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December 17, 1999
Relief from Disaster: Your Y2K-Ready Medicine Cabinet
By Louisa C. Brinsmade

Are you ready for Y2K?

There's not much I'm planning to do to prepare for the new millennium. I realize I've been warned, but if I paid any attention to the religious groups that play up the coming disaster, or the government agencies that play it down, I wouldn't be able to function. Instead, I'd be practicing the "duck and cover" Armageddon routine under the old school desks I picked up at a garage sale.

The Internet is filled with forecasts of doom, such as "Be Prepared -- It wasn't raining when Noah built the Arc! [sic]" This little nugget of wisdom comes from the website of a survivalist group that specializes in "any disaster such as Y2K, Hurricanes, Tornados [sic], Terrorism, or War." They offer homey items like knives and ammo, military books and gas masks -- your basic Judgement Day supplies.

I'm trying to take a brighter view of the new millennium, one that doesn't call for night-vision glasses and a chemical weapons suit. Other than my ATM card failing me, which would be a catastrophe, there's only one potential glitch I'm really worried about. If my medical records were somehow blinked out of existence, I don't think I could handle the chaos and confusion I'd have to deal with in order to get my prescriptions filled. So besides tucking away a bit of extra cash by December 31, my Y2K readiness is going to extend only as far as my medicine cabinet.

I'm going to start by cleaning and organizing my moldy old medicine shelves. What's with that faded bottle with only three menacing-looking capsules left? No telling what those were for, or what they could do to me now. The Food and Drug Administration warns that old medications can chemically change with age or with exposure to the humidity in the bathroom. What about that yellowed, gooey tube of fifteen-year-old Neosporin without a cap? I think my mother gave that to me when I was in college. Out it goes.

Once your bathroom is free and clear of expired and potentially harmful medicines, consider following the advice of respectable disaster-relief organizations, like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the good old Red Cross. They recommend organizing your prescriptions and ordering an extra few weeks' supply of any medicines you need for January 2000, particularly if you are diabetic, take heart medication, or have any chronic illness and are dependent on medication. (Some insurance companies have policies against covering refills ordered too far in advance, but you may be able to take advantage of a "travel exception" to cover the holiday period.) By all means, remember to be courteous. Avoid taking more than an extra month's supply so that others will have enough.

FEMA advises that you keep copies of important medical records and prescription drug information for a few months before and after January 1. They also provide an extensive list of nonprescription medicines you should keep on hand, just in case. Besides, who wants to go to the pharmacy on New Year's Day? Better to have plenty of aspirin before the hangover hits.

Your Y2K-Ready Medicine Cabinet: Recommendations from FEMA and the Red Cross

For adults: Prescription drugs and specialty needs

  • Heart and high blood pressure medication
  • Insulin
  • Prescription drugs
  • Denture supplies
  • Contact lenses and supplies
  • Extra eyeglasses

Nonprescription drugs

  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid (for stomach upset)
  • Syrup of Ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center)
  • Laxative
  • Activated charcoal (to use if advised by the Poison Control Center)

First-aid kit:

Assemble a first-aid kit for your home and car

  • Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
  • Assorted sizes of safety pins
  • Cleansing agent/soap
  • Latex gloves (2 pairs)
  • Sunscreen
  • 2-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
  • 4-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
  • Triangular bandages (3)
  • Nonprescription drugs
  • 2-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
  • 3-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Needle
  • Moistened towelettes
  • Antiseptic
  • Thermometer
  • Tongue blades (2)
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant