In the likely case of a disaster situation, one of the first problems survivors will encounter is the lack of supplies. All shops, including drugstores will be emptied within hours of the confirmed crisis. Lack of transportation, anarchy and panic will definitely not help in getting new supplies. Hospitals will be full and doctors won’t be able to deal with all those who need help – so the best thing you can do is be prepared to help yourself!
Medication, especially over the counter drugs, are one of the things we take for granted. I mean, it’s so easy! – just walk a couple of blocks and buy it. Well, things might change sooner than you expect, and suddenly something as basic as Tylenol could worth more than its weight in gold. But prescription drugs would be much, much more valuable – they will be actual lifesavers, drawing the line between life and death.
Going to a local store and purchasing 2 racks of drugs is not wise, nor useful. You need to make a list of the drugs you and your family use most often. If it’s the case, you can also make a list of chronic conditions you and your family have. Suddenly running out of insulin if you’re a type I diabetic is not what you want.
According to how often these drugs are used in the average household, here’s a list of substances that should always be available.
Over The Counter Drugs
- Ibuprofen. This is the active compund of drugs like Motrin or Advil. It’s an anti-inflammatory medication that is indicated for pain and inflammation and it also relieves fever. In the right dosage it can be used safely in adults as well as in children who are 3 months or older. It comes in pills and as a suspension, and if you have kids it would be advisable to stock both. Long-term use and high doses can be agressive to the stomach, so if you have ulcer you should keep away from it for as long as possible. Combined with acetaminophen it’s effectiveness increases as a painkiller, making it comparable to codeine or tramadol.
- Acetaminophen. This is known as Tylenol and it’s the only pain-reliever that is not an anti-inflammatory drug, so it is much more gentle to your stomach. It’s available in dosages for children and adults and is safe to use even in babies younger than 3 months. It also effectively fights fever, however its effect as pain-reliever is milder than that of Ibuprofen, according to some users.
- Loperamide. Commonly known as Imodium, this is the most effective over the counter drug against diarrhea. Make sure to store it both in children and adult versions.
- Rehydration electrolytes. They are especially useful for young children, because they are prone to severe dehydration once vomiting or diarrhea kicks in.
- Ranitidine. This is more widely known as Zantac and it’s a great antacid. It is used in treating ulcer and gastritis as well as simple heartburn. It is commonly prescribed to be used along with ibuprofen, in people who have a sensitive stomach.
- Bacitracin ointment. This is a cream that contains a small dose of a highly effective antibiotic, meant to treat superficial skin lesions and fight possible infection. It’s not enough for a deep wound, that usually requires oral antibiotherapy, but it will work great for abrasions, insect bites or impetigo.
- Acetylsalicylic acid. This is commonly known as Aspirin, and you must be aware of the fact that it should never be used in patients under 18. You should stock the enteric aspirine, which dissolves in the intestines and spares the stomach. It’s better to avoid it if you have a stomach condition.
- Loratadine. You will find this in stores under the names of Claritin or Alavert. There are tablets for adults and dissolving tablets for children. It’s an antiallergic drug that can be used in treating mild allergies.
- Cetrizine. Known as Zyrtec, this is a little bit stronger antiallergic, which should NOT be used if you are allergic to Hydroxyzine.
- Epipens. If you or your kids are known to be prone to allergic reactons, an Epipen is an essential tool. This is a dose of adrenaline which will help in the case of an anaphylactic reaction.
- Diphenhydramine. It’s the active compound in Benadryl, used both in children and adults and it’s the most commonly used antihistaminic because it is very effective for hives.
- Skin antiseptics. These are EXTREMELY important in a disaster scenario. The risk of getting skin woulds is major, and it comes with the risk of dangerous infection. Just imagine that the sewage system won’t work, or that corpses are widely spread – so many sources of ugly bacterial infections! The most common and effective antiseptics are ethyl alcohol (70%), isopropyl alcohol (70%), clorhexidine (it is also effective in treating severe wounds), crystal violet and gentian violet (for wounds and burns), Potassium permanganate(can be used as wound cleanser but also for gargles, mouthwashes and irrigations), hydrogen peroxide (6%).
- Multivitamins. There are plenty of commercial offers for these ones. Normally, a healthy balanced diet would be preferable, however in emergency situations this might be hard to ensure, so a complex diet supplement is welcome so you can give your body all the necessary minerals and vitamins.
- Activated charcoal tablets. They are usually used in an incredibly large number of situations, from absorbing intestinal gas to reducing cholesterol, but it’s very very important that you have this in your emergency kit as an emergency medicine in intoxications. It can trap toxins and stop their absorption in the organism.
These supplies should ensure the comfort of your family. You should have them in adequate quantities so they would last for at least 6 months, but if you do have the resources, it would be better to store them in higher amounts, as they might also be used for trade. Their valability is up to 2-3 years, but make sure that you check your stock on a regular basis – it’s not very useful to have 100 pills that will all expire in 3 months.
