Antibiotics: Both Sides Of The Coin

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A number of infectious diseases, mostly respiratory and intestinal, consistently rank in the top ten causes of global deaths every year. Many of these deaths occur in underdeveloped nations, place that are off the grid. In survival, your situation won’t be much different.

Given these circumstances, antibiotics save lives that easily could be lost in a major disaster. These drugs have turned millions of what were once inevitable deaths into avoidable ones.

antibiotics save lives in austere settings

Yet, like most medical marvels, there is another side to the coin. Overuse of antibiotics, especially in food-producing livestock, has caused many bacteria to exhibit resistance to these drugs. Some disease-causing microbes have mutated to the point that they have become impervious to all known medications. Despite constant efforts to develop new antibiotics, the increase in numbers of resistant bacteria is outpacing the research.

Therefore, it’s important to use antibiotics wisely.  Antibiotic treatment is the domain of medical professionals, but under what circumstances would it be appropriate to use antibiotics if you’re not a physician? In situations where there is no functioning medical system and the ambulance is not on the way, someone has to take responsibility for keeping people safe.

In a major disaster, it might be difficult, due to sheer numbers, for the ill and injured to get the medical care they needed.  The 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the subsequent cholera epidemic there is a classic example. In the aftermath of a major disaster, emergency services may not be accessible. A remote homestead or a medical mission overseas may mean that, for the time being, the average citizen becomes their family’s highest medical asset.

(Of course, if there are qualified medical professionals where you are, seek them out.)

In short term events, medical help is likely already on the way, and the possibility of a bad outcome is small. In longer-term events, however, the risk associated with an infection that is ignored for weeks is great. Indeed, it could mean the difference between life and death.

Therefore, knowledge and training is important for those thrust into the role of healthcare providers in the aftermath of a catastrophe. If your stockpile of medicines has run out, you’ll need to know what plants in your area have medicinal value. Knowledge of these herbs is considered alternative medicine now; in the past, however, it was just medicine.

If the family medic is armed with a method to fight infection, the chance for success increases, even if everything else fails. This is why obtaining antibiotics for your disaster medical storage is incredibly important.

Having said that, the notion of a non-medical person having antibiotics on hand in disaster settings is considered controversial by the conventional medical wisdom. Yet, if a family member is dying of an infection and there is no ambulance coming to render aid or hospital to treat the patient, the average citizen may become the end of the line with regards to the well-being of their people. Learning about infections and the medicines that treat them is a prerequisite for the effective “austere medic”.

Here’s the reason why: In the history channel film “After Armageddon”, a paramedic takes his family on the road after an apocalyptic event. During their travels, they meet a community that can use someone with medical training and join it to start a new life.

All hands are needed, however, to grow food and perform other activities of daily survival. Our hero is assigned to duties to which he is not accustomed. He ends up with a minor injury which becomes infected. Unfortunately, the medical supplies of the community are limited; they ran out of antibiotics long ago. He watches his infection spread over the next few weeks, and despite his extensive training, it eventually kills him. If antibiotics had been available, well…

I could see this scenario playing out thousands of times in a major long-term disaster. If you think about it, I think you might see it too. That’s why having antibiotics in your medical storage make sense, even it seems controversial to some.

Joe Alton MD

Joe Alton MD

Learn about bacterial infectious diseases and the antibiotics available to the average citizen in Joe Alton MD’s book “Alton’s Antibiotics and Infectious Disease: The Layman’s Guide to Available Antibiotics in Austere Settings”. And don’t forget Nurse Amy’s entire line of high-quality medical kits and individual supplies at her store at!

Note: These antibiotics are for circumstances where there is no modern medical infrastructure nor medical professionals. In normal times, seek standard medical care whenever and wherever it is available.

Hey, don’t forget to check out our entire line of quality medical kits and individual supplies at Also, our Book Excellence Award-winning 700-page SURVIVAL MEDICINE HANDBOOK: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR WHEN HELP IS NOT ON THE WAY is now available in black and white on Amazon and in color and color spiral-bound versions at

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