8 OTC Items That Could Save Your Life

In preparation for an emergency situation in the medical realm, there are some fairly inexpensive OTC items that could potentially save your life during an SHTF situation. Now I am NOT a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV.  I’m just a mom who has used each of these remedies to affect my family’s health for the better.

While life can perhaps seem hard from time to time, the truth is that we have it pretty easy right now.  We have electricity to run our homes.  We have air conditioning to keep us cool in the summer.  In the winter we have furnaces which keep us nice and snug.  We have (relatively) clean water piped directly into our houses, and the waste is drained directly away.  We have food in our refrigerators and a grocery store just down the street (or highway) to which we can go if we need more food.  We have access to medical professionals if we become sick or injured.  These are all wonderful things!

But what if all of those were taken away?  What if we no longer had electricity, running water, air conditioning, and/or easy access to food or medical care?  If we had to go it alone life would be H-A-R-D. And medical problems would be even harder.

Let’s dive right into these OTC items that are potentially lifesaving.

Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal history goes all the way back to 3750 BC in Egypt.  The Egyptians used it to help create bronze.  By 1500 BC, the Egyptians used it to treat the stench of putrefying skin wounds (without realizing that it would help the wound itself). They also used it internally to treat intestinal ailments.  Later, around 400 BC, the Phoenicians realized that it had antiseptic properties.  They would char the inside of their water barrels for long sea voyages to keep the water inside those barrels pure.  By AD 50 Hippocrates and Pliny the Elder started using it as medicine.   After that, it was lost as a remedy for almost 1700 years.  Between 1700 and 1800, it was ‘rediscovered’ and used as a medicine again.  It became popular to use it in poultices, treatments for ulcers, and nosebleeds. Activated Charcoal Pow... Buy New $18.99 (as of 11:30 UTC - Details)

Just last century, however, activated charcoal used to be used in hospitals to treat overdoses, accidental or otherwise.  Vets still use it when animals ingest something potentially dangerous.  While activated charcoal is available today even in drugstores such as Walgreens or CVS.  Their brands are capsulized but contain fillers and even colors. I would recommend purchasing it in bulk from Amazon.

I’ve used activated charcoal successfully both internally and externally for myself, my husband, and even for my children.  If there’s ever a situation where the SHTF, having something to counteract poisons on hand is more than valuable.

For external use, we mixed activated charcoal with enough filtered water to create a paste that is not so wet that it will run and refuse to stay in place, but not so dry that the charcoal powder won’t be effective.  You want to keep the paste damp so covering it with a plastic wrap or something else that will hold the moisture (using medical tape to tape the sides down) in could greatly help.

Emergen C

I can imagine some of you might be thinking, “Emergen C, Really?”  Let me tell you a little story.  This past winter was a hard one in our area of central Illinois.  It was cold and SNOWY for a long time – all the way into mid-April and even a bit into late April.

My husband and I were taking Emergen C regularly, not because we felt sick, but because we wanted to bolster our immune systems.  We continued this throughout the winter and stayed healthy all winter while others around us fell to various illnesses.  When April arrived, starting with my youngest child, each of my children (who weren’t taking Emergen C regularly) came down with a really bad cold, or at least what we thought was a cold.  But for my oldest daughter, it got worse and worse.

We don’t go to the doctor often, but I ended up taking three of my five children to the doctor with this ‘cold’.  On our way home from the doctor (our doctor is 1 hour and 15 minutes away), my oldest daughter told me that her hands and then her arms were going numb.  Then she told me she knew she was moving her arms, but she couldn’t feel it.  We took her into the ER and it turns out that she had Influenza B.  They gave her two bags of fluids and sent her home.  It took her three weeks to recover from the flu.  We almost ended back in the ER with her again.

My husband and I both got the flu, but for me, it lasted one day.  For my husband, it lasted about 4-8 hours.  We were the ones taking Emergen C regularly.  It hit us, but not nearly as hard as it did the kids who hadn’t been taking it.  I highly recommend stocking it to bolster your immune system.  You can get it in drinkable or chewable form.

Epsom salts

Epsom salts are amazing things.  When I was hospitalized several years ago with a skin infection, one of the things that we did (even in the hospital – which rarely uses natural remedies) to encourage my body to rid itself of the infection was Epsom salt baths.  This, in conjunction with my IV meds, helped my body start ridding itself of the infection.

Even if you don’t have an infection, using Epsom salt baths regularly help your body detox from chemicals and other harmful substances.  This will help your body to remain stronger especially during stressful situations.

Epsom salts can also be made into an electrolyte drink.  This past April we got hit with the flu in our house – though we didn’t know at the time that it was the flu.  One of my daughters got so severely dehydrated because of the flu that she was incredibly dizzy and started losing feeling in her hands and arms.  We headed into the ER because we didn’t know what was going on.  We were told she had  the flu and she was given two bags of IV fluids which perked her up.  If we had understood what was going on and had had her drinking an electrolyte drink, we could have avoided this all together.

I found a super simple recipe for making your own electrolyte drink here. A Year Without the Gro... Karen Morris Best Price: $11.82 Buy New $11.39 (as of 11:20 UTC - Details)


  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/16 teaspoon Morton’s Lite Salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon epsom salt
  • optional flavor such as juice, tea, stevia, or water enhancer


Mix into 12-16 ounces of water, flavored water, or other healthy cold beverage.

