First let me advise you that I am not an MD, nor am I qualified or authorized to give medical advice to humans. Keep in mind, however, that we are all animals. The information herein is for reference only, and I bear no liability for misuse or adverse effects (allergy) by using any of these antibiotics. Essentially all of the antibiotics used in veterinary medicine are from human medicine, and most were tested on animals before being used in humans. Although you may have used a particular antibiotic in the past, your body may have developed a sensitivity or allergy to the very same product since then, and you should discontinue any medication if you are exhibiting negative signs (usually a rash).
Everybody gets sick sooner or later. It can be a mild “cold” or upper respiratory infection, or blood poisoning from an infected scratch. In a post-disaster situation, the risk of infection likely will go way up, due to lack of medical care, contamination, stress, poor nutrition, exposure, and reduced hygiene. Even gunshot wounds are possible, or lacerations and broken bones. Having a stock assortment of common antibiotics ready now is a good idea.
Antibiotics don’t change to poison the day after they expire. It has been proven that antibiotics are safe to use for at least five (5) years beyond their expiration date. Don't throw away expired antibiotics or other medications for that matter. They may not be as effective as when they were “fresh,” but they are probably 90+% still active. In a disaster situation they may not be available again for a long time, and you’ll be longing for the Amoxicillin you flushed down the toilet. [JWR Adds: The only exception might be cycline family antibiotics, which have been reported to cause Fanconi Syndrome when they break down. This has been previously discussed in SurvivalBlog.]
Try the “First Choice” medicines; if they aren’t working, try another First Choice, or go to the “Resistant/2nd Choice” column. You won’t have the luxury of doing a culture and sensitivity test to see what is causing your infection and what the best antibiotic is to eliminate it. This will all be trial and error. You have to give an antibiotic at least a three-day try before deciding it’s not working, and even slight improvement is a sign to continue what you’re on. Don’t jump from one antibiotic to another unless symptoms are worsening. Checking body temperature is a good way to judge. If your former fever of 103°F is coming down, it’s a good indicator that things are improving. (Add a digital or “old fashioned” thermometer to your list.)
An abscess generally needs to be drained before it will heal. That means lancing it at some point to “let the corruption out” of the body. Your immune system is trying to throw out the bacteria by killing and consuming it, creating pus, but sometimes the bacteria reproduces faster than the white blood cells can work. That’s where antibiotics help out by interfering with the bacteria’s reproduction or by actually killing the bugs. Often the abscess will rupture by itself, when the skin over the infection breaks down, but you can also get pretty sick before that happens. (Add a half-dozen scalpel blades to that list, too; #10 curved edge for slicing, #11 sharp point for lancing.)
There are various categories of antibiotics, such as the penicillins (-cillins), sulfas (sulfa-), tetracyclines (-cyclines), and fluoroquinolones (-oxacins). If you have Ciprofloxacin and it isn’t working, then the other “-oxacins” probably won’t be any better. This isn’t always a hard/fast rule. Amoxicillin may not knock down a cat bite abscess, but amoxicillin-clavulinic acid combination usually will. Survival medicine is a situation where you do what you can with what you have. And add lots of prayer.
An antibiotic doesn’t do the job of wiping out infection all by itself; it basically gives your own immune system a “backup.” You can optimize the effect of an antibiotic by keeping yourself well hydrated, warm, comfortable, well-fed, and by reducing stress as much as possible.
If you are stocking up, it would be good to have something from each category, such as Amoxicillin, Cephalexin, Ciprofloxacin, Doxycycline, and Trimethoprim-sulfa. Or substitute Amoxi-Clavulinic acid for plain Amoxi. It’s a “bigger gun” for treating infection. Also, you want to use the first line of antibiotics in nearly all cases (exception might be a bullet wound or deep laceration). If you continually use the strongest/newest antibiotic, you risk developing resistance to that antibiotic. And use the antibiotic until you are certain the infection is over, and add a few days treatment to be sure. A wound would usually take two weeks’ treatment or more.
