Tips, Tricks & Items You'll Want for Your Household During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By Rebecca Quinn
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Photo Courtesy: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg/Getty Images

As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, finding time to take stock of everything from your kitchen cabinets to your mental health can be difficult, but, amid everything, it's essential that you do so.

If you're practicing social distancing — or even self-quarantining and self-isolating — there are some must-haves you'll want on hand while dealing with the new coronavirus outbreak. With this in mind, we've rounded up tips, tricks and items that will help you feel a little less stressed, a little more informed — and a lot more prepared.

Make a Game Plan & Put Your Community’s Health Above Your Desire for Fun

In addition to reviewing any sick-time policies or healthcare benefits that may pertain to you and your family, it’s great to channel your inner Leslie Knope and craft a game plan that works for your circumstances. As is the case with the novel coronavirus, public institutions — such as schools — may shutter for a few weeks, so it’s important to look into alternative forms of childcare.

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Photo Courtesy: NBCUniversal/Hulu

Planning any getaways? It’s best to postpone that trip, especially if anyone in your group is immunocompromised. In fact, even if everyone in your group feels a-okay, practicing social distancing and limiting travel during the pandemic can go a long way in protecting folks who are more vulnerable. In short: Put your community’s well-being before your desire for fun.

An At-Home Workspace That Feels Separate

While actually lying down and getting some rest is highly recommended if you’re ill, some folks have jobs that allow them the flexibility of working from home, which can be a great solution when it comes to avoiding a germ-filled office. However, many remote workers find it difficult to separate work from their personal life — after all, they’re literally taking their work home.

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To avoid procrastination while telecommuting, try to designate a particular area as your workspace — i.e. a desk or kitchen table. Avoid wearing "comfy clothes" or working under the covers. Not only can this take a toll on productivity, it could cause you to blur the lines between working hours and time off, which is never good for your mental health.

An Electric Kettle

If you’re living alone (or up at odd hours), one of the worst parts of being sick is actually making the items you need to feel better. When your energy is at its lowest, even making a cup of tea can seem oh-so-draining. And, of course, a watched pot — er, tea kettle — never boils.

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For that reason, pick up the incredible Fellow Stagg EKG Kettle, which allows you to heat up water in seconds — stovetop-free. Modern and minimal, this kettle is the must-have kitchen gadget. Better yet, when you’re feeling better, the fluted, precision spout helps you make the perfect pour-over coffee.

Evaluate Your Sick Leave & Insurance Policies

As COVID-19 concern continues to grow, we recommend looking into your healthcare options ahead of time. Brush up on your employer’s paid sick leave and sick-time policies. If your job affords you the opportunity to work from home, you should do so, especially amid the shelter-in-place mandates many local governments are enacting.

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Photo Courtesy: AMC/Netflix

If your employer shuts down or reduces your hours due to the new coronavirus, see if you live in a state, like California, that allows you to file a temporary Unemployment Insurance claim. If you’re okay financially, see if you can support workers who live paycheck-to-paycheck by contributing to Kickstarters, buying memberships for your local nonprofit theater, or snatching up gift cards to your favorite neighborhood eatery.

Non-Perishable Food

According to an Insider Data survey from early March 2020 that interviewed 1,051 adults in the U.S., 22% of people surveyed said they began stockpiling food in preparation for potential self-quarantines. However, you don’t need a basement or a bunker to be sufficiently prepared. If you’ve been exposed to a COVID-19 carrier, you must self-quarantine for 14 days — meaning you just need enough goods to last you two weeks.

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From beans, tomatoes, pre-made soups and tuna, canned goods of all sorts can be used in simple but delicious recipes. Tired of the can opener? Well, since you aren’t prepping for a blackout, frozen veggies, which contain just as many nutrients as fresh ones, are a great option. When it comes to snacks, grab high-protein items like nuts, peanut butter and Perky Jerky’s Original Turkey Jerky as well as relatively salt-free goods like McCann’s Irish Steel-cut Oatmeal and dried fruit.

Electrolyte Supplements, in Moderation

While sports drinks like Gatorade are often touted as being a great way to combat dehydration and replace electrolytes, Texas A&M professor John D. Bowman, MS Pharm, disagrees. "The basic deficiency in [these] beverages... for illness-related dehydration is that there is too much sugar," Bowman told Vital Record, "and not enough salt (sodium) or potassium."

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While Gatorade may be restorative post-workout, Bowman maintains that your kidneys will always work to achieve that proper balance of water and electrolytes. In addition to a steady intake of clear liquids, David B. Banach, head of infection prevention and a hospital epidemiologist at the University of Connecticut, suggests trying an electrolyte solution like Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder to supplement your water intake.

