Medical care is frequently overlooked as part of a survivalist’s preparations. A group or individual may spend thousands of dollars on firearms, vehicles, or even explosives, but have only a simple first-aid kit for dealing with the medical emergencies that could result from the misuse of firearms, vehicles, or explosives.
For a survivalist in a post-disaster situation, dealing with medical emergencies would be especially difficult as there would be a tremendous shortage of doctors and surgeons, so a medic in a group must have the knowledge and equipment to be able to stabilize a patient for an extended period of time, if not correct the ailment.
Correcting medical problems can be extremely difficult without proper knowledge and equipment, so I strongly recommend that a group send a member through EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) or at least First Responder training.
💉 Having the right tools for dealing with medical emergencies
This article deals with some equipment that the trained medic may wish to acquire, and a rough outline for the usage of such equipment. Untrained individuals should not attempt to use this equipment.
💨 Artificial airways
The first items in the advanced medical kit are artificial airways, and there are two types of these: Oral (oropharyngeal) and nasal (nasopharyngeal).
The primary function of an artificial airway is to prevent the obstruction of the upper airway (throat) by the tongue and allow passage of air and oxygen to the lungs. Oral airways are hollow plastic tubes or I-beam shaped structures designed to lift the tongue off the back of the throat.
An oral airway should only be inserted into an unconscious patient since it could cause vomiting or spasming of the vocal cords in a conscious or semi-conscious patient. If incorrectly placed, the airway may displace the tongue into the pharynx and occlude the airway.
The sizing of the oral airway is accomplished by choosing the airway, which has a tip that touches the patient’s earlobe when the upper end is placed at the corner of the mouth. The mouth is then opened via the tongue-jaw lift, the airway started perpendicular to the throat, then rotated into anatomical position as it is placed.
The nasal airway has the same function as the oral airway, except this airway is inserted through the nostril. Nasal airways are useful when the conscious or semi-conscious patient cannot maintain an airway, and nasal airways aren’t as likely to stimulate vomiting as are oral airways.
Nasal airways are extremely simple to insert. Merely choose the correct size (as with the oral airways above, except measure from nostril to earlobe), lubricate with a water-soluble lubricant, choose the larger of the patient’s two nostrils, and gently slide it in.
Most all equipment (including plastic syringes) can be sterilized by soaking them in a 10:1 bleach solution. That is 10 parts water to 1 part bleach. Soak the equipment for at least 10 minutes, then rinse in warm water and allow to air dry.
Nasal airways, though simpler, are inexplicably more expensive, at nearly $26 a set.
⚕️ Oxygen tanks
Another important item that is expensive, but nearly worth its considerable weight in gold in an emergency, is an oxygen tank. Oxygen is used to combat hypoxia (under-oxygenation) in various situations, such as myocardial infarction (heart attack), pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in lungs), acute drug overdoses, pulmonary burns, strokes, chest injuries, and, very importantly, shock.
Normal air contains about 21 percent oxygen. There is no detrimental effect on the body from breathing pure oxygen unless it is breathed for a protracted length of time, such as several weeks.
Delivery systems for oxygen include the nasal cannula, which delivers oxygen to the patient through two small tubular prongs that fit in each nostril. The flow rates for nasal cannula are 1 to 6 liters per minute, which translates to 24 to 40 percent inspired oxygen, respectively.
Simple face masks are capable of inspired concentrations of 40 to 60 percent oxygen when set at flow rates of 6 to 10 liters per minute.
😷 Face masks
Mask-and-bag systems are similar to the simple mask, yet vary in that, with a reservoir bag and valve system, inspired concentrations approaching 100 percent can be attained. Oxygen is collected in the reservoir bag during the patient’s exhalation (due to valves, exhaled carbon dioxide is not mixed with oxygen in reservoir bag), so that upon inhalation, nearly pure oxygen is inhaled. The flow rate is determined as whatever keeps the reservoir bag full.
