Saturday, April 1, 2017

Medical preparedness

Last week, in response to a Friday Roundup photo in which I was organizing our medical supplies, I received the following comment from reader Prepared Grammy:

I’m weak in the area of medical preps. I have the usual first aid stuff. I would even say I have advanced first aid supplies. However, I know I’m weak in more substantial medical supplies. Can you help? Where can I get antibiotics? (I have some fish mox. One member of my family is allergic to penicillin, and another is allergic to sulfa drugs.) Do you have IV fluids? Where can I get that? What kind(s) of medical instruments do you have? I have members who can use these things, but I need to get the supplies. I don’t discuss it with them since they don’t see the urgency to prep as I do. Any advice and information is appreciated. Thanks.

I didn’t want to post her comment until such time as I had a chance to do it justice. It’s certainly worth its own blog post.

First, let me say we’re probably just as weak in the area of medical preps as Prepared Grammy is, in large part due to our lack of medical training. Beyond standard first-aid classes, none of us have a background in medicine or any medical-related field. (As a side note, if anyone is wondering what field would be the most valuable in a grid-down situation, I would put medical skills high on the list. Just sayin’.) So here are a few thoughts on medical preps from a non-medical person.

I urge people to pull together three things, which once again echo the “three-legged stool” analogy of preparedness (supplies, skills/ knowledge, community):

We have a fair bit of layman supplies, which includes things we’re likely to face on a farm or in a candlelit world. This includes the usual cadre of bandages, antibiotic ointments, burn treatments, etc. We have supplies of over-the-counter painkillers, as well as things for internal issues (bowel, urinary, menstrual, etc.). We also have Benadryl and sinus aids, spare reading glasses, toothbrushes, dental floss, etc. We have a pair of crutches (thrift store) and some immobilizing aids for broken bones (splints, etc.) (again, check thrift stores).

(Sorry for the wonky angle; I was trying to fit everything into the camera frame.)

We have a reasonably substantial supply of fishmox antibiotics (try this source). We’ve geared our purchases toward what we’re likely to experience, including Don’s extremely predictable annual sinus infections. A list of types of antibiotics and what they’re used for can be found here and here (there are other online sources; these are just the first two to catch my eye).

Additionally, we all got tetanus boosters last summer. This is really important, especially on a farm where sharp things are everywhere.

We have a fair smattering of medical reference books as well, including the classics for every prepper:
Overall good reference books:
Normally I don't pay any attention to herbal medicine, since it's too often linked with magic-potion no-need-for-Western-medicine mumbo-jumbo. But of course, humans have used herbal remedies for thousands of years. The difficulty today is separating the useful from the "magic potion" nonsense. Nurse Amy, one-half of the team which operates the phenomenal Doom and Bloom website, recommends the following two guides for sensible, no-nonsense herbal medicines:
The following book was written by our neighbor Enola Gay. She researched the topics exhaustively and had the material reviewed by a physician. An excellent gem for anyone's prepper library:
And this is a small old-fashioned home-remedy book Enola recommends. It was written in 1958 so it's dated, but sometimes looking back to (as the title suggests) traditional folk remedies can be useful:
But one thing to remember: no amount of literature on folk remedies or herbal medicines will substitute for modern medical knowledge. If you need your appendix out, you need your appendix out.

Medical skills and knowledge constitute our biggest gap in medical preparedness. We’re looking into attending a wilderness medical course. This would be pricey if we do it alone, but we might bring an instructor to our community to teach a course, with the costs shared among all attendees.

Sometimes it’s best to know our limitations. We don’t have the training to administer IV fluids, for example. This is something you really, really don’t want to mess up since it requires special training and equipment we don’t have (and can cause unspeakable harm if done incorrectly). Ergo, we don’t keep supplies for this.

We have some people in our area with more advanced medical training (EMT/paramedic), and the wilderness medical training would boost the skills and knowledge among the whole community. We’re also members of LifeFlight, very important if you’re an hour away from a hospital (though admittedly useless in a grid-down situation).

