23 Medical Supplies Most People Overlook

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Med Supplies

A typical first aid kit provides only the bare minimum of supplies that a well-equipped home should have when it comes to health and medicine.  After giving this a good deal of thought, here are 23 additional medical supplies you should have on hand.  Some will be easy to acquire, while others may take more effort.

A few items are notated with an * and are to be used only by individuals with advanced medical training.  If this isn’t you, don’t cross the item off your list.  There may very well be a doctor, nurse, EMT or other individuals with training nearby, and if you have the supplies they need, it will be a huge advantage to keeping someone alive.

Medical Supplies You Should Have on Hand

1. N-100 High Filtration Face Mask/Respirator

The N-100 seals to the face and provides more filtration protection than the N-95.  It also has an exhalation valve. Here is more information about selecting face masks.

2. A secure treatment area

Being able to  attend to urgent medical needs in a secure area is something you may not have thought of. In addition to the presence of hysterical family members and friends whose loved ones’ lives are in jeopardy, there could be additional threats from outsiders. Take some time to plan where your makeshift treatment/triage area should be located.

3. Medical skills and ability

Acquire and practice knowledge, concentration, control, stamina, will, training, and expertise. By all means, take a First Aid and CPR class, but don’t stop there. Wilderness Survival classes are offered at REI stores and some community colleges offer classes for EMT students. Red Cross offers a lot more than just basic First Aid and CPR.

4. Spare battery for cell phone

This could be your own life-saving connection to the outside world. If you have a smartphone, download Red Cross apps as well as other survival apps.

5. Reference Materials

Merck Manual, JP Sanford (antibiotic guide), Tarascon’s Pharmacopea (Rx index), CPR & Cardiac Care guides, etc.

6. Penrose Drain Tubes

These can be used as tourniquets or drains, etc.

7. Suction Device, manual operation (non-electric)*

For anyone choking who is needing “suction” or as you “intubate” (only for advanced care professionals).

8. Foley Catheters*

Used for urinary blockage relief, but also for a make-shift “chest tube” when necessary!

9. Nasogastric Tubes and Large Syringe*

These can be used for Rectal IV instillation when an IV cannot be accessed.

10. Bouillon cubes 

Can be mixed with water for an electrolyte solution to drink when very ill.  The solution can also be administered rectally with the concept above as well.  Very handy to know and have on hand in a pinch.

11. Antibiotics

These will be a must-have in any post-collapse scenario! Check out this article for more details about how to stock up on antibiotics and which to buy.

12. Oropharyngeal Airways or OP Airways*

These can save a life if you know how and when to use them!

13. Fluids

Pedialyte is best, not Gatorade! You can also mix up your own with this recipe.

14. Over-the-counter medications

See list here.

15. LED Lights

You will need lights at night: headlamps, strobes (possibly for attracting moving vehicles or people nearby), reflective vests, powerful LED flashlights (for runners or operations with kit) & possibly a “surgical light”, for which we use a 12-volt car light connected to a car battery!


Hypothermia is a real danger outside when any patient is traumatized.

17. Ear Candles

These are a somewhat controversial way to treat earaches, but they are easy to carry and can be found in stores specializing in natural remedies.

18. Organic (not synthetic) Natural Multi-B Vitamins

19. Large Commercial Trash Bags

Used to contain waste, worn over your torso as a make shift “rain coat” (don’t forget to punch three holes in the “top” for your head and two arms), or for “shields” when dealing with bloody/infectious messes.

20. Needles and scalpels

Along with these, you’ll need the knowledge to use them properly.  Training is necessary to use these items, and DO NOT USE this stuff if you don’t know how to do so, ever! However, if a medical professional is able to provide assistance, they will be invaluable.

21. Reflective Cones

These are often nowhere around when we need one – “outside” in the “Outback” (or on the side of the road)!

22. Emotional Stress Treatment

Have on hand extra meds you and family members are already taking.  If you run out of special meds that treat acute episodes, it will definitely be a time to panic!

23. Comfort items

These may not have to do with “medical care” at all. Think of things like candy, DVD’s, animals in our care that we love, protective and security items.

Prevention is the best mode of “medical care” in the world. If we thought this way as a nation – before the accidents occurred – well, I’d be out of a job, wouldn’t I?

