Book Review: The Survival Medicine Handbook, 2nd ed. by Joseph & Amy Alton

Since most people are neither EMTs nor doctors a medical reference guide for use in survival situations is a must have. You cannot go much wrong with The Survival Medicine Handbook: A guide for when help is NOT on the way 2nd ed. by Joseph and Amy Alton. I had the first edition and have had the second edition since shortly after it was released in 2013. It is a significant update from the first edition and an outstanding book in its own right.

The authors are a husband and wife team. Dr. Joseph Alton is a surgeon and OB/GYN while his wife Amy is a Registered Nurse Practitioner. The book itself is 512 pages of text divided into 10 topical sections. It also includes a reference list, glossary of terms, and index.

This wide ranging book is not just a step by step guide to treating injuries and common ailments. The authors take a whole person approach and talk about not just how treat but also how to manage health in a survival situation. All the recommendations are based on decades of medical practice and it is evident that some serious thought has gone into the requirements a group medic would need in a situation where modern medical care is no longer available. I particularly appreciated the realistic appraisal of some of the less mainstream medical methods and treatment options they assess. The authors also bluntly state that many diseases and injuries that are almost considered routine in the modern world were frequently deadly prior to the advent of modern medicine and why said diseases should be seriously planned for in the event of a collapse.

One of the most informative and I thought well written, sections was the one on essential oils. It has become all the rage in prepping circles to talk about essential oils as if they represent some sort of panacea. A realistic assessment of the benefits of essential oils and the results, or actually lack thereof, of scientific studies on their efficacy are addressed. They do not discourage the use of essential oils, but they caution that the supposed benefits of many oils have not been reliably studied and are therefore almost wholly anecdotal in nature. Maybe I like this section the best because I am personally skeptical of essential oils since most of the people that sell these come off as snake oil salesman or even worse, fanatics about the benefits these oils provide. I will admit that I have some essential oils in my own toolkit, but they are a supplement and not a main or even close to an essential element in my kit.

One of the best sections from an information standpoint was the section on wound closure. The detailed description of how to anesthetize and suture skin wounds was most informative and one of the most well written sections of its kind I have seen. The discussion of environmental factors and how to properly manage them to help maintain health was also very good. But the best section of the book from my perspective was that on hygiene and sanitation. This is a subject that is most often either ignored or glossed over in most survival books and I have yet to figure out why as poor hygiene is much more likely to kill you in a survival situation than are some roving band of Mad Max style bandits. I think it is mostly ignored because it is not sexy. I admit that talking about how to keep clean and how to dispose of waste is borderline boring, but it is a vital subject that every prepper/survivalist should be knowledgeable about.

The Survival Medicine Handbook: A guide for when help is NOT on the way 2nd ed. is a fairly hefty book, weighing in at slightly over two pounds. I am not sure that I would tote this around in my BOB bag as it represents a significant weight investment. The print version is also somewhat pricey at almost $31 as of this writing. That being said, it is well worth the price and this outstanding book should not only be on every preppers shelf you should read it too. I highly recommend this book.