Friday, September 30, 2011

Your Home Medical Library

Every home should have a home medical library. Back in the pre-internet days nearly every household had a book where mama could look up symptoms and see what kind of illness a kid, husband, or mama herself had come down with. The book would also tell what steps could be taken for home treatment if possible. Today when we have a home malady the first stop is the inter-net, but you have to remember how fragile the inter-net is. A natural disaster, cyber warfare, of the government itself could close down the inter-net in a heartbeat. Don't get left in the dark for information. Buy some good home medical books. Download information from the inter-net, print it off, and put it in a labeled binder. Pictured below: Binder where I keep medical information printed off the net.

Here are a few books and websites that I would recommend:

For quick everyday reference I keep a copy of the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide in my library. This guide is easy to use and can help you diagnose and treat minor illnesses, or advise you if you need to see a doctor for treatment.

The Herbal Drugstore by Linda B. White, M.D. and Steven Foster is a good book for holistic medicine. It lists various complaints, then tells what modern medicines are used to treat them, what essential oils can be used to treat them, and what herbs can be used to treat them. Could be very handy when the medicines run out.

The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods by James A. Duke PhD is another holistic medicine book that lists herbs and foods that may be eaten to prevent and help cure various illnesses.

I keep a paperback copy of the Physician's Desk Reference in my library. This book lists prescription medications, the complaints they are used to treat, and common dosages used for adults and children.

One of the best books that I've seen on basic medical care for the layman is Where There is No Doctor by David Werner. This book is published by the Hesperian Foundation. The book is designed to be used by non-medical aid workers in third world countries. It gives simple clear instruction on disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. It also has a good first aid section. You can download the book for free here
but it is over 400 pages long in PDF format and a bugger to print. You can order it on-line here
for $22 U.S.

Another great medical text is Survival and Austere Medicine. This book discusses diagnosis and treatment of disease and injury under survival conditions and using very primitive equipment and supplies. You can only get this book as a free download, and it is a long PDF file, but it is well worth the paper and ink. Download Survival and Austere Medicine here

I would discourage anyone, except a licenses physician, from attempting to practice medicine on themselves or anyone else except when there is absolutely no other choice. But if there is no other choice I personally would want as much information as I could get on this subject. Of course I can’t vouch for the accuracy of any of the advice given in any of these texts. Use them at your own risk, but I will say that I have all of them in my home medical library.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Antibiotics in Your Survival Medicine Cabinet

One hundred and fifty years ago diseases like pneumonia, typhus, cholera, anthrax, and even infected wounds where usually a death sentence. With the advent of penicillin and other modern antibiotics most of these diseases and conditions became curable. If the current social and economic order breaks down we could see a resurgence of deaths from diseases and injuries that are easily and commonly treated with antibiotics. As stated earlier, doctors will be in short supply; and medicines, including antibiotics, will disappear from pharmacy shelves within days if not hours. So it might not be a bad idea to include some antibiotics in your medical supplies.

Some antibiotic ointments are available without a prescription. Neosporin and triple antibiotic ointment are examples of these ointments. They are pretty pricy, but they are good to treat minor wounds before bandaging. I have a number of tubes of antibiotic ointment which I store in a refrigerator to extend their shelf life.

Oral and injectible antibiotics are another story. In the U.S. these medications require a doctor's prescription. The only legal way to obtain a supply of these medications is to find a doctor that is sympathetic to your preparations and get him or her to write you a prescription for the medication. If this you find a doctor that will do this, I would suggest that you ask for some broad spectrum antibiotics like Ampicillin or Tetracycline. These are available in capsules that will stay viable for a long time if kept sealed and refrigerated.

Injectible antibiotics require refrigeration, so if the power goes out you only have a limited amount of time to use these antibiotics before they spoil. If you had to, you could keep them cool enough by placing them in a waterproof container and lowering them into a well. If you do acquire injectible antibiotics, be sure to also buy appropriate syringes, learn how to determine correct dosages, and learn how to give the injection.

