Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Now Young Skywalker...You Will Die

(reference) On Sunday, Brock over at Free North Carolina posted an article about a simple and probably unexpected way to die during a grid down situation: spider bite.

Let me just emphasize one more way.  I'm sure everyone has thought about it, or strange as it may sound, thinks they've thought of it.  Infection.  The thing about infections is that they can pop up at any time without any warning or indications, and not just from a cut or other injury.  

The main reason for the quiet here over Sunday/Monday was an abrupt run in with the medical system.  Part was planned, but part was an out of the blue infection unrelated to any injury or other affront I can recall.   Within 12 hours, I was able to start antibiotics.  A quick trip to the local Doc-in-a-Box "urgent care" facility and then a stop at our local Publix for antibiotics, and I'm on the road to recovery.  If the grid had been down when this struck, I might well be dead by now, or pushing my limits.  Instead, Publix gives away two weeks worth of several antibiotics for free.  I assume that's because the cost of the generic forms they dispense are less than the cost of administering payment systems, or possibly they do it to attract business. 

I believe it was back on the old, abandoned Geek with a 45 blog that I read a similar post where he was simply astonished at the widespread availability of antibiotics, compounds that would have saved millions upon millions of lives from pneumonia alone, and he could be cured of pneumonia for a few dollars.  Now add in that many of them are free and compound that wonder. 

There are at least three big problems with having antibiotics around as general preparations for times with collapsed or just less-than-optimum health systems.  The first is that they're not just something you take they're specific; certain antibiotics only affect certain bacteria, so that you just don't need AN antibiotic, you need THE antibiotic for the infection you have; taking the wrong one could cause damage.  Needing several types of antibiotics means lots of storage.  The second problem is partly based on that issue; they are typically available by prescription only (although most folks already know the system hack for that).  The third big problem is that you shouldn't just give someone a bottle of something and think you're done.  They really do require knowledge on a caregiver's part.  

Something everybody who thinks they'll be administering first aid in shaky times should know is not just which antibiotics to try first for which conditions, but when not to administer them, and what to do if they don't work or the patient gets sicker (from the illness or from reaction to the drug).  I'm certainly not the guy to teach such a class, but I'd sure like to take it.  I know there are people in our community who could put on such a program, so it may be available and I'm just not aware of it.  Patriot Nurse on YouTube comes to mind, as does Dive Medic

My bottom line here is that there are lots and lots of ways to die when civilization goes fully dysfunctional.  Spider bites, snake bites, tick bites and other critters can get you.  Or you could wake up with an infection out of nowhere.  It often seems to me that people talk about something major like an EMP happening and over a hundred million people dying, yet the implication is that they're somehow not among those who do.  This hasn't even touched the many ways of dying that don't have anything to do with infection at all.  
(probably a stock photo of a hand model pouring out pills - from)


  1. Yea Publix. They also give away Lisenopril (blood pressure med) and Metformin (diabetes).
    For those not in the South, Publix is a large grocery chain.
    My backup plan? I married a nurse over 50 years ago.
    BTW, I didn't need the blood pressure meds prior to 2008.

  2. While your comments on antibiotic specificity are correct and valid from a SHTF POV a broad spectrum antibiotic would be worth stocking. You don't want to die from a rose thorn scratch (historical reference if you can find it)

  3. There is a story that in old England a man apparently died so they had a wake and after 24 hours or so they were having a funeral and carried the body to a fresh grave. As they passed a rose bush a thorn scratched the body and the pain awoke the person who was now obviously not dead. Some kind of illness that mimicked death and fooled the priest and doctors. The man lived a long and normal life and died of natural causes some years later. As chance would have it the same priest was officating at the second funeral and as the body was carried to the grave in the church yard cemetary the priest loudly cautioned the pall bearers to watch the rose bush...

  4. It's my understanding that the fish medicines touted in several SHTF forums are indeed a viable choice. They aren't cheap (much more expensive than from your local pharmacy), but purchasing enough for several courses of treatment as a prep may be a good idea, if you can afford it. There are generic versions of Ciprofloxacin, clindamycin, cephalexin (Keflex), penicillin, amoxicillin, ampicillin, Bactrim, anti-fungals, etc.

    I cannot recommend this to anyone else, but I have decided that, kept properly cool, in the dark, and sealed up in airtight containers to extend their shelf-life, they may be a good back-up for me in case of a serious infection when medical care is not otherwise available. Most medicines remain viable for much longer than their listed expiration dates if stored properly. (Some can be refrigerated, but some cannot. Check the literature on each particular medicine you are contemplating storing.)

    Here is one example of a possible source:

    (I retired as an RN, my last of several careers).

