Survival Health Tips
October 24, 2008
Sandy, health care worker
I would like to add some incredibly important survival items (from long experience) to your growing collection of reader contributions, things one seldom sees mentioned. Let's remember Russia survived its economic collapse well largely because its citizens had never lost the art of doing for themselves.
This first may be one of the most important things you ever hear: As a health care worker, I can attest that as many lives are saved in the hospital by "supportive care" as by antibiotics and other "professional" measures. ERs are packed with people who have forgotten how to do simple supportive care at home. So, here it is: BE SURE YOUR HOME HAS AT LEAST ONE ENEMA KIT. Not the little pre-packaged one-shot deals, but the old hot water bottle with a hose setup. Do NOT be squeamish about this. Get it, and learn how to use it properly. When your loved one has the flu, or pneumonia, is unconscious, cannot hold anything down, a simple warm-water enema will be absorbed as readily as IV fluids, which rank among probably the top five hospital-care life savers.
Other "supportive measures" include steam inhalation (especially with pine needles or eucalyptus oil added to the water -- home nebulization), and "pulmonary toilet" (a hospital staple, look it up), which includes encouraging coughing (often a GOOD thing) and gently pounding the back of a person leaning far over a bed with cupped hands or small bowls to loosen mucus in the lungs. Strong broths made from boiled meats and vegetables including onions, garlic, parsley, carrots, cabbage, etc. are very good strengthening tonics.
Urinary tract infections (one of the primary causes of systemic infection and death, especially in the elderly) can be VERY effectively treated at home by boiling any combination you have on hand of onions, potatoes, parsley, dandelion leaves, barley, parsnips or cabbage. No salt or other seasoning. Mash and discard the vegetables, strain and drink. By the gallon, if possible. Cranberry juice is a good preventive acidifier, but very irritating to inflamed tissues once an infection has taken hold. Caffeine has an irritating crystalline structure eliminated by half-lives, so cut out coffee and soda. Teas are OK. Best of all roast and crush dandelion root: Nourishing and very nice coffee substitute. (Please note I am providing this information only for emergency home treatment and NOT advising anyone to avoid professional medical care.)
Avoid panic: Learn to do a simple medical assessment. EMTs and ER personnel check vital signs first. Four things: Blood pressure, pulse, respiration and temperature. Get a blood pressure cuff and a good thermometer. Whether a person (or animal) has been knocked unconscious, has a seizure, heart attack, possible stroke or any other frightening event, if their vital signs are stable, death is not imminent and you have time to think and act. The next step (for humans) is usually a mental assessment: Read up on the Internet about how to do a mini mental status exam. Call the Red Cross (today!) and learn CPR. It's not rocket science -- do it! My knowledge of initial assessments has helped me avoid panic with family members and animals more times than I can count. Remember that most health events that are frightening to the inexperienced are not actually critical.
Here is another HUGE item: Get your teeth in shape as much as you can afford to, RIGHT NOW. Get the checkup, do whatever work is needed and you can possibly afford or your health care currently covers. Not tomorrow: NOW. If you need any incentive, remember that where medical equipment or insurance coverage is scarce, anesthesia is the first thing to go.
When medical care is scarce or unavailable, AVOID ILLNESS OR INJURY AT ALL COSTS.
Treat every wound proactively with hot soap-and-water scrubbing, hot soapy or salty soaks and some kind of protective barrier.
Always remember doctors and medical care do not heal the body, they only give it the breaks it needs to heal itself. Doctors and hospitals seldom if ever provide the all-important nutrition that fuels that healing, so in many ways if you provide adequate supportive care and nutrition, patients may actually be better off at home. Especially if you also provide the intangibles -- prayer, love, attention and positive reinforcement -- those are probably the more important factors of all.
Be sure you can keep yourself and your home clean with minimal water and no electricity. Or if your vacuum cleaner breaks, or vacuum cleaner bags become scarce, etc. Especially if asthma is a concern and/or you have animals. Invest 10 or 20 bucks in one of those "as seen on TV" rubber-fingered push brooms; they are great on carpets. And/or any of those other non-electric, non-battery-powered push-broom-like things.Get a bunch of spray bottles for quick cleanups and hand washing. A CLEAN, NEW pump-sprayer intended for spraying things on the lawn or garden, for low-water showers. A couple of big metal tubs you can use to wash clothes in with boiling water (or, who knows, for a soap-making business some day?). All of these are useful to have in any case. Remember boiling water cleans and disinfects clothes, dishes, etc., as well as soap. Actually, it's a good idea to have an array of big bowls, buckets and tubs. Metal whenever possible. Scavenging and making do requires a lot of collecting, carrying, storing and boiling. Don't forget clothesline and pins, although things dry just as well on the ground, bushes, fences, etc.
Purchased vitamins are great, but we are surrounded by rich natural sources. Vitamin C is free to all even in winter in the form of pine and hemlock needle tea, which tastes great and is a good source of vitamin C (poison hemlock is a "weed"-like plant completely different from the hemlock tree -- learn the difference!). Rose hips -- the round "fruits" of wild and cultivated roses -- persist on the plant all winter. Chew or grind for tea. Flavor varies widely, most not tasty, but a super source of vitamin C. Sumac "berries" are also abundant and persist all winter. Again, poison sumac is a vine with white berries, but sumac trees have those odd conical, furry-looking red clusters, which make a fantastic ruby-red lemonade-like tea, also rich in vitamin C. Dandelion and lamb's quarter are vitamin powerhouses. Humans need vitamin C every day and A at least every other day. These last two are loaded with both.
Crank flashlights are the bomb! They are getting cheaper and better, too. I bought two five years ago, they paid for themselves instantly and are still working like crazy. I also bought a crank radio five years ago, and I haven't bought batteries since.
We Americans need to relearn everything our grandmothers knew. The Internet is a Godsend for that. Read and stock up on everything you can think of. Start a library of books like Jethro Kloss' "Back to Eden" (fabulous herbal encyclopedia). Think of it as an adventure, because it is. And read the Deyos' Millennium Ark daily, because Stan and Holly definitely Get It.
-- A Millennium Ark Reader and Friend