d contemplate.


So there we are. I hope I’ve covinced you that front gardens can have their uses. It can be a little tricky, but there are plenty of different ways to use them for prepping, as well as enjoyment.  Here’s one to enjoy, taken at a village pond near to me:


Further Reading

The British Aquaponic Association – their newsletter, and last year’s conference presentations, can be downloaded.

Permaculture has a deep interest in ponds, of course, and this is some of the advice and research they have available.

PFAF is an encyclopaedic site full of detailed information about all sorts of plants worldwide. In my opinion, it gathers rather than assesses information, but it can’t be bettered as a pointer to what you need to look out for.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. For a prepping blog, why not? They have useful information.

A private American site, already quoted in the post above, with really valuable information on duckweed for many uses and links to much of the scientific literature about it.

Dental Care, Part Two

I didn’t expect to need to write a second post about dental care in relation to prepping, but there’s a lot more information available than I managed to fit into the first post.

Right now we have the NHS picking up the basics of dental care, as well as millions of people who pay for private dental care. But what if something really bad happened?  It could be your own unemployment when you can no longer afford even NHS payments, financial crisis worse than 2008, the La Palma earthquake? Even if the current financial situation gets worse for the NHS, many of us could be in trouble. I’ve edited this for flippancy, because it’s very real – in these situations, we might be well and truly stuck if we couldn’t take care of ourselves.

1. Acids in our food

One of the most important things to take on board is about acids in our food. Acids in food and drink can attack teeth in the same way as dental plaque attacks them. Teeth can repair themselves if given time (45 minutes or so after eating), so the advice is not to have sugary substances too often during your day, and not to snack. If you snack, you’ll be spending longer each day in that “recovery” time, when the acids and sugars are in plentiful supply in your mouth, and potentially damaging your teeth.

In addition, we shouldn’t brush our teeth immediately after eating, as that can cause extra damage in itself: the normal acids and sugars from eating are all strongly present in our mouths, and if you brush your teeth at this time, you’re actually helping them to attack your tooth enamel.

If you don’t have a toothbrush, or are in a situation where you can’t brush your teeth, chewing sugar free gum is recommended – this is because it increases the flow of that healthy saliva to fight the plaque-forming acids.

2. Clove Oil

Clove oil is often applied directly to gums, and to aching teeth, for pain relief. and I have some myself, for exactly this reason. However, there are three things to bear in mind, according to the USA site of WebMD, even though medical research bears out the pain relief properties:

– it contains a substance called eugenol, which seems to slow blood clotting.

– it may not be as effective as originally thought at relieving pain (although I’d have thought that something is better than nothing).

– it is almost certainly unsafe for children, with problems including seizures and liver damage.

– heavy adult use may give rise to damage to the gums, tooth pulp, skin and mucous membranes.

In other words, it’s not a miracle application – use sensibly.

3. Losing a tooth

A programme on BBC1 recently about teeth (The Truth About Teeth, broadcast in July of this year) mentioned something very interesting about what to do if you accidentally knock out a tooth (an adult tooth, that is).


– hold it while you take it to your dentist

– scrub it

– put it in ice or water, the cells will explode and die.

– leave it in your pocket


– pick it up by the tip that you normally see, so you don’t damage the sensitive root cells.

– lick it, to get off any dirt.

– stick it back in the gum, in exactly the place it came from. Minutes count.

– get to a dentist, as quickly as possible.

if you can’t bear to put it back in your mouth, put it in milk – that will keep it alive for up to six hours, apparently.

4. Salty Gargle

Gargling salty warm water won’t prevent a toothache, and it won’t prevent a cavity from growing, but it most certainly will work to counter any infection you have, until you can get to a dentist (or a doctor, if the problem isn’t only with your teeth). WebMD US and UK, and my very own dentist, all recommend it, and there’s research to prove it, published here by The US National Library of Medicine.

