When I wrote THIS post about my Ultimate Medical Kit, I got a TON of questions about the prescription side of things and how families can stock up on medications that require a prescription to obtain. Because I believe it is a very important topic, I decided to follow up with a new article discussing just that!
There are really only 3 prescription medications (or categories of medicine) that I believe need to be stocked: 1. Antibiotics, 2. Personal daily medications that you use, and 3. EpiPens. Practically every other medical condition that you would come across in a SHTF situation can be covered by herbal or homeopathic remedies and Over The Counter (OTC) meds. Otherwise, (and I hate to be so blunt, but it’s the truth) it’s very unlikely that you will survive. I gave a list of my go-to OTC meds and medical supplies in my Ultimate Medical Kit Post. Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies are going to need yet another separate article (Coming soon! I promise!), so today I’m just going to focus on those THREE prescription categories.
Before we begin, I also want to point you over to my Disclaimer which talks about the medical advice I give on this site. PLEASE do your own research and speak with your doctor about any concerns you may have about your health. I encourage you to educate yourself about the potential risks (and benefits) of using any medications or medication substitutes you might learn about here. This advice is meant to be used in a time and place where traditional medications and medical facilities may not be available, I urge you to use the resources available to you (such as your doctor, urgent care, pharmacies, or the ER) if you need them currently 🙂
There are hundreds of different antibiotics manufactured to treat and prevent hundreds of thousands of different kinds of bacteria and illnesses. Learning about antibiotics and their uses can be quite intimidating.
Which Ones to Buy
No one antibiotic will treat ALL infections so it is safe to say that having a variety of antibiotics to treat several different types of bacteria will serve you well. However, if I had to pick just ONE, I would start out with Cephalexin. The reason being is because Cephalexin is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, meaning it will treat several different types of bacteria. No, not ALL, but it does treat the most common infections like staph, strep, pneumococcus, and E. coli.
Antibiotics also have this nasty habit of allowing bacteria to create a resistance if they are used too much. We have superbugs like MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) because drugs like Penicillin were prescribed and used so frequently that the strain became resistant to the medication. This is also a reason why so many people are allergic to or resistant to common antibiotics. A word of caution on this note: Do NOT take antibiotics unless you are absolutely SURE you need them. Your body can create a resistance to frequently taken antibiotics and render them useless to you. There’s a huge difference between a viral illness, and a bacterial illness. Bacteria can be treated with antibiotics to alleviate symptoms while viral symptoms just need to run their course and exit your body on their own. This is why I cringe when people say they go to their doctor with viral symptoms, tested negative for strep (or whatever else), and yet their doctor gave them a script for antibiotics anyways “Just to be safe.” No, No, No! Taking un-needed antibiotics can also kill the good bacteria in your gut, which can lead to secondary infections. That would be a bad deal. If you don’t NEED antibiotics, don’t take them! Plain and simple. Your body’s response to a virus (fever, aching, cold sweats, coughing) is it’s own special way of fighting that virus off, even if that means you are uncomfortable for a few days. Your body is an amazing thing. Don’t mess it up! *End Rant* Because Cephalexin is not as commonly used as Penicillin or Amoxicillin, less people are allergic to it, and it is affective on more strains of bacteria. This is another reason I choose Cephalexin as my number one antibiotic choice.
Here’s an interesting video by The Patriot Nurse about fish antibiotics. She hits on my point that antibiotics are NOT to be used by those who haven’t done their research and don’t know what they’re doing. As mentioned above, this information is for your benefit in an EMERGENCY situation. Please utilize the expertise and resources available to you through your primary care physician FIRST.
My next five antibiotic choices to have on hand in case of emergency, in order, would be Amoxicillin, Bactrim AKA Sulfamethoxazole Trimethoprim, Clindamycin, Doxycycline, and Ciproflloxacin. If Azithromycin (Z-packs) were available, I’d get those, too! Yes, there are other antibiotics available for sale, and as I mentioned above, the larger variety of antibiotics you have, the more strains of bacteria and illnesses you’ll be able to treat. These are just my top 6.
