Selco: The Shocking Reality of SHTF Medicine and How to Prep for When the Medical System is GONE

by | Mar 21, 2018 | Headline News | 49 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    This article was originally published by Selco at The Organic Prepper

    Editor’s Note: Something difficult to plan for – or even wrap your brain around – is a world in which medical care is not available. Even though it’s outrageously expensive here in the United States, we can still access care. We may be in debt forever, but it exists.

    So, what do you do in a world in which it no longer exists? A world in which there aren’t emergency rooms or doctor’s walk-in clinics? A world in which there aren’t any well-stocked pharmacies?

    Today, Selco shares the brutal reality of SHTF medicine. ~Daisy

    Since there were no hospitals, how did you treat people who were ill?

    Organized (system) of professional medical help ceased to exist.

    Hospitals, health centers, EMS, and everything similar was gone. The most advanced medical help that you could find in the hardest period was more or less primitive medical care that some military units had, such as medics and low-level trauma care. But this was not available to common folks.

    People with medical knowledge became very important because of this fact, but even the most skilled people were often completely useless because all of the other help that the system offers you is simply non-existent.

    One of my old colleagues told me story that could point out some things.

    His friend called him to help him with his father, who had fallen from the roof. The man climbed on the roof to repair broken tiles, and he was there in the middle of the night (which was the safest way). He fell down, and his sons found him unconscious. They brought him in the house and called my ex-colleague, a nurse, for help.

    When he arrived, he checked the old man, then called his sons in other room. He explained to them that their father was going to die very soon because most probably he had internal bleeding.

    The sons were mad at him and they started to threaten him, asking him that he help the old man in any possible way.

    My colleague told them that only way possible was to ask for help from the local paramilitary unit who had some medical stash, but even that was very questionable because man need specialized medical care, and at that moment that kind of care was not available in the whole city.

    The sons took a trip that night to the headquarters of that unit, and guys there told them to visit the “hospital” which was situated in the basement of a destroyed apartment building.

    They later told my colleague that the “hospital” actually was 3 basement rooms with oil lamps and a stench so bad that they both immediately vomited.

    The “doctor” who listened to their story about the old man’s injuries asked the two of them ” Do you have weapons?” They answered  “Yeah, sure”.

    They were surprised, and started to yell at him, then “doctor” pulled a gun and said, “Get the f…. out of here or I’ll shoot both of you. Your old man is already dead”

    They went home. Their old man was not yet dead but he died in the morning.

    Some things can be taken care with basic knowledge and a little bit of inventiveness, for example, taking care of a broken rib or similar, but other conditions and traumas were simply too much to take care for most of the folks.

    The point of this story is not to scare you. Maybe in your case, the whole situation is going to be much better. Maybe there is going to be some organization, some kind of bigger system when SHTF. I do not know.

    Usually, a person who was ill was placed in a separate room and people did as best as they could to help him.

    If we managed to get real medication we did that, if not we tried natural remedies.

    Honey was one ingredient that was in most of the home remedies, or at least people stated that, pine needles were sometimes there, chamomile mixture, garlic…

    Where did you acquire medications? Were you able to buy things like antibiotics on the black market?

    Just like all other resources, they were there ( in very low amounts, of course) to take, steal, or barter.

    Antibiotics were very valuable on the black market, and usually, you could dictate the price with if you owned any.

    Antibiotics were used even with expired dates, and people did not care because sometimes it was the only medicine that you could find.

    Natural remedies also jumped in, and yes people who had any knowledge about herbal remedies became important. Also, there were a lot of scams. For example, you heard that some man had a good herb mixture for asthma, and if that was your only choice, of course, you would try it.

    A lot of people used that and scammed people with “homemade herb mixtures”.

    Sometimes you could find a man who offered you 15 pills, not packaged, not in a box, just 15 pills, which he stated were antibiotics, and you really need them, so what could you do?

    Did people with chronic illnesses like diabetes die?

    It was a full scale collapse. People were dying from a lot of things (even if we do not mention violent death). There were no doctors, no hospitals, no X rays no lab results.

    One day you are good, next day you feel sick and you are vomiting, your skin is yellow, you have a fever…

    And then a few days later, you are dead.

    Maybe you died from food poisoning, maybe renal failure, maybe your blood sugar went down or up. Who knew?

    Lot of ordinary folks did not know why someone died.

    A lot of people with chronic illnesses died.The majority of them did not have a stash of medication needed for their condition, and when you add to that fact that overall life quality went down very sharply and very deeply, people who were chronically ill and needed medical attention had serious problems.

