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Quarantined: Establishing A Sick Room and Boundaries In The Event Of A Pandemic or Brief Illness

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: March 21, 2020
Quarantined: Establishing A Sick Room and Boundaries In The Event Of A Pandemic or Brief Illness

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From regular illness to a full-on the pandemic, knowing how to establish a boundary to keep the disease from spreading to others is important to know.

There are various levels of quarantine that must be considered and there are psychological implications to isolating oneself and family for an extended period of time. This post is mean to go beyond just establishing a sick room so that you can be better prepared on all levels.

Anything that is highly contagious is a good case for establishing quarantine on some level.

Any cold, flu, contagious infection, parasite, etc is a case where quarantine may be helpful during a long emergency. The sooner you can get something stopped the better. Even if something is highly treatable do you really want to use up all your medical supplies that fast?

Also consider the loss of labor and the effect a serious illness would have on everyone’s ability to defend against a variety of threats.

Length of quarantine could vary from days to months

The length of the quarantine will vary a lot depending on the exact nature of the problem or if the problem is even recognizable. If something cannot be diagnosed with certainty, it may be best to keep someone as isolated as possible from others in the family or group.

Something simple like discovering a specific person has lice may mean just avoiding others for a day or two but something like flu or colds could mean a week or two.

Quarantine conditions may mean that you are also establishing boundaries to keep others from bringing a known pandemic or disease to your group either by accident or on purpose.

Isolation is something you will have to learn to deal with if there is a true pandemic situation.

I wrote an article about dealing with isolation that goes in depth but I do want to reiterate a few things in this post.

I see people going batty from lack of socialization or just somewhere to go besides home even during the event of a week of bad weather and snowy conditions. People are used to being able to get away from their families for at least a few moments. They are used to going out to eat a meal once a week.

Kids and teens are used to hanging out at least some even if it is mostly done at another friend’s house. A short attention span is not something that does well with isolation.

Entertainment options can help and there are plenty of people that mostly socialize online in modern times but that requires a reliable internet connection and not having services blocked by government entities for various reasons.

Practice by learning to be at home sometimes. Try to involve yourself and your family in some enjoyable hobbies or activities that do not require going out or a lot of electricity. Some people find they enjoy unplugging once in awhile.

If you fall to temptation and go out in a pandemic out of curiosity or just being bored then you are putting yourself and everyone you care for at extreme risk. It is a foolish and selfish act.

Do yourself and the people in your family a favor and practice being alone together. If you want to be even more realistic, practice with the preps you have in place. This is an excellent opportunity to see how well your power centers handle a few days of being off grid. It is better to find out what is missing or lacking now then when you have no chance of making improvements.

Here are a few posts on keeping up morale and what to put back for entertainment during a long emergency.

Keeping Up Morale & Finding Entertainment During Hard Times

Normality During An Extended Emergency: An overview of what to put back and how to keep up morale

Creating a sick room

The further the sick room is from others the better. At the same time you want it close enough that someone can provide care to those that are ill. If you have an outbuilding that can be repurposed during a long emergency then that would be ideal. One of the main problems would be how to heat it. An outbuilding with a woodstove is perfect. This is a case where having a small woodstove and portable stove pipe kit could come in handy if you need to quarantine someone.

Supplies to have on hand

Small buckets

A few 2 gallon buckets are a good idea. Bigger is also fine but if you have the choice a 2 gallon bucket is more manageable and easier to clean. Buckets can be used as chamberpots or as something for someone to vomit into.

I like to buy the Fortex buckets in a 4 pack for $20 for general use. They are very tough and even if you leave them outside a lot they last for many years. A few 4 packs in your preps won’t take up much space and they are food grade so you may want to have some designated for other purposes besides a sick room. It is always good when a prep is extremely versatile.

Anti viral masks

amazon product

Anyone that is providing care should wear a face mask when having any interaction with a sick person. You can get these in packs of 4-5 for a reasonable cost but you will probably get a better deal if you buy a large package. They should be disposed of before you have any interaction with people beyond the patient you are caring for.

Disinfectant such as Lysol or Bleach and a Spray Bottle

amazon product

I really hate using bleach and Lysol alike but for major messes they can be hard to beat and they kill a lot of germs that can contribute to the spread of illness. Other concentrated disinfectants will work too. Just make sure to have something strong or at least use it in a high concentration. Oxygen cleaner is an excellent disinfectant.

