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SHTF first aid

In a world that seems increasingly fragile, preparing for various SHTF (Shit Hits The Fan) scenarios is not just a precaution—it’s a necessity. While many people stockpile food, water, and self-defense tools, medical preparedness often gets overlooked. Whether you’re bugging in or bugging out, having a robust, DIY first aid kit is crucial. This article aims to guide you through preparing your own first aid kit using items that are easy to find or even make yourself.

The Basic Anatomy of a DIY First Aid Kit

In the face of an SHTF scenario, a well-prepared first aid kit becomes an indispensable component of your survival gear. Such a kit should be comprehensive, encompassing a variety of items to address different medical needs that may arise during crises. Here’s an expanded look at what your SHTF first aid kit should include:

Wound Care: This category is critical for managing injuries. It should include a range of bandages—adhesive bandages for minor cuts, sterile gauze pads for larger wounds, and elastic bandages for sprains and strains. Antiseptic wipes and antibiotic ointment are necessary to prevent infection, and hemostatic agents (like quick clotting gauze) can be vital for controlling severe bleeding. Don’t forget a supply of sterile saline solution for cleaning wounds or irrigating eyes.

Pain Relief: Pain management is a key aspect of first aid. Your kit should contain a variety of over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. Consider including both oral medications and topical treatments like pain relief creams or gels. For those with chronic conditions, ensure a supply of necessary prescription pain medication.

Tools: Tools are the workhorses of any first aid kit. Tweezers are essential for removing splinters or debris from wounds. Medical scissors are useful for cutting gauze, tape, or clothing. A reliable thermometer is crucial for monitoring fever. Additionally, include a CPR mask and a pair of medical-grade gloves for protection during treatment.

Specialized Items: Tailor your kit to include items for specific needs. Burn creams or gels are necessary for treating minor burns. Antihistamines and epinephrine auto-injectors (if prescribed) are crucial for allergic reactions. Include any personal prescription medications, as well as specific treatments for chronic conditions like asthma inhalers or blood sugar testing kits for diabetics.

To further enhance your first aid kit, consider the following additions:

Hydration and Electrolyte Solutions: Rehydration salts or electrolyte tablets can be crucial in managing dehydration, especially in cases of diarrhea or vomiting.

Splinting Materials: Include materials for makeshift splints, such as SAM splints or even sturdy cardboard, along with medical tape or safety pins for securing them.

Instructional Guide: A first aid manual or instruction cards can be invaluable, especially if you need to perform procedures you’re not fully familiar with.

Mental Health Items: Stress and trauma can take a toll. Consider adding small comfort items, like stress balls or calming essential oils.

By assembling a first aid kit that spans these categories, you ensure a preparedness level that can handle a variety of medical situations. Remember, the contents of your kit should be familiar to you; take the time to learn the use of each item. In a crisis, a well-stocked first aid kit is more than a collection of supplies—it’s a beacon of hope and a tool for resilience.

Wound Care DIY Alternatives:

Conventional medical supplies may not always be at hand. However, with a bit of ingenuity and resourcefulness, everyday items can be transformed into effective wound care alternatives. Here’s how to improvise with what you have when traditional first aid supplies are out of reach:

Bandages: When commercial bandages are unavailable, strips of cloth cut from old t-shirts can be an excellent alternative. T-shirt fabric is soft, absorbent, and less likely to cause irritation. Ensure the cloth is clean and, if possible, sterilized by boiling before use. These cloth strips can be used to wrap wounds or hold dressings in place. They’re also reusable after proper washing.

Gauze: Gauze is essential for covering and protecting wounds, but in its absence, cotton balls or a clean, absorbent rag can suffice. Cotton balls are particularly useful for small punctures or abrasions, while larger rags can cover more substantial injuries. In any case, cleanliness is paramount to reduce the risk of infection. If possible, sterilize the rag by boiling or use a clean iron to apply heat, which can help kill bacteria.