There are a few excellent medical websites that are prepper/survival focused:

Prevent first and make sure to gather these medical supplies you should have on hand!

Med Supplies FB size

46 thoughts on “23 Medical Supplies Most People Overlook”

  1. That's actually a great list. I was surprised that it wasn't one of those generic "you gotta haves". but then, you woulnd't post one of those, would you?? 🙂 Training in the use of advanced items is a must, and it is fun… not to mention (though I will) that true learning and understanding leads to peace. I think I'll run over to that site and pay a visit as you suggested.

    Thumbs up!

    1. The Doc has done quite a bit of work in Haiti and has a good idea of what medicine will look like in a worst-case, collapse scenario. I had never thought of stocking up on Pedialyte. He said it could be administered as an enema if a person was unresponsive and no one knew how to start an IV.

      1. Speaking of IVs… In truly remote medical situations, where a blood transfusion is necessary and possible, it would be nice to have a direct IV transfer setup. I looked around, and they are not easy to find, and can be deadly if done wrong…. but…. when there are no options, what do you do? I think it is a good practice to learn how to do things that pertain to the risks inherent in one's own adventures and lifestyle. At a minimum, a person should know his or her blood type.

        Not many people would need to know how to administer an IV, conduct a transfusion, or even bulk up a blood supply after a heavy bleed. We're adding knowledge to our bag-o-tricks because we're interested in things like that, but for some, it is simply necessary.

        1. Hello!

          I should mention that if you have an IV kit, but no one has actual IV training or knows how to cannulate a vein, there is a process known as "Hypodermoclysis" that is an extremely effective and safe way of treating dehydration or hypovolemia in children or adults. Basically, instead of being inserted directly into a vein, the IV cather is simply inserted into the subcutaneous fat of the lower abdomen, thigh, or the back of the upper arm, and fluid is infused directly into the subcutaneous tissue. This is a little slower than an acutal IV infusion, but it is very effective and comfortable. An adult can absorb about 3 liters of fluid over 24 hours via this method. Caution: aseptic technique must be practiced, proper IV equipment must be used, and only medical isotonic IV fluids such as normal (0.09%) saline or lactated ringers can be used, or consequences could be disasterous. Here is more information on this technique: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2001/1101/p1575.html (post this in your browser).

        2. Even contemplating doing a blood transfusion – direct person to person, on your own – is not unlike contemplating doing a heart transplant on your own in your garage. Don't even try this. It's too dangerous, and the lives you kill could be BOTH the DONOR and the RECIPIENT – through a transfusion reaction, which you would be clueless on how to stop, once it starts. MEDICINE IS NOT THIS SIMPLE. Listen, I think we need to throw out the things we've seen on TV related to stuff like "blood transfusions" and "gotta take the bullet out" post GSW. They're all wrong; totally incorrect in what they imply, medically -speaking. Hint: Bullets do not need to be taken out in most GSW's "…or he'll die if we leave it in, Marshall". Wrong! They're left in all of the time – unless they're dangerously close to a vital organ, etc.

          Doc Phillips

        3. Vivi Catastrophe

          Right on! Boof dat saline! Rectal absorption is far superior to IV and it is very fast. Try a dose of water up yer tooshy next time you have bad cottonmouth and discover for yourself how rapidly that water gets into the bloodstream via the intestines, the natural pathway of water and nutrient absorption. Useful for lifesaving circumstances like diarrhea, and it’s nice to drink through your butt when you are going to eat or just did, so you don’t dilute and rinse your stomach acids and make more work for your body. I have been plugging for years and my favorite is freshly brewed damiana tea cooled with a few ice cubes. Makes everything feel the best down there ready for full action. Wink wink mmhmm. On that note, you can also CAREFULLY and MINDFULLY bring down a dangerous fever or increase a hypothermic body’s temperature from the inside, rapidly with a couplefew degrees water via the rich supply of blood flow around the rectum. Keep in mind many things are safer orally so that the liver can deal with it first!

  2. Missing from the OTC list is loperimide (Immodium) for diarrhea and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for multiple uses. Even though you have water purification equipment in your bugout bag, you should have backup in your medical kit as well. Clean water is one of the biggest life-savers and diarrhea is one of the biggest enemies.