This is about all we’ve done as far as medical preps. One thing is worth pointing out: We live a fairly vigorous rural homesteading lifestyle, but it’s a lifestyle we would never have entered into (or continued doing) unless we were in good health. Although we’ve required medical care for a variety of issues over the years – who hasn’t? – we don’t have any special ongoing medical needs. Clearly this can change in a moment, but for the time being we’re doing okay.

For those with health issues, they will need to prepare as best they can within their abilities and requirements.

But here’s the thing: We can’t prepare for it all. Some things can only be treated in a hospital setting with modern medicine and skilled doctors. If we face a medical emergency when those options aren’t available, then our best medicine is found in John 3:16.


  1. Wonky? hehe. What is wonky? You are dating yourself.

  2. My suggestions are hydration salt/electrolyte packets - essentially adult pedialyte.

    External Clot packs - help aid blood clotting.

    Tourniquet - web strap type.

    Skin Stapler.

    All are readily available a la Amazon.

  3. I was curious which part of Idaho you live in? We have vacationed there a few time and are thinking about retiring there in a few years. We mostly traveled the upper part of the state. I like to bird and waterfowl hunt what areas of the state would be good for that?

    1. We're in the panhandle. I don't know hunting laws since we're not hunters, but there are a lot of lakes around here. A quick check with the regional Fish & Game agencies can fill you in on what areas are best for waterfowl hunting.

      - Patrice

  4. A few years back, I watched a talk by an anesthesiologist to some EMTS. To do something new, the talk was on gunshot wounds and reality, i.e, you can move around quite a lot with even a fatal wound.

    At the end, he thanked the EMTs for getting large bore IV needles in at the scene, which made pushing fluids (loss of blood pressure due to fluid loss a big killer) at the OR easier. By the time the injured got the hospital their veins were collapsing and hard to get big needles in.

    This put me to mind that if you are away from help, even getting a large-bore needle in, with the requisite training, could do wonders even if you don't have the fluids on hand to do a full IV.

    Seems to me learning how to stick a patient has value even in a non-survival scenario.

    Anyone with real medical knowledge have an opinion?

    1. I am an ICU RN and part of my duties include being a member if the Rapid Responce Team/Code team. Starting IVs are not difficult. We often start an IV during a code when the patient's blood pressure is hardly able to register and the pt is bouncing around on the bed during compressions (as an anesthesiologist, the doctor or any CCRN in your anecdote would have no problem sticking an IV once the patient had arrived in the hospital. Gas Passers are actually the only doctors that can ever be counted on to have that skill. In today's world, IVs are beneath a doctor's skill set. Most have never done one) The doctor was likely being polite and thanking the EMTs for their part in simply doing the basic tasks while getting the pt to the EC.

      That being said, I doubt most people would benefit from starting an IV in the field unless IV fluids were already avaliable. And if they were available, they would only be truly needed if the time to hospital was excessive.

      While the lights are on and 911 is working, IV fluids are overkill for preppers. If the condition of the pt is so dire that IV hydration is required over oral hydration, the pt will very likely need more medical attention than can be provided; if they are in transit to a medical facility where their condition can be adequately treated, the IV is not a top priority

      IV fluids are not very expensive, but as with any IV medication, they have a short shelf life and are likely too situation specific to bother stocking for preppers.

    2. Exactly!

      The only 2 likely reasons you need and emergent IV is to keep your blood volume up so your heart can pump it - hence my reccomendations to stop blood flow - clot packs, tourniquets, and as others have suggested compression bandages. Even MAST pants (inflatable compression pants) for shock would be a more appropriate solution than and IV. The other reason you'd need an IV is fluid loss from vomiting/diarhea. Treat this with oral rehydration electrolyte solution.

    3. Anon (6:26 am)

      Good to know, but I did see the trouble when they had to call the special team to stick my brother as his liver disease drained him.

      The statement was in regards to getting a large-bore needle in for high volume, not getting any needle in.

      "While the lights are on and 911 is working, IV fluids are overkill for preppers."

      Well, what we are talking about is being outside the 911 bubble. Could be weather, could be civilizational collapse, could be, as I was often at sea, distance.

      I used to stump the CPR trainers by asking when you can stop. Even standing in a classroom at the Merchant Marine Academy, they couldn't fathom their "till help arrives" was unrealistic when you are 3-10 days from helo range.

