If a disaster knocks you off the grid for long enough, the medicines eventually run out no matter how well you’ve prepared. This is especially true for drugs which you can only stockpile in limited quantities, simply because they’re too expensive. One item that isn’t too expensive is fish oil, commonly available in supplements or in FDA-approved prescription items. The scientific data shows that they can reduce triglycerides in your blood, a factor in coronary artery disease, and perhaps help in other ways.
First, what is fish oil? Fish oil is the fat or oil that’s extracted from fish tissue. Squeeze a fish, get some oil. Most of it comes from “oily” fish, such as herring, tuna, anchovies, salmon, and mackerel. It’s sometimes produced from the livers of other fish, an example being the time-honored cod liver oil.
The World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t recommend fish oil supplements, but it does recommend eating 1–2 portions of fish per week. This is because the omega-3 fatty acids in fish are thought to provide many health benefits, including a level of protection against a number of diseases. The FDA has approved fish oil products like Lovaza and Vascepa as a good way to fight high triglycerides and total cholesterol levels, especially in those who don’t incorporate fish in their diet.
Back to that in a minute. It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about triglycerides and cholesterol, so let’s take a moment to discuss them…
We’ve all heard about bad cholesterol, but cholesterol is made by all animal cells and is an essential structural component of cell membranes. It is also a prerequisite for all steroid hormones, bile, and even vitamin D. That means you can’t produce them without cholesterol as a building block. Cholesterol was first discovered in gallstones in the 18th century, we called it “cholesterine” then…
Bottom line about fish oil in survival scenarios? Instead of squeezing fish to get oil, you’re probably a lot better off just cooking and eating them. Believe me, you could do worse than incorporating fish into your diet. By the way, you can also get your omega-3s from other natural sources, especially ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil. Alternate sources of omega-3s also include chia seeds, walnuts, canola oil, pumpkin seeds, and soy oil. If you’re off the grid, though, and can’t access any other source of omega-3s, fish oil supplements might be useful if you could store them appropriately.
In any situation where modern medicine is not available, there will be a number of deaths that occur from injury and infection. These may occur as a result of contact with hostile neighbors or from epidemic diseases, but many will happen simply from the performance of activities related to survival. Many minor wounds will become contaminated, leading to infections that could easily have been treated with antibiotics.
In a major disaster, this and many other deaths might be avoided if antibiotics were available. You may be reluctant to treat yourself or family members with these potent drugs. This is understandable: Antibiotics aren’t candy and are best utilized by qualified medical professionals. If there are no trained personnel, however, a layman with a working knowledge of bacterial diseases and their treatments may have no choice but to use antibacterials to save a life.
There are many antibiotics, but which antibiotics accessible to the average person would be good additions to your medical storage? When do you use a particular drug? The wrong antibiotic at the wrong time can be as bad as doing nothing at all. You should have both quantity and variety to be effective as a medic in long-term survival settings.
Today we’ll take the example of a drug that is used in the aquarium industry that is identical to a medication used in humans: Clindamycin, aka “Fish-Cin”. It is also known as “Cleocin”.
Clindamycin is part of the Lincosamide family of drugs. It works by preventing the production of bacterial proteins necessary for growth. This particular medication has been used to treat everything from acne to anthrax.
Clindamycin works best on bacteria that are anaerobic, which means that they don’t require oxygen to multiply. A deep puncture wound like, for example, a cat bite would give rise to favorable environments for anaerobes. Clindamycin is versatile enough to treat or prevent certain bacterial or protozoal causes of:
Soft tissue Infections (skin, etc.)
Peritonitis (inflammation of the abdomen seen in appendicitis and other medical issues)
Some pneumonias and lung abscesses
Uterine infections (such as after miscarriage or childbirth)
It should be noted that although a certain antibiotic may be effective against a certain infection, that it may not always be the most effective. The drug most in favor at the moment is called the “drug of choice”. The drug of choice may change as new antibiotics are developed or new research becomes available about existing medicines…
The Altons at Doom and Bloom Medical have started a series on Chemical and Biological emergencies. In this article, they discuss various chemical agents and what to do.