  3. You don't want to use the loperimide for all cases of diarrhea, but it can save a life if used with protracted diarrhea (more than a day's worth). The diphenhydramine can be used for allergies, sedation (caution; never on a head injury), or to quell an upset stomach.

    1. Correction: You don't want to use anti-diarrhea agents MOST ALL OF THE TIME with diarrhea, as told by many. It's a huge mistake to think about "having to stop diarrhea" this way, almost always. The correct rule in medicine is: with diarrhea, "replace what comes out" with fluids via intake – however that "intake" must occur, whether this be via IV Fluids, Oral Fluid Replacement or even Rectal Fluid Infusions (which cannot be done if having diarrhea – due the intestinal secretory action turned on by many viruses – causing the diarrhea). The Subcutaneous Bolus Infusion method is interesting, if not wildly out of most person's ability to accomplish – not to mention dangerous (despite what some "cheap medical outlets" might tell you) without training. For instance, what do you do if you puncture an artery in the process of this "simple procedure"? Or, what do you do if you cause a deep tissue, deadly, spreading, infection by this procedure? I am not a fan of trite and cavalier "quick fixes" when it comes to having persons without common medical sense, experience or "degrees" of a significant level, give you "quick answers" to sometimes complex problems that you might cross "when there is no medical help" (to help you fix the problems your "quick fixes" might actually cause – in addition to the original problem being treated). Yes, some of this stuff works…and so does "brain surgery"…but you'd better know a heck of a lot more about "practicing real medicine" than what is implied that you should do by some of these more simple answer medical quick treatment "online tell all's," when in actual care of any patient. Take home point: What you hear, is not often correct or appropriate to do when treating any one particular problem. My favorite "not truly a quick fix – fix" topic is the one about "blood clotters" such as Celox. Stuff like this is NOT the "quick fix" it is touted to be all over the internet; there are many problems with using or relying on an agent such as this. Once again, it's not that easy – in reality. Wish it was, but it is not. Sorry to be a party-pooper to the pop prep medical players out here today. But, somebody needs to monitor all this "easy medicine" deception put out here for someone to "go try," surely . Carry on. We DO have a collapse to prepare for…unfortunately.

      Doc Phillips

  4. Also, one of the best emergency devices known to man (and I have used it during an emergency) is the kitchen basting syringe. It can be used to clear blood or vomitus from the airway or be used like a penrose drain when hooked up to surgical tubing. If someone is seriously dehydrated and cannot keep down fluid, the basting syringe can be used with pedialyte to give a potentially life-saving fluid enema. Note that it may still not work, and you'd need to sterilize afterwords to use it for anything else.

    Also, while your kit should be full of dressings and 4X4's, a good supply of unscented tampons and pads is not only good for female hygiene, but can serve to briefly tamponade serious wounds.

  5. J. Hubbard, M.D.

    Great list. I would agree with everything but the ear candles. Sometimes they can do more harm than good. Would love to get your take.

    1. When my daughter had a horrific ear ache last month, we tried everything except ear candles, so I can't speak from experience. If the Outback Doc happens by, maybe he can share his thoughts.

    2. Interesting comment…but appears to me to be entirely wrong. Dr. Hubbard may not be familiar with “alternative medicine” in actual experience? Most MD’s aren’t, unfortunately. What harm (provided this is done correctly) can this “ear candle” treatment do to a patient, as you claim? Yes, “all treatments have possible side effects”…and I’d imagine the fire involved, the hot tin plate and an idiot at the wheel (who might use a hammer to insert the candle into an ear, etc.) might well cause “harm” to any patient…but “ear candles”…done correctly…really? Not likely gonna harm many, and the benefits are absolutely amazing, too! Our personal experience in our urgent cares show about 98% of those treated while having symptoms feel “much better” after the first “candle” treatment and even “better” after the second. Those stats are hard to beat, really. Zero complications have we found.

      1. Some time back I was told about ear candles. I tried two to help clean out my ears. Found that a good bit of gunk was collected in the candles. Always an experimenter, I used two ear candles to “clean out” a candle holder. I found the same gunk was collected from the candle holder. Conclusion. I decided that ear candles did nothing and that the gunk apparently cleaned out of ears was a by- product of burning an ear candle.

