You Could Get Sick / Injured
We also don’t lack for medical care. We routinely survive ailments that routinely killed our ancestors. In 2010, UNC Demography did a study of mortality in that year vs. 1900. They have a nice graphic showing how the causes of death (and frequency thereof) have changed since 1900.
The first thing you’ll notice is that 54% fewer people died in 2010 than in 1900. That’s a testament to improved nutrition, improved safety, prenatal care, preventative care, increased access to care, improved hygiene… That’s all really super. But if you’re a thoughtful prepper, you might consider how fleeting all of these improvements may be in the wrong situation. Specifically:
- Healthy nutrition is difficult to maintain if there is a shortage of food, or reduced access to a variety of foods.
- Emergencies are dangerous by their nature. It will be harder to stay safe. Hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, wars, and riots are great examples of where the emergency can directly create physical danger.
- Prenatal, preventative, and general healthcare – your doctor is a person too. If your community is suffering through extraordinary circumstances, then so is your doctor. Also, as we’ve learned from COVID, we have a limited capacity of care. That capacity shows up in hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators, PPE, nurses, etc.
- If you’re short on water, hygiene can slip away.
Looking closer at the differences between 1900 and 2010, a handful of other items pop out: Tuberculosis, Pneumonia / Influenza, Gastrointestinal Infections. The discovery and application of penicillin and other antibiotics began in 1928, and effectively eradicated these diseases in developed countries. Antibiotic production is a sophisticated endeavor. Like other medical supply chains, they are subject to disruption and demand surges.
Don’t Get Sick / Injured
No matter how much you prepare, no one can eliminate the possibility of illness or injury. Instead, our goal is to reduce the likelihood and severity of these things. For example:
- If there are limited medical resources available, try to avoid activities that cause accidents. Many people made these decisions when the hospitals were full of COVID patients: postpone work on ladders, scale back the high-impact sports and exercise, etc. You can’t live in a bubble, but ask yourself, “If I do this, and I get hurt, what are my prospects for medical care?” If you’re not comfortable with the answer, consider postponing the activity, making it safer, or maybe hiring an expert.
- Similarly, if there is a global pandemic, you should probably avoid crowds. It also helps to have masks and other protective gear when you can’t avoid going out; and food, supplies, and diversions at home to decrease the number of trips you need to take. As I write this, the COVID is still around. I’m prepared to stay in our house for several weeks if we feel like that is the best answer.
- Hygiene is harder when you’re out of water and/or soap. By all means, drink your water before you bathe in it. Hydration is a higher priority than hygiene. But do what you can to stay clean: Take a ‘spit bath’, use wipes, take a dip in a clean lake or river, etc. Most importantly, wash your hands. Washing your hands is the best way to avoid eating poop, and eating poop leads to those gastrointestinal infections killed so many people in 1900.
- You should have first aid and other medical supplies and know how to use them. Depending on everything else that’s going on in your community, you may have to take care of minor (and some non-minor) things by yourself. In normal times, our daily showers help to keep minor wounds clean. If you are dirtier, you must pay more attention to those wounds to prevent infection.
- Finally, get to know a doctor or two in your neighborhood. We happen to be very close friends with a couple in our neighborhood – he’s a paramedic and she’s a nurse practitioner. We are blessed by their friendship in MANY ways, the least of which is their ability to provide medical care to our family in the event of an emergency. Get to know the doctors and nurses in your community. For that matter, you should try to get to know ALL of your neighbors. Contrary to the ‘Lone Survivor’ myth you see on lots of prepper websites, the reality is you’re surviving with your friends and neighbors in good times and bad. The better you know them in good times, the better you can all weather the bad times together.