Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and cannot give medical advice, diagnosis or suggest treatment for any sickness or disease. All information in this article is for informational purposes only. Please seek out a competent medical care professional for any injury, sickness, or disease that you might have.
Now that the legal disclaimer is out-of-the-way, let us get started with some general info and advice on the types of injuries you can expect, and with a discussion of medical kits and contents, references and training recommendations.
Most preppers when stockpiling medical kits and medications often make the mistake of targeting the bulk of their preparations toward trauma care – i.e., treating gunshot wounds and other trauma caused by violence or accident. While having the medical skills and tools to treat such injuries, there must be a balance between those types supplies, and supplies needed for more likely medical conditions such as the common cold, flu, dehydration, diarrhea, food poisoning, arthritis, heat stroke, hypothermia, diabetes, childbirth and so forth.
Most of these types of illnesses are easy to deal with while the medical system is running smoothly. However, after just a short-term disaster the medical system is often overburdened and is hard-pressed to meet the increased demand causing treatment to become degraded or nonexistent.
If the medical system cannot efficiently deal with the demand for treatment after a short-term disaster, one can only imagine the lack of care that we will experience following a major event such as an EMP, a nuclear attack, or a cyber attack that shuts down the power grid for months or even a viral pandemic that affects millions nationwide.
After an economic collapse, the main hurdle to getting medical care might be the inability to pay the upfront admittance costs rather than a lack of available care. I also expect the quality of care to decline in the months after an economic collapse. In other words, you might be able to find an office or hospital that will accept you (if you have the admittance fee), but the care you get maybe far below current standards.
After Argentina’s economic collapse, it was common for hospitals to ask patients to bring their own medical supplies when they needed care. As a side note, medical supplies make great barter items. It is also a good idea to have a supply of silver coins to pay for admittance into a doctor’s office or emergency room.
Prevention involves regular exercise and proper diet. This is one of those things that some preppers seem to ignore, or perhaps they’re just too lazy and undisciplined to get into better shape. You know the ones – they buy all of the best gear and cool gadgets, and they pack their bug out bags thinking they are ready for the “big one”. Sadly, most of these folks cannot carry their gear 100 yards without stopping for a snack and thirty-minute nap.
Getting into decent shape (no you do not have to be a top contender in the next Ironman triathlon) is one of the best things that you can do for yourself now, and it will benefit you greatly in any disaster.
At a minimum, strive to meet the fitness and agility level presented in the chart below, after consulting with your doctor first of course. We do not want anyone with any preexisting medical conditions to fall over with a heart attack, so please go get a check-up and ask your doctor if you are healthy enough for this type of physical activity.
- Walk / Run one Mile in 15 minutes – 20 minutes if 50+ years of age
- Push-Ups 35 reps – 25 if you’re 50+ years of age
- Sit-Ups 40 reps – 30 if you’re 50+ years of age
- Bench Press 1+ reps 75% of body weight – 50% for those 50+
The key to success here is to start slowly, gradually working up to, and even beyond, the fitness level presented in the chart above. At the very least, these fitness event requirements will give you a starting point and some goals to strive toward achieving.
For those of you who are already in good physical condition and have no problem performing the exercises listed above, you should continue to stay on a maintenance program to maintain or even surpass what is listed in the chart above.
Okay, now let us look at the steps that necessary (for most people) to get in and stay in reasonable physical condition. Again, nothing here is to be taken or intended as medical advice. Go talk to your doctor and ask them about each step in this chapter and whether it is right for you considering your current physical condition.
Start with a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet should be at the very top of everyone’s to-do list, especially if you want to get into better physical condition and be better prepared to survive a disaster. However, where do you start? There is so much information on healthy eating continually filling the pages of books, magazine, and digital media that it is easy to become overwhelmed to the point of just giving up.
When it comes to a healthy diet, the most important consideration is to keep it as simple as possible, which is what I intend to do here. Forget about counting calories or portion size. You want to eat better, not waste away in hunger. There are three key rules for eating healthy:
(1) avoid refined sugar
(2) avoid prepackaged foods and
(3) avoid fast food.