    In some cases and for some illnesses, certain people managed to pull through with acquiring medication from the black market or using some substitutes like herbs. But for example, if you were an older man who lived with his older wife, and you had insulin-dependent diabetes, and you do not have friends or family to help, and you had no stash, your chances were really low. 

    Was there an increase in mental illness?

    Yes, but if we are talking about real mental illnesses, people who had serious mental problems that were under control by medication simply lost it without their meds and went completely “mad”.

    You could see people hallucinating out in the street more often than in peacetime, or breaking down in their rooms. I knew cases when families locked in their loved one who had mental illness in a room, controlling him in that way because there was no other way.

    A lot of those cases were connected to the people who were heavy drug users (addicts). When the SHTF some of them simply went “wild” or, even worse, some groups used those people for very dirty jobs in exchange for a drug supply. Bigger organized groups had more power and more connections, which meant they could find drugs even in those circumstances. This meant drug addicts were ready to do whatever they had to for them, and very violent things were usually what was needed for a gang to keep power. It is not too different from “peacetime” criminal organizations, but when the SHTF stakes are higher. Violence is much worse and much more frequent.

    If we are talking about people who simply went crazy because the world as they knew it collapsed around them, then no, not really. Not too many people lost their minds because of the eruption of violence and collapse.

    Of course there was increase in suicides and cases of people simply giving up because they thought it was not worth it to continue to live on that way, but not in numbers that people would imagine.

    I think the instinct to fight for survival is stronger then we think.

    People mostly pushed through, day by day. There was an increase in alcohol consumption or marijuana, sedatives were good thing to have or some herbal substitutes… but people pushed on. 

    What diseases became common when the SHTF? How did you treat them? 

    When the SHTF, all aspects of life changed, and that included aspects of life that you did not even think about, simply because the system had always taken care of those aspects of life.

    For example how much physical work you are doing today-if you are average citizen who work as an clerk somewhere, or truck driver, or housewife or whatever, you are used to some physical activity and certain food quality and quantity.

    You are used to having an operating bathroom, and to being pretty warm in your home, etc.

    When the SHTF, all that changed.

    Food became different. The quality and quantity of it went down. Physical activities went up very sharply. Add to that fact that one day, it was stressful not to find your favorite yogurt in few stores. Then suddenly, the next day when the SHTF, the levels of stress were about seeing people shot for fun or asking yourself whether your kid was going to survive eating plants only.

    All of that contributed to people getting sick simply because people were almost always exhausted.

    If we are mentioning the most common illnesses, then those were gastrointestinal illnesses connected with bad food, bad water, and low hygiene (both personally and in the home).

    Second to that, a lot of problems were connected with secondary complications of a minor injury.

    For example, you might get some nasty cut while you were working in some abandoned storage, trying to scavenge some useful material.

    That cut looked nasty, but basically it could be taken care with iodine, peroxide, sterile dressings and antibiotic treatment. But you did not had any of those so you bandaged it with a dirty bandana. Then, a day later you got a nasty infection which was a huge problem.

    A small cut could kill you.

    Homemade remedies were used a lot, again with varying levels of success. Home mixtures were used for cuts and infections, and of course, people searched for antibiotics.

    If someone broke his arm, for example, you could try to find someone who had a clue about setting the bones, but you can still today find people with funny looking fingers, or bit twisted arm, or not so functioning leg, simply because they splinted it alone at home during that time without any real medical help.

    How can we prepare for medical issues?

    We can be prepared to some extent, but it is more important to understand that very often ( in case of serious collapse) you can not do too much.

    Much more important is to understand “from what end” you need to start your medical preparedness.

    Most of the discussions about medical preparedness in prepping community today have few common characteristics. They are talking mainly about:

    • Taking care of patients in short period of time in until advanced help arrives
    • Specialized training is given by very specialized instructors (for example combat medics will train you how to take care of a wounded person until evacuation helicopter arrives)
    • Students who are driven to learn things that look “cool and flashy”, for example, you’ll be given the task of stopping bleeding on mankind  (or animal meat) while instructors pointing a flashlight in your eyes or using firecrackers to simulate gunshots.

    Those are only examples, or one analogy could be that medical preparedness experts teaching you how to suture wounds even if that wound can be taken care of with simple Steri strip (adhesive tape that gonna connect wound edges).

