As a beginner prepper, your first priority should be to get your emergency fund saved up, as money now a days can fix most common issues, the next on the list is basic food and water preps, followed by medical preps.
In this article we are going to be talking about the 5 best medical skills you as a prepper can acquire. Having basic medical skills and supplies in a disaster situation could mean the difference between someone surviving, and someone dyeing.
In an event that could potentially cripple your areas infrastructure, such as widespread flooding, a hurricane, or even a severe snow storm, medical staff will be focused on helping those most vulnerable and at risk, such as pensioners, schools, shopping malls and such. If you are in need of help at a time like this, the chances of getting immediate support are pretty slim, meaning you will have to do what you can by yourself, and having no medical knowledge, or skills, means you won’t be able to do anything.
In addition to the tools and skills I am going to outline below, it would also be a great idea to take a first aid course.
Establishing and Open Airway and Heartbeat
If someone isn’t breathing, you have a problem. The typical person can only survive around 3 minutes without air, after that, they will begin to develop brain problems, and possibly die.
Establishing an open airway is the number one thing you should do when tending to an unconscious person.
To do this, you use the simple chin lift technique, described in the video below.
Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, also known as CPR is a technique used for getting the blood flowing to deliver oxygen to the brain and organs. It’s a simple technique that gives a victim a fighting chance until an A.E.D. can be used or until an ambulance arrives.
Get into a local class if at all possible at your local Red Cross to learn CPR. Click here to find a class in your local area to get signed up. Having just taken the class recently, it was well worth spending a day learning how to keep someone alive.
Don’t have time to take a class? At least know the basics. This simple 2 minute video can teach you the foundations, but should not be a substitute for getting certified in CPR.
2. Stopping bleeding
Typically these can be controlled by applying pressure for 10 minutes and bandaging the cut giving your body time to form clots. Be sure to clean the wound with running water and ensure you’re using fresh bandages/band-aids/gauzes to wrap the wound. Proper hygiene when dealing with a cut or scrape can ensure that a simple cut doesn’t develop into something worse. If the wound is fairly small (i.e. not requiring stitches or a trip to the hospital) using a simple topical antibiotic like Neosporin will help to prevent the cut from getting infected.
The following video gives you a quick overview of dealing with bleeding.
Trauma involving heavy bleeding
If the bleeding is more than a small cut, a more aggressive approach may be needed. The sight of blood can often shock people (both the person cut and the person helping), so be aware of this going into the situation if you’re going to be administering first-aid.
The following video gives you sufficient information for dealing with heavy bleeding:
In the case of heavy bleeding that is not stopped by applying pressure and a bandage, you should have some additional tools in your kit to handle more severe trauma until either you can get to a physician or an ambulance arrives. I carry all 3 of these tools in my first-aid kit at all times.
- Tourniquet: (a belt can work as well). One thing to note about a tourniquet: after applying a tourniquet, make sure you mark down the time when it is applied as the doctor will need to know this. The typical time frame you want to apply this may range from 1 to 3 hours, but there have been cases of soldiers in Iraq leaving them on as long as 6 hours. While it’s not advised to leave these on for long periods of time, if it means saving my life, I’d take living over loosing a limb.
- Quick-clot: this has been used by soldiers that have been shot or received severe wounds causing them to bleed out. It helps the bleeding to clot up and has proven to be highly effective not only in gut shot wounds but other forms of trauma involving heavy bleeding.
- Israeli bandage: carried by many EMTs here in the U.S., these are battlefield tested by the Israeli military and serve as both a tourniquet and a bandage to stop severe bleeding.
3. Treating shock
Shock is a condition resulting in inadequate oxygen to the body’s tissues and major organs and will accompany illness or injury to some degree. Shock can cause damage to the body if not properly treated.
Shock may be caused by:
- loss of body fluids
- damage to the heart
- standing still for too long
- sudden emotional shock
- unpleasant experience (i.e. seeing Rebecca Black singing “Friday”)
How to treat shock
Lay a person down and elevate their feet to increase blood flow to their heart. While waiting for an ambulance or if you’re having to transport the person to a hospital, try and keep the person calm as stress and anxiety can worsen the condition. During this time keep the person warm and reassure them they’ll be fine, but do not give them food or water. Loosen any tight clothing to help increase blood flow to the vital organs.
4. Handle broken bones
When a broken bone occurs, the first goal is to immobilize the broken bone. You can do this with either an available splint or you can improvise with almost anything stiff and rigid like a board, a pole, a yard sign, etc. Once you apply the brace/splint to the broken joint, you will want to wrap the splint to keep the broken joint from moving.
You can also use a triangular bandage to create a sling for a broken arm.
Building a First-aid kit
You can pick up a first aid kit at your local Walmart, online or easily build your own kit.
If you choose to go the do-it-yourself route, here’s some items you’ll probably want to pick up. These first 4 are not in your typical first aid kit, but they’re definitely high priority items for my first aid kit to help deal with severe injuries beyond basic cuts.
- Tourniquet: (a belt can work as well)
- Israeli bandage
- SAM Splint (for broken bones)
- Band-aids (assorted sizes)
- Rolls of gauze
- Triangular bandage
- Silk tape
- Suture and thread
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Rash cream
- Allergy tablets
- Lip balm
- Latex gloves
- Burn ointment
- Thermometer – traditional, not electroni
- Superglue (this can be used to hold a cut together in place of stitches)
- Prescription medication
- Antibiotic spray/cream
- Anti-diarrhea meds
As you read over the list of things to buy above, don’t get overwhelmed. The challenge most people face when starting to prep is to be overwhelmed with the sheer amount of “things” they feel they need to get. Don’t let this happen to you. Pace yourself and budget. I didn’t get all my tools at one time and am still working on building out my first-aid kit even to this day. I set aside a certain amount of money each month and when the finances are available, I pick up the next item. Create a list and prioritize…you’ll get there.