      Or it could be a "shelter in place" event. Couldn't get even the planners to comprehend that if you are sealing the place up in plastic, there were no EMTs coming when someone stressed out by the heat or the panic into a cardiac or respiratory event. They were not amused when based on the age and heal of the people on my floor, I asked for 10 body bags for the shelter in place kit.

      The whole idea of prepping is the hospital is hours/days away even if it is just down the road.

    4. Exactly. That's why I'm concerned about IV fluids. I know they may save someone's life. No, I don't know how to start an IV, yet. But others in my group do know how. That's why I want to have something on hand, if possible.

    5. for iv solution. they have alot of supplies.

  5. May I commend to your attention the books by Tami Hartung who with her husband runs Desert Canyon Farm a few miles from here. She specializes in herbs [culinary and medicinal] that grow in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Her books are at her Amazon page here:

    and our prep group uses her "Growing 101 herbs that heal" as a reference.

    Subotai Bahadur

  6. has packages for prepping as well as skin staplers and wound repair kits with local anesthetic.

  7. Thanks Clarice, for the info. Here is an excellent book on Herbal Antibiotics - how individual plants work (a big difference between "local" action and "systemic" action) and great info on using them now to fight antibiotic resistant organisms (even modern medicine can't save some people and the number is rising with increasing antibiotic resistance.)
    Nancy Perry

  8. On the IV subject, it seems that I have read that iv fluids, both commercial and home prepared, can be administered rectally,,,I know it sounds gross, but I have heard it is a very effective way to administer life saving fluids. Someone with more knowledge than me needs to weigh in on this. If it's true, it is a procedure that anyone can do......

  9. Awesome post! That is sound and comprehensive advice. Veterinarians will also bring coveted medical skills.

    As an aside, we keep a QuikClot 50 mg pack and Israeli Battle Compression Dressing in our range bag and glove boxes.
    Montana Guy

  10. Many pharmaceuticals were developed as synthetic versions of what is found in nature or folk remedies, i.e. counterfeits of God's pharmacy, because they could be patented for exclusive sale, i.e. make lots of money for Big Pharma.

    It's worth researching the alternatives herbs and essential oils, there's tons of information online. They also won't break the bank for someone with limited budget. Many EO's--lavender and oregano for example--are antibacterial and antiviral. Ground ginger for inflammation and digestive issues, cinnamon and ginger for anti-virals, anti-bacterials. All will keep longer and may be cheaper than antibiotics, and usually won't have the side effects. A whiff of lavender oil can give relief in case of an asthma attack, and calm an agitated animal. Many are also anti-fungal. And then there's garlic, and ACV. Onion poultices for wounds a la WW I. "Brown-and-bubbly", a half and half mix of peroxide and Beta-dine solution will clean out deep infections, puncture wounds, and abscesses in one or two treatments, for humans and animals, can administer it deep with a small syringe. Coconut oil is good for skin conditions and rash--immediate relief of itching--and also has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal properties on skin or ingested. There's also castor oil for skin problems and castor oil, and castor oil packs for detox, female problems, etc. and there's chlorine dioxide (MMS, a la Jim Humble) for a variety of conditions. I've had personal experience and success with most of these because I had to after developing sensitivity to synthetic products (like pharmaceuticals, synthetic fragrances and pesticides), but do your own homework.

    IMO and as another post notes, with the increase in antibiotic resistance and chemical sensitivities and because of many toxic pharmaceutical side effects, these days we need to think outside the box created by Big Pharma propaganda to reduce dependency and as component of the goal to be more self-sustaining.

  11. I agree that essential oils and herbal remedies are well worth having. My husband is an ER physician assistant but we rely personally on EOs first. There are so many great ones and several are antibacterial. Epson salts are good too for soaking some wounds. Allergies? There are great oils for that too. Of course everything works best if you are already healthy and eat well.