The healthiest foods that you can eat are those that have been grown and harvested from your own garden. Commercially produced fruits and vegetables cannot compete with the goodness and health-boosting benefits that are provided from freshly harvested (preferably organically grown) vegetables and fruits that you have grown yourself in your home garden or orchard. A close second is to purchase produce at your local farmer’s market.
The bulk of your diet should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, chicken, eggs, fish, grass-fed beef, venison or other wild game, grains, beans, and olive oil. Also, remember to chew your food slowly and completely. By chewing your food slowly, you will get full on less food, and it aids with your digestion. Eat until you feel full and then stop.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Listed below are two books that I recommend you add to your bookshelf for further study:
- Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements by Phyllis A. Balch CNC
- Over the Counter Natural Cures: Take Charge of Your Health in 30 Days with 10 Lifesaving Supplements for under $10 by Shane Ellison.
These books cover everything that you need to know about vitamins, natural healing, and health.
So what vitamins and supplements do I take? Every day I take a Centrum Silver® Adults 50+ multivitamin and mineral, 500 mg of vitamin C, Curcumin C3 Complex 500 mg, and 1200 mg of fish oil capsules. This is the combination that I have found that works best for me as a guy. However, each person has individual needs. I do recommend that women talk to their doctors about calcium and vitamin D. What is good for me might not be for you. As with diet, it is best to keep it simple. If you are taking more than five different supplements per day, then you are probably taking too many (unless, of course, you are talking them on the recommendation of your physician).
Get Enough Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, an average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per calendar day for optimum health and alertness. Granted, this much sleep will probably be non-existent after a disaster. However, note that this chapter is about getting into better shape now before a disaster strikes. Getting in shape now will help you be more prepared and able to handle whatever might come your way.
The key to getting good night’s sleep is to set a regular schedule to go to bed and get up and stick to it. A regular schedule will help your body knows when it is time to go to sleep and when it is time to get up. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it.
Another key ingredient that I have found that works wonders when trying to get a good night’s sleep is valerian root, specifically Spring Valley Natural Valerian Root sold by Wal-Mart. Valerian root has several sedative compounds to help you relax and fall asleep faster, and it has been proven non-toxic with zero addictive properties.
It is also important to relax and take it easy. Relaxation will improve your sleep patterns as well as your overall health. It has been documented by countless studies and in a number of medical journals that stress has a detrimental effect on our overall health. Stressed for long periods can affect blood pressure, blood sugar levels, the immune system, and can cause premature aging, heart disease, and even cancer.
I know it can be difficult to relax after you have opened your eyes to the true state of the world and understand what is at stake. The pressure to do something and to do more to prepare can be overwhelming at times, but it is important to take a step back every now and then to relax.
I take two days per week that I do not (or try not to) think about the sad shape of the world, politics, or prepping. I take those two days to just relax and spend time with family, go fishing, sit in the swing, watch a movie, or go for a long drive and pray. I just take the time to relax no matter what is going on in the world around me.
First, before you start any type of physical activity, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor for a complete health check-up, and get permission to proceed from there before you start working out or even getting out of bed.
So what types of exercises should you be doing that will help you to better defend your retreat? Well, to be honest, that depends on your current level of physical conditioning and how physically fit that you want to be. No one can be too physically fit and most of us will have to continually work at it to see improvement and to even retain the gains that we make.
Any fitness program should start with flexibility. Stretch before and after every workout. Stretch your legs, back, arms, shoulders, and neck. The most important thing to remember is to take it slow. Do not over-stretch. Always stretch with solid, non-bouncy movements. This will help you avoid injury and setbacks.
While you could join a gym and train three or more times per week, most preppers will find that working out at home can have just as much benefit as joining a gym plus working out at home will save money on membership fees and the expense of travel to and from the work-out facility. This money can be used to buy other survival preps or even to take the family out for a night on the town.
In fact, you do not even need free weights or any other exercise equipment to build strength and muscle endurance. Calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) if performed correctly and regularly will help you get stronger by building muscle mass. So what types of calisthenic exercises and routines should you do? The answer to this question will depend on your current physical condition and what you want to achieve. Again, as with building flexibility, start slowly to avoid injury and build upon your continued progress each day.