Antiseptics: Cleaning a wound is critical to prevent infection. If commercial antiseptics like iodine are not available, alternatives like rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or high-proof liquor can be used. While these may not be as gentle on the skin, they are effective at killing bacteria. Apply sparingly to the area around the wound to disinfect it before dressing. Be mindful that alcohol and hydrogen peroxide can damage tissue if used excessively, so use them cautiously.

In addition to these alternatives, consider the following for comprehensive DIY wound care:

Herbal Remedies: Certain herbs have antiseptic or healing properties. For instance, a poultice made from crushed garlic or a tea made from yarrow leaves can act as natural wound cleaners.

Super Glue: In extreme cases, super glue can be used to close a wound. This should be a last resort, as it can irritate the skin and make future medical care more challenging.

Sanitary Pads or Tampons: These can be used for absorbing blood from larger wounds. They are designed to be absorbent and sterile, making them useful in emergency situations.

Butterfly Bandages: Cut strips of adhesive tape can be fashioned into makeshift butterfly bandages for closing small cuts.

Remember, while these improvised solutions can be effective in a pinch, they are not perfect substitutes for proper medical supplies. Whenever possible, stock your first aid kit with commercial-grade medical supplies and familiarize yourself with how to use them. In a SHTF scenario, your creativity and adaptability in wound care can make a significant difference in managing injuries effectively.

Pain Relief DIY Alternatives:

In a situation where conventional pain relief medications might be scarce or unavailable, turning to natural alternatives can provide some relief. It’s important to remember that while these natural remedies can be effective, they are not a substitute for professional medical treatment. Here’s how you can manage pain with DIY alternatives in an SHTF scenario:

Willow Bark Tea for Pain Relief: Willow bark, known as nature’s aspirin, contains salicin, a compound similar to the active ingredient in aspirin. You can make a strong tea by boiling the bark of a willow tree. This tea can help alleviate pain, although it should be used with caution, especially by those who are allergic to aspirin, and not as a long-term solution.

Turmeric and Ginger for Anti-Inflammatory Benefits: Both turmeric and ginger are renowned for their natural anti-inflammatory properties. Incorporating these into your diet can help manage inflammation-related pain. You can consume them as teas, in food, or as a paste applied to the inflamed area. The active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is more effective when combined with black pepper, which enhances its absorption.

Here are additional natural alternatives for pain management:

Peppermint Oil: Peppermint oil, when applied topically, can have a cooling effect on sore muscles and joints. It can be diluted with a carrier oil and massaged onto the affected area.

Cloves: Cloves, used either as a whole spice or in oil form, can be effective in reducing toothache pain. They can be applied directly to the gums or used to make a mouth rinse.

Capsaicin: Found in hot chili peppers, capsaicin can be used topically to relieve pain from nerve damage, joint and muscle pain. It works by decreasing the intensity of pain signals in the body.

Epsom Salt Baths: Epsom salt, when dissolved in a warm bath, can help to relieve muscle soreness and reduce inflammation.

Acupressure: This technique involves applying pressure to specific points on the body to relieve pain. Learning basic acupressure techniques can be a useful skill in managing pain without any external aids.

Remember, while these natural remedies can provide relief, they are not a replacement for professional medical advice and treatment. Always consider any allergies or existing health conditions before using these alternatives, and use them judiciously. In an SHTF scenario, these natural solutions can be invaluable tools in your self-care arsenal.

Tools DIY Alternatives:

When traditional tools are not at hand during an SHTF scenario, improvisation becomes key. Everyday items can be transformed into practical tools, serving purposes well beyond their intended use. Here’s a look at how to improvise with common items for essential tools like tweezers and scissors:

Tweezers Alternative – Needle-Nose Pliers: If tweezers are unavailable, a pair of needle-nose pliers can be a suitable substitute. They are precise enough to remove small splinters or foreign objects from wounds. Ensure that the pliers are clean and, if possible, sterilize them with alcohol or by heating them over a flame to reduce the risk of infection.