I think it goes without saying that if you know you are allergic to an antibiotic (Sulfa is a very serious, life-threatening allergy for some), DON’T take it! And if you’ve never had some of these antibiotics before, make sure you have some Benadryl and/or an EpiPen on hand (more on that later) just in case you have a reaction your first time taking them.
How to Use Them
Without writing a 20 page article, there is no way I could go over each antibiotic, how it is used, which bacteria it treats, dosing, and the like before your eyes glaze over. I suggest finding yourself a good drug guide. One that is easy for YOU to understand. Personally, I prefer either the Davis Nursing Drug guide, or Lippincott’s. Davis’ is more comprehensive and easy to understand while Lippincott’s is short & sweet, and cheaper. Both will have a new version each year, but they don’t change too, too much from year to year so you would probably be safe with one that’s a couple of years old if you can find a used one.
Use of Antibiotics in Children
Using antibiotics in children is a sensitive topic. (Well, medications for children in general is sensitive.) The dosing is obviously different than that for adults. Typically children’s medications are dosed based on the child’s weight in kilograms, and there are certain antibiotics that should not be used on children as they can hinder their growth, or in extended use, depreciate the enamel on their teeth or affect vision. This is another reason why a good drug reference guide would be a good investment. Let’s take Amoxicillin for example, which is an antibiotic frequently prescribed for children to treat things like strep throat or ear infections. According to my drug guide, a child over 2 months of age would require between 80-90mg of Amoxicillin per kilogram of weight, per day, and that dose would be divided in half and given twice a day for 10 days. So, if your child Weighs 10kg (22lbs), they would need about 400mg of Amoxicillin twice a day (800mg total per day). The pills come in dosages of either 250mg or 500mg, and I’m willing to bet your 2 year old won’t swallow that horse pill anyways. So what do you do? At this point you would need to grind the tablet down to a powder (you can find a pill crusher at Dollar Tree for $1), measure the correct amount of powder out, and either dissolve it in liquid for your child to drink, or put it in applesauce, pudding, mashed potatoes, or the like for your child to eat. Twice a day. For 10 days. Sounds fun, right? NOT. I bet you won’t ever take your pharmacy for granted again! haha
I point all of this out to help you realize the complexity of pediatric dosing. It’s not something to take lightly, and you need to make sure your calculations are 100% correct so your child doesn’t suffer any ill side effects from overdosing (or under-dosing!). Please don’t take this task upon yourself unless you are in extreme circumstances.
Where to Get Them
I buy my antibiotics legally through www.calvetsupply.com. I buy their fish antibiotics. Some people are very skeptical about using antibiotics manufactured for fish or livestock. As my friend Dusty says “I have a very, very sick goldfish.” 😉
Fish antibiotics are the exact same thing as human antibiotics, only they are much, much cheaper and they don’t require a prescription. Why are they ok to use? Because fish antibiotics were designed to be used on fish in hatcheries. Breeds like Catfish and Tilapia that are grown specifically for human consumption. If you eat fish, chances are it’s been treated with these same antibiotics and you’ve ingested them anyways. Some of these fish antibiotics are made in the same factories as human antibiotics, but have different labels and a big “Not labeled for human consumption” sticker slapped on the front. My only word of caution would be to stick with antibiotic brands made in the USA. You can buy brands from Mexico and China cheaper, but they have very different manufacturing standards, and I personally don’t want to risk that. Why are human antibiotics so much more expensive if they’re the same thing? Simple: Because drug companies make more money off of you that way. (But my poor, poor goldfish is just SO sick!)