  5. Forget where I ran across it, but found a recommendation that for long term storage pills should be kept in the freezer, liquids and capsules containing liquid in the refrigerator around 38-40F. My pharmacist agreed, with the caveats that they be returned to room temperature 24 hours before use, and left sealed during that time to prevent condensation inside the container. He had no recommendation on how much longer this keeps them viable but guessed it was in the 3-5X range.

    My plan provides for meds in 90 day increments, and I have started requesting them in three 30-day containers.

  6. Anon 946 PM - I made some deliberate attempts to stay away from stuff I've heard vs. things that seem like real, referenced data. For instance, I hear that the old broad spectrum antibiotics are becoming less effective as antibiotic resistant bacteria become more and more common. Some are even saying we're entering an age where antibiotics are going tob e generally ineffective, and if that doesn't give you a full pucker effect, you're missing something. So where I was coming from is we should try to treat as doctors and PAs do now. Bear in mind that when they give you some particular antibiotic for your infection today, they're just guessing even with the full system working. To really know requires sensitivity cultures, and that wastes time that could be getting you healing.

    I hear that hospitals are seeing more and more cases of MRSA, the "superbug" version of staph that is susceptible to only one or two intravenous antibiotics. There's another superbug called CRE that is also being seen more often. If you get MRSA or CRE when the grid is down, well, you will die.

    I have a good selection of fish antibiotics, which are kept cold but not in the freezer. I think a good selection of the common ones, such as in RegT's list, is just common sense to keep. Maybe Metronidazole because it's effective against Giardia and some of the other protozoans that end up in contaminated water.

    Alien brings up a good point about getting 90 day supplies of any prescriptions you can. Honestly, I think very few of us are going to have issues if we don't take our statins anymore, but there are a lot more serious drugs out there. If you're a diabetic, have thyroid deficiency, or a host of other conditions, you know far more than I do about these!

  7. I get all of my meds in 90 day quantities. Some are "PRNs", which are the initials for the Latin words "pro re nata", which translates (roughly, not literally) as "take as needed". Many medications are prescribed this way - most pain meds, sleep aids, cough/cold preparations, antacids, etc. Since I don't take all of them during a ninety-day period, I end up with some left over when the 90 days have elapsed. So I have been able to build up a "boot" or "stash" of that medication, insuring that I will still have some for a while, even when things "go south".

    Alien: For the most part, refrigerating or freezing is a good idea, as heat will degrade meds quickly, but some medications break down, denature, at low temps. Some, like hormone therapy - injectable (liquid) testosterone for men, conjugated estrogens for menopausal ladies - need to be kept in the narrow range most of us live in. For testosterone that means 68-77F, although temporary excursions from 59-86F can be all right, albeit they will slightly shorten the lifetime viability of the medication.

    Most antibiotics should be kept refrigerated if they are not to be used in a short period of time. The liquid forms (like procaine penicillin, injectable) _must be kept refrigerated, but will be damaged and rendered unusable if allowed to freeze.

  8. Fish antibiotics are essentially identical to those given to humans.
    Just given a different 'brand name'. As for the correct useage.... that is the tough part. Even with years of training, experience, a
    Physicians Desk Reference and access to a lab it is still common for an MD to prescribe an ineffective antibiotic. However in a true SHTF
    situation it's worth a try. The trick is to know when the ailment is
    bacterial and not viral. That is not always easy....and using ABX therapy on viral illnesses wastes valuable meds and increases resistance in bacteria. Going it alone is going to get a lot of people prematurely dead. Those that have formed a community with a
    wide array of skills including experienced medical people will do
    better. Of course those communities will be fairly remote, if not
    they run the risk of being overwhelmed by the 'golden horde'.

    I suggest stocking up as you can on fish least a couple hundred doses of a wide variety. They store for years if kept
    just above freezing. Then I suggest you cultivate an acquaintance with someone who has the skills to make use of your supply properly.

    You can teach yourself to weld in a few weeks. You can teach yourself many useful skills in a short time frame. You CAN'T teach yourself medicine quickly. So having someone around who has spent time in critical care/emergency medicine available can and likely will save a life when things go south for good.

    And it's not just infections that will kill. Many things that we
    assume are survivable will kill when the system modern
    medicine is EXTREMELY reliant on high tech these days. One of the
    first things to fail will be lab equipment and radiology equipment.
    Without these diagnostic tools physicians will be working literally
    'in the dark'. And most MD's these days don't do well without the tests and exams they have become reliant on. A simple fall from a
    ladder can kill without access to modern medicine. Everyday life
    will be like it was in the 19th century when people often succumbed
    to routine accidents that nowdays are readily surviveable.