Plastic sheeting or mattress cover for protecting bedding

If an illness is particularly awful you may just want to burn bedding after an illness. If you want to try to keep it or feel it is worth it for some reason, then it is a good idea to have a completely waterproof mattress encasement. In fact for SHTF, you may want to have a few. A less expensive and more versatile option is plastic sheeting that can be put under regular sheets.

A special bed or mattress would be ideal and is something any prepper group or family group should consider for a long emergency.

If you are really serious about planning out a sickroom ahead of time, then purchasing a twin size mattress that has no fabric or upholstery but rather is plastic on both sides. If you went to a camp, boarding, school, or college, then you probably remember sleeping on this type of mattress.

I worked on the cleaning crews sometimes for my college and I remember how easy it was to just spray the mattresses and wipe them down. They would be excellent for a sick room. The one below is $160 shipped but you may be able to find a better deal somewhere besides Amazon or even find one used. They are so easy to clean I would be fine with a used one as long as there are no big holes.

FORTNIGHT BEDDING Foam Mattress with Water Resistant Vinyl Cover (Twin, 6 Inch)

amazon product

Gloves and more gloves

You can never have too many disposable gloves. Having a lot of them means you are less likely to reuse them or wear them after they show signs of puncture. I have bought some that are really good and some that are awful. I really have come to dislike the Curad disposable nitrile gloves found at our local drug stores. While I love a lot of what Curad makes, they need to redesign those gloves. They fit terribly and have no give to them. I recommend nitrile gloves because some people are allergic to latex. It is not that common but why bother risking it when there are quality nitrile gloves for a similar cost.

Get a few different sizes to accommodate various people in your family or group.

Old sheets or very cheap sheets that you don’t care about

I remember find a deal that I thought was a mistake on Amazon once. I managed to get their brand of 200 thread count sheets for less than $5 for a Queen size set. I bought several. If you can’t find deals like that then you might consider looking at thrift stores. Of course you should wash them well and sanitize them before storing in your preps but it can be a great way to have some designated sheets for the sick.

Cheap yet warm blankets or thinner inexpensive blankets that can be layered as needed.

In the case of severe illness you may not want to let some linens stick around. Fleece blankets are a good choice because they can be found for under $5 and you can buy a few dozen at a time on Amazon and have them for a ton of different uses.

Check out my post “The Many Uses Of Fleece Blankets” for a ton of reasons to add them to your preps right away!

Cotton blankets are more expensive but they are something that you can find a deal on sometimes. You are not looking for top quality here but rather something that serves a purpose for a short period of time and you will not regret the loss of. Goodwill and other thrift stores are options as well as discount retailers and Dollar Stores.

Adequate and safe light

You don’t want someone that is delirious or unable to move quickly to have access to lighting sources that are a fire hazard. A few cheap flashlights or a battery or solar chargeable lantern are good safe options for sick rooms.

Other Items

  • Something to serve as a wash basin such as a designated bucket
  • Communications device. This can be any noisemaker to alert the caregiver that the patient needs assistance. A two way radio is great if you have it and the sick room is too far away for a bell to be heard
  • Cup, plate, bowl, and utensils that only the sick person uses
  • Jug for water

Personal Hygiene Items

  • Soap
  • Wet wipes or wash clothes for keeping clean. Wet wipes are nice because they can be tossed or burned and they avoid having to
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush, floss
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels or several regular towels
  • Moisturizer to prevent dry skin related issues
  • Lip balm or anything that can be used as lip balm. Coconut oil is a reasonable choice and can be used as your overall moisturizer too.
  • Sanitary napkins

Medical Supplies

You want to avoid putting items back in your medical kit such as bandages or other items that cannot easily be sanitized. Of course a thermometer or other medical equipment is the exception.

Either have a totally separate medical kit for setting up a sick room or take supplies to the sick room as needed. NEVER BRING ANYTHING BACK TO YOUR MAIN LIVING SPACE that has come into contact with the sick person unless it has been thoroughly decontaminated and sanitized.

Decontaminate yourself before entering the main living quarters or doing tasks for others. Some people keep disposable surgery style gear for this. Ideally you would remove your clothing and even use some wet wipes to wash yourself off. This may sound like it is a bit over the top but pandemic style viruses are not something to mess with.