5. Some links

Here’s one of the biggest and best resources, which I didn’t mention in Part One:   Where there is no dentist

This is an astonishing resource – available to all for free. I’ve linked to the page requested on Hesperian’s website, as this is where they also publish updates. I can’t say enough good things about Hesperian, and I urge everyone who reads this to use that link and download for free, or buy print copies of any of the books that seem remotely relevant to you. It’s mostly meant for people in developing countries – but there are plenty of people in the developed world who need more information about helping themselves too.

There are UK resources specifically for conditions in this country too, of course, and the main one is the patients’ website of the British Dental Association.  There’s a lot of information here, but it’s trying so hard to be “friendly”, it’s fussy and not terribly logical. Root around, though, and you’ll find a lot of information and self-help advice.

The British Dental Health Foundation are an independent charity working to improve dental health internationally. They have a pretty comprehensive list of topics underneath the heading “Tell Me About”, as well as in other areas.

6. Tea Tree Oil

Over at WebMD/US, there’s a specific advisory against using tea tree oil in the mouth (or ears, or eyes). Apparently it can cause results as severe as coma, so the warning is important.

To Conclude

Occasional use of clove oil seems to be the only use for essential oil in dentistry terms.  Salty gargles to help keep the mouth clean are fine. And Over The Counter pain relief is relevant – ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetemol, in the recommended doses. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that packing the affected area with dampened teabags is a relief.  But all in all, all of the above bears out that prevention is better than cure.  Which could be a prepper’s motto in any case.

Stay healthy!

Pandemic Avoidance, Part Two

There’s been a big gap between Part One and Part Two, my apologies – publishing my very first kindle book took up lots more time than I thought it would. I’m very happy with how things went, and I can see ways to improve on the experience, so that’s good too.

So, on to the reason for the post, infection avoidance – probably during a pandemic, but maybe during annual flu season too.

Public Toilets

I mentioned in Part One about not using public toilets if at all possible – but sometimes it isn’t possible. When I go to see family, for instance, the journey is almost 7 hours, door-to-door, and one Christmas when the connections were very bad, it was 12 hours. If you’re like me, you need to use the toilet during a journey of that length! I don’t drink water “on the hour every hour” as used to be recommended, but I certainly drink enough to avoid dehydration headaches.

I don’t use a train toilet unless I’m absolutely desperate: I’d rather use the ones in train stations, even though you have to pay a mint. Toilets on trains are notoriously dirty, and notoriously wet underfoot, and you can get banged into the walls – which are probably also dirty – by the motion of the train.

When it comes to a row of toilets in public centres, recent research has shown that fewer people use the toilets or urinals that are right by the door – they’re instinctively avoided. A straw poll of my friends confirmed this. Which means that the ones nearest the door get less use, but hopefully still get cleaned as often, so they’re less dirty. Result!

I’ve seen an American recommendation to flush a public toilet before you use it, as well as after. I don’t quite get the logic of this, because if its clean, it’s already been flushed. If in doubt, however, yes, flushing it before you use it can mean that splash caused by peeing from a great height (sorry!) at least happens with clean water. Then flush afterwards so that the next member of the public has a clean (ish) toilet to use.

There’s also “faecal florescence” to consider! The flush of a toilet catapults microscopic water particles high into the air, at least as high as your face. It sounds true to me, but I’ve also seen a Mythbusters TV programme that experimented as only they can, and exploded it definitively as a myth. Still, no harm in getting out of the cubicle as quickly as possible after flushing, just in case …

Toilet seats. You need your toilet seat to be dry, if you’re going to sit on it. For a good portion of the time, most women “hover” – which exercises the thigh muscles, if nothing else. But sometimes you need to sit down, if you’re going to pass a bowel motion, for example: then you have to get the seat dry. There may be very little (or no) toilet paper available, so I’d recommend you carry your own: squeeze some hand gel onto it, and there you are. Many women I speak to do this even now.