  12. I have found acv to work well on both viral and bacterial sicknesses I've had. My tonsils/throat gets infected fairly often. In the past, it required a doc visit and antibiotics, and would clear up in 3ish days on antibiotics. I used a strong colloidal silver (500-1000ppm) for a couple of yrs instead of visiting the dr, and it took 7-10 days to clear up. Now I drink acv in water (I splash a small amount in....maybe 1 tsp or so to 4oz water....ish...), 3-4 times a day, and am well within 3-4 days. If I feel a cold coming on, I do the same, and I am WELL (viral, normally a 7-10 day sickness) within 3-4 days. Anytime I start to feel horrible, it's acv to the rescue. I am excited to NOT have to visit the doc and sit for hours around other sick people for a few hrs. I am excited to be well and healthy within days. And I am excited that I can buy a gallon of the stuff cheaply! I've used the expensive acv w the mother AND the cheap off brand, non-mother acv. Both have worked well for me and my family. I had some chronic sicknesses that have mostly been done away with in the last 2 yrs, and alot of that is due to drinking acv! I love how it works...and hate how it tastes!

    1. Here's my suggestion for taking ACV: get a small mason jar, brew in it some cinnamon spice tea (by Tazo) add some ACV, leave the teabag in and store overnight in the fridge. Some form of sweetener also helps.

      Chug a few mouthfuls upon arising. Lasts 2-3 days in fridge. The cinnamon tea makes it very easy to take.

  13. I was glad to see your comments on herbal medicine. IMHO there is no serious medical event/condition/emergency where any herbal "medicine" is of any value what so ever. I know, Someone will try their own particular mumbo-jumbo to convince us that some weed will cure god knows what. But the simple fact is that there are two categories of of illness/injury. That which is serious and needs medical care the sooner the better and that which is not. I do not believe that for the first category there is a single so-called herbal remedy that will replace or supplement real medical care. For the second category it doesn't matter. Put some weed leaves on it or not it will make no difference except in the mind of the "mumbo-jumbo" practitioner. In other words herbal medicines aren't of any value for real health problems.

    1. Amen. Herbal medicine sounds quaint and trendy. But in fact Americans spend $20 billion on herbs and other dietary supplements every year. I don't trust Big Herbal.

      Something often overlooked is prayer. It is free and it works. Pocket Bibles are available for as little as $2.50 each. These would be a great addition to medical preps to give out to those in need and to include in every BO bag.

      Montana Guy

    2. I use essential oils for headache relief, muscle soreness, and sinus/congestion. I've had good luck with them for that, but I have OTC and prescriptions for serious illnesses and injuries.

    3. Obviously there are times when surgery is necessary. No, the herbal meds won't take care of those things. But they DO work for smaller issues. I am keeping my gall bladder and liver clean of gallstones by doing a liver flush about every yr or so. I'd love to NOT have to have surgery. (Esp as family members who've had their gallbladders removed STILL have issues.) I also like that if I feel uncomfortable in my gall bladder area, I can rub lemongrass or grapefruit essential oils over that area, and the uncomfortableness disappears. Also, I can drink some baking soda water to help belch some of the gas away, and relieve some of the pressure I feel.

      I like that when my kidneys ache as they do before I have another episode of mono, I can rub grapefruit essential oils over them, on my back, and the oils support my kidney function. I also hydrate like crazy, to try to flush them well. Idk why my kidneys always ache before my chronic mono acts up....but they do. And the exhaustion hits for several days soon after. I use the oils, water, and drinking acv to help strengthen my body, and fight against becoming sick. It helps a ton. I would much rather use these alternative meds to fight the sickness which used to hit me monthly. I'm now at 1-2 episodes a yr, and those are greatly reduced, do to alternative meds. The doc wanted to put me on an anti-depressant to "help" my mono. Um....and that was her only plan. No. My chiropractor listened to me, and said the mono was a symptom of another sickness, and we determined it to be a candida overgrowth, treated it with caprylic acid (....coconut oil!), and my health improved. I went to the reg doc for 2+ yrs to treat my mono....with no improvements. She was worried about taking blood tests and giving me anti depressants.....not in figuring out why I was so sick, and what to do about it.