        1. The Survival Mom

          I’ve heard mixed reviews of those ear candles and based on that, have never tried them myself. Apparently, the doctor who wrote this article has had better luck!

    3. Dr Hubbard, Just read your TBI article, great info and thanks. Have both the 1st and 2nd editions of your book as well. Can’t comment at your site and don’t do facebook, so I’ll just leave this here and hope SurvivalMom doesn’t mind. Hoped you might do some future articles on your opinions regarding some of the military recommendations for combat medicine / casualty care for use in a disaster. Seems to me there is a wide divergence between civilian and military recommendations, and would appreciate hearing your take on it. As an example, the position papers and other articles available at the prolongedfieldcare[dot]org site. Thanks.

  6. J. Hubbard, M.D.

    Hi Doc Phillips,
    Thanks for the response. Yes, I am familiar with alternative medicine. It's true the candles harm is rare but there have been burns, and residue in the ear canal.
    Although the candles might make someone feel subjectively "better" for a short time, I don't know of any studies, alternative or otherwise, that have ever shown they actually do any objective good, such as clear out ear wax, increase healing times, decrease inflammation. In fact, studies have shown just the opposite. That the vacuum they produce doesn't have enough suction to suck out really anything.
    For more info see the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine http://nccam.nih.gov/health/ear.htm
    Also Dr. Weil comments on them at http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA360594

    Anyway, great tips otherwise.
    Dr. Hubbard

  7. Doc Hubbard:
    O.K. I'll take the challenge. I think you're wrong, but that doesn't make me correct. This isn't about you or I, but the care of our patients. I will go search the research again on this "ear candle" issue, and in the interest of Truth along with all those who would care about this issue (i.e. the Patient's interests come first – over anything else), I will bring back what is found – whatever it says, either way. Truth will be the final authority, as it should always be…science would agree with this, correct? One fair warning though; there is a qualifier to this "absoluteness" to any so-called "research". It is limited in value in that experience trumps words/research, always, in actual practice. The experience in practice "to the affirmative" for this treatment is powerful, by itself, and cannot be "dis'd"…papers, studies, MPH's (no offense), or whatever, to the contrary. For it suffices the requirements of "good treatment," which are: "it works" (at least to the human being treated it does – they are not lying about their feelings or outcomes when using this treatment), it does not "harm" anyone really, and it is doable by almost anyone (short of the "hammer man" cramming it into an ear, etc.). Then, there are the costs assoc. with this, which are LOW. Oh, and no prescription is required, as well – making it a trifecta of "good treatment" in my mind today. So, those that "study figures" vs. those that "practice (in the living human lab of) medicine" are not the same, it seems, in how they interpret what is "good treatment"; yet, one is clearly a better indicator over the other, in actual play with ailing humans…it's hard to argue with that. So, if the literature might not back this "ear candle" treatment up, again, given as well the skew of what we know about bad research (put forth for bennies by some "climbing the PhD ladder," etc.) and the discredited research that is now out there, this means to a realist like me this information would not be adequate to ever knock actual practice experience (zip in side effects, included). Information that knocked this treatment even well, would in no manner bump this into any "bad treatment" category, as it were. In fact, as you can tell, I have very little confidence the more I think about it in most "research" today. I do understand how "studies" miss much of "how it really works" with real living patients (who are not stats or studies, obviously, but real living beings).

    Enough "TMI" here by me. Here is a Funny but True Example of same: It has been correctly said, you can dissect a frog in a lab, thoroughly and slowly, even enjoyably, clearly naming all the parts therein, while learning much about that dissected little frog, to everyone's knowledge and good, but in the end…guess what? You do not have a REAL FROG anymore!

    But, we certainly CAN take a good look at the research out there, if it is available, can't we.

    Doc Phillips

  8. That's an excellent article and a much needed one. First aid is a topic that is often only touched on in the survivalist community. People need to understand that post-the-inevitable-collapse there aren't going to be any doctors or hospitals available to stitch our bleeding wounds or to put our broken limbs in plaster. We and our loved ones are going to have to be our own doctors. Time to learn how and to stock up on supplies that will aid us in our lifesaving efforts.