Toilet floors. Well, they’re often wet, aren’t they? Is it a leaking cistern, a leaking toilet, or urine from someone who missed the toilet or urinal? I think you need to assume the worst – even if you can see a cistern leak, it doesn’t mean there isn’t another leak, from the dirty water in the toilet, that you can’t see yet. So, at the very least, don’t put your bags down on the floor – hang them up somewhere, or hang them round your neck for that matter. Letting your clothes puddle on the floor isn’t a good idea, and nor is walking in there in bare feet in the summer!

Wash your hands! And if you have to leave the cubicle before you can do that, then touch your own stuff, like bag handles, as little as possible. If you have to touch the exit door of the toilets after you’ve washed your hands, then use a piece of the toilet paper you’ve brought with you to do it, and throw it away afterwards.

Sometimes there are still toilets that are revolting enough that they don’t have water in the basin taps, let alone toilet paper: in that situation, I recommend you vigorously rub your hands together, and then apply antibacterial hand gel and rub vigorously again. I carry my hand gel in a separate little pocket, where I can get at it without touching anything else I’m carrying.


Now, this had to be completely a matter of research – on the web, and with the various men in my life, who stammered through some awkward explanations, because I’m female, you see, and no matter how post-feminist enlightenment has changed the world, women still tend not to use men’s urinals….

Men’s Health magazine reported in 2013 on a Brigham Young University study about men’s use of urinals … astonishing, what universities will study! But this one turns out to have a lot of practical applications, all aimed (sorry!) at keeping the stream of urine intact, to avoid splashback and spreading ordinary bacteria. In a pandemic, obviously, there’s a chance of much worse being spread too, the pandemic virus. It sounds like the students cooked up some sort of artificial bladder to release “urine” at an average rate, filming from all sorts of angles all the while, to test out how much spray was caused, and by what methods. And to avoid “splash crowns”, especially from toilets rather than urinals (where the stream of pee is longer) this is what they found:

– stand close, so your stream of pee doesn’t break up into droplets (because droplets splatter more easily than a steady stream) but not so close that you touch the urinal with any part of your body.

– aim is crucial, as I think most guys already know. But as far as not picking up or passing on infections, aim towards the sides of the urinal at a downward slant; they draw the excellent analogy of keeping the head of foam on your beer to a minimum – you pour it down the side of your glass, not straight in.

– boys who aren’t quite tall enough to use a normal-size urinal should be encouraged to sit on a toilet, or use a footstool to be at the urinal – please don’t make a macho thing out of it!

Check out the Men’s Health Infographic at their site – it genuinely summarises a lot of information very simply!

I wonder if the blokes reading this have any tips? Care to share?

Hygiene At Home

For me, hygiene at home starts when I get home: washing my hands, and if there’s an infection issue, salt water gargling and rinsing my eyes, then drying thoroughly. Outer clothes and shoes, anything I’ve touched while I’m out, and anything that I’ve brought in from outside (such as groceries, new clothes, books, dvds, anything really) sit in my porch for a little while while I think about what needs to be done. Does this sound excessive? I bought a thin, summer weight dressing gown as a gift recently – but I don’t know who’d touched it in the shop that day, or whether they’d just wiped their nose, or a child had coughed on it as they’d walked by.

What to do with used tissues? If someone in your home is streaming with cold or ordinary flu or pandemic flu, I advise putting the tissues into a plastic bag straight away, not just leaving them in an open bin, or worse still putting them on the floor temporarily. Use a small plastic bag, tie it up and throw them away – two, three times a day if necessary. Get the germs out of your house, especially if we’re talking about a life threatening pandemic. I’ve no idea if someone recovering from a case of flu can reinfect themselves from their own tissues, and I have no intention of being the guinea pig! I advise that you think as highly of yourselves too.

If there’s a life threatening pandemic on, and you live in an area that’s at all densely populated, something to consider is when you ventilate your house, for your sake and the sake of your neighbours. You should give your home an airing during times when there are as few people as possible around – so that you pass your germs on as little as possible, and pick up as few germs as possible. You need oxygen more than you need to avoid germs!

There are other elements to hygiene at home, of course, mostly concerned with avoiding food poisoning, so I won’t cover those here.

