So far, practical guidance has been in short supply for those trying to follow government directions to set aside at least six days' worth of prescription medications for emergency purposes. One of the first health groups to anticipate consumer questions on the matter is the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), which represents hospital and clinic pharmacists. Here are some tips derived from the group's planned online guide "Being Medication Ready: What Consumers Need to Know to Prepare for an Emergency." While the material was not posted at press time, ASHP said it would appear today on its Web site,, under the heading "health alert."

* Keep a list of all your medications in your wallet. Include lists for your immediate family members. Include drug name, strength, dosage form and regimen.

* Wear a medical-alert bracelet or necklace.

* Store three to five days of medications that are important to your health. Include any medications that are used to stabilize a medical condition or keep a condition from worsening. Examples are medications for asthma, seizures, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, psychiatric conditions, HIV and thyroid disorders. Carry these with you, if possible, in labeled containers.

* Avoid storing medications in areas that are susceptible to extreme heat, cold or humidity. Exposure to such extremes could decrease the effectiveness of the medication. Bathrooms and cars are both out. Use child-resistant containers, and keep your purse or briefcase secure.

* Rotate emergency medications whenever you get your prescriptions refilled, to make sure they are used before their expiration date. Refill your prescriptions while you still have at least a six-day supply of medications left. Keep in mind that some sources, such as mail order pharmacies, have a longer lead time for refills. If your children take medications, contact their schools to discuss emergency plans. People with complex medication regimens should discuss emergency preparation plans with their physician and pharmacist. Such regimens include:

* injectable medications (like insulin , analgesics and chemotherapy), including those delivered by pumps;

* medications (such as antibiotics and bronchodilators) delivered by a nebulizer;

* dialysis.

-- Francesca Lunzer Kritz