  9. Something else you might add to your kit is a medical suture stapler. My son works in the Peruvian Amazon, and has an extensive medical kit that he carries with him (he works with indigenous people hours away by boat from medical facilities) and needs the kit not only for himself, but to help the people. He carries suture materials too, plus scalples, numerous antibiotics, water purification, IV set ups, etc. He says the "stapler" is quick for lacerations and doesn't take the skills of a needle for sewing up a wound. Something else to add to your kit is saran wrap and good medical tape..a sucking chest wound covered can sometimes give you the time you need to get help. Also, take an EMT course….it's well worth the time and small expense! (my son is not a doctor, but has worked closely with his doctor on learning all he can, and the doctor provides him with access to a lot of items…get to know your doctor!!)

    1. Great suggestions. I wonder if your son's kit comes from the MedCallAssist company. I reviewed their kit a week or two ago and it contains a skin stapler.

      1. I'll ask him next time he calls. He's truly a "survivor man"…he showed me photo he shot of giant grubs on a grill…says they taste like butterscotch!! The jungle area he works in is intense but he loves working with the people (TB is very prevalent in the tribes he works with…so far he's still TB negative…though on one trip he ended up with a pretty nasty intestinal parasite…a month of drugs cleared it up) he carries a water purification system, but sometimes he eats what's available, and that can be risky. He wants to take a survival medical course that is offered in Colorado, but the cost is $6,000…and he's too busy working on his doctorate and his job. (he's also trying to get into John Hopkins to get more ethno-botany experience – when he's in Peru he works with the Museum in Tarapoto as their ethno-botanist when he's not out in the jungle)

  10. I find the list very good. As for the "ear candling"…when my children were small we only had a couple of ear aches (breastfeeding helps prevent these)..but when they did occur….putting a few drops of warm olive oil into the ear then putting a warmed towel over the ear usually produced relief for the achy ear.

    1. That's what my Dad with us when we were little. Never went to the doctor for earaches. When I became an adult I thought it was voodoo medicine. Now I know better.

    2. Earaches. It makes sense that breastfeeding helps prevent these, yes. It's called "passive immunity" that is passed from mother to child, via antibodies through the milk. Natural is best in many cases! One trick we used for years – knowing that "not all red ear (drums) need antibiotics" – is using Liquid Ibuprofen for the first sign of ear pain, which is inflammation as a cause, anyway. Treat the inflammation and the big bad earache usually goes away – necessitating less antibiotics used & then only for the really persistent bad infections of the ear, in a just few. Heated Oil soothes, yes, but it does not cure a thing, esp. this problem. In fact, heat can make the "inflammation" worse…as the heat causes "increased inflammation" to occur. Same with any acute injury, remember. So, be careful using heated "sweet oil" as they called it in some places.

      Doc Phillips

  11. When my cat, my beautiful grey cat, was diagnosed with diabetes, she had to have injections every day, and it was expected that I would be the one injecting her. I practised in the surgery first, injecting an orange – they said the skin had the right consistency!

    1. The Survival Mom

      It’s not included on the list for medical purposes but to establish a boundary around a triage area. Good question. 🙂

  12. Just a thought: When the SHTF and there are no hospitals or Dr. offices to visit those people with training will still be people with training. They will still be the people with the passion for helping people under medical distress. My great grandpa was a Dr. He never had an office or practiced in a hospital. Every patient he touched was at home. Every appointment was a “house call”.
    We always talk about going back to “Grandma’s kitchen” . Is it too far a stretch to go back to “Grandma’s doctor”?

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  14. The other great thing about this list is that even if you don’t know how to use every single thing, I can promise you that the people who do will never have enough for everyone. As a nurse practitioner married to a physician, there is only so much we can store for others. Medical supplies go fast in an emergency.

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  16. Great ideas on the list, but the only thing that seems improbable to get is the antibiotics. I am pretty sure my Dr is not just going to hand them out to me, am I missing something ?

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  18. Gregory Willard

    As a father, I always try to keep all the medical supplies ready whenever I need them. I had no idea that you should have spare batteries for your cell phone in your medical supplies. I think that it’s a great idea to have one just in case there is an emergency and you have a dead phone.

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