    Nobody mentions the complications that can occur from the wound, prolonged care of an infected wound. This is the material and knowledge that you are gonna need.

    One of the reasons is that it looks cool to suture a wound or to train how to use tourniquet untill help arrives in form of an ambulance or a helicopter. The other reason is that most of the trainings assume that help is 10 minutes or one hour away.

    It may not be like that when real SHTF happens and it is completely different. Then, most probably nobody is going to arrive, and you’ll have to take care of everything.

    You need to start with basics and go gradually to more complicated things.

    Do not misunderstand me. I know how to suture, and I am combat medic and nurse, too, so I am not talking against that knowledge.

    But before learning how to suture as a part of your medical preparedness you need to learn what to do with your waste when SHTF, how to build latrine, how much water you need, and ways to have it in order to keep a minimum of hygiene.

    Before you buy 20 suturing kits you need to learn wound care in prolonged terms, including antibiotic treatment for that wound.

    You need to know ways to keep yourself clean and protected in order to minimize the risk of getting injured or getting ill.

    Another example would be that lot of  people are fixated with buying antibiotics without real knowledge of how antibiotics work and the differences between groups of antibiotics.

    Get gloves, face masks, working gloves, hand sanitizers, and alcohol pads. Then go with antibiotics and tourniquets.

    It is about preparation and common sense. So if you have, for example, a person with high blood pressure problems in your family, you need to learn all you can about that condition including proper diet, natural remedies, what to do in a possible crisis, and you need to have serious stash of medications for that condition.

    Think outside of the box.

    Just like with all other fields of prepping, here too, you need to think a bit outside of the box.

    A lot of medical skills can be learned. Some of them are online, free to research and learn.

    For example, sometimes it is simply not enough to give oral antibiotics, sometimes you’ll have to give it through an IV or intramuscular, or sometimes best choice is to rehydrate person through IV solutions.

    Yes, it is probably illegal to do that if you are not a medical professional, but when the SHTF, that is gonna be not so important. On the other side, your skills are gonna be very important.

    Learn skills no matter what system says about who can practice those skills. You are preparing for a time when system is gone so it makes sense.

    About the Author

    Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations like Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world. Read more of Selco’s articles here: And take advantage of a deep and profound insight into his knowledge and advice by signing up for the outstanding and unrivaled online course. More details here:

    The Pantry Primer

    Please feel free to share any information from this article in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to The Organic Prepper and the following bio.

    Daisy Luther is the author of The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide To Whole Food on a Half Price Budget.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at [email protected]</e


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      1. Stock up on starting fluid for the ether cone? And anbesol .

        • Most starting fluid has overhead lubricant. It has oil in it. Watch what you are huffing.

        • Traitor Hator, anybody that still thinks what we call medical care is a good thing or even still participates in it is already stupid and in serious trouble even of they don’t know it. A waste of time and effort completely. Nothing new though.

      2. Jianas Brothers Rehydration Salts, $4.25 on Amazon.

        ht tps://

        Cheap insurance. Add water and sugar / honey and you have Gatorade that is light weigt, storable, packable.

      3. It is far harder to keep a stash of medical supplies hidden in a crisis, than it is food. In a prolonged crisis, if you help others, the word will spread very quickly that you have such supplies. For me, it would be very hard to see someone seriously injured or sick, who I could help, and not do so. If you do successfully help someone, they will probably tell others.

      4. Selco nailed it again. Forget all your ‘ideas’ of what’s best or the thing(s) to have. It’ll all come down to what you got right then and there. Ain’t going to be any Amazon, any CVS or some ‘natural’/homeopathic store. It’ll be setting bones with ropes and weights, sutures using (if possible) boiled needles and thread, packing holes in bodies with whatever the hell you can find from newspaper, chewing tobacco,… to rags. And saying lots of prayers your immune system is up to the task of killing the bugs all on its lonesome.

      5. I don’t care what will happen when TSHTF. I’m all about taking care of my health and that of my family right now.

        There is a wealth of information on the internet. I have a library of medical books and books on natural remedies.

        We are all gourmet cooks and all of us are into exercise, growing our own organic food and spices.

        I have been through trauma. The body is self healing. Most things are common sense. I can clean a wound and wrap it with some bandages.

        I can sew. What do you think a surgeon does?

        I can read a thermometer.

        If I fall off a roof, I’ll survive.


        • How high is the roof?

        • “I can sew. What do you think a surgeon does?”

          Does not seal-in infectious material or damaged tissues. Works tidily, so as not to cause more trauma. Allows for swelling and drainage.

