Watching for health issues
In a SHTF scenario, medical issues arise that do not normally occur or that happen in ways that are more intense than normal, or they begin normally but then have a high likelihood of spinning out of control.
They are divided into intensity levels. Things in the lowest category can ratchet up or down based upon your actions or inaction as a leader. People do not know basic first aid like they did on the prairie. There they needed to be to handle these things since a doctor might live somewhere, but might be tens of miles away.
None of the following is medical advice. You should educate yourself with books like “When there is no doctor” at the link provided earlier. In addition, you should take a free or minimally expensive first aid class. At least one person on your team should know first aid in an in-depth manner, but everyone should be to handle basic things. A young calm teen can respond in simple ways that may greatly increase survivability. So can you, it's simply a training and planning issue.
There is a far cry between being a prepper and bugging in with lots of stockpiled medical materials, and bugging out with a 72 hour portable kit. This article deals with the worst case but survivable scenario of a 72 hour kit as detailed earlier, and coping with likely medical issues.
Headache: A headache is a symptom of something else. A headache can be nothing more than stress related. It also could be a sign of declining nutrition, a head injury, an issue with menstruation, a migraine, an infection of nearby nerves, dehydration, oncoming stoke, etc.
Diarrhea: stress, bad water, poor nutrition, an infection, dehydration, disease
Constipation: the person may not be eating enough roughage as there are few options. They may reduce going to the bathroom since it is less convenient (common in older folks and kids). Walking around a lot, and a good strong cup of coffee does wonders.
Vomiting can be a symptom of stress, dehydration, food poisoning, a twisted bit of bowel. People can rapidly decline if they cannot keep things down and dehydration progresses. Staying still, lying reclined a little, but not flat, eating sensibly in small portions, reframing what is food, etc will help.
Urinary tract infections. Terribly painful. Little can be done. Prevention is best from creating a proper privy not squatting. More common in women. Children need to be reminded about proper toilet hygiene as it is more difficult in the wilderness. It can spread from the bladder to the kidneys and become serious. If you are prone to them, it is likely that a partner has been colonized by bacteria, or it's a hygiene issue. Having Septra on hand would be wise. You can't take it if pregnant. Plain yogurt has healthy bacteria which can overcome the unhealthy kinds to eventually treat the issue. Of course, not possible for bugging out. The incident rate for a UTI is very high. Having cranberry capsules and pretreating is better than having it happen.
Elevated temperature: an infection, stress, serious illness. Low temperatures are usually viral. High temperatures are usually bacterial. You can do very little for viral infections. You don't have antibiotics for bacteria infections. A parasite can cause a rise in temperature, but unless you see visible signs, which is not likely except in fecal matter, it is difficult to determine without a specific blood test. Even that can take days. Usually these are looking for the presence of a specific immunological enzyme or agent.
A really high temperature should immediately be treated by cooling as fast as possible within reason. It will be uncomfortable to do this, as immersion is the best way, and the sudden temperature change causes chills and the person might very well be delirious. At home you give medicines to reduce fever. They should be in you medical kit, and if they get the least bit high, find a running source of water to immediately treat it. Aspirin works well, but cannot be given to children. Tylenol is good, but should not be used by the elderly. It is hard on the body. Expired acetaminophen (Tylenol) is poisonous. Alleve works well, but in high amounts causes stomach bleeding. Nothing is perfect.
Having grapefruit seed extract (in the event that you are not already on medications that interact with it) would be helpful. Grapefruit seed extract is a powerful way to prevent infections or treat them. It should be considered as a treatment with UTIs.
Heat exhaustion: Someone gets dehydrated. The body cannot cool itself without sweat. They will vomit , get light headed, or cramp. They may collapse. Lie them down, cut cool bandanas on their body to lower their temperature. Raise their feet. Most of the blood pools in the legs. When we stand suddenly, we see a drop in blood pressure as the blood falls to our legs. They are having issues with consciousness, as the body attempts to control blood pressure to deal with the crisis. Have them take sips of water as large amounts will perpetuate vomiting.
A distinct wound infection. Many of these create pus. Pus is the combination of white blood cells that have died and debris of the killed cause of the infection. The body send a series of warrior cells to attack with multiple tactics. They have a short life span. A debilitated person will have a lower white blood cell count and hence will have difficulty fighting infection.
Any that you spot are most likely Staph or Strep infections. Most of these are prevented by cleanliness, a real issue in the wilderness as you are working under less than optimum conditions, constantly touching your face and extremities. Parts of the body are natural places for Staph and Strep to live. The most common is the nose, as any teenager has discovered. A pimple is an infection of Staph or Strep that goes interior and is generally harmless. In the wilderness, a pimple can become a funracle or carbuncle which is a serious boil. It is full of pus. Ordinarily this is lanced under very hygienic conditions under medical supervision. The reason for this is simple. It is in the danger zone of the face. It is called that since lancing it may introduce the bacteria deeper into the bony tissue of the skull, and crossover into the brain. These must be taken seriously.