Don’t Share Personal Items

This may seem like a no-brainer, but we’re all guilty of sharing every-day items like beverages, ChapStick and hand towels with friends and family. Now would also be a great time to remind your kids that while "sharing is caring," they should avoid doing so during the pandemic.

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Photo Courtesy: Amazon; Dirk Waem/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty Images

While bathroom and kitchen hand towels are a great way to go green, you might want to try out these Seventh Generation Unbleached Paper Towels to stop the spread of germs, especially if someone in your household is sick. Bonus: These two-ply, 100% recycled, dye- and fragrance-free paper towels are as green as disposable gets.

Hydration Bladder

When it comes to being down and out, fluids are a great way to combat the dehydration fever causes. Plus, water is great for flushing toxins out of your system. The only problem? Keeping track of your intake while you’re down for the count.

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That’s why we recommend this handy Hydration Bladder, a leakproof 2-liter water reservoir that will keep you sipping. Whether you’re in bed or hiking your favorite trail, the high flow bite-valve — just bite down on the mouthpiece and sip — makes hydrating hands-free.

A Space Heater

Drafty bedroom? No problem. The Hot + Cool Jet Focus AM09 Fan Heater from Dyson has your back. In the winter, this little beauty will heat your whole room in a matter of minutes. In the summer, the noiseless machine will keep you cool.

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Needless to say, it’s a wonderful multi-purpose investment. The heater doesn’t have any exposed heating elements or fast-spinning fan blades, so you don’t have to worry about kids, pets or adults with sick-brain getting injured. Whether you’re chilled to the bone or experiencing hot flashes, the Dyson AM09 will be your best friend.

Disposable Gloves

It’s always a good idea to have some disposable gloves on hand. If someone in your household is under the weather, products like the MedPride Powder-Free Nitrile Exam Gloves allow you to clean items they’ve used, worry-free.

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Used by medical professionals and first-responders alike, these highly durable gloves promise not to impede your dexterity. Better yet, these synthetic gloves are perfect for those who are sensitive to natural rubber latex. We even recommend tossing a few in your family’s first-aid kit.

A “Sick Room”

This one might seem a tad archaic, at least in name. However, if you’re fortunate enough to have a little extra space at home, designating one bedroom as the "sick room" can be a beneficial practice.

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Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

To contain the spread, especially if someone in your household is self-isolating, it’s best to limit your facetime with them. (Even during a more precautionary self-quarantine, we’d recommend airing on the side of caution.) Although that’s easier said than done when said patient is a close friend or family member, minimizing your shared items — blankets, bedding and pillows — can do wonders.

Face Masks

Standard surgical masks don’t do much when it comes to combating viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) masks "help stop droplets from being spread by the person wearing them… They are not designed to protect against breathing in the very small particle aerosols that may contain viruses."

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Photo Courtesy: Irina Velichkina/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

That said, if you’re commuting on public transit or you’re a caretaker to someone and you suspect you may be a carrier of the coronavirus, you may want to grab some Mydent MK-7300 Face Masks to protect others from transmission. There is a thicker, specialized face mask known as the N95 respirator, but while it can protect against COVID-19, experts don’t recommend it since it requires specialized training to use properly.

First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit on hand is always a good practice. While each bundle of supplies varies a bit from kit to kit, the All-Purpose First Aid Kit by First Aid Only is a great option.

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Despite its compact, easy-to-store nature, the First Aid Only kit is chock-full of everything from bandages and gauze to a thermometer and ibuprofen. While things like burn cream don’t apply to treating coronavirus, being prepared for all situations that could arise during a "shelter-in-place," or at a time when medical facilities may be overwhelmed, is best.

Hand Soap

Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, stores started selling out of cleaning and sanitation products left and right. Like other viruses, COVID-19 is spread through droplets. If a carrier coughs or sneezes, virus-containing particles can travel through the air, up to three feet in distance. (Though experts recommend keeping six feet between yourself and others.)

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These particles can also land on surfaces you come into contact with, so it’s important to scrub your hands frequently for at least 30 seconds at a time. Since you’re protecting yourself from a virus, antibacterial soaps have no added benefit. We recommend the cruelty- and paraben-free Mrs. Meyer´s Clean Day Hand Soap, which comes in refreshing lavender and geranium scents. Bonus: It doesn’t dry out your skin as much as competitors’ hand soaps.