      6. Anybody that seriously believes internet studies and a ham handed approach to trauma and or medical issues will not only die, they will either cause those who believe their bullshit to die or cause it. It takes practice, being practical and real training. I’m glad myself and those around me actually know things based on real life experiences and not theory. Best of luck

      7. Good article…. Finally.

        I have stocked up on a shitload of antibiotics and medicines from Mexico. Mexico does not control antibiotics like America does so you can buy all kinds of medicine. You just have to be cautions bringing it back.

        So, your next cruise or scuba trip, load up.

        Also, antibiotics are not useless if they are expired, but you would likely have to increase the dosage the farther from expiration.

        Second, I was lucky to acquire injectiable lidocaine. This will be needed in case of cuts tht need stiches. I also have the stitches kit. Worth the investment, just in case.

        Last, I have been using the essential oil Lavender for minor cuts and burns. It is about 10 times more effective than neosporin. Just a couple of drops about every 4 hours on the cut and it will heal 3 times faster than no treatment.

        Worth looking in to.

        • “antibiotics are not useless if they are expired”

          Some antibiotics become LETHAL when expired. Doxycycline and some other ‘cycline’ antibiotics are the ones that I personally know of. There are probably more.

          RESEARCH topics like this before issuing blanket statements that might cost somebody their life.

        • Lidocaine is handy indeed. Most doctors will get you some and a suture kit if you talk to them about your love of hiking and the Boy Scout motto. What most folks don’t realize is that a Pharmacist can sell you most such supplies as well. They just can’t sell controlled substances.

          Never heard about Lavender. Thanks.

        • Ah, another use for my lavender plant. I must learn how to make the essential oil from it.

      8. The bible tells you what your medicine should be ,the herbs of the field and the leaves of the trees.

      9. Don’t worry we’re built to last. Just keep your powder dry.

      10. I don’t care. Let the sickly die. survival of the fittest. let the culling begin. bring it on. Im only getting older & tired of waiting.

        • Your a bitter old idiot . Hope you are first to go. It must suck to be such a hateful , arrogant prick.

          • you just wait It will desend into no holds barred Root Hawg or die Survival of the Fittest. A stone age existence for several years. Its mean assholes who have the mental fortitude to take a hard line who will be the likeliest to endure and survive. Prep for a Stone age lifestyle and anything less will be that much better. But eventually a culling will take place.

      11. Must see? White genoside , The ugly face behind it. Downtown white police.

      12. Put together a good kit now while you can get stuff. Load up on aspirin,antibiotic cream,bandages, light surgical gear,essential oils and vitamins/supplements. Ask your doctor what you should include. Have plenty of manuals with first aid info. Get extra supplies for trading purposed. Sanitation supplies,cleaning supplies. Masks,gloves….training.

        • Aspirin decomposes into acetic acid. If you open a bottle, and it smells like vinegar, your aspirin is becoming worthless. Look into natural remedies, such as spirea (baby’s breath, bridal wreath, etc.), which aspirin was named after.

          • I was friend with an old WWII soldier who has since passed. He was an advocate of aspirin. Aspirin was the go to medicine in the 20s and 30s.

            The remedy I found useful was to crush it into a powder, dab it with water, and put it on a cold sore on your lip. Clears up the cold sore in about 24 hours.

            He had lots of other uses, but I have forgotten them.

            • Aspirin has no topical analgesic effects whatsoever. Old wives tale. Perhaps its acidic qualities are what did the trick. I have an occasional cold sore and the best treatment by far is a $1 jar of “Carmex”. If applied when just starting, the cold sore will not erupt and will simply go away in a day or so. Carmex is very good stuff.

              • Cold sores, blisters, cuts, scrapes? Try CAMPHO-PHENIQUE, a liquid or gel mix of camphor and phenol in a mineral oil base.

                My “go to” regional drug store, “Drug-Mart,” actually has a knock-off generic brand under its own label for half the price of the original.

                Just don’t get the stuff in your eyes or mucous membranes–it really burns.

        • Jim in Va, “Ask your doctor what you should include”

          many do not know their ass from a hole in the ground , so likely not the best idea or reference point ?

      13. Whois this coward?show yourself !

      14. duplicate comment? Liar

      15. I assume that the underclass will quickly loot pharmacies for narcotics. Antibiotics would be a premium to the non junky yet useless for them.

        • They already are looting the pharmacies. They will be looting the old folks homes to steal their pain meds.

