Note: This article is part of a series on personal preparation to help you answer the question, “What should I do?” Our goal is to provide a safe, rational, relatively comfortable experience for those who are just coming to the realization that it would be prudent to take precautionary steps against an uncertain future. Those who have already taken these basic steps (and more) are invited to help us improve what is offered here by contributing comments, as this content is meant to be dynamic and improve over time.
The Future of Your Health
Like our “just in time” food system, our modern medical infrastructure is highly complex; it functions well only under controlled circumstances and with abundantly available specific resources. As with food, the ease with which we’ve accessed medical services over recent decades has invited us to reduce our health self-sufficiency. We’ve become so sheltered from the health risks our forefathers faced that we’re especially vulnerable if we’re ever forced to live without easy access to professional care.
Taking on a bit more responsibility and a few more preventive steps in one’s personal health is crucial; a must-do in the process of becoming resilient. Some of the steps recommended for beginners are universal; others depend on your personal needs. But in all cases, a good dose of foresight and practicality is in order to build some security into the future of your health. You should plan ahead for the things you know you’ll need: are there medications you take regularly? Do you wear contact lenses or glasses? What supplements, hygiene products, or nutritional supplies would you be hard-pressed to live without?
You should also be prepared to handle unexpected accidents with first-aid supplies, along with the basic training needed to be able to use them. This is another area where preparing even a little vs. not at all makes a world of difference.
Being prepared for what-ifs in terms of health is a prudent thing to do under any circumstance. Accidents and injuries can happen any time, any place, regardless of what is happening in our economy. Being able to act in difficult moments as a resource of knowledge/supplies, and reminding everyone involved of the merits of expecting the unexpected, is a good way to lead by example.
My wife and I both took first aid and CPR courses in the past for professional reasons (she has taught children and I’ve worked as a rock climbing instructor), so we are perhaps a bit more comfortable with this topic than most. Neither of us is squeamish, and we’ve patched up most of the usual injuries that come along with parenting normal, active children who love the outdoors.
Further, for the past 20 years, we’ve spent about two weeks every year on an otherwise deserted island off the coast of Maine. When we’re there, the “golden hour” (the first hour after a major injury) is on us. There’s simply no way to reach help in less than an hour, and if the seas are rough, it could be a lot longer than that.
Being medically prepared comes naturally to us, but even so, it feels like a necessary part of being a prudent adult/parent. I consider being able to treat basic wounds and injuries an essential skill that everyone should have.
For the beginner, here are my top four steps for health and medicine:
Step Number One – Get a First Aid Kit
Have a well-stocked first-aid kit on hand in your home and in every vehicle you use. Be sure to place your backup store of medications in your first-aid kit, as well as dosage information, warnings, and expiration dates.
For first-aid kits, we recommend:
First Aid Only 200-piece First Aid Kit (good all-purpose kit at a low price)
First Aid Only Ultimate First Responders First Aid Kit (comprehensive kit for greater preparedness)
I would augment the kit above with additional supplies of Tefla pads, which are a huge improvement over gauze pads. (They simply do not stick to wounds–they are a miracle for wound healing, as you can change dressings without re-injuring the area). My favorites are the 2×3 and 2×4 pads. We go through them with some regularity around my house.
Additionally, I would buy an assortment of Steri-Strips, which are sterile, breathable, tape-like strips that stick to skin and can close wounds that would otherwise require stitches. We’ve used them plenty, and I would never be caught without them. They, too, are miracles of medicine. My favorites are the ¼ and ½ inch widths.
Step Number Two – Get Extras
If there are any medications that you rely on, compile at least a three-month supply in case of supply chain disruptions. For most medications, this can be done by requesting a “vacation refill” at your doctor’s office. Stockpiling certain medicines may require a more detailed, private discussion with your doctor.
If you wear glasses, have an extra pair on hand. If you wear contact lenses, keep a backup supply of extra pairs and lens solution. You might also consider getting Lasik surgery so you don’t have to worry about vision supplies in the future.
Visit your dentist now, when you know your insurance is available, to get more extensive dental work done. Be sure to stock up on toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss, etc.
Have a backup supply of hand sanitizer and other antiseptics, which are important for avoiding infection in situations where water is unavailable.
In addition to storing food, store vitamins and supplements to maintain your health in periods when food choices may be limited.
Step Number Three – Get Training
Take a basic first aid course and a CPR course. In the past, you’ve probably thought that this is something you should do, but maybe you haven’t quite gotten around to it yet. This is a perfect ‘step zero’ sort of action to take. No matter how the future turns out, this will be a good thing to do.
To find a course in your area through the Red Cross, click here.
Step Number Four – Learn More
Learn more about medical care preparedness by reading our forums and relevant books. A personal favorite of mine is Where There is no Doctor, which is packed with practical, meaningful information, appropriate in just about any circumstance you can imagine, and which any reader can follow.
In prepping for the future, the unknown and unexpected can be a major source of anxiety. Knowing that you have a kit and set of skills on hand to be able to act in a great variety of unanticipated situations is an incredible stress-reliever, and it has the added benefit of coming at an extremely low cost.
A final note here is that, though most of the tips above are useful only in triage or last-minute situations, a much bigger component of personal health resilience is simply eating well, exercising, and keeping stress and unhealthy substance use to a minimum. It is my hope that taking the steps I’ve outlined in this series of posts will help you in several of those realms as well, but of course, the bigger part of that responsibility falls on your shoulders. Luckily, each of those actions are fulfilling ones, the benefits of which will extend to the here and now, not just to future unknowns.
If you have not yet seen the other articles in this series on resilience, you can find them here:
- What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 1 – Getting Started)
- What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 2 – Water)
- What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 3 – Storing Food)
- What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 4 – Growing & Preserving Food)
- What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 5 – Health & First Aid)
- What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 6 – Heat, Power & Communications)
- What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 7 – Protecting Wealth)
What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 8 – Community)
- What Should I Do?: The Basics of Resilience (Part 9 – Your Next Steps)
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