At California Vet Supply, it states the generic name of each medication as well as the “Fish Antibiotic” name, but I’ll state them here for you, too, just in case:
- Cephalexin = Fish Flex (250mg capsules) or Fish Flex Forte (500mg capsules)
- Amoxicillin = Fish Mox (250mg capsules) or Fish Mox Forte (500mg capsules)
- Bactrim AKA Sulfamethoxazole Trimethoprim = Fish Sulfa Forte (800mg Sulfamethoxazole and 160mg Trimethoprim tablets)
- Clindamycin = Fish Cin (150mg Capsules)
- Doxycycline =Doxycycline Hyclate Powder (100mg per packet). This powder will need to be placed in a veggie capsule, which you can also find at CalVetSupply.com, or on various other retailers like Amazon. You can also pour the powder into something like applesauce, yogurt, or pudding and eat it, although you might not enjoy the taste.
- Ciproflloxacin = Fish Flox Forte (500mg tablets)
You can also buy fish antibiotics (or livestock/veterinary antibiotics) at local feed stores, pet stores, or various places online. Again, just make sure they are manufactured in the USA.
When I talk about personal medications, I am referring to those medications that you have a prescription for and must take on a daily basis. It could be anything from Lisinopril for high blood pressure to Insulin for diabetes or Synthroid for Hypothyroidism. Anything that YOU need personally and cannot live without. What happens when hospitals and pharmacies shut down and you don’t have access to your medications? Do you have enough to last you more than a few days or weeks?
The way I see it, you have 4 options to stock up on extra medications, but you have to start preparing for that scenario NOW. These options won’t be available AFTER the medical community shuts down.
Option 1: Talk to your doctor about alternative medications, herbal and homeopathic remedies, and lifestyle changes that will help you manage your condition without prescription medications. This won’t work for everyone. There are some conditions that cannot be treated with anything but Rx meds. You also may have a doctor who does not want to help you find these alternative options. (Not all doctors are bad, but remember when I said drug companies make money off of you just because they can? Well, some doctors are like that, too.) In this case, you should probably start looking for another doctor whom WILL work with you and whom you trust. A Neuropathic doctor or DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) is a good place to start if your current physician won’t work with you.
Option 2: Ask your doctor to prescribe you an extra month’s supply (or 90 days) of your medication, and fill it as soon as possible. Some doctors have even been known to prescribe double the dose so you can take half of your medicine and save the rest. (For instance, if you normally take 5mg of Lisinopril daily, they might prescribe 5mg twice daily) Honestly, if I were a doctor I’m not sure I would encourage that practice, but it can’t hurt to ask. If you trust your doctor, you should feel comfortable discussing these concerns with them and having a conversation about how to remedy your problem.
Along these lines, most pharmacies will allow you to refill your prescription at least a couple of days early. If you need a 30 day supply, you can refill your prescription at the 28 day mark, and voila! You have an extra 2 days of your medicine. It doesn’t seem like much, but after a year of doing this, you will have an extra 24 days’ supply, which would last you over 3 weeks! This is probably the most convenient and least expensive way to stock up on medication.
Option 3: Go to more than one doctor, and pay out of pocket for extra prescriptions. Full disclosure: this is illegal, and your insurance company won’t like it one bit if they find out. This would be a last resort option for me. If you’ve tried everything mentioned above and still aren’t able to stock up on medications that you MUST HAVE to survive, this would be something to look into. Medications can also get expensive, especially without insurance, so this option is very limiting in that respect. If you’re on several medications, this can get very pricey really fast.
Option 4: Buying meds from other countries. Canada and Mexico, our bordering countries, have different standards than the US does when it comes to prescriptions. Some things that the US deems prescription worthy are still OTC there. That being said, when I mentioned fish antibiotics earlier, I mentioned that they also have different manufacturing practices and guidelines. I’m not ready to buy drugs from Mexico yet. If it were a life or death situation for me, then yes, I’d take that chance, but as of now, I don’t have that need. All Day Chemist is a website I have heard mentioned several times where you can purchase any non-narcotic prescription and have it shipped to you. Poking around, it looks like they have medications manufactured from several countries like India and the Netherlands, and the prices are very reasonable. I’ve not used this option. Just throwing it out there. 🙂
Storing medications can also be an issue. Most medications will have a much longer shelf-life if they are kept in a cool, dry place and an airtight container, but some medications need specific storage requirements like being kept completely out of the light or needing refrigeration. Mylar bags will help with the light issue. You can seal them with a vacuum sealer or a hair straightener to make them airtight. For refrigeration, there are great products on the market, such as the Goal Zero solar powered generator that can help a mini-fridge stay up and running. They’re pricey, but might be worth saving up for if you need something to stay a consistent temperature, like insulin. You can also look into making something like a root cellar or zeer pot to keep things cool. They don’t typically work well in humid climates, but they’re at least another option to look into. Here’s a video about how to make a Zeer Pot and how they work:
If you are able to stockpile a large quantity of medications, make sure you rotate through them by using your oldest medications first and store the new ones for later 🙂
What Are They?
