Coronavirus: should we be stockpiling?

Is it necessary to stockpile food or medicine because of the Coronavirus outbreak? Here's how to be prepared – without emptying your local supermarket's shelves

Coronavirus: Person with virus
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While the number of Coronavirus cases in the UK is relatively low, there remains the possibility of the virus becoming more widespread. Which leads many to ask: 'should I be stockpiling?' With reports growing of certain types of products, including food and essentials, being bought in large quantities and selling out, both online and in supermarkets, should we be doing the same? Let's look at the facts.

We'll reiterate the official advice issued by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance on the 3rd March:

'[T]here is absolutely no reason to be doing any panic buying of any sort or going out and keeping large supplies of things.'

What Vallance did say is that measures would need to be in place for a household that is on quarantine and where people are self-isolating. So, what do you really need to have to hand in case you fall ill? 

The good news is that all of the following items are what you should ideally have in your first-aid kit at home anyway and are useful for the common colds and flu that we all get from time to time anyway. So, consider having about a two-week supply of the following: 

1. Disinfectant and laundry detergent

One of the most important aspects of recovering from an illness quickly is keeping everything as clean as possible. That includes all the surfaces you're touching, as well as your clothes (and especially your underwear – sorry). You don't need anything fancy – rubbing alcohol or TCP liquid are both excellent antiseptics and can be used on most surfaces with a wet cloth (use an e-cloth to maximise anti-bacterial action).

If you are ill, all your bedding, clothing, and towels will need to be washed on a hot cycle as frequently as possible – ideally, every couple of days. 

2. Basic painkillers 

Unless you develop more serious symptoms, most people with any kind of flu just need rest and basic painkillers to alleviate aches and pains. Consider buying enough paracetamol and/or ibuprofen to last you for a week. If your symptoms don't go away at that point, you shouldn't continue taking them anyway and will need to seek medical advice. 

3. Any prescription medications you're taking

If you're on prescription meds and have the flu, the last thing you want to do is head to your health practice or pharmacy. So, get your prescription renewal now. 

4. Toilet roll

Because we all use a lot of it, especially when we're unwell. You don't need an entire basement filled with loo roll, but again, consider buying enough to last you a couple of weeks. 

5. A thermometer 

Thermometers break or get lost, so get a couple. They're important because a thermometer will help you determine how serious your fever is and whether you need to head to a hospital. Check out the official NHS guidelines on fever – you'll need to pay attention to a body temperature of over 38ºC that lasts for more than a couple of days or keeps rising. 

'This is the digital ear thermometer I use,' says Realhomes.com Editor in Chief, Lucy Searle. 'It's the same one my GP and my daughter's paediatrician use, it's accurate, and it's particularly good for children who don't like having one stuck in their mouths, especially when they're ill. I've used mine on my sleeping (poorly) children and it's not even woken them up. Great peace of mind.'

6. A cough suppressant 

Another very important aspect of recovery is getting enough sleep – if you can't sleep because you're coughing at night, your recovery will be delayed. Again, a bottle of basic cough suppressant or a packet of Night Nurse (or similar – try these Amazon buys) should be enough to give you the relief you need to get some sleep. 

7. Soup and tea

While there's really no need to stockpile on food – the UK is not experiencing any food shortages due to the Coronavirus – it is a good idea to have some basic broth or soup ready in case you fall ill. Many people find that keeping food down is difficult when they have the flu, while soup is easy to eat and digest, and will help prevent dehydration. A nice big pack of teabags is also very useful to have – the more hot liquids you drink while ill, the easier you are making it for your body to expel the virus. 

Should I be stockpiling food?

Again, to reiterate: there is no need to stockpile food, or anything else for that matter. Most people who will fall ill will experience mild to moderate symptoms – think similar to regular flu – so you shouldn't expect to need extra provisions for longer than a couple of weeks. We say: be prepared, but stay calm.