Part 1 of 5 This is the first part of a five-part series on preparing for a potentially tough flu season. Swine Flu Pandemic or Not? Health experts are warning that the swine flu or H1N1outbreak is likely to intensify this autumn. Indications last spring were that H1N1 could be the worst flu strain we've seen in years. It now appears the H1N1 strain is weaker than first thought. In fact, the odds of dying from the swine flu are no different than for seasonal flu. Still, catching any flu isn't any fun and there is concern on how widespread it will be. USA Today reports that H1N1 could infect half of the US. Others, like Dr. Joseph Mercola, are saying this flu season will not be much different from other years. Wyatt & Katy are determined to keep healthy. No matter what the outcome of this year's flu season, as always, children and pregnant women are most at risk. Even skeptical Dr. Mercola recommends preparing for a self-imposed two-week quarantine, in case there is an outbreak of H1N1 in your area. Last spring, when H1N1 began to appear in the U.S., California was one of the first states affected. I happened to be with my grandkids in Southern California at the time. I thought it'd be a good idea to purchase some protective face masks. I stopped in numerous stores and was told exactly the same thing in each one, "We sold out the first day that swine flu was reported to be in the area." A few days later, I returned to a Walgreens for another item. I was pleasantly surprised, as they had a new shipment come in since I was last there. Needless to say, I purchased three boxes. Once an outbreak is reported, it may be extremely difficult or impossible to purchase items you may need. EVERYONE will be looking for same items at the same time. Regardless if you decide to have your family vaccinated or not (and I'll address this in another blog), there are some practical things you can do to prepare for the cold and flu season. Obviously, purchasing needed items BEFORE an outbreak is advisable. Health experts are recommending an emergency kit for a potentially severe outbreak. Of course, if you get the flu yourself, then it doesn't matter how severe the outbreak, because you'll be confined at home. Preparing ahead of time for a personal emergency, self-quarantine, or even bracing for the worst, a potential pandemic, only makes sense. The following recommendations work for not only a flu epidemic, but any emergency. Now is the time to prepare, before the flu season even begins! FOOD Every home should have a bare minimum of three days worth of nonperishable food items. You'll want to store whole-grain dry cereals, peanut and other nut butters, canned goods (such as soup), whole-grain crackers without altered fats, and whole foods like seeds and nuts. Also, store sugar-free 100 percent fruit juices. Juices like apple juice and cranberry are healthful especially when you can't eat much solid food. To more effectively prepare for a potential quarantine or for yourself (just in case you are confined to your home because you have the flu) it's advisable to have a food storage for two weeks or more. WATER You should have at least one gallon of water, per person to last at least three days. Bottled water can be stored for about a year at room temperature, if it's stored away from direct sunlight. FIRST AID KIT Every one should have a first aid kit. The first thing in your first aid kit should be a first aid manual. You'll also need bandages, gauze, gloves, tweezers, scissors, and a thermometer. Then add antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, eye-wash solution, and over-the-counter medicines such as antihistamines and pain relievers, (make sure you have Tylenol as children should not take aspirin). Also, any prescription drugs your family needs. HOME REMEDIES Familiarize yourself with natural home remedies, such as honey for a cough. Studies have shown that honey works as well (or better) than over-the-counter cough and sore throat remedies. Baking soda and apple cider vinegar have numerous practical healthful uses. For a child's upset stomach, add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and ¼ teaspoon of aluminum-free baking soda to a small glass of water. (For an adult, it's a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and ½ teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces of water.) Also probiotics are helpful for stomach upsets and diarrhea. I always keep these stocked in my kitchen. SURGICAL FACE MASKS Purchase face masks, now, before the flu season begins. The most protection will come from masks with the FDA rating N-95. But, it's better to have any face mask, rather than none. Masks need to be replaced often and disposed after use. Even if there isn't a general warning to wear face masks in public, you can protect family members in your own home if someone comes down with the flu or even a cold.