372.5 mg sodium 87.5 mg potassium 30 mg magnesium


According to the Diabetes Federation, more than 425 MILLION people worldwide have diabetes.  Managing the disease when you have access to all of the medical facilities and medicines is hard enough.  If you know someone who has diabetes, there may be some good news for helping manage their diabetes in a post SHTF world.

I’m not a doctor and am NOT making medical assertions, but I want to point you to some articles and studies.  Some studies like this one have shown that cinnamon may lower blood glucose levels.  It does this by lowering insulin resistance and increasing insulin sensitivity.

There are two types of cinnamon out there that people can get their hands on generally Ceylon and Cassia.  Both are cinnamon and both have been shown to help lower blood sugar levels; however, cinnamon contains a component known as coumarin.  Too much coumarin can damage your liver.  Cassia cinnamon contains much more coumarin than Ceylon cinnamon does.  If you plan on using cinnamon in a post SHTF world, make sure you’re stocking Ceylon cinnamon.

Do your own research on the situation.  I found this article to be particularly helpful.


Yeah, I don’t pronounce it well.  I generally pronounce it “O – sil- i -something”  Technically it’s pronounced “O-sill-o-kahks-see-num.”

Who cares how it’s pronounced, WHAT is it?  It’s a homeopathic remedy which helps lessen the duration and severity of flu symptoms.

Karen, it’s just FLU, you might be thinking.  Well, besides my story above about my daughter, this year’s flu killed 172 children.  This was one of the highest death tolls since the federal health authorities started gathering data on children’s deaths from flu in 2004.  The third week of January, of those who died, 1 out of 10 died of the flu or it’s resulting co-infections and the flu rate kept climbing.

Knowing how many people died from the flu this year and how many more people were affected by it, having something around like Oscillococcinum would be an incredible help!  In our family alone, I had five people out of seven down with it at the same time.  That’s okay if we have modern conveniences, but if it’s a SHTF situation, when it’s all hands on deck just to provide for daily needs, having five out of seven down could mean the whole family’s downfall.

So Oscillococcinum to the rescue.  According to Boiron’s own site:  “Oscillococcinum works rapidly, with 63 percent of patients showing “complete resolution” or “clear improvement” at 48 hours.*1 In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, the recovery rate within 48 hours of treatment was significantly greater in the group that received the active drug than in the placebo group.”

Children two years old and older can take it.  It works best when taken early on in symptoms.  Having taken it myself this year and having administered it to children ages 6-16, I can tell you that the taste is actually quite pleasant.  None of my children complained about it and my youngest one asked for it regularly.  This is usually an indication that it tastes good.

It’s simple to use.  You empty a vial of it under your tongue and let it dissolve.  You do want to try to avoid eating or drinking anything 15 minutes before you take it or fifteen minutes after you take it. If you can’t find it locally, it’s available on Amazon.

Alcohol and peroxide

There is a controversy raging as to whether or not you should use alcohol or peroxide to clean wounds.  One camp says that it’s okay to use because you’re killing the bad germs.  The other camp wags their finger and says, yes, but you’re also killing good bacteria and healthy cells.

For my family, generally, we don’t use alcohol or peroxide on our skin because I do believe that these kill both the good and bad bacteria on our skin.  That being said, there is a place and a time to use these especially in a SHTF situation.  If a small cut gets infected and you don’t have access to antibiotics or to medical help of any kind using either or both of these to take care of festering wounds is much better than the alternative.

If you are having dental issues.  Peroxide can also useful.  It can be diluted and squirted into the mouth before being spat out.  You would need to immediately rinse the mouth out with filtered or distilled water.  WebMD has a section on using Peroxide for dental issues.


What’s the best way to get well?  The answer is incredibly simple!  Don’t get sick in the first place.  Yes, I know that sounds over simplified, but it is true.  One way to keep your body healthy is to make sure that you are taking vitamins especially if your nutrition is lacking because of holes in your food storage.

I’m not going to endorse one company over another, but what I will tell you is that vitamins and minerals taken in LIQUID form are absorbed SO MUCH better than their pill form counter parts.  According to LiveStrong, liquid vitamins are better absorbed by between 78-95% better!  Besides that, they don’t have to be digested.  Liquid vitamins can be absorbed directly into your bloodstream.


Did you know that your gut is your second brain?  It is.  There is even a diet out there which has been shown to help people with autism, depression, anxiety, ADHD and autoimmune diseases.  How does the diet go about it?  It targets the gut.

There is overwhelming evidence out there that anxiety and depression are often linked to gut conditions.  You can find articles and studies on it herehere, and here just for starters.  There are also other studies linking gut health to overall health.

So if the SHTF one of the most important things you can do is to feed your gut good bacteria, but how do to you do this?  Well, many quality probiotics require refrigeration.  I have seen decent probiotics that do not require refrigeration including a brand called Bio-Kult.

But unless you are using these and replacing them, even the quality of those could degrade, so what can be done?

The best source of a good probiotic is to learn how to ferment foods yourself.  I’m not talking about that slimy and gunky kind of sauerkraut that you find at the store (sorry for those of you who like it).  I’m talking about crunchy, salty tasting pickles or sauerkraut.  Home fermentation is SO EASY to do!  Get yourself a fermenting crock, weights, and lid and learn now!

Reprinted with permission from The Organic Prepper.

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