What to buy if you’re quarantined at home during the coronavirus pandemic

Skip the face masks and focus on food, household supplies, and medical essentials.

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Skip the face masks and focus on food, household supplies, and medical essentials.
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MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health organization has officially declared the coronavirus a pandemic.

The outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, has now killed more than 4,300 people and infected more than 121,500. As the virus continues to spread, more people may be put under home quarantine or choose to self-isolate at home.

Hundreds of US citizens evacuated from China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak originated, have undergone mandatory 14-day quarantines on military bases across the US. And passengers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which has been linked to hundreds of cases of COVID-19, were also placed under a two-week quarantine at Air Force bases in California.

Thousands of others who recently traveled to China are under a 14-day voluntary self-quarantine at home to see whether they develop symptoms, and in New York, at least 4,000 people are being asked to self-isolate at home because they recently traveled to a country with a severe outbreak or had possible contact with an infected patient. More and more companies are encouraging or requiring employees to work from home due to the virus.

The Department of Homeland Security recommends stocking up on a two-week supply of food in the event of a pandemic.

In the case of any survival emergency, the American Red Cross recommends keeping a supply of food and household supplies like laundry detergent and diapers if you have small children.

Here’s everything you should have in your home emergency kit in case of a possible home quarantine amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Homeland Security, the CDC, American Red Cross, and other experts.


To prepare for a self-quarantine at home during the coronavirus pandemic, you should stock up a 14-day supply of food for every person — and pet — in your household. Focus on dry and canned goods that are easy to prepare.

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Stock up on nonperishable food items.
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Jens Büttner/picture alliance via Getty Images

The US Department of Homeland Security recommends stocking up enough food and water for two weeks before a pandemic strikes.

Dry goods like rice, pasta, beans, and oats should be the foundation of your stockpile, Alyssa Pike, a registered dietitian and manager of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council, recently told Business Insider.

You should also stock up on canned foods that contain liquid, such as tomatoes, beans, and tuna, according to Pike. The excess liquid can be used to cook dried food like rice and pasta. (Make sure you have a can opener.)

And don’t neglect comforting food items like chocolate and coffee, even if they’re not strictly essential. As Business Insider recently reported, such items can make a big difference in your mental health and morale during a home quarantine.


Make sure you have enough household hygienic products like soap, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, tissues, feminine care products, and diapers.

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It may sound simple, but regular and thorough handwashing is one of the best and easiest ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus, according to the CDC.

So remember to include hand soap and sanitizer in your home quarantine kit.

Don’t forget other hygiene items such as toilet paper, tissues, feminine-care products, and diapers if you have small children in the household.


If possible, get a 30-day supply of your prescription medications.

Marguerite Neill, an infectious-disease expert at Brown University, told The New York Times that people should have at least a 30-day supply of their medications.

The US Department of Homeland Security recommends periodically checking your regular prescription drugs to ensure a continuous supply in your home.

While many prescription drugs have quantity limits, you can ask your doctor to help you submit an exception form.


Maintain a first-aid kit with supplies to treat common injuries.

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To be prepared for any kind of emergency, the American Red Cross recommends keeping an at-home first aid kit to treat common injuries, including cuts, scrapes, swelling, sprains, strains and more.

This kit should include things like antibiotic ointment packs, gauze, bandages, thermometers, scissors, tweezers, and an emergency blanket.


Take note of other medical supplies you may need, such as contact lenses, contact solution, hearing-aid batteries, and over-the-counter medicines like pain relievers and cough and cold medicines.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

If someone in your home uses a hearing aid, the American Red Cross advises stocking up on extra batteries.

Other miscellaneous medical supplies might include glasses, contact lenses, or syringes.

Over-the-counter medicines you may want to have on hand include pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, vitamins, and fluids that contain electrolytes, according to the American Red Cross.

Federal authorities are advising Americans to skip the face masks, however, as they’re not effective or necessary for the general public. The CDC recommends masks only for select groups: people in a region experiencing an outbreak, healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients, and anyone who experiences flu-like symptoms.


The US water supply likely won’t be affected by the coronavirus, but if you live in an area with limited access to supplies, you may want to buy enough to last a 14-day quarantine.

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For a 14-day quarantine, you should have access to 14 gallons of water per person.
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Getty Images/Duaa Awchi / EyeEm

The US Department of Homeland Security suggests stocking up a two-week supply of water before a pandemic, but experts say buying bottled water isn’t necessary for most people.

“We are fortunate to live in a country where most tap water is drinkable,” Dr. Manisha Juthani, an associate professor of medicine of infectious diseases and epidemiology of microbial diseases at Yale School of Medicine, told Business Insider’s Irene Jiang. “Based on what we know about this disease, the water system should not be threatened.”

The coronavirus pandemic likely won’t affect the availability of drinking water in the US.

But people who live in areas with limited access to supplies should make sure they have a 14-day supply of water to last through a possible quarantine, Dr. Irwin Redlener, the director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, told Jiang.


You may want to get copies of your health records.

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John Moore/Getty Images

In the event of a pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security recommends getting copies and maintaining electronic versions of health records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies.


Don’t forget about your mental health.

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Reuters/Ray Stubblebine

Some people under home quarantine told the Associated Press that they’d taken the opportunity to binge Netflix shows and read some books.

In the case of a home quarantine, your mental health should also be taken into account.

Make sure to have entertainment items on hand such as books, board games, and card games. The Red Cross suggests games and activities for children.