A Low-Maintenance Plant or Two

Greenery can do wonders for your mental health, as can the smell of fresh-cut flowers. While flora may seem like a frivolous pandemic purchase, we believe it’s important to make your home as comfortable as possible. Sometimes, a little mind over matter goes a long way.

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If you aren’t feeling well enough to venture out to your local garden shop, simple, delivered-to-your-doorstep Succulent Plants can provide a quick fix. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, having a bit of nature on your bookshelf can improve your mood, especially when you’re practicing social distancing.

Avoid Large Gatherings

If anything, the COVID-19 outbreak has shone a light on just how quickly viruses can spread, especially new strains with no pre-existing protections. After international incidents in China and Italy proved close contact was spreading the novel coronavirus at a rapid rate, cities across the U.S., from San Francisco to Boston, took action.

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Photo Courtesy: Seb Daly/Sportsfile/Getty Images

In early March, local governments strongly suggested canceling events that would attract 200 people or more. Both the NBA and NCAA planned to play games without audiences, but eventually canceled their seasons outright. Broadway went dark. Even Disneyland closed for only the fourth time in its 65 years of operation. By practicing social distancing, you can help protect at-risk and immunocompromised groups — and ensure that our medical care facilities don’t get overwhelmed.

A Hot Water Bottle

Sure, a hot water bottle may seem like something from the past, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This tried-and-true method for relieving aches, pains and sore muscles can also come in handy if you’re dealing with COVID-19 symptoms.

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That’s right — if you have an upset stomach, a hot compress like the Attmu Classic Rubber Transparent Hot Water Bottle can do wonders. According to The Guardian, which spoke with Brian King, a senior lecturer in physiology at the University College London, "The heat doesn’t just provide comfort and have a placebo effect — it actually deactivates pain at a molecular level."

Cleaning Products

If you’ve ever seen Nia Vardalos’ 2002 classic My Big Fat Greek Wedding, then you know that Windex is more than just a cleaning spray — it’s the stuff of miracles. On a serious note, having cleaning products handy during the pandemic can help you maintain a sterile, germ-free home.

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A recent run on Clorox wipes, thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, has many wondering where to turn next. While the classic Windex spray bottle is always great, we also recommend these Windex Glass and Multi-Surface Cleaning Wipes. After a long day out in the world, be sure to wipe off doorknobs, faucet handles, remotes and other often used handhelds.

Hand Sanitizer & Wipes

If you haven’t already stocked up on hand sanitizer, you may be hard-pressed to find it on shelves. Ohio-based Gojo Industries, the makers of Purell, told Today that they have "dramatically increased production" in response to growing concerns over the new coronavirus.

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Reportedly, hand sanitizer sales increased more than 300% over the course of one week in March, and stores like Publix are limiting customers to two products per visit. Even Amazon is having trouble keeping Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Refreshing Gel and Purell Hand Sanitizing Wipes in stock. Remember: Viruses like this one aren’t affected by antibacterial products, so any sort of sanitizer or soap will do the trick.

Water Bottle with a Straw

If a hydration bladder isn’t quite your speed, a water bottle can be a great way to keep track of how often you’re hydrating. The virus can leave you feeling rundown and dehydrated — so much so that even the thought of sitting up in bed feels daunting.

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Enter the CamelBak Eddy+ BPA Free Water Bottle. Leak-free, spill-proof and dishwasher-safe, this water bottle features a redesigned bite valve on the tip of the straw — just chomp down and sip. It’s hydration made easy, even when you’re devoid of energy. For those who prefer a plastic-free bottle, try out the CamelBak Eddy+ Vacuum Stainless Insulated Water Bottle.

Heated Blanket

If you’re feeling well enough to drag yourself from the bed to the couch for a quick change of scenery, a heated blanket can help make the journey (and destination) more bearable. As expected, the Sunbeam Heated Blanket is cozy, and it also comes with great extra features.

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Afraid of dozing off while the blanket’s in-use? Fret no longer: The blanket is made with an automatic shut-off timer. Better yet, you can adjust the heat setting so things never get too toasty. While we recommend the heated blanket, Sunbeam also makes a top-quality heated throw.

Popsicle Molds

As we’ve established, there’s no better way to hydrate than clear liquids, namely water and broth, but sometimes you need a little something extra. Although it may seem silly at first glance, having Ozera’s Popsicle Molds on hand is a game-changer.

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Licking a popsicle can keep you hydrated, which thins your mucus and eases congestion. Better yet, it’s a tasty way to soothe a sore or dry throat. Instead of buying sugar-filled pre-made ice pops, make your own using your favorite fruits, yogurt and all-natural juices.