There are a lot of prescription drugs that make our life better and that definitely help us get healthy again, but in a disaster scenario, the most important are antibiotics. Very strong painkillers could also prove useful, however these are controlled substances and there’s no way a doctor would agree to prescribe something like that unless you truly need it.
Antibiotics are substances that help your body fight infections caused by bacteria. Bacterial infections are often more severe than viral illness and though they may both kill you, worst case scenarios expose you primarily to bacteria getting out of control, for at least 2 reasons: sanitary causes (there’s a great chance the sewage system won’t work anymore, which means no clean drinking water and untreated waste water contaminating pretty much everything) and a great number of deaths.
Medicine developed a large number of antibiotics as an answer to the fact that bacteria are pretty fast “learners”. Antibiotics abuse is another issue that has caused a lot of damage – for quite a while, people were sure that antibiotics won’t do any harm, even if taken when not really necessary, and that’s what some people still do. Antibiotics are meant to be used ONLY if truly necessary, and in the event of a disaster it becomes even more important to preserve the stocks as much as possible and keep them for true emergency.
So, what are the best antibiotics to stock?
- Amoxicillin. This is a wide spectrum antibiotic that can be used in adults and children as well. It is also safe during pregancy and breastfeeding. It has few side effects which are almost always mild, however it may cause allergic reactions.
- Ampicillin. It is also a wide spectrum antibiotic that works for all the above mentioned categories. It works for respiratory tract infections, anthrax, UTIs, gastrointestinal infections and it is less lilely to cause severe allergies.
- Sulfamethoxazole and Trimpethoprim are used in combination to treat most UTIs. They can also cure respiratory tract infections, but usually they are kept as an emergency situation for infections with the resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus, which is easily spread.
- Ciprofloxacin. It also works great for UTIs, pneumonia and digestive tract infections, but it must never be used in children, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.
- Metronidazole. This is especially efficient on anaerobe bacteria. It is most commonly used in combination with ciprofloxacin to treat diverticulitis, bone infections, lung abcesses. It must not be used in children, during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
- Erythromycin. This is efficient in respiratory infections, syphilis, Lyme and chlamydia, it is safe to use in children, but it has pretty frequent side effects, mainly nausea and diarrhea.
- Doxycycline. It mainly has the same indications as erythromycin and is also effective against typhus and malaria. However it is not inded for childen use and preganant women should also stay away from it.
- Azythromycin is one of the most powerful antibiotics available in drugstores. It treats a very wide range of disease, but it’s more expensive than the ones mentioned before and it might be a little harder to get a prescription for it, since doctors tend to keep it as a last resort treatment.
How do you obtain these antibiotics?
There are several ways to get supplies for these antibiotics. The most correct one is to just talk to your doctor and let them know that you are worried about a crisis situation and you would like to be prepared. If you have been that doctor’s patient for a while, they will most likely understand your concern and help you.
Most doctors will agree to give you a prescription for a wide spectrum antibiotic (or even two) if you are travelling abroad.
Or, you can travel abroad and get in touch with a doctor there and convince him to give you a prescription. Make sure that upon arriving back you have the prescription along with the tablets, otherwise they might be confiscated.
Some people purchase antibiotics from other countries (Mexico, for instance). Sometimes this is a good idea, sometimes it isn’t. We recommend a little caution when doing that, because safetly rules are quite different from one country to another, and medicine produced abroad might contain additives that are considered dangerous.
Some preppers recomment stocking antibiotics produced for veterinary used. The most frequent recommendations are for Fish Mox Fort (amoxicilin), Fish Flex (cephalexin), Fish Flox (ciprofloxacin), Fish Zole (metronidazole) and Fish Cin (clindamycin). However, I advise that fish antibiotics are ONLY used in EMERGENCY situations, when prescription drugs are definitely not available. And I would consult with a medical practitioner first – it is documented that fish antibiotics may cause severe allergic reactions.
How to store antibiotics?
Usually, antibiotics can be safely used up to 5 years after the expiration date, as long as they are stored in proper conditions: away from heat, in dark dry spaces, avoiding freezing. However, it is very important to check on the expiration date for tetracyclines (erithromycin and doxycycline) because in time, they can become toxic. Rotating them is always a good idea, making sure that they are not already expired when disaster strucks!
Medication for chronic conditions
Some people may have a chronic condition that forces them to take their treatment daily, or several times a day, for the rest of their lives. Cardiac disease or insulin-dependent diabetes are just a couple of examples. In such situations, you need to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will most probably agree to help you make a stock for 3 months (a 6 months stock would be even better). Be carefull, as you get your monthly perscriptions, to rotate the pills in your stock, to make sure that you use older ones before their expiration date.
Your first aid kit should also include sterile bandages in different sizes, cleansing soap, sterile gloves and latex gloves, sterile roller bandages, syringes and needles, scissors and tweezers, thermometer and a lubricant. An alcohol thermometer would be much better than a digital, battery-operated one, and much safer than a mercury one. (click here for the full list)
If you have further suggestions, please go ahead and add them in a comment!
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