I think that’s it for now. I do want to write about our immune system, and when we should and shouldn’t help it along – but once again, this is long enough, so I’ll do a Part Three after a while. Not right away though, I’m having fun learning about other things – computers, solar power and bug out bags, to name just a few. But if anyone has any tips on pandemic avoidance, please share in the comments below – it’s one of the most helpful things any of us can do.

Pandemics and Infection Avoidance

Pandemics are currently the greatest potential threat to us here in the UK, according to the government itself – the Cabinet Office report I linked to last week, in relation to volcanic eruptions, states that very clearly.  Searching the gov.uk site led me here and here too which includes links about face masks and hand hygiene.  All very useful for getting the official take on things.

Personally, I don’t wait for an official declaration of pandemic before I start taking precautions – I take precautions during the annual flu season as well, because my immune system is at wet-paper-bag status for most of the year. So I thought it would be helpful to compile a list of precautions, and that’s what’s in the rest of this post. If anybody has any other precautions they use, or that they’ve heard of, I’d really appreciate you posting in the comments. As individuals, we have no control at all about whether an epidemic or a pandemic start up, but we have at least some control over the level of our exposure to it.

I’d advise keeping in touch with the news, internationally, nationally and locally, so that you know if the infection is spreading, mutating or on the decrease. This will also inform you of any new information about counter-measures such as vaccines. A couple of the big websites where you can find that level of news at a free, basic level are HealthMap and Global Incident Map.  These sites look really scary at first, but they give you an idea of whats happening. Remember, however, as we saw from the last six months’ Ebola cases outside of Africa – anywhere with an airport is vulnerable. Anywhere. By the way, both these sites are owned by Americans, according to their WhoIs data, and they claim many US corporate and governmental accounts.

There are several issues to take into account.

1 avoiding infection

2 killing infection if you come into contact with it

3 coming into contact with as little infection as possible.

4 strengthening your immune system. Or not.

I intended to explore each of these topics separately, but after writing it that way for a bit, it was like doing a jigsaw upside down, it just didn’t make sense. So the headings below are for separate ares of our lives: shopping, transport, public toilets, hygiene at home and so on.

Some of these measures are probably already part of the daily routine for people with vulnerable immune systems, while to others they may seem completely foreign. How many of these measures you implement is always a matter of choice, of course; but what if you were the one who brought the infection home to your kids, because you happened to be shopping at the same time as someone who’d just got off a plane and was infected with a pandemic virus? It’s possible, so please consider these things in that light.


Whereabouts we live in the country has some sort of effect on whether we catch a pandemic infection, though it’s not overriding, of course. If you live ten minutes from Heathrow, you’re probably exposed to a new infection more than someone living on, say, the Shetlands. But as I said above, anywhere with an airport is vulnerable at short notice, and the population density doesn’t make that much difference. It can just take one person ….

Location is important on a micro level as well as macro. You should choose your location in public places as carefully as possible – a waiting room, a bank, a train etc. Be aware of the air flows, and stay as close as possible to the source of fresh (not air conditioned) air. But don’t position yourself so that people can cough all over you: it may seem sensible on a train to sit as close to the doors as possible, but then you’re most likely to have people standing by you – and if they cough, then frankly, it goes all over you. Don’t let that happen during a pandemic.


Stockpile as much food and supplies as you can, and by supplies I mean things like spare fuses, lightbulbs and laces for your trainers. Things that are important and useful, but small and easily stored. It seems crazy to me to risk exposure during a pandemic wave to buy items like these. It might even be worth putting your shopping on credit cards, even if you can’t pay it off at the end of the month, during this sort of emergency, especially if you have a 0% deal you can access.

When you do need to shop, buy as much as possible at one shop, or at least on one trip – growing your own food will help you cut down on some shopping, but most of us are very far from self sufficient even in vegetables. So learn to shop safely: as few shops as possible, hand gel to clean the handle of the supermarket trolley and the self service till (using the self service may be a pain at first, but it means that the last shop worker to handle your goods was the one who actually put them on the shelf, and that might have been some time ago, long enough for viruses to die).