In today’s modern world, it’s difficult to avoid exposure to toxic chemicals. Chemical weapons are largely prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), a treaty that outlaws their production and use. Although almost all nations have signed this treaty, the risk of chemical attacks by terror organizations and industrial accidents still exist…
WHAT TO DO IN CHEMICAL EMERGENCIES
Chemical accidents or attacks, such as an overturned tanker truck or a terror event, may render an area dangerous. Common sense dictates evacuation as the wisest course of action. This is not only to prevent physical contact but also to avoid noxious fumes that may be carried by the winds. Given the wide range of chemicals, be sure to seek and rapidly act upon the advice of local emergency departments for the specific event.
Evacuation may involve going to an emergency shelter. If so, notify others of your plan of action and take additional supplies and medications that the municipality may not have in sufficient quantities. Know what their policy is regarding pets. The schools your children attend will have their own plan of action for chemical emergencies; be aware of their disaster protocols. It may be more dangerous to try to bring them home.
SHELTER IN PLACE?
Some chemical emergencies could make going outdoors risky. Leaving might put you in harm’s way. Sheltering in place is a way to protect yourself until help arrives. Sheltering in a vehicle, however, is a last resort, as vehicles aren’t airtight enough to protect you from noxious fumes.
If you can’t evacuate the area, choose a room with as few windows and doors as possible. A room with a water supply (a connecting bathroom, perhaps) is best. Some gases sink to the floor, so a second-story room is preferable. Notice how different this strategy is from most natural disaster plans, where a basement might be the safest area in the home.
Shut all outside doors and windows as soon as you are aware of the emergency. Locking and taping them will make a better seal against the chemical. Turn off air conditioners, fans, and heaters. Close the fireplace damper, vents, and any place that air can enter from outside.
Go into the designated safe room and shut the door. Turn on the radio and keep a cell phone available. If it is necessary to drink water, drink safely-stored water, not water from the tap. If you run out of water, you can drink from a toilet tank (but not from the bowl)…
A fractured femur or a gunshot wound to the chest are major injuries that affect your chances of survival in disaster settings, but not all injuries are so extreme. “Minor” injuries can also impact the efficiency of a group member off the grid. Of these, nailbed injuries are some you’ll commonly see.
You can imagine that nailbed injuries will be more common when untrained (and perhaps careless) people perform tasks to which they’re not accustomed. The failure to use work gloves and boots may also increase the risk of mishaps.
Your fingernails and toenails are made up of protein and a tough substance called keratin. They are very similar to the claws of animals. Any issue relating to nails is referred to as “ungual” ” (from the latin word for claw: unguis).
The nail consists of several parts:
The nail plate: this is the hard covering of the end of your finger or toe; what you normally consider to be the nail.
The nailbed: the skin directly under the nail plate. Made up of dermis and epidermis just like the rest of your skin, the superficial epidermis moves along with the nail plate as it grows. Vertical grooves attach the superficial epidermis to the deep dermis. In old folks like me, the nail plate thins out and you can see the grooves if you look closely. Like all skin, blood vessels and nerves run through the nailbed.
The nail (germinal) matrix: the portion or root at the base of the nail under the cuticle (the cuticle is also called the eponychium) that produces new cells for the nail plate. You can see a portion of the matrix in the light half-moon (the “lunula”) visible at the base of the nail plate. This is the germinal matrix (actively makes new nail cells) and determines the shape and thickness of the nail; a curved matrix produces a curved nail, a flat one produces a flat nail.
TYPES OF NAIL INJURIES
There are various types of nail injuries. Amputations and fractures may occur due to trauma, but more commonly you’ll see…
Some folks in the preparedness community consider themselves ready for any disaster if they have some food, water, and a means of personal defense. Being prepared, however, is more than that. You have to be able to treat medical issues. And not just that: Attention to hygiene is equally important in preventing some of those issues.
Those concerned about a long-term event should know that the expenditure of various supplies over time will be a major problem. What will you do when you run out of one item or another? You have to find substitutes that can serve double (and triple) duty. The more versatile the item, the more useful it is to store.