Listed below is a short list of calisthenic exercises to consider when building your routine:
- Jumping Jacks
- Heel Raises
- Reverse Push-Ups
I have found it best not to set a number or limit to an individual exercise or movement, but instead do each to exhaustion. For example, I’ll do one set of push-ups until my muscles are exhausted and can no longer perform the exercise properly, rest for two minutes, and repeat two more times. Below is my current calisthenics workout. I call it “the prepper’s muscle blast” because, well, it is a blast.
- Push-ups – three sets to exhaustion
- Pull-ups – three sets to exhaustion
- Set-ups – three sets to exhaustion
- Squats – three sets to exhaustion
- Jumping Jacks – 50 reputations
Cardiovascular Endurance Training
Obviously, cardiovascular endurance training is the act of exercising to increase endurance. Greater cardiovascular endurance will allow you to work longer and harder. It will allow you to walk and run farther and faster. Building your cardiovascular endurance one of the most important things that you can do to be better prepared to survive a disaster and defend your retreat.
Some folks prefer to run, while others prefer to walk at a brisk pace when working to build their cardiovascular endurance. Both will work; however, I prefer to combine both into my cardiovascular endurance training. I also enjoy bicycling. Three days per week, I will walk approximately 200 yards followed by a 100-yard sprint, then walk again for approximately 200 yards followed by a 100-yard sprint, and repeat until I have a distance of 1-3 miles, depending on how I feel and how much time I have that day.
In addition, to mix it up a little to prevent boredom, one day per week I ride my mountain bike for 4-5 miles non-stop. Usually, I’ll ride out to the nearest little country store (a little over 4 miles away) and pick up a couple of things on my shopping list and then ride back home. By riding out to that marketplace, I get exercise for that day, save gas and get some minor shopping done.
The key to building cardiovascular endurance is to make a plan then get off the couch and put that plan into motion. In addition, you have to stick with it… well, what are you waiting for… hop to it!
Get Medical Training
I have said it before, but I will say it again, get as much medical training as possible. Everyone in your family or prepper group should at a minimum, complete a basic CPR and first aid class, and completing paramedic training and or wilderness first aid course would be a great leap forward in your medical preparedness.
If possible, recruit a medical doctor or registered nurse into your group. I know it probably will not be possible for many groups but it will be well worth the effort if you are successful. I know a single guy, who is also a prepper and his number one criteria in choosing a wife is that she be a registered nurse or have other medical training like previous or current work as a paramedic.
During hard times like those following an economic collapse or any grid-down situation, men and women are going to seek comfort together, and we all know where that leads. That is right, folks. I am talking about intercourse and lots of it.
Keeping that part of human nature in mind, you will see the need for lots and lots of birth control. If you are a man who has no plans for children, then getting a vasectomy is a great idea – problem solved. Condoms work okay but are not full proof. Consider also that condoms lose their effectiveness as they age. I recommend keeping a year’s supply. The number of condoms that you keep in your “years supply” would, of course, depend on how much sex you plan on having.
Both of the birth control methods mentioned above rely on the male taking the initiative, and in my opinion, the vasectomy is by far the best option available for the male. It is permanent and you do not have to keep worrying about having condoms or other types of birth control.
However, a vasectomy does nothing to prevent STDs. If you are married or in a long-term committed relationship and both of you are STD free, then you are good to go.
Women have a much wider selection of birth control methods available to them and I’m not going to get into those here because that would take a full chapter and I’m sure that the ladies reading this already know plenty about the different types of birth control that are available and what works best for them.
The main questions women should ask when looking at post-SHTF birth control methods is what is sustainable? In other words, can you keep it working for months or even a year or more if you could not go back to the doctor to get your prescription refilled. One long-term birth control method that woman should consider is the IUD, which can be effective for up to 12 years for the non-hormonal type.
But as is always the case with any medical issues, the best option is to discuss it with your doctor. Ask your doctor what long-term birth control methods are available to you before making a decision.
Basic Prepper First-Aid Kit Recommendations
Having a well-stocked medical kit could mean the difference between life and death. As you assemble the list of medical items listed below, keep in mind that it is a basic list of suggestions only. Your kit should be tailored to your individual needs. However, the items listed should give you some ideas and get you started in the right direction when putting together your prepper first aid kit.
