As more people catch the swine flu and newspapers, magazines, and the internet fill with horrifying predictions of the coming porcine apocalypse, we here at Walletpop felt that it might be a good idea to offer our readers a few cheap, effective tools for weathering the next few weeks. These simple suggestions are easy to find, easy to use, and will probably still come in handy when this whole thing blows over. In the interests of clarity, we have organized them in ascending order, from one (probably a good idea, even if there isn't a swine flu epidemic) to five (Grab on to something stable, Mabel; it's going to be a stormy night!). Here's hoping that you don't need them!
Stage One: Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Swine flu is a virus, which means that your best protection is basically keeping your immune system in top form. While exotic supplements from Coenzyme Q 10 to bovine colostrum are rumored to help, many of the old standbys can also give your immune system a huge boost. Start with a good multivitamin, or at least get your RDA of Vitamins C and B complex, as well as zinc. While you're at it, some sources say that Vitamin D is hugely helpful. Given that it comes from sunlight and milk, we figure that it couldn't hurt.
After the epidemic is over: you should probably still be taking a multivitamin.Stage Two: Hand Sanitizer
You can definitely go too far with this stuff; if you're chugging through more than a bottle a day, you'd better be either working in a hospital or seeking professional help. A note on etiquette: if you feel like you absolutely must use hand sanitizer immediately after shaking hands, offer some to the other guy, as it will make him feel a little bit less like a plague rat.
After the epidemic is over: regardless of the situation, hand sanitizer is pretty useful, particularly if you take public transportation in the winter.
Stage Three: Surgical Masks
In the time it's taken me to write this post, the cost of these things has gone up from ten cents per thousand to approximately $20 apiece. Luckily, this site still seems to be carrying them for the very reasonable price of $5.48 for fifty. While other places offer exciting animal prints and other fun choices, leave the fun masks for Halloween: if you really need to wear surgical masks, you'll also need to change them regularly.
After the epidemic is over: these will make really great hammocks for your daughter's Barbie dolls.
Stage Four: Alcohol Swabs
You probably remember these little guys from the last time you got a vaccination. However, they are useful for an almost infinite number of other things. For example, they are a cheap way to clean counters, bus seats, your grocery cart, the guy sitting next to you on the subway, the scratches you'll get after trying to swab off the guy sitting on the subway, etc., etc. On the other hand, these can also be the gateway drug for a road that ultimately leads to full-on Howard Hughes OCD. If you decide to go that route, be sure to pick up a gas mask, chemical warfare suit, and autoclave. And don't forget: Kleenex boxes make lovely disposable slippers.
After the epidemic is over: Let's face it, if you're swabbing down your cart at Target, we're getting pretty close to a permanent state of emergency.
Stage Five: Wine in a Juice Box
Okay, Nellie, take a step back: if you've gotten past the alcohol swab stage, there's either rioting in the streets or you need to have a time out. With that in mind, take a gander at Three Thieves' "Bullet" packs. Sold in groups of four, the 250 ml wine-filled juice boxes are surprisingly good, and reasonably sterile. Just be sure to finish each box in one sitting. While you're at it, you might want to remind the leader of your small hunter-gatherer pack that wine contains alcohol, which can sterilize you from the inside. Best of all, juice packs are easy to carry and will be handy when you move to a barter-based economy.
After the epidemic is over: Wine is wine and Three Thieves is relatively good. Heck, worst comes to worst, the handy size is easy to sneak into movie theaters, public parks, and Chuck E. Cheese.
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