Baking soda is one item you should have in quantity. Yes, baking soda. Many years ago, one of our readers wrote an excellent article on baking soda in survival settings. He opened our eyes to its many uses.
WHAT IS BAKING SODA?
Baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda) is a popular and inexpensive household product. You can actually mine deposits of it if you live in parts of California, Colorado, and Mexico (as well as Botswana). It has been historically used as a leavening agent for baking bread and does a fine job absorbing odors in your refrigerator.
Baking soda is not the same as baking powder. Baking powder contains baking soda, but it also contains an acidifying agent and starch. Both produce carbon dioxide which causes baked goods to rise and, indeed, you can substitute baking powder in place of baking soda (usually, you’ll need three times more baking powder), but you can’t use baking soda when a recipe calls for baking powder.
MEDICAL USES FOR BAKING SODA
Are there medical uses for baking soda? The answer is yes. So many, in fact, that you might want some around even in normal times.
You can treat insect bites and itchy skin with it. Some find it effective for poison ivy. Make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply like a balm onto the irritated area. You could shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it onto wet skin.
Baking soda can help unblock nasal congestion by adding a teaspoon to some hot water and inhaling the vapors.
For those who suffer from acid reflux (heartburn), eventually the Tums and Rolaids will run out. Baking soda was what they used before these products came into being. Just add a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water after meals.
Recent medical studies, including one published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, suggest that sodium bicarbonate tablets may help slow progression in those with chronic kidney disease. The researchers concluded, “This study demonstrates that bicarbonate supplementation slows the rate of progression of renal failure to ESRD and improves nutritional status among patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).”
Baking soda has mild antiseptic and drying properties, and helps keep a wound clean. When a wound is healing, repeated cleaning of the area can result in dry skin and a hard, itchy scab. Baking soda can help soften and remove the scab once the wound is no longer painful or draining. One treatment regimen uses 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda with a half cup of water. Leave the paste on the wound for 15 minutes and then rinse thoroughly (be aware that it might burn a little).
You’re not medically prepared until you’re dentally prepared. In long-term events, the family medic will have to deal with a number of dental problems that crop up. Baking soda can be a replacement for toothpaste. Add a little 3% hydrogen peroxide to it and use it as a rinse for bad breath…
The Altons at Doom and Bloom Medical have an article up on the skill of wound debridement – the removal of necrotic tissue and foreign objects from a wound which may impede healing. There are some wound photos, so be warned.
Medical professionals like doctors, nurses, and paramedics and the high-tech equipment they work with are the heart of advanced medical care. When highly-trained personnel are unavailable, it becomes the responsibility of the average citizen to obtain medical education and supplies. Lack of knowledge and materials will cost lives in any situation where modern care is not an option.
In today’s medicine, few providers care for every medical issue experienced by a patient. Even generalists send their patients to specialists for specific problems. In a survival setting, this is no longer possible. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand wound healing and the procedures that help a victim make a full recovery. One of these procedures is debridement.
Debridement speeds the healing process in various ways. Dead tissue inhibits the development of healthy new cells and makes the area susceptible to infection. It can also hide the signs of bacterial invasion.
Debridement is rarely taught in standard first aid courses. Even high-level education meant to deal with emergency trauma can get your victim to the hospital, but little for days or weeks down the road. I would guess that a volunteer stint with Doctors Without Borders might be closest, short of a surgical residency.
A variety of techniques are used to accomplish debridement and more than one type may be used on the same patient…
Poor dental health, however, can cause issues that affect the work efficiency of members of your group in survival settings. When your people are not at 100% effectiveness, your chances for survival decrease. Anyone who has experienced a toothache knows how it affects work performance.
When modern dental technology is not an option, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This strategy is especially important when it comes to your teeth. By maintaining good dental hygiene, you will save your loved ones a lot of pain (and yourself a few headaches).
Let’s discuss some procedures that both you and I know are best performed by someone with experience. Unfortunately, you’re probably don’t have a dentist in the family. The information here will at least give you a basis of knowledge that may help you deal with some basic issues.
The prepared medic will have included dental supplies in their storage, but what exactly would make sense in austere settings? You would want the kit to be portable, so dentist chairs and other heavy equipment wouldn’t be practical.