If intended for long-term use, oxygen must be humidified, as excessive drying of the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, and lungs can interfere with respiration. The above oxygen delivery devices are for patients who are capable of spontaneous respirations.
There are two emergency-type devices to ventilate patients who cannot breathe spontaneously.
The first are demand-valve/manually triggered oxygen powered ventilators. Anyone with scuba experience is familiar with these devices, as they are nearly the same as the second-stage regulator of a scuba outfit.
Demand valves/positive pressure ventilators are simply valves that allow the operator to let tank pressure push oxygen into the patient’s lungs. The difficulty with this device is, for fear of over ventilating the patient, the operator may not trigger the valve for a long enough period of time to deliver sufficient oxygen to the patient. This fear, for the most part, is unfounded, as most demand valves have a pressure-relief valve to prevent over ventilation.
The bag-valve-mask (BVM), consists of an inflatable-deflatable bag, a valve that incorporates an exhaust port, an oxygen inlet, an interface between bag and mask, and finally, a face mask. The bag is of pliable plastic and holds about 1200 to 1600cc of gas.
These devices allow the operator to regulate the pressure and speed of the inspirations. Virtually all BVMs are equipped with a reservoir bag that allows an oxygen concentration of nearly 100 percent. Without this reservoir bag, the BVM delivers about 50 percent oxy-gen through the normal inlet and delivers normal air (21 percent oxygen) if no supplementary oxygen is available.
With the BVM, it is important to maintain a tight mask seal around the patient’s nose and mouth, as an incorrect seal will cause oxygen leakage and may cause insufficient ventilation of the patient. When used during two-rescuer CPR, the patient is ventilated after the second and fifth chest compression.
The ventilation after the second compression probably will not be a full ventilation, but every little bit helps. Of course, the person doing chest compressions pauses after the fifth compression to allow the patient to be fully ventilated.
This technique is more effective than the standard mouth-to-mouth in CPR for two reasons: nearly 100 percent oxygen is being administered, and the breath after the second compression adds approximately 25 percent more oxygen than ventilating only after the fifth compression.
A “D” size steel oxygen cylinder holds 320 liters of oxygen, fits in a duffle bag, and costs about $90. An “E” size cylinder holds 560 liters and costs $130. A regulator for the tank is also necessary and costs about $85. These de-vices merely reduce the 2,000psi tank pressure to a manageable level.
In the past you could find oxygen cylinders on Amazon, but nowdays you can find only 2 or 5 liter canisters. The good news is that you can still buy a portable oxygen kit, altought the price can be quite high for many. I have such an oxygen kit in my emergency trauma kit at home and I see it as an important investment.
Simple masks, nasal cannula, and mask-and-bag systems all cost under $5 a piece. Demand valves/positive pressure ventilators are expensive. The versatile BVMs can cost as much as $40 for a high-quality unit and are well worth the investment.
If a reusable BVM is too costly, disposable (see above for comment on “disposability”) versions are available at cheaper prices. Humidification systems cost about $60.
If all of the above equipment’s cost is added together, it turns out to be a fairly reasonable amount, if the disposable equipment is purchased, along with the “D” size oxygen cylinder; the total can be quite high. That is really an investment that you can’t go wrong with, provided it is used by capable individuals.
Coupled with a good first-aid/trauma kit, this equipment is an advanced, comprehensive medical kit complete enough to handle nearly any emergency until more advanced help can be sought.
🐾 Veterinary supplies for medical emergencies
But not all medical problems treated by the medic will be emergency/trauma type situations. Infections, burns, and diseases will present some long term problems for the survival medic.
These problems are best treated by a doctor with prescription drugs, but what do you do without a doctor or pharmacies?
If a medic is really dedicated, willing to spend much of his/her spare time to learn, proper treatment may be given using veterinary supplies.
