Grab the menthol chest balm and rehydration tabs!

Fear of further lockdowns has sparked the return of people panic-buying loo rolls and supermarket rationing. 

But if you come down with Covid-19 and can’t get to the shops, a toilet roll isn’t going to help tackle your symptoms or make you more comfortable. 

Here, CAROLINE JONES asks the health experts what supplies we should be stocking up on — in addition to a decent thermometer — just in case . . .

People have been rushing to panic-buy loo rolls at supermarkets once again as coronavirus cases continue to rise

People have been rushing to panic-buy loo rolls at supermarkets once again as coronavirus cases continue to rise 

PARACETAMOL

A standard box of 24 paracetamol tablets is a necessary basic for dealing with fevers and pain, says Dr Nisa Aslam, a GP in London.

A standard box of 24 paracetamol tablets is a necessary basic for dealing with fevers and pain

A standard box of 24 paracetamol tablets is a necessary basic for dealing with fevers and pain

It’s not clear exactly how the pills work, but with a fever they’re thought to affect the area of the brain that regulates body temperature. 

With pain they block the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which are responsible for sending pain messages to the brain.

Massive demand in March, when Covid cases were increasing fast, led to a shortage across the UK.

‘If you can’t find any, cold and flu combination tablets or remedies that you make up into a liquid, such as Lemsip, also contain paracetamol,’ says Dr Aslam.

But she warns: ‘Be aware that they often contain caffeine and decongestants, so may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with heart conditions.’

O.R.S. Hydration Tablets (£4.32, boots.com)

O.R.S. Hydration Tablets (£4.32, boots.com) 

REHYDRATION TABS 

‘The fever caused by Covid-19 can make your body lose more fluid than usual through sweating, as can diarrhoea and vomiting,’ says Dr Aslam.

‘Drink plenty of water or diluted squash — or you could try a rehydration drink.’ 

O.R.S. Hydration Tablets (£4.32, boots.com) can be dissolved into a glass of water and contain electrolytes — vital salts such as sodium and potassium which keep the muscles and nervous system functioning properly — plus sugar for energy, which the body loses when dehydrated.

MENTHOL CHEST BALM 

Rubbing a menthol balm such as Vicks VapoRub (£4.35, boots.com) on your chest can help soothe an inflamed airway

Rubbing a menthol balm such as Vicks VapoRub (£4.35, boots.com) on your chest can help soothe an inflamed airway

A persistent dry cough is a common symptom of Covid-19. 

Rubbing a menthol balm such as Vicks VapoRub (£4.35, boots.com) on your chest or back and inhaling it can help soothe an inflamed airway, reducing discomfort and coughs, says Dr Aslam.

LEMON AND HONEY 

Mixing hot water with lemon juice and a little honey can help ease the symptoms of a dry cough

Mixing hot water with lemon juice and a little honey can help ease the symptoms of a dry cough

Mixtures containing glycerol or sucrose in particular will ease the dry cough that is associated with the coronavirus.

If you don’t have cough syrup at home, mix hot water with lemon juice and a little honey.

Dr Aslam says: ‘Like the glycerol in cough syrup, honey’s viscous nature coats and soothes the inflamed tissue in the throat.’

A PULSE OXIMETER 

A pulse oximeter, a device that clips on to the end of your finger, can check for low blood oxygen levels

A pulse oximeter, a device that clips on to the end of your finger, can check for low blood oxygen levels

Low blood oxygen levels are a sign that Covid-19 symptoms are worsening — you can check this with a pulse oximeter, a device that clips on to the end of your finger.

Available from some High Street chemists or online from around £20, devices for home use are a good idea for those with existing lung conditions, suggests Dr Gero Baiarda, an NHS GP in Windsor.

‘A normal reading is 95 per cent or higher: if your resting reading is much lower or quickly drops away from normal, you should seek medical attention,’ he says.

REGULAR MEDICATION 

Having ample supplies of regular medication you may need for conditions such as high blood pressure is beneficial

Having ample supplies of regular medication you may need for conditions such as high blood pressure is beneficial

‘Have ample supplies of regular medication you need for conditions such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes,’ says Sultan Dajani, a pharmacist based in Eastleigh, Hampshire.

If you have asthma, check your prescribed inhaler hasn’t expired, adds Dr Aslam. 

‘If you get Covid, it’s likely you’ll need to use your blue inhaler [which contains salbutamol, a drug that relaxes the muscles in the airway] a lot more, so order a repeat prescription just in case.’

If you’re confined to your house, ask if your local pharmacy can deliver your prescriptions to your door.

THE BASICS

Having an extra toothbrush is recommended

Single-use hand towels are the best way to dry hands

Buying extra manual toothbrushes (left)  and using single-use paper towels in your bathroom is also recommended

It’s worth buying extra manual toothbrushes or toothbrush heads in case someone gets sick at home.

‘The coronavirus could spread from sharing toothbrushes, or brushes being kept too close together, so store each person’s separately,’ says Dr Aslam. ‘If someone gets infected, you should throw away their toothbrush and replace it.’

The hand towel in your bathroom can also harbour virus particles, adds Dr Baiarda. ‘Single-use paper towels are the best way to dry your hands at this time.’

You’ll also need a good-quality hand cream for skin that is cracked and dry after repeated washing.

A SUPPORT NETWORK

If you live alone, check online for local Facebook help groups, or register with the free neighbourhood network nextdoor.com

If you live alone, check online for local Facebook help groups, or register with the free neighbourhood network nextdoor.com 

‘Make a list of people who can fetch regular prescriptions and food if you’re sick and housebound — and chat it over with them now,’ advises Dr Amber Woodcock, a specialist in acute medicine at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

If you live alone, check online for local Facebook help groups, or register with the free neighbourhood network nextdoor.com to find information about coronavirus volunteers in your area.

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