Scissors Alternative – Sharp Knife or Glass Shard: In the absence of scissors, a sharp knife can be employed for cutting cloth or bandages. For more control and precision, you can use a shard of glass. However, extreme caution is necessary when handling glass to avoid injury. Ensure the cutting edge is clean and handle it with care to maintain safety.

In addition to these alternatives, consider the following improvised tool solutions:

Saw Substitute: If you need to cut through wood or thicker materials and lack a saw, a serrated knife or even a piece of a hacksaw blade can serve as an improvised saw.

Can Opener: In the absence of a conventional can opener, you can use a sturdy knife or a flat screwdriver and hammer to puncture the lid of a can and pry it open.

Hammer: Any heavy, solid object can be used as a makeshift hammer. This could be a stone, a piece of metal, or a dense piece of wood.

Fire Starter: If you don’t have matches or a lighter, a flint and steel or even a battery and steel wool can be used to start a fire.

Needle for Sutures: In extreme situations where medical suturing is necessary and no needles are available, a small safety pin or even a thorn can be sterilized and used. This should only be done in dire situations and with appropriate medical knowledge.

The essence of SHTF preparedness lies in the ability to adapt and make do with what is available. By thinking creatively and understanding the potential uses of everyday items, you can equip yourself with the necessary tools to handle a variety of situations, even when conventional tools are not available. Remember, in a survival situation, resourcefulness is just as important as the resources themselves.

Specialized Items DIY Alternatives:

When access to specialized medical items is limited in an SHTF scenario, knowing how to create your own remedies from natural sources becomes invaluable. While these DIY alternatives should not replace professional medical treatment, they can provide temporary relief in emergencies. Here’s how to use natural ingredients to substitute for burn cream and allergy medication:

Burn Cream Alternative – Aloe Vera and Honey Mixture: For minor burns, a mixture of aloe vera and honey can be a soothing solution. Aloe vera, known for its cooling and healing properties, can reduce inflammation and promote healing. Honey has antibacterial properties and can help prevent infection. To use, apply a thin layer of fresh aloe vera gel mixed with a bit of honey directly to the burn. Ensure that the burn is cooled and cleaned before application.

Allergy Medication Alternative – Stinging Nettle Tea: Natural antihistamines like stinging nettles can offer relief from allergy symptoms. Nettles can be brewed into a tea and consumed to help alleviate allergic reactions such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose. To prepare, steep dried stinging nettle leaves in hot water for about 10 minutes, strain, and drink. It’s important to source stinging nettles from a safe, unpolluted area and ensure proper identification to avoid consuming harmful plants.

In addition to these, consider these other natural solutions for specialized needs:

Antiseptic Mouthwash: A saltwater solution or a mixture of water with a small amount of hydrogen peroxide can act as an antiseptic mouthwash for oral hygiene or minor mouth infections.

Anti-Diarrheal: Herbal teas made from ingredients like chamomile, ginger, or peppermint can soothe the digestive system and help with mild cases of diarrhea.

Calming Remedies: Herbal teas with chamomile, lavender, or lemon balm can have calming effects, which may be helpful in managing stress and aiding sleep.

Skin Rash Treatment: Oatmeal baths or pastes made from baking soda and water can soothe skin rashes and irritations.

It is crucial to remember that while these natural alternatives can be effective for minor issues, they are not a substitute for professional medical care, especially in severe cases. Always exercise caution with dosages and be aware of any allergies or reactions to natural ingredients. In a survival situation, these DIY solutions can be vital components of your health and well-being toolkit, helping to bridge the gap until professional medical help is available.