Some disposable pants, shirts, gowns, shoe covers, and head coverings could be a big help and save lives. I am not saying it is cheap to add these things to your preps however it is pocket change when you consider the consequences of a pandemic spreading. If you have a family or group that is prepping together, then the cost will be more reasonable.

amazon product

Entertainment for the sick and weary

Someone may not really want or even be able to read but what about a small mp3 player and speaker with a variety of audio books? This is an excellent way to help keep the mind sharp and not dwelling on how bad the situation is. Morale and attitude are so important to a fast recovery. A person can lose their mind during a long emergency of SHTF when left alone with no entertainment and minimal interaction for extended periods of time even if they completely realize it is for the greater good.

Creating boundaries from the general population to prevent getting sick

While I can’t say that Matt and I never get sick, I can say that it is very rare and usually only lasts a short period of time. I was surprised when we both managed to get quite sick in March. We figured out that the way it happened was leaving our place and visiting someone that thought they were no longer contagious because they had no symptoms.

I started feeling a little “off” and thought it was just being tired from working a lot and maybe eating a little less healthy for a few days. When you don’t get sick that often and work a lot it can be very easy to mistake an oncoming illness for general fatigue and stress. Regardless when I first started feeling off, I started taking Oscillococcinum and Elderberry tablets.

Because this was a particularly vicious flu like illness, I still had a high fever and was miserable but still not as bad as if I had not done anything to start with. Since Matt and I are around each other so much I told him to start taking the same medicine when I started to get sick.

While I was in terrible shape and out of it for a week, with a fever that at one point reached 103 F, Matt barely had a fever and while he felt awful for a few days, he got nowhere near as sick as I did. This shows that prevention and immediate treatment can be very helpful in reducing the severity and length of a bad illness.

Elderberry Syrup and Supplements help boost the immune system. Check out this post on how to make your own syrup.

Another lesson here is that the sickest I have been in many years occurred after we left our place and interacted with others. While never going around people is not realistic, during times where there is a lot of illness, it is best to stay put if you can.

For people like Matt and I that have no school age children and that do not go to town daily for work or school ourselves or to socialize, exposure can sometimes be worse for us because we are not used to the germs “out there”. It is possible to have a higher level of immunity to some things through regular exposure over the years and by getting some illnesses and then recovering.

During hard times, avoid interacting with a lot of other people

Keep kids out of school or home school if it seems like we are under conditions where diseases are rampant

Avoid densely populated areas and cities that are suffering from sanitation issues.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you just washed your hands. These areas of your head are pathways for disease and illness to enter your body.

Be strict about your quarantine rules.

If there is a serious pandemic, you need to be very clear to anyone in your group that if they choose to leave, they will not be able to come back for an extended time period. Let them know that the risks to them is great enough but that no one in the group will allow them to come back and expose the group as a whole.

If there is a situation where the group feels that one or more people may need to leave the area for a task where they come into contact with others, there should be a plan for them to stay away from the others for a sufficient period of time after returning. This may mean a party having to stay in a tent or shelter within range of their core group but far enough away that if they become ill, they are minimizing the risk that others will become infected through basic contact and living conditions.

Fortifying against sick refugees

Some illnesses may be terrible and debilitating but that doesn’t mean some people will not try to seek out help even if that puts others at risk. You and your group or family need to establish an understanding about how to deal with sick refugees, especially those that refuse to acknowledge your quarantine or that you cannot help them.

One way to avoid the situation is to create barriers and fortifications that are meant to keep others from being able to access the main living area of your family or group.

Check out my post “Man Made Versus Natural Barrier Fences and Fortifications”  for some options that you can do now and supplies that you can put back in case you need to increase your security in a hurry during a SHTF scenario or long emergency.

I will be writing more on pandemics and issues related to them. If you have any subject that you would like to see covered in my series on pandemics, please let me know in the comments below or send me an email.

Samantha Biggers can be reached at [email protected]

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2 Responses to “Quarantined: Establishing A Sick Room and Boundaries In The Event Of A Pandemic or Brief Illness”

  1. We were thinking on using the camper as the containment area. 2-3 beds, toilet that can be dumped elsewhere, water and power etc.

  2. Pandemic – most of the prepper attention is focused where a disease is the primary initiating SHTF >>> but you can expect a pandemic to a degree with any of the SHTFs where standard sanitary conditions are disrupted -…

    Give it a week after the grid goes down and the taps go dry – you can expect to see cases of dysentery and food poisoning – have that loose in a refugee camp with limited medical care – a disease time bomb waiting to spread – and only a matter of time before you have half dead victims driving and crawling up to your security perimeter …..

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