      I made a dr appt when I had the flu 2.5 yrs ago, as the cough I had was starting to sound like the pneumonia cough I had 2 yrs prior to that. I started hearing the fluidy ickiness in my lungs, and wanted to head that off. Before that appt, I stopped in to the chiropractor for an adjustment, and he gave me mega doses of vitamin b-100. By the time I had my reg dr appt, my lungs had dried up. We now fight flus and colds w extra vitamin c d b-100. And acv. I learned about drinking acv during that time, and it has kept me well for over 2yrs now. It + fighting the Candida overgrowth. I went from getting every sickness around me, and zero immune system (that pneumonia came from a bought of the flu...that I caught after my dh had his required flu shot....I caught the flu from his durn shot! Nope, it is NOT impossible!) to rarely being sick, and IF I catch something, I now know how to fight it off and contain it to within a couple short days.

      This is preparedness. Cause my prior health included me being well about one week a month. All of my current health is due to herbs and vitamins and alternative care. No, I didn't have anything life threatening, but my life consisted of 12 wks/yr of wellness, for several yrs. Don't discount the general health benefits of alternative medicines. And yes, we still need drs, nurses, and emergency care, in case of severe problems....but there is much wisdom for everyday care in alternative sources.

    4. ...and btw, my nurse sil is absolutely good for nothing in normal, daily healthcare issues. She does great at her job, but at home with her kid....she is clueless. I get phone calls all the time from her, asking what should I do for this or that? She takes her kid into the doc for a cold. Rest, fluids, a vaporizer w eucalyptus, vicks on the chest and back and feet, epsom salt baths a few times a day...all better in 7-10 days.....or, add in making the kid drink acv water 3-4 times a day, and she'll be well in 1-3 days. High fever? Epsom salt baths 2-3 times a day, plus drinking acv, my kids are all better by the next day.

    5. My 4-year old had a bad cough earlier this year. At her age she can't take narcotic cough syrup anyway. I bought a jar of raw local honey from the nearby Mennonite owned herb shop and gave her a teaspoon of the honey whenever she had a coughing fit. She took the honey without any fuss because it's sweet and it really helped her cough.

      The Amish and Mennonite around here go to the doctor like everyone else, but they also use a lot of home remedies. They are much healthier than the general population. I find that preferable to society at large seeing a doctor and taking a pill for every conceivable problem.

    6. I've given my honey to a coworker for her little girl, and she loves taking it too.

  14. Thank you for your response to my earlier comment. I have a dental hygienist and a soon-to-be nurse (She graduates next month.) in the family. We also have two nurses and a medical doctor living within 1/4 of a mile from us. I haven't approached the neighbors, but we are on friendly terms with all of them. In a grid-down situation, I believe we will all have skills to benefit each other. I am considering taking EMT classes within the next year. Nearly everyone in the family has given shots to animals, and some have given stitches to them also. Three family members use essential oils, and have a moderate to high level of knowledge in this area. I appreciate the post and comments from other readers. I enjoy learning from others, and I am thankful to the Lewis family for their commitment to their readers. Thanks again.

  15. The Wilderness Medicine class is a great idea! Really think about the situations you are preping for. Many things are common sense and you can obtain those supplies. When you start to think of what you are going to be able to do when there is NO 911 or hospital to go to, you realize you need knowledge much more then supplies. Knowledge so you will know what you can do for the injured or sick, and what you can't do. We call that triage, or sorting, and the Wilderness Medicine class will be a great help to all of you. I took that class back in the early 1990s when it was just getting started. I learned TONS of great info that made me a better paramedic. I have left that life behind me, but the knowledge gained is priceless. I would love to take the course again!
    Judy, in Arizona for the moment.

  16. Just remember with all medications from antibiotics to OTC pain relievers, cough meds, etc., keeping them cool lengthens their shelf life. So a root cellar or cold (not freezing) basement is perfect.

    Don't neglect finger splints, ankle and wrist braces, and back supporters. Also we store supplies for emergency dentistry - emergency filling kits and Ora-gel for numbing painful gums. Works for adults as it does for babies.

    I am disabled, so I have a couple of walkers in addition to crutches. A lot of people cannot walk on crutches or hurt their backs and require foldable walkers instead. As Patrice mentioned, a lot of people cast off medical equipment when they recover from broken bones and the items end up in thrift stores.