EpiPens are pre-filled, measured dose syringes of epinephrine. I believe that they all come in an auto-injector form now, which means that they literally talk to you and tell you each step in the administration process. They come in two different doses: The EpiPen 0.3mg for adults and children who weigh over 30kg (66lbs), and the EpiPen Jr. 0.15mg for children between 15-30kg (or 33-66lbs). Epinephrine is a life-saving drug, but it is also extremely dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing! Talk to your doctor before obtaining or using an EpiPen.
They are used to treat anaphylaxis, which is when your body reacts to something it doesn’t like: Anything from peanuts to tree pollen to medications, or insect stings. If you experience symptoms like your airway closing (difficulty breathing, difficulty talking, drooling, tongue swelling), hives, abdominal pain or cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea you may be experiencing anaphylaxis, which if not treated very quickly can lead to death.
Milder forms of anaphylaxis can be treated with Benadryl (aka diphenhydramine). The liquid form (used for Children) is absorbed into your bloodstream faster and therefore works faster than tablet or capsule form so I keep more liquid Benadryl on hand than almost any other medication I own. Side Note: Have you seen the movie “Hitch” with Will Smith? When he eats seafood and starts having an allergic reaction, that is anaphylaxis. He self-medicated himself with a bottle of liquid Benadryl, drinking it through a straw. Haha 🙂 I don’t advocate for the straw part, but liquid Benadryl works quickly and is very efficient. Get some.
More severe forms of anaphylaxis require the epinephrine mentioned above to relax the airway and allow you to breathe. If you didn’t know, breathing is kind of important. Read more about EpiPens, how to use them, and common side effects at EpiPen.com.
How Do I Get Them?
The best way to get an Epi-Pen is to talk to your doctor and obtain a prescription. If you have severe allergies to foods, medications, or insect stings/bites, tell your doctor this and ask for an EpiPen to keep with you. And KEEP IT WITH YOU at all times! They come in a 2-pack because sometimes just one dose is not enough to open your airway. Your doctor can write you a script for several 2-packs, and if I were you I would ask for one for home, my purse, my car, my work, and any other place I frequent on a daily basis. They need to be easily accessible at all times.
You can use THIS coupon to get up to 3 EpiPen (or EpiPen Jr.) 2-packs with a $0 Co-Pay through December of 2014. EpiPens are generally good for one year before they expire.
As a side note: When I worked in the ER, we had a child come in who was severely allergic to nuts. He accidentally ate a cookie with peanuts in it and went into anaphylactic shock. His mother had his EpiPen on hand and called 911, who told her not to use the EpiPen because it was expired. The paramedics arrived only minutes later and transported him to our hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. All of our doctors said that they would have recommended the mother use the expired EpiPen anyways. There was a chance it wouldn’t work, but there was virtually no risk to using it expired either, and it could have possibly saved his life. According to THIS STUDY the Epinephrine may become less potent over time, but is not dangerous to use, it just might not work. Moral of this story: Keep your EpiPens up to date, but in a life or death situation, you can at least try to use an expired one.
Another note regarding EpiPens: Typically, if you have to use your EpiPen for any reason, you need to go to the ER immediately to be evaluated by a doctor and receive a replacement pen.
What About You?
What kind of medications does your goldfish need? 😉 Do you have a way of stocking up and storing your personal prescription medications?