May 2023

Photo credit: Jim Cobb
Location: Ora Rice Arboretum, Delavan, WI

Focus of the Month – First Aid

Reading Recommendations:
Non-fiction book – The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Help is NOT on the Way by Dr. Joe Alton and Amy Alton
Fiction book — Ashfall by Mike Mullin

First aid and emergency medical skills are something I dearly wish were covered in our school systems. If just CPR and Stop the Bleed courses were available, imagine how many lives could be saved each year? But, since they aren’t taught in school, we need to seek that training elsewhere. Find classes in your area by talking to the Red Cross or even just calling your local fire department. The latter might not offer classes themselves but they might be able to point you in the right direction.

In November 2021, there was a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin that became the site for tragedy. Darrell E. Brooks Jr. drove his vehicle at a high rate of speed through a portion of the parade, striking numerous people. Six of them died and many others were injured. If you had been there and came across someone who’d been hurt, would you know what to do? If not, get some training.

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The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Help is NOT on the Way was written by Dr. Joe Alton and his wife Amy Alton, who is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). This book is essential for any survival/prepper library. It is massive, nearly 700 pages, and they cover everything from bumps and bruises to deadly illnesses and more. Everything is explained in layman’s terms, along with hundreds of photos and illustrations.

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Ashfall is the first in a series by Mike Mullin. Alex is a teenage boy who has a rare weekend to himself when his parents travel several hours away to visit family. However, his fun is cut short when the Yellowstone caldera blows, raining ash and debris for thousands of miles around. After a few days sheltering with some neighbors, Alex decides he needs to hit the road and find his family. Along the way, he meets Darla, who has her own story to tell.

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May 5 – First Aid Supplies

Let me preface this by saying that everyone should seek out some sort of first aid training. While common sense and just basic life experience can help you decide on a course of action when a loved one is injured or ill, it would be horrible if you missed something and ended up making the situation worse if it could have been prevented with a little education.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about first aid supplies. In many homes, the medical kit, such as it is, consists of a few Band-Aids, a half-empty bottle of aspirin, and an electric thermometer that has a dead battery. When we get sick, we just run to the store for over-the-counter meds like cough drops or cold/flu gel caps. However, in a true emergency, that’s not going to be an option. And a serious injury will require more than cotton balls, duct tape, and Crazy Glue.

Let’s go through just a few categories of supplies that you should have on hand.

Bandages

This is an area where most families are likely woefully underprepared. If you’ve never had a loved one incur even a moderately serious injury like a cut or burn, you might be surprised at just how many bandages are needed throughout the healing process. You might be changing the dressing two or three times a day at first, then tapering off to once a day, and this is over the span of several days. Just one injury could easily use up a couple of boxes of bandages.

OTC Medications

A crisis is hard. It’s even harder if you’re sick. Like I mentioned earlier, running to the store might not be feasible, so it might be a good idea to lay in a stock of just some OTC medications. I’m not suggesting that you invest in enough bottles to open your own pharmacy, of course. But, there are a few things that can make life easier, such as:

Pain relievers / fever reducers
Antacids
Anti-nausea
Anti-diarrhea
Cold/flu remedies
Burn cream/ointment

Prescription Medications

If you or a family member take any sort of life-preserving medication, such as for high blood pressure, it is wise to have a backup supply on hand, just in case. Talk to your prescribing physician and see if they’ll give you a prescription for an extra supply. If they won’t, or you simply can’t afford to buy more, here’s how you can build up your own emergency stash over time.

With most prescriptions, there’s a cushion of time between when you can get a refill and when you’re scheduled to take the last dose, right? To make the math simple, let’s say you take a pill once a day, and you refill a 30-day supply each month. The refill might be ready to pick up on Day 25 of the month. Pick it up then and you set aside five pills from it for your emergency stash. Use the rest as normal. The next month, pick up on Day 25 again. This time, set aside 10 pills from the new supply, use the five from the previous month and take the rest as normal. Lather, rinse, repeat over the next several months. Always use the oldest pills first and replace them from the new supply. It won’t take long before you’re able to set aside enough for several weeks.

Antibiotics

For most short-term emergencies, having a supply of antibiotics readily available at home won’t be critical. However, if you still want to pursue this, there are a couple of options. There is a company called JASE Medical that sells a variety pack of antibiotics. I don’t know enough about them to wholeheartedly endorse their product, but you might want to check them out further for yourself.

Many antibiotics sold for animal use are identical to those manufactured and sold for human consumption. So-called “fish mox” is probably the most well-known, but there are others on the market. Once upon a time, you could buy them at Amazon and other places online very easily, as well as in person at pet shops and such. However, the popularity of people using them in place of prescription medications has caused many retailers to stop selling them. They’re still out there, you just need to hunt around a bit to find them.

Either way, getting access to them is one thing. Knowing which ones to use for which ailments, as well as dosages, is quite another. To that end, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Alton’s Antibiotics and Infectious Disease. It goes into detail on the proper use of antibiotics, including the ones often sold for veterinary use.

Suture Kits

These are rather popular amongst preppers, but I wouldn’t recommend investing in them until you’re comfortable with what you have in the other categories. I know movies and TV shows frequently have the hero stitching himself up, that makes for good drama. This is real life, not Hollywood. Not all wounds need to be stitched up. Further, if you do it wrong, you could do more harm than good in the long run.

First Aid Supplies List

Here is a great article that discusses what you should have in your home medical kit.

Survival Medical Supplies