- Hand soap
- Anti-diarrhea medications
- Bandages and wound dressings (large)
- Basic surgical kit
- Bed liners or plastic sheeting
- Blood pressure monitor
- CPR shields
- Crutches, adjustable
- Epson salts
- Examination gloves
- Antihistamine oral and injectable
- Injectable epinephrine
- IV electrolytes
- Needles and silk thread for stitching wounds
- Ophthalmic salve
- Oral and injectable antibiotics/sulfas
- Pain medications
- Quikclot clotting agent (or if you prefer Israeli battle dressings)
- Scalpel set if not in the surgical kit
- Rubbing alcohol, peroxide, iodine, betadine, (copious amounts)
- SAM splint
- Sterile IV kit
- Sterile needles and syringes
- Thermometer (several)
When putting together your medical kit, do not forget to include personal items such as extra eyeglasses, hearing aids and batteries, dentures, and prescription medications.
Over The Counter Medications
Having a stockpile of over the counter medications could literally mean the difference between life and death for the prepper in a long-term grid-down situation where re-supply might not be available or as simple as taking a trip to the pharmacy.
Keep in mind that because many over the counter medications have a limited shelf life you will need to date and rotate just as you do with your food stores to ensure a fresh and viable supply. Remember first in, first out to ensure an always-fresh stockpile of perishable items.
When you decide to start stockpiling over the counter medications, the first question that arises is, “What do I need?” This is a good question because some of this stuff can get rather confusing, but it is not at all complicated.
When shopping for over the counter medications, keep in mind that the most common illnesses that we currently face will also be the most common after TSHTF, conditions like diarrhea, vomiting, fever, allergy, and pain. These are the main issues that we should prep for and stockpile medications to treat.
Herbs and Supplements
For some medical issues, herbal supplements can work better than prescription pharmaceuticals. But for disclaimer purposes, I must tell you to please go check with your doctor or other medical professionals before going off of any prescription medications or starting any herbal or other supplement program.
Stopping some types of prescription medications “cold turkey” can be deadly. Be smart; talk to your doctor and do your own research before making major decisions pertaining to your health.
What types of herbal medications should you stockpile? Well that depends on your health issues, but a few common ones include:
- Hawthorn to lower high blood pressure.
- Garlic, red yeast rice, folic acid, and soluble fiber to lower cholesterol.
- Cinnamon to control blood sugar levels.
- Peppermint oil and ginger for stomach issues like IBS.
- Milk thistle for acute hepatitis, liver disease, jaundice, and gallstones.
- Valerian root extract and melatonin for a restful sleep.
- St. John’s wort for depression.
The list could easily expand into another book, but it should be enough to get you started. Do your own research and talk to your healthcare provider. An excellent book that is loaded with pertinent information is The Herbal Drugstore by Linda B. White.
Dental health is just as important to your general overall health as is exercise and eating right. It should not be overlooked or downplayed. Take care of your teeth and get regular dental checkups.
I will admit that I am afraid of the dentist. The thought of him grinding, filling and pulling teeth is scary. And let us not forget those horrible shots, bleeding gums and that sucking thing. However, dental emergencies seldom solve themselves. Without medical attention, dental issues usually to get worse over time, possibly resulting in dire consequences to your health. Therefore, it is best to get any issues taken care of now.
One thing that is certain is that dental services will always be in demand. However, like other medical services, they may not be available. Even if dental services are available, you need to ask yourself whether will be able to afford competent care.
This is another instance where I think having a small gold or silver reserve is a good idea. After an economic collapse, the dollar may be worthless or significantly devalued. But gold and silver will retain value and that value that can be traded for dental and medical services in an emergency.
Unfortunately, no matter how prepared we are some dental and medical emergencies cannot be dealt with without proper and professional care. Nevertheless, there are steps that can be taken to better deal with minor problems or to provide care until a real solution can be found.
As previously mentioned, preventive maintenance cannot be stressed enough. Take care of your teeth. If possible, visit a dentist at least once a year to find and take care of any problems. Brush, floss, and rinse. Stock up on oral hygiene supplies. This can be done cheaply compared to the alternative of paying for treatment of major problems brought on by poor oral hygiene. Toothpaste, toothbrushes, and floss will also make excellent barter items, especially in the months following a long-term disaster.