Some people skirt the law by buying veterinary antibiotics. Veterinary antibiotics are available without a doctor's prescription, and you can find them on-line, or at pet and/or feed stores. Buying them is perfectly legal, but they are labeled for animal use only; so if you use them for human consumption it is technically illegal. For this reason I cannot recommend that you go this route, but if you want to look into it there is a lot of information on the inter-net. Veterinary Ampicillin costs around $30 for 100 250mg capsules. Veterinary Tetracycline in around $20 for 100 500mg capsules. Injectible antibiotics are also available as veterinary medicines but they have no dosage instructions for humans since they are not legally labeled for human use. If you are going to use injectible veterinary antibiotics do some careful research first.

Some people have allergic reactions to certain antibiotics. If these people ingest or inject an antibiotic that they are allergic to, they risk death from anaphylactic shock. So, don't mess with any of this stuff lightly. Best course of action is to stay legal and get a doctor's prescription and professional advice.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Survival Medical Supplies

If something major bad happens we will all be in trouble when it comes to health care. Doctors would be few and far between and most of them would have a hard time practicing their craft without electricity and modern pharmaceuticals. No new pharmaceuticals would be manufactured, and many of those already in existence would ruin without refrigeration. That's the bad news. The good news is that everyone would be a lot more physically active and so probably healthier. Also, people wouldn't be traveling as much, so contagious diseases wouldn't spread as much.

But, injury accidents would still be a problem, as would chronic diseases like diabetes and arthritis. Nutrition based diseases could become a problem with people not getting enough of certain vitamins. Also insect born diseases like malaria, West Nile virus, and hanta virus could see an increase. The lack of antibiotics could mean that illnesses and injuries that are easily treatable today would once again become fatal.

So what can you do to prepare? Well the short answer is to get healthy and stay healthy. If that doesn't work for you then you are going to need basic knowledge, medicines, and equipment; and basic medical skills.

I have four basic medical guides in my library; The American Red Cross First Aid Handbook, Grey's Anatomy, The Harvard School of Medicine Family Medical Guide, and The Guide to Survival and Austere Medicine. None of these take the place of a good doctor or physician's assistant, but they are better than nothing.

How about medical supplies? Let me just give you a list of what I keep around:

Adhesive bandages
Sterile gauze bandages
Butterfly bandages
Ace elastic bandages
Super Glue (handy for gluing wounds together that might otherwise require stitches)
Metal finger cots
Cotton swabs
Cotton balls
Plaster of Paris
Alcohol wipes
Gelled alcohol (hand sanitizer)

Hydrogen Peroxide
Oil of cloves
Antibiotic ointment
Fungicidal cream
Hydrocortisone cream
Calamine lotion
Acetaminophen tablets
Aspirin tablets
Benadryl tablets and liquid
Antihistamine tablets
Antacid tablets
Anti-diarrhea tablets
Laxative tablets
Epsom salts
Cough drops
Expectorate syrup
Cough syrup
Analgesic cream
Vicks vapo-rub
Eye drops

Mercury thermometer
Small scissors
Cold packs
Tongue depressors
Magnifying glass
Blood pressure cuff
Weight scales

In addition to these items I also keep a small snake-bite kit and a dental emergency kit on hand. Of course if you take prescription medications on a regular basis, you should lay in a good supply of these. Always keep medicines refrigerated as this will greatly extend their shelf life.

In addition to my home medical supplies I keep a well stocked first-aid kit in each vehicle, and I have a small first-aid kit in my bug-out bag.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Food from the Orchard - Pears

It was a bad year for my small orchard. I have two peach trees, two plum trees, a nectarine tree, a fig tree, a Hunza apricot tree, and two pear trees. A late freeze and a very hot and dry summer meant no peaches, no plums, no nectarines, no figs, and no apricots. But my good old reliable pear trees paid off.

I planted two Keifer pear trees about 20 years ago, and they are virtually indestructible. The reason I bought them originally was because I read that they are very resistant to fire blight. Fire blight is a disease that causes all of the leaves on the pear tree to turn black. Untreated fire blight will kill most pear trees, but my Keifer pears shake it off like nothing more than a head cold. I have pruned and sometimes failed to prune these trees. I have not fertilized them but once or twice. I have never sprayed them with any type of insecticide. This year it was horribly dry but I couldn’t water them for fear of running my well dry. And still they bore pears. Admittedly, the pears weren’t as big as usual, but there were probably a hundred of them on the trees. I gave pears to friends and family and still had more left than I will use.

