It’s estimated that about 66% of the U.S. population takes one or more prescription drugs. Of those who don’t take prescriptions, many have had to rely on medical care in the last few years.
The truth is, we all rely on our medical system to survive. Despite some of the flaws of the system, it has successfully eliminated many diseases and improved outcomes for millions of people.
This wasn’t always the case, as you know. A mere 100 years ago, a viral pandemic could take out entire communities in a matter of weeks. A simple infection could turn deadly in a matter of days.
Today, we view colds and infections as minor inconveniences that can be fixed with one visit to a doctor.
In the last few years, we got to see first-hand how fragile our medical system really is. A pandemic sweeping through the world has put our hospitals on the brink of collapse more than once.
We’ve also seen what happens in areas hit by natural disasters, where medical care becomes unavailable for several days and people start dying from easily-treatable conditions.
All of this is to say, if SHTF, a lot of common diseases can become deadly again. What will happen to you if medical care becomes unavailable? What do you need to watch out for if antibiotics, surgery, and IVs are out of reach?
In this post, I want to discuss the most common deadly diseases we might face after SHTF.
These have the potential to kill you without proper medical care, and many of them will become more common once access to clean water, shelter, and food becomes unavailable.
And yet, with access to medical care, we’ve mostly forgotten just how deadly they can be.
Pneumonia is a common infection that inflames the air sacs in the lungs, often causing fluid to build up inside of them. It can be caused by a variety of organisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
Pneumonia can happen as a result of untreated colds or flu, or exposure to other people with pneumonia.
You’ll know you likely have pneumonia if you have difficulty beathing, you’re coughing up phlegm, you have a fever, and a pain in your chest.
We’re used to thinking of pneumonia as something that’s only dangerous in old people and young kids, but that’s not always the case. Today, a healthy young person can get a cycle of antibiotics if their pneumonia gets serious, but if SHTF, this may not be an option.
Untreated pneumonia can lead to a slow and painful death. It can cause bacteria to enter your bloodstream and infect other organs, causing organ failure and eventual death.
It can also result in other complications such as lung abscesses, fluid around the chest cavity, and loss of oxygen, all of which normally require a stay in the hospital.
Without an adequate medical system, pneumonia is a nightmare to have. It’s best to avoid it before it ever happens, which is why prevention is so important when things start to collapse.
Preventing pneumonia means taking colds and flu very seriously, and treating them with plenty of rest, fluids, and natural remedies.
Tetanus is another disease that we don’t usually worry about these days.
Many of us have had tetanus shots, and we know to go to the hospital after stepping on a rusty nail. Most of us have never had to do this because our modern world is built to prevent things like tetanus.
But in a SHTF scenario, tetanus is actually very likely. And very deadly.
Tetanus comes from a toxin-producing bacterium called Clostridium tetani that lives in dirt, animal feces, and dust – not just rusty nails. You may become exposed to a lot more dirt and animal droppings in a survival scenario.
If you receive a deep wound and some Clostridium tetani bacteria end up in there, they become activated and release their toxin into your nervous system.
Symptoms of tetanus show up 3-12 days after the bacteria get into your system. You might experience worsening symptoms of lockjaw, painful muscle spasms around your face and neck, and difficulty swallowing.
If left untreated, the muscular issues spread to the rest of your body and cause painful seizures during which your whole body goes rigid for several minutes. As the disease progresses, you also develop a fever, blood pressure spikes, and extreme sweating.
If you’ve been vaccinated against tetanus within the last 10 years and you’ve properly cleaned your wound with alcohol or an antiseptic – you have a chance of survival.
However, most cases require special care at the hospital. Even with medical care, 1-2 in 10 people end up dying from tetanus.
As the disease progresses, the nerve damage and severe spasms can cause your bones to break, trigger bacterial infections throughout the body, and eventually cause you to stop breathing. It’s a brutal way to go.
The best ways to prevent tetanus is to be vaccinated against it, always carry an antiseptic on you, and wear protective gear or thick clothing out in the wild.
Urinary Tract Infections are super common, and many of us have had one or know someone who has had one in their life.
They are unpleasant, but most of them clear up within a week, thanks to a visit to the doctor and an antibiotic prescription.
But what happens if you can’t get access to antibiotics? The infection isn’t actually deadly in itself, but the body’s natural response when threatened by such disease can have fatal consequences.
An untreated urinary tract infection spreads from the bladder to other parts of the urinary tract – including the kidneys. Having a kidney infection is much more serious because it can lead to kidney failure and spread the infection to the rest of your blood.
I’m sure you’re starting to see a trend here – untreated infections eventually make their way into your blood, leading to sepsis, which is deadly.
UTIs are caused by bacteria getting into the urethra and growing inside of the bladder and other areas of the urinary tract.
Under normal, clean conditions, these infections are still common among women and older men, but under unsanitary conditions that are likely to happen during a SHTF scenario, they can affect everyone.
Having a stronger immune system and drinking a lot of water and cranberry juice at the first sign of infection might save you. But once it spreads to your kidneys – your best bet is to get your hands on antibiotics.
E.Coli is another bacteria many of us have heard of, but don’t have to think about often. It lives in the intestines of healthy people and animals but can become deadly if it makes its way into your food.
Thanks to modern plumbing and hygiene practices, this doesn’t happen much.
You’ve probably heard of a few E.Coli outbreaks here and there in the last few years. These usually happen when cow manure gets onto produce and the produce isn’t properly washed prior to eating. Thankfully, most cases of E.Coli can be treated at the hospital.
That being said, in a survival situation E.Coli can become a real concern. Think of all the ways this bacterium can make it into your food or water. Any groundwater could potentially be contaminated with E.Coli from animals.
Any food can be contaminated if not handled with clean hands. Any foraged foods can be contaminated if they’re not washed. Things can become contaminated if people aren’t taking safe “bathroom” measures. The list could go on.
While not always deadly, some strains of E.Coli can cause dehydration, infection, and death.
The best way to avoid E.Coli is through prevention. Make sure to have a way to purify all drinking water, wash your hands when handling food, and make sure people know how to safely dispose of their waste.
Prevention Is Key
As you can see, some seemingly innocuous illnesses can become deadly without proper medical treatment. I’ve listed some of the most common survival diseases above, but frankly, the list could go on.
Any kind of infection can become deadly if you let the germs keep spreading. Serious injuries can lead to an infection. Any contaminated food or water carries the potential to be infectious.
We haven’t even mentioned chronic health issues like diabetes or heart disease. In a SHTF scenario, you likely won’t have access to medications and treatments that keep your illness at bay. Diabetes and heart disease can both be deadly too, which is easy to forget when we see so many people living with them for decades.
The truth is, without access to medical care, your best chances of survival are through prevention.
Start practicing a healthy lifestyle now. Lose the extra weight, begin an exercise routine, and eat a diet that will support your immune system.
Stock up on antibiotics and antiseptics in your first-aid kit. These are the things you’ll need to fight off infections when you do get them.
Learn about herbal medicine. There are plants out there that can heal you. Some of them have antibiotic properties (garlic, ginger, echinacea, etc.) that you can rely in a pinch.
Take hygiene seriously in a survival situation. Keeping your water and food clean is going to be one of the most important things for your health.
Treat any small colds and cuts right away. Treat them seriously. If you catch them early enough, it can save your life.