In the past, we’ve mentioned that gloves for medical and dental purposes are one item that you should always have in quantity. Avoid sticking your bare hands in someone’s mouth. Hypoallergenic nitrile gloves are, in my opinion, superior to latex. For additional protection, masks should also be stored and worn by the medic. The simple “earloop” versions will do for dental exams.
Other items that are useful to the off-grid “dentist” include:
Dental scrapers/scalers to remove plaque and probe questionable areas
Spoon excavators. These instruments have a flat circular tip that is used to “excavate” decayed material from a tooth. A powered dental drill would be a much better choice, but not likely to be an option off the grid.
Elevators. These are thin but solid chisel-like instruments that help with extractions by separating ligaments that hold teeth in their sockets. #301 or #12B are good choices. In a pinch, some parts of a Swiss army knife might work.
Extraction forceps. These are like pliers with curved ends. They come in versions specific to upper and lower teeth and, sometimes, left and right.
Three headlines about Dengue Fever this year? No, actually they’re all headlines just from one day: Aug 1st, 2019. Dengue fever is a true pandemic, with community wide outbreaks in various regions throughout the world. Indeed, rates of Dengue infection are thought to have increased greatly since 1960 due to encroaching civilization and population growth in warmer regions. As a resident of South Florida, I believe that the development of residential air conditioning around that time may have precipitated the explosion in potential victims.
What is Dengue fever? It’s an infection caused by a virus that’s transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. If you live between latitude 35 degrees north and 35 degrees south, and lower than 3000 feet elevation, you’re in Dengue territory.
And you’re not alone. An estimated 400 million people get infected with the Dengue virus every year. Luckily for the grand majority, they don’t even know they have it. 96 million cases, however, aren’t so fortunate and develop sickness.
The mosquito in question is the Aedes Aegypti, but other species may possibly spread it. A mosquito bites a human with the Dengue virus and becomes infected. It doesn’t get sick, but the virus is now in its saliva for life. The mosquito passes Dengue onto the next human through its next bite.
There are actually four different but related viruses that cause dengue fever, but the symptoms are similar. If you’re in the unlucky minority that gets sick, you can expect to see signs about four to seven days after the infectious bite…
The Altons at Doom and Bloom Medical have an article up — Heat Wave Safety — on the dangers of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Once on an early morning march during AIT at Ft. Benning, I saw a young soldier collapse from heat stroke. He was rushed off in the back of a truck with a drill sergeant performing CPR. I wish that I or someone else would have noticed the signs before it became so serious.
Summer is here and the Midwest and East is experiencing record high temperatures in a major heat wave. Officials predicted a high-risk situation as the heat index surpasses heat indexes in 90s and 100s, and in some case, the 110s. Close to 200 million people might be affected in 32 states, according to the U.S. weather service.
The “heat index”, by the way, is a measure of the effects of air temperature combined with high humidity. Above 60% relative humidity, loss of heat by perspiration is impaired exposure to full sun increases the reported heat index by as much as 10-15 degrees F. All this increases the chances of heat-related illness.
We can expect the power grid to be challenged by tens of millions of air conditioning units set on “high”, and we can expect to see some major health issues if the electricity goes out and people have to fight the heat with hand fans, like they did in the “good old days”.
You might not consider a heat wave to be a natural disaster, but it most certainly is. Heat waves can cause mass casualties, as it did in Europe when tens of thousands died of exposure (not in the Middle Ages, but in 2003). They’ve already experienced one bad one this year and are predicted to have another in the near future. India, Pakistan, and other underdeveloped tropical countries experience thousands of heat-related deaths yearly.
So how exactly does heat kill a person? Your body core regulates its temperature for optimal organ function. When core body temperature rises excessively (known as “hyperthermia”), toxins leak, inflammation occurs, and cells die. Fatalities can occur very quickly without intervention, even in those who are physically fit. Even in modern times, hyperthermia carries a 10% death rate, mostly in the elderly and infirm.
Of the 3000 species of snakes on planet Earth, only about 400 are venomous. In North America, those that inject venom into their victims are either pit vipers or elapids. Pit vipers include species of rattlesnakes, water moccasins (cottonmouths), and copperheads. One species or another exists everywhere in the U.S. except for Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii. Elapids include coral snakes, found mostly in the South.
