It had been nearly a month since the earthquake. Many businesses were still closed and the bridges were out so you couldn’t drive far, but Sue had been doing fine: Lots of wood on hand to keep the house warm, windowsills full of solar lanterns charging during the day, plenty of food and water on hand, and she even still had a month’s worth of her blood pressure meds. She’d been rationing her coffee and cigarettes though, not wanting to run out, and spending her days on cleanup and rebuilding.
She’d been feeling strange the last couple of days though, and today she almost blacked out when climbing the steps with an armload of wood. What now? And how could she go to the emergency clinic with such a puny-sounding complaint when they were so swamped?
The good news: All the exercise, plus reductions in caffeine and nicotine have helped Sue bring her blood pressure down. The bad news: She doesn’t know that yet, so she’s still taking the meds to lower it.
Normally when we need a medication adjustment, we see a professional about it – by far the best option under normal circumstances. What do we do though when situations aren’t normal and there’s no professional we can reach to ask? We’ll hope we’ll have thought about it ahead of time.
Please note, I’m not a doctor and am not advising you on what specifically you should do about prescription medications. I do hope to give you some ideas on what you need to know to prep this aspect of your life. (There’s a related article here with some thoughts about what to do when the meds threaten to run out.)
Why is this worth thinking about?
Some prescription medications are given in the same dose to nearly everyone and seldom need adjustment. This post isn’t about them. This is about medications where your need varies based on your physical and perhaps mental situation. Blood pressure, diabetes, and thyroid medications, as well as many that treat psychological conditions, are notorious for needing amendments. The problem is not overdose in the usual sense of ‘too much of this is toxic’, but more of ‘some of this action is good but more is not better’. When how much you need changes, the dose better change too.
The first prep: Get that expert advice while you can
Hey, you’ve already paid for the doc’s time. While you’re with her, why not ask what’s determining how much she’s dosing you with? How would you know if it’s enough, and if it’s too much? Would there be any reasons you should stop taking it or skip a dose? It’s good stuff to ask even without being a prepper, after all.
For example, when Salty was prescribed some blood pressure medication, I asked what specifically it did. Like many first prescriptions for blood pressure, it was a diuretic. Well, we often take long bike rides on summer afternoons, so I told the doc that and asked if he should still take it on warm ‘long ride’ days. Why no, losing water is plenty easy on those days so it’s better to skip it to avoid dehydration. If I hadn’t asked, the doc wouldn’t have thought to say anything about it.
What if you can’t get a straight answer?
My first impulse would be to get a different (better) doctor. That’s not always the right answer though. There are a couple of other approaches. One is to ask a pharmacist (as opposed to a tech who dispenses pills, who might or might not know much). Another is to check it out yourself.
When I was curious about how Salty’s prescribed dose of his blood pressure med compared to ‘normal’, I did a little web search. I looked for links that were run by groups I considered reputable – there are both governmental and private sites that I’ve found to provide reliable information; I’ll go where they make their money by placing ads for medical suppliers, but I don’t bother going anywhere that is affiliated any more closely than that with drug sellers. Highly reputable research hospital-run sites such as those by Mayo and Johns Hopkins have proved good to me over the years.
Searching by his drug’s name, I find the range of doses normally prescribed for different uses of the drug, as well as some relevant cautions and notes about what other treatments worked well or should be avoided in combination. If he lost control of his blood pressure and we couldn’t get more personal professional input, I at least know what range of doses are considered reasonable and helpful.
Be prepared to notice a problem
You probably know what symptoms you were having to get yourself prescribed a particular drug. If those symptoms reappear, it seems as if the dose you’re taking no longer suffices.
On the flip side, you should be aware of what the other side of the spectrum looks like: too much action of the drug. If you’re taking something to lower blood pressure, you should be aware of what too low of blood pressure feels like. If you’re on medication for a low thyroid, you should know what too much thyroid action feels like, so you can recognize it if it pops up. Check it out now while information’s so easy to come by – there’s a free! prep for you.
If feasible, have materials on hand to measure the variable you’re trying to control. I think a blood pressure cuff and decent stethoscope should be in everybody’s home med kit, and their use in everybody’s skill set — as well as what the target values are and what would constitute worryingly high or low. Manual versions take a bit of practice, but only a bit and once you know how you know how forever; no batteries required. Similarly, diabetics should have means to measure blood glucose. As for psych conditions….hmm, asking your partner to tell you if you’re particularly crabby? That could be danger territory… 😉