          • There not bright enough to know that the antibiotics have worth.

      16. Very good article.

        THANKS MAC.

        Get as much training as you can, and try to get a nurse, or a Doc with your group. 1St responders, EMT’s, Para Medics will be worth their weight in gold.

        Don’t forget that when the bubble burst when you have groups out looking for what ever they can find make it a #1 item on the list. #2Food then #3 guns and ammo, #4 Bows and arrows, and what ever you want to add to you list. I have mine. You should make one up to have when TSHTF.


        • I don’t plan on looking for anything when the bubble bursts.

          I already have it.

      17. Cowboy dentistry. A pair of pliers and a bottle of whiskey.

        • Clove oil will deaden the pain of a tooth ache. Get a small hypodermic needle and inject clove oil all around the offending tooth. When it deadens you can try and pull it. half the time you will break it off or leave part of a root. and then that will become infected. Irrigating the infection with 35% food grade hyd Peroxide will help. I found a Dentist that pulls teeth for $100 worth every penny.

        • 2018, been there and done that several times out of pure necessity and no dentist available. Not fun but it can be done. Once I had some morphine, the other time nothing except enough pain to make the decision.

          Best solution always is to stay fit, healthy and a strong immune system always !

      18. Some of the antibiotics can become toxic after their expiration date . Some can be good for ten years after the date,know the difference between the two.

        Surgical glue is great for small cuts….Super glue works well too but is isn’t as germ free as surgical glue.

        India is a great resource of stuff as is Canada…get a Doc to write you a prescription for it. I used our doc on the phone to get scrips….he said man you’ve had a lot of colds this year…yep was my answer .

      19. Venezuela has a shortage of medical care. Who gets medical care is as much a matter of who you are as much as the severity of your injuries. The government controls who gets help and when you receive it. Medical people, who are short on wound care supplies, might treat you ahead of the Socialist favorites if you could offer them the right supplies. Of course, they or the police might just take the supplies and maybe even charge you with stealing them. Keep the receipts showing you purchased the supplies. You would have to find someone who is trained and who is reasonable.

      20. It’s my opinion that working together and cooperating to a degree will help in SHTF times concerning medical care. If you all are carping and cursing each other now, to no avail, what will happen when TSHTF? I would also make a rule that no medicos have to stand guard watch, and they are mostly exempt from soldier duties, except in self defense. How about for a change we drop the superiority and hate spewing, and figure out some ways to save lives and ease sufferings? To those who have sound advice, and medical background, I thank you. I’m here to learn.

        • Amen Brother. But…..

          Most of the long time posters here are just venting. It is frustrating to watch your country go to hell in a hand-basket or have to perpetually tolerate the idiot/hateful posters.
          I will bet that 9 out of 10 guys here would come together and form a very cohesive group if/when the time comes.
          So soldier on. Ignore the hate spewing morons and learn from the knowledgeable. Take what is good. Ignore the rest.

          • ^Stuart–WHAT HE SAID!

          • Stuart, what hate ? all I see are opinions, some good, some not so good ? None of it will play out as many here seem to think for a valid reason.

      21. There is an entire industry that makes specialty products for cleaning and treating wounds. You won’t find these products in your local drug store. The less experience you have in treating wounds, the more you need these products. A good source was written by Cathy Hess titled “Clinical Guide to Skin and Wound Care”. It shows a lot of the specialty products. You would probably have to go to a medical supply store.

      22. Found a website recently that has loads of natural methods. What caught my eye was the scads of stuff for cleaning.

        I am collecting a few things to try out; Others, I already have. It’s that time of the year for spring cleaning. Yes, many of these DIY cleaning solutions are also disinfecting. I haven’t found anything on her lists that is super exotic or hard to come by. A SHTF situation would different but not hard to stock up for.

      23. Having and EMT background is quite helpful. I got my EMT-Basic certification last year. That, and Hisperian’s book “When There is No Doctor”, will go a long way to helping someone with some good common sense to deal with the normal realm medical emergencies.

        And, YES, by all means stockpile some medical supplies while you can. Amazon sells complete “paramedic” bags which give you the basics. You can then augment those with other stuff you would find useful.

      24. We used a treatment we found in an herbal book — grate up a garlic clove into a cup of wine, let it sit for 20 minutes, then soak a cloth with it and apply to the wound, several times a day.

        We avoided an emergency room visit with this treatment. I think the book said it was a treatment used in the civil war.

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