Games, Games & More Games

While you and your household are practicing social distancing, it’s important to take care of your mental health as well. To stop your family from going stir crazy, break up all those Netflix marathons with some good ol’ fashioned fun.

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From Clue and Pictionary to Scrabble and Go Fish, board and card games are a wonderful way to break up the monotony. If you’re looking for a fresh game to play with the whole family, Codenames: Disney Family Edition pairs really well with all that movie watching. Looking for high-tech fun? Nothing beats Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Nintendo Switch.

Humidifier

Being cooped up inside can lead to a lot of sore throats and dry noses, especially during this last stretch of pre-spring cold. To combat this, try using a humidifier, especially one like the BAYKA Cool Mist Humidifier, which, as the name implies, produces a calming mist.

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Quiet and easy-to-clean, this humidifier allows you to control not only the level of mist but the direction it flows as well. On a full fill, the 4-liter tank allows the humidifier to run for a full 28 hours, so feel free to run it day and night. Bonus: This model includes an "Aromatherapy Box," so fill it with your favorite essential oil for a soothing, fragranced mist.

Ginger Products

If you’re prone to motion sickness or travel sickness, you may already be well aware of the wonders of ginger. If you aren’t, it’s time to get acquainted. Ginger is known for settling the stomach, and while it may not completely prevent nausea, it can at least help you feel well enough to keep some liquids down and plain food down.

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Although snacks like ginger snaps will do the trick, it’s best to avoid an excess of sugar while you’re under the weather. A popular choice for those who are down-and-out with an upset stomach is Canada Dry Ginger Ale, but if you’re worried about sugar adding to your ailment, try out Traditional Medicinals Organic Ginger Herbal Tea instead.

A Sleep Mask & Earplugs

Day or night, COVID-19 discriminate. At a moment’s notice, you might just find yourself itching for some shut-eye. Unfortunately, sometimes all the black-out curtains and soothing candles in the world can’t quite get you to Snoozeville.

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Even for non-illness-related naps, the MZOO Sleep Eye Mask is a must-have item. This particular concave blindfold is shaped to fit snugly around your nose without leaving those pesky spaces for light to peek through. This particular tried-and-true mask even comes with some high-quality earplugs, ensuring a good night’s — or day’s — sleep.

Try the B.R.A.T. Diet

No, the B.R.A.T. diet has nothing to do with making the perfect supper for picky children. It actually refers to a doctor-approved diet that’s perfect for those battling flu and other upset stomach-related illnesses.

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B.R.A.T. stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast, all of which are easy on the tummy and give your gut a chance to rest and recover if you’re otherwise experiencing vomiting or diarrhea. However, since this diet is low in fiber, protein and fat, it’s best to switch it up after 24 hours, especially when the patient in question is a child.

A Pressure Cooker

Just like making tea, fixing yourself something to eat when you’re sick can be a real burden. If you’re coming down with something, you simply won’t have the energy, or patience, to stand upright in your kitchen for long periods of time. That’s why everyone should have a pressure cooker in their kitchen cupboard.

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The Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker can be a real game-changer for making soup. Toss in some pre-cut veggies, heaps of chicken and some broth and you’ve got an instant chicken soup that’s way healthier — and way less salty — than a canned soup.

Relaxing Candles

Like investing in plants, stocking up on candles during the pandemic may be far from your mind. However, just like that greenery, a relaxing scent can do wonders for your mental health and help you feel more well-rested.

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There are plenty of great candle options out there, but for maximum relaxation try out the DecoCandleS Urban Concepts Tranquility, which comes in a variety of scents, such as the ever-cozy Mélange of Spices & Evergreen or the tranquil Lemongrass & Wild Basil. Interested in trying some aromatherapy that mixes essential oils and candles? The Chesapeake Bay Scented Candles and diffusers are a great place to start.

Take a Break from the News & Reach Out to Your Doctor (Not WebMD)

Nothing can send someone into a panic spiral faster than WebMD, which, for all its benefits, can cause us all to self-diagnose a little too much. If the COVID-19 outbreak has taught us anything, it’s that it is best to remain cautious and vigilant — yet calm. A panic doesn’t help anyone and can take a serious toll on your health.

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Take a break from the 24/7 news cycle that fills our homepages and social media accounts. Instead of reading article after article for answers, reach out to your primary care physician or healthcare provider to gain peace of mind. These are challenging times, but do your best to be prepared, safe and aware.