Medical supplies are an essential part of survival and planning can really save you some headaches. You cannot have too much gauze nor too many Band-Aids. Seriously, if you have the room then keep buying them. Sterile gauze is worth having a small amount of, and non-sterile a much larger amount of. band-Aids of all shapes are recommended, I really like the Nextcare tattoo type because they stick so well and help with blister protection as well as all sorts of small cuts. I am not really a big band-Aid person as I like blood and scars, but to each his own. If you feel the need to stop bleeding, nothing beats good old fashioned pressure. There is an old saying in medicine: “all bleeding stops eventually”s. I guess it is supposed to be partly humorous but also is meant to calm those that tend to freak out dramatically at the site of blood. Pressure on wound for a good two minutes stops the majority of bleeding wounds from knives, sharp edges, and puncturing. Holding pressure directly is the best way to approach bleeding, then after it slows or stops, then wrapping it with a nice tight bandage with gauze between will stop 95% of non-horrific injuries.
Ace wrap is great to have for a large variety of reasons, including holding together splints, wrapping larger injuries, and making a sling. It can be rewashed and used over and over until its springiness is lost. Getting a variety of sizes from 1 inch to 6 inch is the best idea, with more of the middle sizes like 2 and 3 inch. Chemical ice packs are really a good idea if there is no grid and therefore no ice. How many is a guess, most of the time if you had access to cool or cold water from creeks or springs that would eliminate most of your need for an ice pack. If you won’t have access to these cooling sources, then you need to make room for more chemical ice packs than someone with a nice cold creek or spring on their property. Splints are as simple as 2 sticks wrapped with duct tape, to fancy and expensive blowup units. My favorite are the simple moldable foam splints available at any medical supply store.
To close small wounds, super glue gel or steri-strips are good for largely non-mobile skin like the forehead or mid arm, leg, etc. If it doesn’t bend much, it’s non-mobile skin. For mobile skin, sutures might help, but if you don’t or can’t get them, then gauze and pressure is your best bet. Super glue gel is easier to control than the watery stuff and doesn’t stick you to the person you are trying to help as much. If the wound bleeds then the gel will just run all over and do absolutely no good. If the bleeding from a wound just keeps oozing slowly, you have to use sutures or steri-strips to stop it and close up the wound. Even steri-strips are very tricky with bleeding as they won’t stick to blood. You have a solid 8 hours to repair any injury, so the key to wound closure is SLOW DOWN and relax unless you see pumping blood shooting out of you or your pal. Sometimes, wrapping a wound and coming back to it an hour later makes all the difference in the world.
Besides having the supplies to repair and care for these flesh wounds, you need to have a person available with a stomach for the job. Someone in your small tribal society will be the medical person, so make sure they know how to use the supplies and that they are available. The “Mary Gray” of your group (see Jim’s novel “Patriots”) needs to train another secondary person to be an assistant or a primary medical person if the 1st choice is missing or gone. There is nothing worse than everyone freaking out because of blood and the person with the stuff and stomach being a long way away. Don’t wrap any bandages or gauze over super glue wounds for a couple hours, of course. Sutures are nice, but you need the little pliers or needle driver to use them, don’t forget that. Same with a curved needle and thread, it has to either be big enough for your hotdog fingers or get a pliers or driver. The little pliers needed for this is different than the mighty pliers listed in non-medical supplies for pulling teeth, they will not be interchangeable.
So, to sum up, get a good-sized bag for all these supplies as you may need to move it to a person rather than the person to your supplies. Pack it in order of importance, when you run out of room keep the remaining supplies on the shelves in your prepper area with the food and ammo in a cool, dry place. Gauze, band-Aids, Ace wrap, chemical ice packs, splints, tape, steri-strips, super glue gel, sutures or curved needles, pliers or needle driver all go into the bag. The bag necessary for these items is really not that big and will not be that heavy. Keep two ice packs in the bag and lots of backups on the shelves. Keep one splint in the bag, a variety of band-Aids, a variety of gauze and ace wraps, and a “set” of supplies for wound repair with backups for all these items on your shelves. There are certainly many more items that others recommend and that may be fine for some folks, this is a basic non-medical layperson recommendation. With a skilled, proficient medical person in your group your needs may be much more sophisticated, expensive, and extensive. Most people are not going to be performing surgery and pulling off blood-typing and transfusions. For those of you out there that will comfort and pray over the GSW victim WTSHTF, these recommendations will work. Questions and comments are always welcome. Stay strong.
JWR Adds: Dr. Bob is is one of the few consulting physicians in the U.S. who dispenses antibiotics for disaster preparedness as part of his normal scope of practice. His web site is: SurvivingHealthy.com.