Disclaimer: The following information should not be considered as medical advice.
Maintaining physical health (medicines and first aid, etc.)
1. Stock up on over-the-counter medicines. (Pain relievers, cough medicines, ant-acids, upset stomach, and antibiotic creams or sprays for cuts and abrasions.)
NOTE: except for medications that must be refrigerated, most over-the-counter medications can be taken well past their expiration date. Most of the time, almost all medications just gradually lose potency, so taking them will usually have the desired effects. Also remember, the expiration date is the last day the medication can be sold. Therefore, there is the expectation that they will be used some time after that date.
NOTE: If you have room in your refrigerator, store cough medicines, other medicines and vitamins in your refrigerator, since this will increase their shelf life even more.
2. Purchase a Benzocaine or oil-of-clove product to minimize dental pain. Also purchase a temporary dental repair kit, or lost filling kit. These are $5-$10 and will be well worth it if you have dental pain. Fixodent or Poligrip can be used to keep a loose crown in place. (Regular brushing and flossing is even more important, since few dentists will have off-grid solar power for their equipment.) If you expect many dental problems, buy a bottle of eugenol and some zinc oxide powder (online.) When small amounts are mixed, they make excellent temporary fillings. The mixture can also be used to cement crowns in place.
The eugenol is an extract of clove oil and can be used by itself to temporarily suppress dental pain and also kill bacteria in the cavity.
For a filling, place a few drops of eugenol on tooth to kill pain. Wait until the pain goes away and wait one extra minute. Then gently brush or rinse with salt water to clear out area. Dry with sterile dressing. Mix a tiny amount of zinc oxide, (about the volume of ½ a tooth) with about five drops of eugenol, give or take. Put a nitrile glove on and form mixture into a putty with gloved fingers. With glove still on press into the cavity. Scrape away excess with either your gloved fingernail or a thin strip cut from a credit card. With a clean sheet of paper folded over so it’s about three layers thick, bite down on the paper a few times and gently grind to make sure the filling is seated well and doesn’t overextend. Have someone look at the filling or floss on both sides of the tooth to make sure it doesn’t overextend sideways. Give it time to harden, a few hours or overnight.
3. Purchase a box of nitrile exam gloves. Usually blue in color, they are more durable than latex gloves. They are important for treating people with injuries and infections. They are also useful in an epidemic situation to prevent contamination.
4. If you take prescription medications, talk to your doctor about writing a prescription that allows you to have at least a 30 to 60 day supply of essential medications. Ask your doctor about alternative ways to control or minimize your distress if you run out of the medication. (There may be one or a few herbal remedies worth learning about.) Also ask about the consequences of taking half-doses to stretch the medication in an emergency situation.
5. If you are a diabetic, ask your doctor ask if there are ways to control your blood sugar level through diet and exercise. Ask if there’s a way to build up a larger reserve of insulin. (Diabetics should also put more pressure on local government to work out some kind of solution.) A company called Frio makes a special cooling “wallet” for when there is no electricity. It uses evaporation and special crystals to maintain a cool temperature for insulin. You soak the wallet in water, and evaporation keeps the insulin cool for up to two days. Then you re-soak it. (www.diabetesfrio.com).
If you had no other option, you could dig a hole about 4-5 feet deep, put your insulin in the hole (in a container), cover it with insulation (bubble wrap, Styrofoam, or crumpled paper or a blanket in a plastic bag) and it will stay at about 55ºF. (This is why caves are cool.) This temperature is not ideal, but the insulin will keep longer than otherwise.
6. Stock up on bandages, dressings, and elastic wraps. Butterfly bandages are worth purchasing for large wounds, since they are hard to improvise. Because you and others will likely be doing unfamiliar physical work, sometimes outdoors, it’s likely that there will be more injuries.
7. Download and print a first-aid manual, or purchase one. Store it with your emergency materials. Consider reading it and learning first aid even before a grid crisis. Here’s an excellent free manual: U.S. Army first aid manual in PDF form (225 pages): http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/fm4_25x11.pdf
8. If a nuclear power plants near you has a radioactive fires and spread radioactivity, it will be important for pregnant or breast-feeding women, infants and small children to take potassium iodide to prevent thyroid cancer. (Everyone is at risk, but it decreases with age.) The federal government has contracted with suppliers to have an adequate stockpile ready, but I would expect major problems with distribution after a grid event. So I would have at least one bottle of tablets or liquid if I had children. Also, purchase dust masks. (See below).
This document from the FDA gives some good detailed information: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/EmergencyPreparedness/BioterrorismandDrugPreparednes /ucm072265.htm#Who%20really%20needs
9. [Optional but recommended] Purchase two N-95 dust masks per person. I recommend buying them in boxes of 10 or 20 at hardware stores, rather than at drug stores since that version is thicker and more durable and could be hand-washed. (Children’s masks must be purchased at drug stores.) Masks would dramatically reduce your chances of catching the flu in an epidemic situation, or catching some airborne infection from someone ill. They would also be extremely important in a super-volcano eruption, nuclear blast, if you were not at ground zero but close enough to be experiencing dust.
10. [Optional] The period after a grid collapse is probably not a good time to get pregnant or to get someone pregnant. Even if the grid is repaired in three months, a slow economic recovery is likely. Consider buying condoms or downloading information on the rhythm method. (Wikipedia: calendar-based contraceptive methods.)