When you get your shopping home, you should have two buckets by the front door, along with a drainage or drying area (old towels in the cloakroom? That sort of thing) : one bucket containing a weak bleach solution, and the next containing ordinary water – use the bleach first, then the water, then the towels or drainage. Even I don’t do this during flu season, but I would in a pandemic, definitely.

The above bleach/water/drying or drainage procedure should also be followed if you have a delivery of course, whether from a supermarket or any other online shopping. Online shopping certainly avoids point-of-purchase infection, but you still have to take physical possession of whatever it is.

Pay by card to avoid handling cash. A card is much easier to disinfect than notes and coins, and if you’re using a contactless card (safely sitting in its RFID wallet for most of the time, I hope!) then that’s even better.


Do you have the sort of job where you could work from home, and simply avoid going out for big chunks of time? Or do you have work appointments at your home, or in a cafe? Skype is your friend in this situation; with local people, you could even just have a walk in the open air, in a quiet place. Negotiating with your employer could actually be a survival skill in this situation. And for your employer, business continuity would potentially be very valuable; retaining their skilled workforce certainly counts under this heading.

If you take payments from people, whether goods or services, ask them to pay you online – you don’t have to handle their cheques and envelopes, and you don’t have to go into the bank to deposit the cheque.

If you do have to travel, whether for work or anything else, travel at the quieter times of day if at all possible, even if that means spending longer at work. You could also change your route or method of transport – a bus instead of a train for short journeys, for example. Or walk! Again, negotiate with your employer to get the best deal for you and for them.

Personal Life

For your personal finances and arrangements, just as for your work, do as much online as you can, this will vastly reduce your exposure to infection. Use skype, facebook, ordinary email, texting, whatever you can, for yourself and your kids. Even conference calls, for small groups! But we’re a social species, and I think it’s inevitable that people will still want to meet up socially, in small numbers at least; larger events may well be prohibited during the active waves of any pandemic.

Each time you avoid infectious contact, you increase your chances of avoiding the pandemic altogether, and if it’s one with a high fatality count, that could be the difference between life and death. I’ve put it very melodramatically, but it might be true one day.

Even if you do decide to attend smaller social events, there are still things you can do to minimise the chances of infection: ask for part of the event to be held outdoors if at all possible, as viruses spread much less easily in the open air; walk to the event, or travel during a quiet part of the day or a (comparatively) quiet route; have any necessary tickets already so you don’t have to handle cash, take your own food and drink if possible (some venues forbid this, and it may be a step too far for your children), don’t use the public toilets, don’t shake hands. And of course, you should always take tissues and hand gel. You should also always use plasters on broken skin, especially on your hands during pandemics – if you want to let a cut breathe, then do it at home, where it’s safer.

When out and about, don’t touch anything you don’t have to touch. A banister, for example – very few people absolutely have to use a banister, but nearly everyone touches them. There’s no need, if your sense of balance is at all adequate. If there’s a swing door, push it with your foot. When seated on public transport, don’t get up from your seat until you’ve reached your stop (and then make sure you don’t miss your stop!) so that you don’t need to grab any handholds – I do this one already, because of arthritis in my shoulders, holding on in a moving train or bus is just too painful.

Assume you need a distance of about ten feet to avoid germs being passed to you by someone coughing or sneezing. Depending on various factors – wind, whether they cover their mouth and nose – this may be too much or not enough. But ten feet is often mentioned in studies of how bacteria and viruses are passed between people, so it’s a good average.

Finally, make a conscious effort not to touch your face – if you’re punching numbers into a bank’s key pad, or paying by cash, or picking up a Click and Collect delivery, you’re touching things that have recently been touched by other people. Keeping away from your face until you can wash your hands when you get home is just common sense, it’s advised even during ordinary flu season.

To Be Continued!

There’s still a lot to say, so there’ll be a Part Two of this next week, this post is long enough.  Do check back again, and please let me know if you see a gap in what I’ve written.