Combining First Aid and Self-Defense

In SHTF scenarios, medical emergencies often occur in tandem with security threats. Here’s how to combine the two:

  • Pepper Spray: Effective not just for self-defense but also for creating a barrier between you and potentially infected individuals.
  • Stun Guns: Can incapacitate an aggressor, allowing you to administer first aid to yourself or others.
  • Martial Arts: Basic self-defense skills can help you protect your medical supplies from being looted.

Learning Basic Medical Skills

In the face of an SHTF scenario, being equipped with medical supplies is only half the battle. The real difference lies in possessing the skills and knowledge to use these supplies effectively. Here’s a deeper dive into the basic medical skills that can significantly enhance your survival capabilities:

Basic First Aid: This is the foundation of all medical skills in survival situations. Learning to properly clean and dress wounds prevents infections and accelerates healing. Understanding how to set simple fractures can prevent further injury and aid in mobility. Administering CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) can be life-saving in cases of cardiac arrest. Consider taking a first aid course or self-educating through reliable online resources and practice regularly to keep these skills sharp.

Natural Remedies: Familiarizing yourself with local flora and their medicinal properties can be immensely beneficial, especially when conventional medicine is not available. Learning to identify and use plants like aloe vera for burns, willow bark for pain relief, or peppermint for digestive issues can provide natural and effective treatments for common ailments. It’s important to study this carefully to avoid the use of harmful plants.

Triage Skills: In situations where multiple people are injured, knowing how to prioritize injuries for treatment can be critical. Triage involves assessing the severity of injuries and determining who needs immediate attention, who can wait, and who might be beyond help. This skill is crucial in disaster scenarios where resources are limited, and quick decision-making can save lives.

Expanding your medical skill set should also include:

Shock Management: Understanding how to recognize and treat shock, which is a common and life-threatening condition following injury or trauma.

Hygiene and Sanitation: In survival situations, maintaining hygiene and sanitation is crucial to prevent disease. Basic knowledge of how to sanitize water, dispose of waste, and maintain personal hygiene can prevent many health issues.

Mental Health First Aid: Learning to recognize and provide initial help for mental health crises such as panic attacks, severe stress reactions, or trauma can be as important as treating physical injuries.

Child and Elder Care: Familiarize yourself with the basic medical needs and care techniques for children and the elderly, who may be more vulnerable in emergency situations.

Remember, in a crisis, your knowledge can be as powerful as any tool in your kit. By acquiring these basic medical skills, you not only increase your own chances of survival but also become a valuable resource for your community. Preparedness is not just about what you have; it’s about what you know and can do with what you have.


In the intricate web of SHTF planning, medical preparedness often takes a backseat, but its role in ensuring survival cannot be overstated. The confluence of creativity, education, and practical skills forms the cornerstone of effective medical preparedness. Here’s a wrap-up of how integrating these elements fortifies your overall survival strategy:

Assembling a DIY first aid kit is the first step. By utilizing both conventional medical supplies and innovative DIY alternatives, you can create a versatile kit ready to address a wide range of medical issues. This kit becomes a lifeline, not just a collection of items, when coupled with the knowledge of how to use each component effectively.

However, having the right supplies is just the beginning. Equipping yourself with basic medical skills – such as first aid, natural remedies, and triage – elevates your preparedness from merely reactive to strategically proactive. These skills enable you to not only care for yourself and your family but also to extend help to others in need, strengthening the resilience of your entire community.

Moreover, integrating self-defense tactics into your SHTF plan complements your medical preparedness. By understanding how to protect yourself and others from harm, you reduce the risk of injuries, thereby lessening the reliance on medical resources in high-stress situations.

In conclusion, medical preparedness is a dynamic and vital aspect of SHTF planning. It demands a blend of practicality, foresight, and adaptability. By combining a well-thought-out DIY first aid kit with essential medical skills and self-defense strategies, you position yourself not just to survive, but to thrive in the face of adversity. Remember, in the unpredictable landscape of an SHTF scenario, your health and safety are paramount, and being prepared is the surest way to safeguard these invaluable assets.

As always, be safe and be prepared.


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