The World Health Organization has officially declared it a pandemic. The German chancellor is warning 60-70% of that country will be infected by COVID-19, at least eventually. (1)
Business Insider recently leaked documents from the American Hospital Association (AHA) conference in February, in which they – the US hospital industry – was preparing for up to:
- 96 million coronavirus infections
- 8 million hospitalizations
- 480,000 deaths
The US has less than 1 million hospital beds, or about 20% of the above projected number for their worse-case scenario. That was data from February, so who knows what their current estimates are. (2)
Regardless of the sources you cite, the consensus seems to be that we likely won’t have the healthcare infrastructure in place to hospitalize all of the mild to moderate cases, in the event there are hundreds of thousands, or millions, of Americans infected.
Self-quarantine at home, with self-care similar to influenza, is what a lot of experts are predicting will be the de facto for mild cases.
Question is, what should one do to prepare if such an event occurs for you or your family?
Despite the hysteria, toilet paper doesn’t seem like a top priority. What does is over-the-counter cold and flu medicines to ease symptoms and fever of a coronavirus infection. Several state governments are already advising on that (see below).
In addition to the standard protocols for symptom relief, staying hydrated is important during any illness, whether it be the cold, flu, or this. So having a game plan for electrolytes while you’re sick (even if it’s just a cold or flu) is a good idea regardless.
What is the government advising?
For general emergency preparations – which are NOT specific to COVID-19 coronavirus or any other illness – the CDC advises having at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and pet in the household. They advise more for pregnant women and those who are sick. (3)
While the CDC does not give guidance one way or another as to which electrolytes you should drink, some state and municipal governments do.
For example, the Louisiana Department of Health published a list of what medical and health supplies you should have at home to prepare in case of a COVID-19 infection:
Their list includes any prescribed medicines, OTC medicines for fever like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, cough medicine containing dextromethorphan, and “fluids with electrolytes, like Gatorade and Pedialyte (preferred for small children).” (4)
Is Gatorade the best choice?
Because they can be purchased at practically any drugstore, drinks like Gatorade, Powerade, and Pedialyte are certainly acceptable options. They’re more hydrating than plain water alone. That said, they may not be the best electrolyte drinks for when you are sick.
While there are reports of quarantined coronavirus patients at home drinking gallons of Gatorade, that’s probably because it’s what was easiest to procure in the moment.
If you have some time to prepare before ever getting infected, then you may want to consider additional electrolyte supplement options to have on hand, as part of your general household emergency planning kit.
Coronavirus outbreak aside, electrolytes might be handy for any number of unforeseen disasters, including natural disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes, and storms, where food and supply chains may be temporarily affected.
While it’s better than water, the ingredients of Gatorade (and similar) brands are basically water, sugar, sodium and potassium.
Not to mention, artificial colors and/or sweeteners, depending on the flavor.
Yes, you need potassium and sodium when dehydrated, but in addition to those, there are other essential minerals which serve as electrolytes. Gatorade doesn’t have them. It would be better to have those, too.
Plus, the amounts of potassium in Gatorade are quite low at just 2% of daily value. No wonder some patients are feeling the need to drink “gallons” of it per day.
Best electrolyte supplements
First off let’s be clear, you should take whatever electrolytes your doctor advises if sick.
If you do not have an infection and are just looking for a good electrolyte supplement to include in your generic emergency/disaster prep kit, then discuss with them the idea of having a concentrate or powder mix on hand.
The benefits of a concentrate is that it doesn’t take up much space, yet equates to many servings when mixed with water.
As part of our general emergency prep kit, which is not specific to any potential illness or natural disaster, we have decided to go with a brand called Hi-Lyte.
Review Hi-Lyte electrolyte supplement versus Gatorade and the leading competitor, Lyte Show. Hi-Lyte contains significantly more potassium, magnesium, and zinc per serving.
Sodium is lower but considering the fact that salt is added to most processed foods, you’re probably getting plenty if you’re also consuming soup, frozen meals, or crackers at the same time. That’s why we prefer the lower sodium in our electrolytes.
To use, mix ½ teaspoon of Hi-Lyte liquid concentrate with 32 ounces of water. Alternately, you can use 12 drops for an 8 ounce glass.
In total, the bottle contains 48 servings of a ½ teaspoon each. That’s enough for 1,536 ounces of water, or 12 gallons!
Having this little bottle of Hi-Lyte on hand is much more space efficient for prepping than 12 gallons of Gatorade or similar. Assuming you have filtered water available, this is a great option.
You can buy Hi-Lyte on Amazon, which is where we got it.
Remember though, the sugar content in Gatorade and Powerade isn’t always bad. As an endurance athlete, your muscles need glycogen replenishment after a hard workout. That’s achieved with easy-to-digest carbs.
When you’re sick with the flu, you also need easy-to-digest calories. Supplements which are pure electrolytes (like Hi-Lyte) contain minerals only and no calories (or close to it). Rather than add corn syrup or pure glucose for calories, healthier alternatives include date sugar and maple syrup.
Is maple syrup healthy? Consider the fact that the darkest grades have a fair amount of antioxidants, for a sweetener at least.
Yes, maple syrup is sugar, but a lot better for you than corn syrup. When comparing 25g (6 teaspoon) serving sizes of each, maple syrup has a glycemic index of 54. That’s lower than honey at 58 and cane sugar at 60. (5) (6) (7)
So which brand do we prefer?
That’s a pic of it on our table. You can get organic Crown on Amazon.
For an electrolyte supplement that is both hydrating and replenishes calories, we mix a few spoons of the syrup with the Hi-Lyte liquid concentrate.
Again, please consult your doctor before buying any electrolytes for your emergency prep kit, so they can advise as to which are best for your specific circumstances.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.