Note: It is easy to make your own toothpaste. Simply mix equal parts baking soda and sea salt. The result tastes awful (you can add peppermint extract to improve taste) until you get used to it but it does a decent job of cleaning your teeth and gums. Simply moisten a toothbrush and dip it in the mixture and brush as usual.
It is a good idea to have a dental first aid kit to complement your other first aid supplies. A basic kit should consist of:
- Temporary filling material Temparin or Cavit
- Soft dental floss
- Orajel or another dental pain reliever
- Advil, or Motrin
- Clove Oil (pain relief)
- Rubber gloves (some people are allergic to latex)
- Dental wax
- Dental Mirror
- Hand Sanitizer
- A copy of Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson. This is a “must have” book. If you do not have a hard copy of this book, then your survival library is not complete. Get it now.
Alternatively, if you prefer you can purchase a ready-made kit survival emergency dental care kit and then expand it into a more comprehensive dental care package. How bad was your last toothache? Now imagine that you have the same pain but no dental care is available.
Shelf Life of Medications
What is the shelf life of medications? This is a tricky subject because there are so many variables to consider such as the type of medication, how old it is when you get it and previous storage conditions. When everything is considered, it becomes impossible to give a specific date as to when a medication will “go bad”. However, most will remain viable well past the listed expiration date. According to Joseph Alton MD in an article published at TheSurvivalistBlog.net, FEMA has seen massive stores of medication expire, and so a study was commissioned to find out how effective these expired medications still were. This study is known as the Shelf Life Extension Program (SLEP). This program has evaluated at least 100 medications that were expired for at least 2 to 10 years at the time they were evaluated. This includes many commonly-used antibiotics and other medications that could mean the difference between life and death in a collapse situation.
My recommendation is to do your own research and to talk to your doctor about your prescriptions and the shelf life and extended long-term potency of those medications to determine the estimated real-world shelf life of each.
The Use of “Fish Antibiotics” in Humans Post Collapse
The use of fish antibiotics in humans post collapse is another issue that comes up anytime two preppers talk to each other, and for good reason. Without antibiotics, a minor cut or infection can turn deadly. However, it is often difficult to get a medical doctor to write out a prescription for larger than normal amounts of antibiotics.
Fortunately putting back a large stockpile of fish antibiotics is not difficult or costly. According to Joseph Alton MD, fish antibiotics are essentially the exact same medications as those prescribed by a doctor at a clinic; you just have to know what to look for when you buy.
Setting Up the SHTF Medical Clinic
If you have the medical expertise and feel that it’s your duty to help your community or you simply have a large family and or prepper group, then you will need to have supplies on hand that will allow you to set up an SHTF medical clinic.
This need not be elaborate or expensive, but you do need to go beyond the items recommend above which are only suitable for a small group or family. You will need the same supplies when setting up an SHTF medical clinic as those for a smaller group; you will just need more of everything to meet the demand.
You will also need a few other items that will be specific to setting up and running a SHTF medical clinic, items such as a large tent, a building or a room inside a building, a number of beds or military cots, stretchers, large amounts of PPE (personal protection equipment), like gloves, face shields, etc. You could even have a pull trailer or panel truck set up as a mobile SHTF medical clinic that you could drive or pull to wherever you’re needed and provide medical care to those in need.
You Medical Library
Below are ten must have medical books for preppers; there are many more that could be included, but these are the top ten to start your library with:
- Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook, Revised Edition by David Werner and Carol Thuman
- Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson
- The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is not on the Way by Joseph Alton
- Emergency War Surgery: The Survivalist’s Medical Desk Reference by U.S. Army
- Wilderness Medicine: Beyond First Aid by William W. Forgey M.D.
- The Survival Nurse: Running an Emergency Nursing Station Under Adverse Conditions by Ragnar Benson
- Prescription for Herbal Healing, 2nd Edition: An Easy-to-Use A-to-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies by Phyllis A. Balch CNC
- Prescription for Drug Alternatives: All-Natural Options for Better Health without the Side Effects by James F. Balch
- Medical Diagnosis and Treatment by Maxine Papadakis
- Where There Is No Psychiatrist: A Mental Health Care Manual by Vikram Patel