5 Must Have Medical Devices for Medical Preppers

pulse oximeter

Breathing problems and trauma initially kill the most people in a cataclysm. In a previous post on post-apocalyptic smoke, we discussed how calamities fill the air with thick and inescapable particulate matter; choking out those trying to escape. This predisposes preppers to pulmonary infections and toxic poisonings of every sort. But with less than $150, you can fortify your first aid kit with the five Medical Devices necessary to diagnose, monitor, and treat most dangerous lung conditions.

In this, the first of a two part post, we’ll show you what equipment you’ll need to save the lives of your family and friends. In the second, we’ll show you how to use these instruments to ensure your family’s health in the dark days ahead.

Pulse oximeter

Improvised Medical Devices – Stethoscopes

Using an Improvised Stethoscope

Our List of the 5 Medical Devices Essential for Your Kit

#1 Stethoscopes for Your First Aid Kit

Modern stethoscopes can range from ten dollars, to over a thousand. I recommend a $20 model. With all of the equipment we will be discussing, it might be best to check eBay and others before heading over to Amazon. At certain sites you can sometimes get more for less.

Using a Stethoscope

Stethoscope Design

The end of the stethoscope is divided into two parts: the bell, and the diaphragm. To switch from using one, to using the other, hold the tubing and rotate the metal portion. You’ll hear a click when it snaps into place.

The bell picks up high-frequency sounds, like those produced by heart murmurs. It’s typically used by cardiologists. Preppers only need a stethoscope with a diaphragm. That’s what’s required for hearing the low-frequency noises associated with lung conditions.

Getting Ready to Use You Stethoscope

After clicking the diaphragm into place, and putting the ear tips in your ears facing forward, tap on the plastic with your fingernail to make sure you’re not still listening with the bell. You should hear a sharp loud pop when your fingernail strikes the diaphragm. If you do, you’re good to go!

Sometimes you can get stethoscopes free from unusual places. People often have an old one in a closet or junk drawer somewhere, one they used for taking the blood pressure of a family member years ago before the automated machines came out. Similarly, garage sells are another great source. But if you’re looking to avoid the hassel, you can get a high quality low cost stethoscope for 10-15 dollars. In that price range I recommend one with two tubes like the Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope.


Omron Sprague Rappaport Stethoscope

#2 Pulse Oximeters

Pulse oximeters used to be very expensive. Now they’re $20-60. The device shoots a beam of light into the person’s bloodstream, then collects and analyzes the light reflected back. Comparing the color of blood in that gathered light, to an oxygen saturation chart, it estimates the amount of oxygen the person has in their bloodstream. A normal saturation (SpO2) is above 92%, and is generally in the range of 96-100% at rest.

Using a Pulse Oximeter

Often referred to as a “pulse ox,” this instrument is useful in several ways. Increasing or decreasing oxygen saturation levels can help you determine if a person’s condition is getting better or worse – whether from an infection or toxic inhalation. It will also help you gauge if the quick acting treatments you’ll be learning to provide are actually working, or if you should save your medicine for use elsewhere.

The person’s heart rate (HR) is also displayed. Between 60-100 is normal, though it’s faster in children. The younger they are, the more rapid their pulse. In an adult, if the HR is above 100 bpm, a condition called tachycardia, the elevation generally reflects their body’s attempt to improve oxygenation.

The one shown below is small, reliable, and inexpensive. It’s the model I have in my bag. Click CMS 50-DL Pulse Oximeter to find out more. But almost any will work. In general, the smaller the better. Those made ten years ago were monsters, and can take up a lot of room in your kit.

Pulse Oximeter

#3 Peak Expiratory Flow Meters

First used to monitor and predict the severity of asthma attacks in children, peak flow meters can tell you a lot about a person’s respiratory system. Another $20 gizmo, these meters are labeled using either the English or Metric system, but typically not both. The meter shown here uses the metric system.

We’ll be discussing inhalers next. With the aid of a peak flow meter, you can determine if using an inhaler on a sick patient is going to be of benefit or not.

Peak Flow Meter

Start by removing and cleaning the transparent and disposable breathing tube the person wraps their lips around. Then stick it back on. Slide the red knob all the way back down to zero. (Its current position in the photo is at 425, if you’re having trouble finding it.)

Have the person take a big breath, then blow into the meter as quickly and with as much force possible. The red slider will shoot upward and fix in place, registering the person’s maximum expiratory flow. Record that number and reference the height / age chart shown. A graph like this will come with the product, showing values in English or Metric depending upon which you buy.

As an advanced prepper or team medic, you can use it for two additional purposes. First, if a person has a lung infection or has inhaled a caustic substance, and they’re having trouble breathing, measure their peak flow and record that number. Then have them take a dose of the inhaler we’re going to recommend carrying in your kit. Wait a few minutes for it to take effect, then reset the meter and have them blow again. If they show improvement, you know they’ll benefit from getting one or two puffs of the inhaler every 4 to six hours.

If the inhaler didn’t help much, or if you don’t have one, the meter is still useful. Take a measurement a couple of times a day to see if the person’s infection or condition is getting better or worse. Along with your pulse oximeter, it can help you decide if more aggressive treatment is necessary.

#4 Inhalers – Albuterol & Primatene Mist

Having an inhaler in your kit can make all the difference in treating allergic reactions, asthma, and a number of other infections and conditions. Albuterol being the one you’d really want. But it’s available by prescription only, unless you get it through the internet or by other creative means.

If you cannot find albuterol, you can get the over-the- counter (OTC) form called Primatene Mist. Like Albuterol, also known as Proventil, Primatene Mist is a bronchodilator. It relaxes the muscles surrounding the airways. Opening them to different degrees depending upon the illness a person has. Its major drawback lies in its harsh side effect profile. It can raise a person’s heart rate and cause palpitations, or “fluttering of the heart.” It also tends to make the person shaky and nervous. It’s basically inhaled adrenalin!

Just about any condition that causes wheezing will improve with either of these inhalers. By no means are they the only puffers out there. However, the others are either aerosolized steroids or medications designed to prevent asthma attacks. So they’re not of much use to you when you’re trying to treat someone with an acute illnesses.

Albuterol Inhaler

We’ve saved the most important point about inhalers for last. And that is hardly anyone uses one correctly. This means more often than not, the medication sprays the back of a person’s throat and never makes it into their lungs where it’s needed. Luckily, “there’s an app for that.”

Instructions For Using an Inhaler

Peak expiratory flow meter

#5 Spacers & AeroChambers Life Savers for the Uncoordinated

In the 1990s the improper use of inhalers meant many children, some with life-threatening asthma, were being undertreated. In response Medical Devices called spacers, or AeroChambers, were marketed for use with most types of inhaled medications.

Using Inhaler Spacers

This meant trying to time your inhalation just perfectly so a mist, like the one shown on top, could make its way into the deepest recesses of your lungs was no longer a problem. One spray of the inhaler is delivered into the chamber at a time. The person begins by hooking the inhaler into the spacer, sprays a burst, then puts their mouth to the other end and starts breathing deeply. After a minute or two the procedure is repeated with a 2nd puff – if necessary.

Take Home Message: 5 Medical Devices can dramatically increase your ability to treat illnesses preppers should expect: stethoscope, pulse oximeter, peak flow meter, and inhaler can be collected for under a $150, and will save your bacon when the world catches fire.

In our next post we’ll cover where to listen with your stethoscope… and what to listen for, in order to diagnose these common and predictable lung problems of preppers.

The above is adapted from our book shown below. Please click on the image to find out more!

Survival Medicine Book


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