Boils can easily happen in various sizes based upon constantly check for them, cleanliness, and treatment. The smallest wound by a sliver of wood, causes the warrior cells to attack. If the sliver is not pulled out, cleaned, and dressed, it can become red, swollen, and attacked by white blood cells, form pus, and a serious infection from the most basic splinter can occur. Boils can easily happen on the buttocks in the wilderness from la lack of bathing, lack of clean clothing, and sitting/sleeping on the ground.
A foot injury can severely reduce the group's progress. A boil on the foot, a cut that is not allowed to heal, a laceration that is not sutured, a twisted ankle, a broken bone, all can impede the travel plans of the community.
As discussed earlier, washing is very hard to do adequately in the wild. I've also touched on massage(ad not doing it when a person had an infection) and checking people's skin, nails, colour, extremities for injury. It is a common sense thing to do once each day and night, with a rapid check. A person can do a rapid visual examination of their extremities in a few minutes while washing up. You'll do this for children as they are careless. You'll pull out any splinters, clean the area with some of that Dr. Bronner's concentrated soap (which is far superior a cleaning agent to a bar of soap), and apply a drop of tea tree oil as an antiseptic. If you were home, with lots of things like hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, and bandages then you would different things. Here, you're trying to cope as best as you can. Bandages do not stay in place when walking ten miles a day.
If a skin infection occurs, you're going to try to keep it clean. If it's bad, then you're going to hole up somewhere to treat it, based on your level of security, who is injured, and the availability of shelter and long term sustenance.
A twisted ankle can easily be treated with elevation, time, and an ACE bandage to support the torn ligaments. The ligaments heal slowly based on good diet but we alter our pain tolerance.
Vitamin C intake is crucial when in the wilderness. Pine needle tea taken regularly in small amounts, and field greens will give you Vitamin C. No wounds will heal without it, as it allows collagen to be manufactured by our bodies.
Malnutrition can cause a host of issues. Prevention with vitamin supplementation is the easier way to treat this. All people who live outdoors on a non-varied diet with minimal calories will get malnutrition. It is entirely preventable through supplements. They should be in your bug out bag.
The standard operating protocol is to find medical assistance when injured. That most likely will not be possible. There may be no organized medical assistance or it may be dangerous to knock door-to-door looking for help.
Heart attacks can happen. More than likely they are anxiety attacks. Breathing into a paper bag, lowers hyperventilation and causes relaxation as the air mix normalizes. Assume it is a heart attack in anyone with risk factors especially if they have run out of medication. A small dose of aspirin is always given to treat it. In the wild, there is little you can do realistically. A heart attack is generally a clot that block the flow of blood on the heart itself. These sometimes heal with scar tissue, but the person is diminished. Prevention by ratcheting up exercise, diet changes, and medication are the treatment methods. Even very young children in a Western society form plaque from our fatty diets, and their arteries show it.
Everyone should know the Heimlich maneuver for choking, and basic CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation. CPR has changed. Go learn the modified way. In a perfectly controlled medical environment with all the medicines and devices, CPR has a surprisingly low effectiveness rate. It rarely will save lives, but must always be attempted. Miracles happen.
Burns happen easily and are preventible. The main thing is treat them right away to reduce the heat, so cold water is best. Help them by doing their chores if you can. The skin is literally armor at the outermost layer of the epidermis. It prevents most infections from happening. If a burn goes deeper, it may hurt less, but cause severe skin infections. The person is unable to control their body temperature. It is a bad death.
A sprain in the arm can be treated with several bandannas to support the arm. There are a million useful things you can do with a bandana. Placed on the forehead, it can collect sweat, cool the body, and prevent heat exhaustion.
Most injuries and many infections are caused by a lack of common sense. Many times simply cooking things thoroughly and hygienically will prevent an issue from arising. Keep your feet as dry and clean as possible.
Snake bite is a possibility as are spider bites. Snakes will generally make their presence known. The main thing is to become aware of your brother and sister creatures, and use care in meeting them. As discussed, a snake makes fine eating, is easily controlled with common sense and a forked stick and knife, and is not difficult to handle. You may see a clutch of snakes. They may do this when newly hatched, or they may be making out! A little common sense goes a long way to handle them. They will sense your heavy foot strikes before they see you. They usually bite out of self-preservation. A snake will not generally crawl into a tent, but I have seen it happen. Zip the darn thing up!