Guest post by Jori Hamilton
If you consider yourself a serious prepper, it is safe to assume that you know the basics of first aid to treat common issues like cuts and burns. However, in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, you will not have a hospital bed waiting for you or a crew of medical personnel for more serious illnesses and injuries. In these scenarios, knowing how to treat health issues will be vital to you and your family’s survival.
If it is available to you, completing emergency medical technician (EMT) training can help you build the skill set that you will need in a medical emergency in a disaster scenario. Not only does it give you the technical tools for treating a patient, but it also provides the training of how to stay cool under pressure.
Wilderness EMT courses take the potential training above and beyond by teaching you how to treat patients in settings that will be more realistic in the wake of a disaster. You are taught how to treat and transport patients with little to no medical supplies. For example, the course will prepare on how to create a splint out of sticks and a cut-up T-shirt.
One way to avoid a crisis is by taking steps to prevent them from occurring. The following are common issues experienced by disaster victims due to a lack of self-care:
- Dehydration: Either due to access to clean water or failure to consume enough water, this is particularly common in children and the elderly.
- Malnutrition: Although resources may become limited, making sure to eat a balanced diet to avoid symptoms of malnutrition is still important. These include swelling limbs, kidney and liver disease, and an increased risk of getting sick.
- Sleep deprivation: After a disaster has occurred, it is common and normal to not get enough rest. Sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations, irritability, and a number of different health issues that can be avoided by simply getting a few hours of rest each day.
Common Health Issues and Treatment
Getting a viral or bacterial infection is a very common way that we find ourselves feeling under the weather. They can be prevented by thorough hand washing but that may not always be available to us in all circumstances. Keeping a broad variety of antibiotics on hand in your first aid kit will help to treat bacterial infections but will do nothing for a viral infection — that is why it is important to know the difference.
Viral vs. Bacterial
Knowing how to tell the difference between a viral and bacterial infection will alert you to how to treat it and how severe you can expect it to be. Viral infections typically need to simply run their course, but they can be just as severe as a bacterial infection. For example, influenza is a viral infection that cannot be treated by antibiotics but can be lethal to children and the elderly.
There are four telltale ways of identifying the difference between a virus and a bacterial infection:
- Variety of symptoms: A bacterial infection commonly causes site-specific symptoms, such as targeting the sinuses, throat, or chest. A viral illness typically has a broad number of symptoms happening at once.
- Phlegm: The presence of phlegm in a bacterial infection usually causes phlegm that is green, yellow, bloody or brown-tinged. Viral infections either will not cause phlegm to be produced or, if present, is milky or cloudy.
- Duration: A bacterial infection commonly will persist for more than 10 days, with only 3 to 4 severe days. Viral illnesses last 2 to 10 days with a range of days of severity.
- Fever: A fever is when the body temperature reaches over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. A bacterial infection commonly causes a fever to be present as the body attempts to fight it. A viral infection may or may not cause a fever.
Treating a cold or the flu requires rest, plenty of fluids, and a warm and dry environment until symptoms improve. If the patient get an ear infection, place a dropper of hydrogen peroxide into their ear. Repeat daily until the infection has cleared. If their nasal passages are congested, give them a facial steam bath by placing a cloth around their head over a bowl of steaming water with flower petals or essential oils. If you opt to use a diffuser for the latter, be sure to clean it frequently to maximize its benefits and prevent complications.
Stomach aches and indigestion can be caused by a large number of things and to treat them sometimes needs to be done systematically.
- If the issue is heartburn, try treating it by dissolving a teaspoon of baking soda in 8 ounces (1 cup) of water and drinking it. Baking soda is a natural antacid.
- If it is a sour stomach, try 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. Apple cider vinegar works to balance the pH in the stomach.
- For persistent gas, swallow two tablets of activated charcoal 30 minutes before each meal. It has the same active ingredients as Pepto Bismol.
Skin irritation can occur as a result of eczema, a food allergy or a reaction to plant oils. To treat a persistent skin irritation try the following:
- Draw a bath with a teaspoon of baking soda and a 1/4 cup of uncooked oats and soak for 5-10 minutes.
- If there is an infection, replace the baking soda with a teaspoon of bleach instead.
The number of health concerns that have the possibility of arising in disaster scenarios — such as chronic illness flare-ups, stomach issues, or sleep issues that you would normally treat with medication — suddenly become much more troublesome. Learning how to treat such issues without access to your pharmacy may be what your survival depends on.