A word about venom: Notice I don’t say “poison”. Poisons are absorbed in the gut or through the skin, but venom must be injected into tissues or blood via fangs or a stinger. Strangely, it’s usually not dangerous to drink snake venom unless you have a cut or sore in your mouth. Having said that, please don’t try this at home.
U.S. PIT VIPERS
Pit vipers account for most snakebites in North America. The “pit” refers to a heat-sensing organ located between the eye and nostril on each side of a triangular head. The eyes have slit-like pupils. Pit vipers include:
Rattlesnakes: Of all pit vipers, rattlesnakes contribute the most to snake bite statistics in the U.S. They get their name from a structure at the end of their tails which makes a loud rattling noise when shaken. The “rattle” serves as a warning to discourage nearby threats.
Copperheads: The copperhead looks similar to a rattlesnake but without the rattle. As the name suggests, it is often copper-colored or pinkish-tan with darker bands.
Water Moccasins: These snakes are very comfortable in water. This snake has no rattle, so is relatively silent, as if walking in “moccasins”. Its response to threats is opening its mouth wide and exposing its whitish oral cavity before biting. This behavior gives it the nickname “cottonmouth”. The water moccasin may have a pattern when young, but as an adult is almost black in color. Its thick body differentiates it from other water snakes, which tend to be slender.
Coral Snakes are related to the king cobra. They’re brightly-colored but unassuming creatures that are rarely aggressive. Their small fangs are less effective in delivering venom than pit vipers. A coral snake tends to deliver venom by holding on and “chewing” on its victim, unlike vipers, which strike and let go quickly.
The marks left by venomous snake bites have a distinct appearance due to the hollow fangs at the front of the mouth. This differs from non-venomous snakes, where the bites have a more uniform appearance.
Not every bite from a venomous snake transmits toxins to the victim; indeed, 25-30% of these bites will be “dry” and seem no worse than a bee sting. This could be due to the short duration of time the snake had its fangs in its victim or whether the snake had bitten another animal shortly beforehand…
Summertime is when you cool off with a dip in the pool, but this year you might be sorry you did. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging citizens to protect themselves against a hardy parasite called Cryptosporidium.
Public and private pools alike are being colonized with the nasty bug, better known as “Crypto”. The organism lives in the intestines of infected people and animals. Crypto spreads in pool water when someone who is sick with the parasite goes swimming and has a loose bowel movement in the water. Because of their more liquid nature, diarrheal stools spread the microbe faster than formed ones.
Cryptosporidium is so tough that it can live for up to ten days in the presence of bleach. This year, there are more outbreaks in recreational waters than usual. The frequency has risen an average of 13% annually since 2009. In the last decade, over 400 incidents were reported in the U.S., leading to sickness in 7,500 people.
Note: Organisms that cause sickness in a population are known as “pathogens”.
Swallowing water from pools, hot tubs, and swimming holes isn’t the only way you can get infected. Day care centers and other venues with a large number of small children can also lead to contamination. Contact with infected animals may also pass the organism.
SYMPTOMS OF CRYPTO INFECTIONS
Infection with Crypto leads to a disease called “cryptosporidiosis”. Within two to ten days after exposure, the victim starts to have nausea, vomiting, and watery diarrhea that can last for weeks. Other symptoms of the illness may include fever, stomach cramps, and weight loss…
The Altons at Doom and Bloom Medical have an article up on Eye Injuries. Try to protect your eyes so that you don’t have to do any of this.
The human body is truly a miracle of engineering, from head to toe. Your skull is just one example. It’s shaped in such a fashion that your eyes are recessed in bony sockets, which helps to protect them from injury. Despite this, there are many different activities of daily living, not to mention daily survival, that can cause traumatic injury to your eyes.
Here are some:
Accidents while using tools
Splatter from bleach and household chemicals
Debris flung while doing yard work
Grease splatter from cooking
Hot objects near your face, like a curling iron (do people still use curling irons?)
