Living off grid has some unique challenges. People who choose to live off grid often choose to completely limit access to the outside world in everything from electricity to groceries to medical and dental care. When this is the case, it is important to have the supplies to handle medical situations to the fullest extent possible. It is likely that the medical kit will be one of the most often accessed part of survival gear.
Knowing what to include in an off grid first aid kit can be daunting. There are so many items that can be added, a medkit can be huge and comprehensive but it would be unwieldy and difficult to store. Choosing the right set of things for the needs expected will keep the kit to a reasonable size. Because each family is unique, and each individual’s health needs are unique, a standard premade first aid kit can be helpful but may fall short.
A medical first aid kit for off grid living should contain items from each of several categories. These items may vary from kit to kit, but each kit will have something that serves the purpose, according to what is needed.
Cuts and Other Minor Wounds
There should always be wound care for minor cuts and scratches, some of which can be helpful for larger wounds until more help can be obtained.
- Cleaning – hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and other antiseptics should be included. Antiseptic wipes may also be a wise option. Water is the universal cleaner, but an added medical antiseptic can ensure a more complete clean.
- Closing – keeping a cut covered and closed will help to limit the possibility of infection and slow or stop bleeding. Good options are butterfly bandages, medical tape (usually only sticks to itself and not to the skin or wounds), or even duct tape in a pinch. Superglue can also be an option in some situations, but keep in mind that it can sting and will adhere anything it touches until it is dried.
When closing wounds, tape the center first and work toward the edges, being careful to line up the edges as closely as possible to where they were before the injury.
- Covering – to prevent infection, a wound must be kept clean. Using gauze, sticky bandages, or other wound dressings will help to prevent contamination. Adding antibiotic ointment further prevents infection.
Pain can be debilitating, which can be a serious problem for those living off-grid. Because of the way off-grid living works, the people who choose to do it need to work and being unable to because of pain can be the difference between surviving or having to return to the greater corporate world. Relief for pain and inflammation is imperative. Some options include aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen, as well as ice bags or lidocaine.
Knowing what can be foraged from the woods for pain relief could be helpful, as well. Willow bark, for instance, contains the same compound from which aspirin is made: salicin. (Aspirin is acetylsalicylic acid.) Tooth pain remedies such as clove oil are a good addition.
When an allergic reaction occurs, whether it is a skin reaction or anaphylaxis, something that can help mitigate the reaction may be necessary and will definitely be more comfortable. Antihistamines taken internally such as Benadryl can help with seasonal allergies and others that have respiratory or rash-type reactions.
For more serious allergies, injectable epinephrine could be the difference between life and death. This is invaluable for people who have a serious allergy but can be good just in case. There is always a first time to have a serious reaction; it can be some distance to reach medical assistance so having something like an EpiPen on hand can be crucial.
In the case of a broken bone, eye injury or contamination, burns, or other situations, some useful things to have in the kit include splints, an emergency dental kit including temporary filling, sterile needles and blades, tweezers, scissors, thermometers, gloves, eyewash, sunburn cream, and a first aid instruction manual.
Specific Individual Needs
The basics should be in every medical first aid kit, of course, but each individual and family will have specific needs particular to them. Prescription medications – preferably at least a month’s worth – should be stocked (remember to rotate the stock, using the oldest as each new set is obtained).
Over-the-counter medications that are used regularly should also be considered. Things used for nausea, hay fever, or other common maladies that are used regularly are good to stock up on ahead of time.
Specific Location Needs
When one lives where dangers such as venomous snakes, ticks, bugs, or other things exist, remedies for these must also be included in a first aid kit.
Water purifiers may be necessary in some areas, as well.
Some plants that can be foraged to use for first aid purposes include those that grow commonly in the wild or in yards.
- Aloe Vera soothes burns and other skin irritations. The inside – very center, avoiding the toxic lining – can be used internally for digestive soothing, from constipation to diarrhea and many things between.
- Dandelions are exceptional and can be used from root to flower. It is full of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, B1, B2, B6, C, E, and K.
- Elderberries can boost the immune system and treat respiratory issues including cold and flu. The flowers can be steeped in clean water to make an excellent eye wash and remedy for conjunctivitis and similar things.
- Honey – raw local honey – is a powerful antiseptic that can treat wounds topically and prevent bacterial infection. It will also create a barrier to keep out infectious contamination. It is best to keep it covered to keep from attracting insects.
- Plantain – not the banana look-alike, but the green plant – is found nearly everywhere. The leaves, when soaked in water and placed on a wound, will prevent infection and inflammation. It can also treat stings and bites and offer relief.
- Yarrow is antimicrobial and prevents infection. It slows bleeding and can be used in a tea for muscle cramps, aches, pain, fevers, ulcers, and to loosen bronchial tubes.
This is just a small sampling of the plants that may be used for medical purposes.