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Making your own first aid supplies after a disaster

If a large region-wide or even country-wide disaster occurred which harmed many people, store shelves and hospitals will quickly run out of first aid supplies from band-aids, gauze, antibiotics, and more. The hope for us as the prepared is to have enough of this stored before this happens to be able to treat injuries we and those close to us sustain. But what if that disaster happens before we are able to accumulate all of those supplies or we run out because the disaster was worse than we had prepared for?

How do you craft and make various first aid supplies from things you have around the house? It will be hard to make things like antibiotics but instead of gauze for a large cut on the arm, could you use pieces of a tshirt that has been washed? Instead of band-aids can you fold a square of toilet paper and attach that with some tape? And even during the normal times, why not save a buck and make your own supplies? What makes the store bought gauze better or different than say a piece of tshirt or toilet paper?

I don’t have any answers but was curious if other people had thoughts on the subject.

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  • Comments (7)

    • 5

      Great topic!! The pandemic really illustrated how quickly medical stockpiles can run out. I’m by no means a medical professional, but this is what I’ve gathered from my own research and experience. 

      Bandages have historically been made with torn up fabric, but the reason we use gauze instead is because it’s a) sterile and b) designed to not have bits come off in the wound. While you could probably improvise decent bandages with cleaned cloth in a long term emergency, gauze is always a better choice if you have it on hand. Also, gauze is cheaper than a new shirt. 

      I’d really recommend you don’t use paper or non-medical tape. Toilet paper is designed to break up in water, and blood is mostly water. I’ve definitely used it to press on a cut that’s bleeding, but even for a small cut, it breaks up after a few minutes. Most tape does not stick to skin well, and stronger tapes run the risk of pulling up skin and leaving a bigger wound than before. (To be fair, my family has fragile skin, but duct tape on any wound sounds bad.) 

      In a long-term disaster, our best bet is probably going to be traditional medicine. They’re not usually as effective as modern medicine, but medicine was not invented in the last few centuries, and a lot of traditional remedies have legitimate effects. Some modern medicine is even made from artificial or purified traditional medicines. There’s other threads on here- I think even a starred one rn- that have recommendations with books for grid-down medicine. 

      All that said, there’s a lot of medical supplies you really can’t make well yourself. The human life expectancy used to be much shorter than it is now, and modern medicine has been a huge part of that. We’d be returning to a time where injuries or diseases we hardly notice today could easily cause death or disability. Accepting limitations to prepping is never fun, but with medicine, you have to. 

      • 2

        Exactly what Kira said. Gauze is going to be more durable and sterile and that is what you want in a bandage. Sure the others will work if you have nothing else, but if you have the option go with gauze. Last thing you need is an infection or pieces of toilet paper breaking off into your wound.

    • 6

      For reasons I don’t understand, no brand of commercial adhesive bandage or butterfly bandage has ever stuck well to my skin.  They just fall off twenty minutes later.  Oddly enough what does stick is ordinary office tape.  Depending on the type and severity of a wound, I use tape alone to hold the edges closed, toilet paper and tape (if very minor) or a square of sterile gauze and tape for more serious injuries.  I would never use duct tape though – ouch!

      Regarding cloth bandages for serious wounds, I think one would want to boil them (not just wash) and then dry them quickly in a sanitary way.  That’s what was done during the few decades between people learning about germs, and reusable cloth bandages falling out of use.  But due to that challenge of getting them dry without allowing them to become contaminated, it should really be a last resort!

      This year I’m using only wildcrafted medicine, but so far I haven’t been injured badly enough to need to wildcraft a bandage of any kind.  I will keep you posted!

      You can read about my wildcrafted hand balm (which btw has still not gone rancid at all) here in my thread on seeking challenge ideas: https://theprepared.com/forum/thread/seeking-ideas-for-prepper-related-challenges-experiments/

      Besides treating a poison ivy rash with local red clay instead of my usual go-to of bentonite clay, there hasn’t really been anything else to report, but if there is later perhaps I will post it here in your thread – a better fit.

    • 4

      One of the biggest things to remember for wounds is to get them cleaned out properly prior to bandaging.  I always carry a tweezers and a syringe in my FAK for wound cleaning and flushing with clean water.  If I had no standard dressings, I would use a clean piece of cloth that I had soaked in antiseptic (alcohol, bleach, etc.) solution to disinfect.  It’s not absolutely necessary to have these completely dry, either, as any residual antiseptic will help keep bacteria out.  

      As far a securing the dressing, I’m partial to duct tape, since I hate having bandages come off inadvertently, and duct tape is generally waterproof.  In a survival situation with limited access to antibiotics, keeping the wound clean and protected from liquid-borne pathogens (such as via splashes) is crucial.  

      • 1

        Is rubbing alcohol okay to put on a wound? I know hydrogen peroxide is discouraged because it kills the healthy good bacteria along with the bad which slows down healing.

      • 3

        Yes, rubbing alcohol is fine for wounds, except that it HURTS if you get it in an open wound.  Hydrogen peroxide kills the bacteria (any bacteria in a wound is bad, BTW.) but also ‘cooks’ some of the skin cells, which slows down wound closure and increases scarring potential.  However, if I thought I had a wound contaminated with bacteria, I would definitely use hydrogen peroxide initially to disinfect…an infected wound in a survival situation is definitely worse than a slower-healing and/or scarring one.

    • 2

      Hey Tiger, your post made me think about what medicines I should have on hand so I created a new topic about it What OTC medications should we have on hand?

      I’d shop around for first aid gear and see if online, super market, or pharmacy is the best price for each item you are looking for. Just buy a bit at a time and before you know it you will have enough to last your next emergency.