The list goes on and on; heck, you could damage your eye by popping a cork on a bottle of champagne (if you could find champagne off the grid).
The grand majority of eye injuries are avoidable with a little planning but, despite this, it’s likely that the group medic will have to deal with someone’s eye injury at one point or another.
Foreign objects in the eye cause immediate symptoms, especially if they injure the sensitive cornea. You will see the victim complain of:
Eye pain or pressure
Redness (a “bloodshot” eye)
The patient will usually tell you that they feel something in their eye. The most common location will be under the upper eyelid…
Tourniquets to control bleeding has been in use for centuries, sometimes praised and sometimes reviled as a tool of the devil. Painful lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, lead us to believe that they save lives that would otherwise be lost to hemorrhage. In civilian life, the rapid and effective use of a tourniquet by those at the scene gives valuable time for emergency medical personnel to arrive. In survival settings, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know having tourniquets in your medical kit is not a bad idea.
For years, the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) has approved a small number of commercially available tourniquets, which I’m sure many of you have in your medical kits: They include the combat application tourniquet or CAT and the special operation forces tourniquet SOF-T.
These are the tourniquets you’ll find in our medical kits. We also add the non-TCCC SWAT tourniquet as a secondary tourniquet in many of them, mostly due to its versatility to also function as a pressure dressing and splint stabilizer.
Now, the TCCC committee has widened the range of options acceptable for the effective control of bleeding. One of their additions is the SAM-XT (pictured at top of page), produced by the venerable Dr. Sam Scheinberg of SAM medical. SAM is well-known for producing malleable splints useful for a number of orthopedic injuries, and now their tourniquet is considered acceptable for even military use…
The Altons at Doom and Bloom Medical have up an article on Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease. While I was aware of Chagas Disease and its insect spreader from my wife’s time living in Bolivia, I was unaware that the beetle and disease were now present in the US. People can live with Chagas for many years and only start having problems from it later in life.
Recently, my good friend Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast asked me to produce a special report on Kissing Bugs. No, not kissing bugs, as in how to kiss bugs; I mean THE kissing bug, an invasive species from south of the border that is now found as far north as Pennsylvania and Illinois.
The insect in question is Triatoma sanguisuga. It’s called the kissing bug because it tends to bite human and animal victims around the mouth, although sometimes it might target the eyes or other mucous membranes.
It’s bad enough to have to deal with the redness, itching, and swelling that goes along with insect bites, but there’s more: When the kissing bug sucks your blood, it defecates (poops) on your skin. irritated victims tend to rub the poop into the bite wound while scratching the itchy areas. In kids, a swollen eyelid on one side, also called “Romana’s sign”, is a possible sign of infection.
Even worse, In the excrement lives a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi that lodges itself in heart, intestine, and elsewhere and causes something called Chagas disease. Most people only experience minor symptoms. But a percentage of victims may develop:
Diarrhea and vomiting
Enlargement of the liver or spleen
An increased chance of having a stroke
An enlarged heart
Irregular heartbeats that can be fatal
Chagas disease is not transmitted from person-to-person or through casual contact with infected people or animals. It can be spread, however, by infected blood products or from mother to baby during pregnancy. Rarely, an extreme allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis can occur…
You may have heard me reference something called “TCCC” in previous articles, podcasts, or videos. TCCC, sometimes called T3C or T triple C, is a term that means Tactical Combat Casualty Care. It represents the recommendations with regards to prehospital care of soldiers who have incurred traumatic injuries on the battlefield. Established in the mid-1990s, TCCC guidelines have become so widely accepted that many law enforcement and civilian medical personnel have adopted them.
And well they should. These protocols were developed at the cost of painful lessons in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is thought that there were 1000 preventable deaths in these conflicts. If you add civilian injuries during the same time period, the number of preventable deaths might number in the hundreds of thousands. The TCCC’s primary goals is to save lives, prevent additional casualties, and, in true military fashion, complete the mission…In survival settings, you can’t duplicate the care given at a field hospital or a trauma center. Your final outcomes won’t always be happy. You might, however, use some of the methods in MARCH/PAWS to possibly save the life of those who would otherwise die during or in the aftermath of a disaster…