Cost can be an issue with some antibiotics. I traveled to a very remote atoll in 1997, and I knew the place was a virtual cesspool. I asked my doc for a prescription for a week’s worth of Ciprofloxacin, and the 14 tablets cost me $100. Today you can get 30 for $4. Generics in nearly all cases are just as effective as the original trade-named product. Some in-store pharmacies (Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Giant Eagle) offer a 30-day supply or 30 doses of common antibiotics and other medicines for just $4, or sometimes free.
Viral infections, such as flu, are not affected by antibiotics. But my opinion always has been that if a virus is causing damage, there are secondary bacterial “opportunists” that are also present, and an antibiotic can’t hurt. It may reduce the overall recovery time.
I’m not including injectable antibiotics for several reasons. First, they require syringes and needles, which in today’s world are used only once and replaced. Before plastic came along, syringes were made of metal and glass and were reused until worn out. Needles were re-sharpened, sterilized, and reused as well. Not nearly as sharp as today’s disposables. Second, many injectable antibiotics require refrigeration and may have a shorter shelf-life overall. Third, once you put it in, you can’t take it back out, but you can stop giving tablets if there is a reaction. Lastly, injectable antibiotics are nearly always in glass vials or bottles, and subject to breakage.
Urinary Tract First Choice Resistant/2nd Choice
Amoxi/Clavulinic acid (Augmentin®)
Cefadroxil Cephalexin (Keflex®)
Upper Respiratory (sinus, throat)
Lower Respiratory (bronchitis, pneumonia)
Cefadroxil Cephalosporin 2nd/3d gen.
Skin/Soft Tissue (wounds, abscesses)
External Otitis (ear canal to the eardrum)
Topical therapy: Clotrimazole, Tresaderm, Ciprodex Otic
(You want to use a liquid that will flow into the ear canal all the way to the ear drum.)
Internal Otitis (middle ear)
Same as first-choice Lower Respiratory
Amoxi/Clav Metronidazole plus
Amoxicillin: 500mg every 12 hours (severe 500mg every 8 hrs)
Amoxicillin/Clavulinic acid: 500mg every 12 hours
Ampicillin: 500mg every 12 hours
Azithromycin: 500mg first day, then 250mg per day for 4 more days
Cefadroxil: 500mg every 12 hours
Cephalexin: 500mg every 12 hours
Ciprofloxacin: 500, 750, or 1000mg once a day
Clindamycin: 450mg every 6 hours
Doxycycline: 100mg every 12 hours for 7-10 days
Metronidazole: 500mg every 12 hours for 7 days
Oxacillin/Cloxacillin/Dicloxacillin: 500mg every 6 hrs for 7-21 days
Tetracycline: 500mg every 6 hours for 14-30 days
Trimethoprim/Sulfonamide (Sulfamethoxazole/Trimethoprim): 800mg every 12 hrs
Notes: The two most important things you can do to prevent infection are wash your hands with soap and clean water often, and dental care: both brush and floss your teeth daily or three times a day
There is a “Guide to Veterinary Drugs for Human Consumption, Post-SHTF” that covers readily-available veterinary medicines that we can use [in true disasters].
However, it is just as easy (and probably less expensive) to buy from All-Day Chemist at https://www.alldaychemist.com/. These are generics that are very affordable.
If you are on your own, I would recommend having a couple weeks’ or a month’s worth of the following in the largest sizes (mg):
Amoxi/Clavulinic acid (Augmentin®)
If you need a prescription, you might confide with your family doctor and tell him/her your concerns about preparing for all possibilities. There are legal ramifications in the good old litigious USA, but if you’re lucky you’ll have a doc with common sense. It would also be wise to read the antibiotic inserts (also available online at www.drugs.com ) and familiarize yourself with what they’re used for, side effects, and dosages for various problems. The dosages listed above are “shotgun” amounts, or highest levels.
About The Author: D.A. has had a veterinary career in mixed practice (large and small animals)