Keifer pears can be used straight off the tree to make pear preserves, but if you want to slice and eat them, you need to sit them up in the window for a week or two and let them mellow. The only real problem with Keifer pears is that they only produce a good crop every other year. On the off years they may only produce a dozen pears between both trees. But every other year they get so loaded that you have to pick some to keep the limbs from breaking. If you don’t have the greenest of thumbs, Keifer pears are the way to go.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Preparing for Wild Fire

Sorry that I'm a little behind in posting, but we have been having something of a crisis in East Texas. First, an unprecedented drought. East Texas is usually a pretty wet place, receiving about 45 inches of rain a year. But it hasn't rained, other than a few sprinkles, in months. It hasn't been this bad since the 1950's. Then we've had over 70 days of 100 degree or higher temperatures. This has dried things out even more. Then over the last weekend we started having high winds due to a tropical storm that brought us only the wind and no rain. That's when the fires started. Several thousand acres of field and forest, and dozens of homes have burned in our area. The mandatory evacuation area came to within three-quarters of a mile of our farm. So, my computer, along with other things, has been packed in the truck; ready to flee from the flames if necessary. The wind has died down, and the fires are all currently contained, but we've still had no rain. So now I've had to take a look at another disaster scenario that I need to plan for, WILD FIRE.

First I had to look at what we've already done right. A fairly good list..

(1) My house has a metal roof, so burning cinders will not ignite the house from above.

(2) We have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in the house in case a fire starts inside the house, but this is of little help in the case of a wild fire.

(3) All of our important legal documents are stored in a portable fire-proof lock box. These items include birth certificates, social security cards, passports, land and car titles, insurance policies, etc.

(4) Our fire insurance policy is paid up

(5) We have digital pictures of every room in the house from several angles showing all of the furnishings, appliances, etc. We have exterior shots of the house from all angles. We have shots of the shop and all equipment and also of the storage building and contents. Insurance companies brag about how on-the-spot they are and how they settle claims right away. They do this so you will sign off on a settlement before you have a chance to really think about all of the things that you have lost. Take pictures to document what you have, then take your time to make a complete list of lost items. Don't let the insurance company rush or intimidate you.

(6) We have a good communication net with our neighbors to warn of coming danger. One neighbor has a cleared pasture that is about 300 acres. In the middle of it is a hill, and on top of the hill is his two story house. He has an unobstructed 360 degree view for miles around. During the recent outbreak of fires we discovered that watching the news is a waste of time. Their information is inaccurate, incomplete, and hours behind real-time. Instead, my neighbor and his wife took turns scanning the surrounding area from their high vantage point. When they saw smoke they would zero in on it with a 60X spotting scope. They would then call one of the other neighbors or me and give us a bearing on the fire. We would drive over and access its potential threat to our area. We would then report back via cell phone to the other neighbors. It worked well for us.

Now to the stuff that I've done wrong or haven't done at all.

(1) The Forest Service used to come out and do controlled burns to clear underbrush, fallen limbs, leaf litter, and other things that could fuel a major fire. I had this done years ago, but a lot of debris has built up since. I don't know if the Forest Service still does controlled burns, but I definitely need to check. If you are in a similar situation, you should check into this also.

(2) The tree line is far to close to my house on at least one side. I need to spend this winter clearing underbrush and small trees, and selling larger trees for pulpwood. My goal is to have at least 50 yards of open ground completely around the house.

(3) Flammable fuel is stored too near the main structure. I need to move these items farther out. It will be kind of a pain when I need a new fuel bottle for the stove, or gas for the generator; but seeing aerial video of houses exploding in your area has a sobering effect. I will walk the extra distance.

(4) I have no active fire suppression system. A friend of mine rigged a nice little system around his house using PVC pipe so that when he turns the system on it sprays down the outside of his house with a constant blanket of water, kind of an upside down lawn sprinkler system. Looks like a pretty good idea. I will definitely check into it. Another friend has a submersible pump in his swimming pool that he can use to spray down the outside of his house. I don't have a swimming pool, so this isn't an option for me; but it may be for you. If you already have lawn sprinklers it might be a good idea to run a leg around the house that you can turn on to spray down the outside of the house.

So I guess the moral of this tale is that there's no end to preparedness. There's always something else. Don't get paranoid, and don't be overwhelmed, just look at it as another little home project that you need to take care of.