If you have a medical question, how do you find the answer? You could call your doctor — if you have one, if he is not too busy. You could look up the answer on the internet. But if the SHTF, physicians might be overwhelmed with persons who are sick or injured. Or the phone system might be down. Or it might be a holiday when many doctors are not available. And if the power is out, you might not be able to access the internet. A disaster does not have to be very severe in order to cause a power outage for a few days. Then what do you do?
Many preppers spend a significant amount of money on food and water related preparations. That’s fine, since food and water are absolute necessities for survival. But the knowledge found in medical and first aid books can also be of the utmost importance. You can’t assume that the internet or even the phone system will always be available to you. And the information in those books might save a life or save someone from unnecessary harm and suffering. Today, a vast selection of books are easily available for relatively little money — more so than at any other time in human history. So go online (while the internet is still working) and buy some medical and first aid books. It is well worth the money.
My short list of medical books for prepping and survival are listed below with my comments. I own all of these books. But there are many other good books on the same topic. So do your own research and use your own good judgment. Oh, and TAKE A FIRST AID COURSE, otherwise the first aid books will be much less useful.
1. Merck Manual of Medical Information: Home Edition edited by Mark Beers
I have the second home edition, which is a massive volume of over 1900 pages. Ironically, it is published by the division of Simon & Schuster called ‘pocket books’. There are other versions of this book, including one widely used by interns and physicians: ‘The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy.’ But the Home Edition is more approachable and easier to read without a medical background. However, it still includes much medical terminology, and it retains a great deal of the depth of information of the professional edition. This depth is a benefit and a detriment. There is often more information than a home reader needs, and some readers might misunderstand (or not understand at all) some sections on any topic.
The Merck Manual Home Edition is a useful reference, but it in no way substitutes for access to hospitals and physicians. Most of the book is dedicated to various illnesses that would require a physician to diagnose and treat.
The most useful section of the Merck Manual Home Edition, at least as concerns the topic of this book, is Section 24: ‘Accidents and Injuries’. The section is very readable; it has less technical medical terminology and less academic information (that would mainly be of interest to physicians) than the rest of the volume. The medical information in this section is very useful for medical problems that would be of concern to a first responder: burns, heat stroke, hypothermia, poisoning, drug overdoses, and more. There is a section on first aid, but it is very brief. You will definitively need a separate first aid book.
2. First Aid for Babies & Children Fast by The John’s Hopkins Children’s Center
This book is simple, non-technical, very easy to read, and has many large color photos illustrating everything. Although the book teaches first aid for children of all ages, most of the information applies also to first aid for adults. This book is a good first book to read if you need an easy quick introduction to basic first aid. It also would be an excellent book to keep in a first aid kit, because the material is presented so clearly and organized so well that it could be quickly consulted when needed.
However, the book is just over 120 pages, and offers only basic first aid. Start with this book, but I also suggest taking a course in advanced first aid, and buying one or two advanced first aid books. The book lacks treatment of certain adult medical emergencies, such as heart attacks and strokes.
3. American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) First Aid Manual edited by Gina Piazza
This first aid manual is divided into 13 chapters. The book is well-organized according to the area of the body or the type of medical injury or illness. The table of contents has simple lists of injuries and illnesses, allowing you to quickly find the relevant section. All of the chapters are color coded. The last chapter is a summary of common medical emergencies with a short summary of the appropriate interventions for each.
The first three chapters should be read in advance of using the book in any medical emergency. These chapters cover general topics such as considerations when dealing with any victim, calling for help, safety at the scene of an emergency, and how to do a general assessment of a victim. The topic of triage is covered in some depth. A two-stage approach is recommended by the book. A primary survey is used as “an initial rapid assessment of a victim to establish and treat conditions that are an immediate threat to life.” The primary survey includes assessing multiple victims and prioritizing them (triage). The secondary survey is “a detailed examination of a victim to look for other injuries or conditions that may not be readily apparent on the primary survey.” The book has much more detail on the primary and secondary surveys. This is the same approach used by EMTs.
The other chapters can be used as reference when a medical emergency occurs, but provided that you also have the proper training. You should not attempt to give first aid based solely on what you have read in any book or set of books. You might misunderstand what you have read. Instead, you should take a first aid course.
This book by the American College of Emergency Physicians is an advanced first aid book. It has much more depth than ‘First Aid for Babies and Children Fast’. However, it is also more complex, and not as quick and easy to understand and apply. In its favor, though, the book uses many color photos to illustrate techniques, and the material is laid out clearly on each page. The book would be valuable as a text or adjunct text along with an advanced first aid course. If you take only a basic first aid course, this book will be helpful, but it goes far beyond basic first aid. It is also useful to keep as a reference book.
4. American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care edited by I. Subbarao et al.
This book from the AMA has even more in-depth treatment of the subject of first aid than the ACEP book. It has about 400 pages, relatively few illustrations, and a few black-and-white photos. The ACEP book is just over 280 pages, but much of that space is taken up with large color photos and illustrations. So the ACEP book is more approachable, but has less information. The AMA book is more like a text book than a quick reference manual. But its material is well-organized with a bulleted ‘Symptoms’ list followed by a numbered list of ‘What To Do’. Looking up an injury or illness, and finding out what to do is quick and easy. I value this book as a comprehensive readable guide to advanced first aid.
Two other books you might consider getting (which I don’t own), are
5. The American Medical Association Family Medical Guide
6. The Mayo Clinic Family Health Book