Most of the drugs that you can purchase over-the-counter at a veterinarian supply store are the same purity as their human counterparts, and often available for a substantially small price. For example, Procaine Penicillin G (Penicillin mixed with Procaine, a pain killer) is available but the prices have increased constantly for the past 10 years or so.
IM injectable drugs are easier to inject than IV (intravenous) or Subcue (subcutaneous), as one can use any mass of muscle as an injection point, rather than learning the technique required for starting an IV line to give intravenous injections.
Needles and syringes may also be purchased at a “feed and seed” store. Syringes come in several sizes, but a 10cc size will suffice for most situations. Needles come in varying lengths and gauges. The smaller the gauge number, the larger the needle. For example, a 22g needle is smaller than an 18g. For the injection of Procaine Penicillin G, which is fairly thick, an 18 or 20 will do.
According to the 18th edition of the Merck Manual (an invaluable tome to the medic), a dosage of 600,000 units of Procaine Penicillin G twice per day will suffice for most penicillin-susceptible infections. The packaging containing the Procaine Penicillin G will include a brochure detailing the number of units per milligram, and other useful information such as expiration dates.
Oral Tetracycline or Oxytetracycline is available for a similarly low price. Tetracycline and Oxytetracycline are virtually the same. These antibiotics can save lives in cases of everything from infected wounds to anthrax, including most venereal diseases. They also will take the place of penicillin in the event that the patient is allergic to penicillin.
Tetracycline is available in injectable or in oral form. The oral form is most commonly available in 100 or 25 tablet bottles, having a shelf-life of about three years. The injectable Tetracycline has the advantage over penicillin in that it does not need to be refrigerated. The dosage for oral Tetracycline (again, according to the Merck Manual), is usually 250 to 500mg every six hours given orally.
🩹 Dealing with open wounds
In cases of open wounds, pinkeye powder used for cattle is an excellent medicine to encourage the healing process. Contained in the powder is sulfa, an antibiotic, an anesthetic, and an antiseptic. Care must be taken to ensure that too much is not used as this will cause the wound to fester and will inhibit healing. Clean the wound, removing any dead tissue, and dust lightly with the powder.
This website already has a lot of information on how the layman can deal with open wounds, so I recommend checking them out.
An excellent book that details the uses of veterinary medicines and equipment for human use is Survivalist’s Medicine Chest by Ragnar Benson, published by Paladin Press.
Another book that is virtually a must is the Merck Manual. This book details the causes and treatment of a plethora of diseases and injuries. At about $50, it’s an invaluable aid. I must add that all the above drugs must be administered only by competent and trained persons. The improper administration of drugs could kill.
Q: How should I prepare at home for medical emergencies?
A: The first step in being prepared is acquiring a first aid kit. However, this will not help you solve any medical emergencies if you don’t know how to use such kits. You should start with the basics and get some first aid training. Such classes are free, and communities offen organize them free of charge, no questions asked.
Q: What items do I need to have in my first aid kit?
A: There are simple first aid kits, and there are some designed for EMT personnel. My recommendation would be to start with a kit that you can build yourself, add the items that are familiar to you, and those that yo can understand (or figure out eventually) how to use. Even more, each family has specific needs, so don’t forget to add additional medicine and resources.
Q: All this sounds too complicated to me, what should I do?
A: Some people can’t tackle such a subject due to various reasons, while others simply cannot wrap their head around all of this. There are even those that have an emotional reaction when medical care is involved, and they faint when seeing blood. For these folks, their main option would be to find professional help when SHTF. The viable option, in my opinion, would be to have a medical professional in their network of survivalists.
Medics, if they are to deal with lives in such a manner as this, must be a breed apart. They must be knowledgeable, dedicated, and calm under pressure. A good medic is one of the most useful members of a group. It is suggested that the medic takes on an “apprentice,” that is, someone to help in multiple casualties, or when the medic him/herself is injured.
This article has been written by James H. Redford MD for Prepper’s Will.
Useful resources to check out: