Water and soap can be life-savers post-disaster.
The Platypus GravityWorks 4-liter filter can help you maintain clean drinking water.
While keeping clean may not be glamorous, no amount of firepower, clothing, doomsday shelters or military tactics can overcome the problems poor sanitation causes. Be clean, stay clean and keep clean should be staples in your day-to-day habits while you’re in survival mode.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning up, disinfecting and practicing good hygiene will go a long way in avoiding illnesses from bacteria, viruses, mold and mildew. When you’re in survival mode, you need every edge you can get, and being sick, whether it’s from a cold, contaminated water or spoiled food, can spell the difference between being alive and being a statistic.
The CDC says one of the most important things you can and should do is to wash your hands, especially during the end of the world. What you touch, whether it’s a person, beast or structure, will most likely be compromised with something bad. Particularly dangerous examples include E. coli bacteria and the West Nile Virus. Washing your dishes and keeping your tools and shelter clean all matter when it comes to staying healthy.
As with any survival situation, circumstances dictate just how tough things might be. Warm water and soap are lifesavers when you can safely use them. Moist baby wipes in your bug-out bag, camper’s soap, hand sanitizer and foot powder are all things you should check (and double check) in your essential gear.
An often-overlooked aspect of personal hygiene is dental care. Bad breath is not the worst thing that can happen to you after a few days of not brushing your teeth. The bacteria from inflammation of the gums and periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and travel to the arteries in the heart and cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis causes plaque to develop on the inner walls of arteries, which thicken. This subsequently decreases or blocks blood flow through the body, causing an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
The Journal of Periodontology warns that gum disease could cause you to get infections in your lungs, including pneumonia. While the connection might not be completely obvious at first, think of what might happen from breathing in bacteria from infected teeth and gums over a long period of time.
Inflammation of the gum tissue and periodontal disease can also make it harder to control your blood sugar, making your diabetes symptoms worse. Diabetes sufferers are also more susceptible to periodontal disease, making proper dental care even more important for those with this disease.
You need to stay clean both on your body and with the clothes you live in day-in and day-out.
Food & Water
Another problem here is making sure your water is clean. Several aftermarket water filtration systems like the Platypus GravityWorks water filter system are available. This 4-liter system physically removes particles, protozoa and bacteria down to 0.2 microns in size, and more.
Keeping your food stores clean goes a long way toward keeping you clean and ultimately alive. First things first: Make sure you wash your hands, your tools and your food religiously, before and after you use them. Hot soapy water works on most things and bleach can be used on clean surfaces and cutting boards. When you have raw foods like chicken or wild game, be sure you don’t cross contaminate other ready-to-eat foods.
The CDC recommends using a food thermometer. Make sure food reaches its safe minimum cooking temperature. For example, internal temperatures should be 145 degrees Fahrenheit for whole meats, 160 degrees for ground meats and 165 degrees for all poultry. Eggs should be cooked until the yolk is firm. During meal times, while food is being served and eaten, try to keep it hot—preferably at 140 degrees or above.
Trash is no treasure for anyone in a survival situation. Disease, odor, rodents, rats, fleas and other vermin feast on our trash. For the most part, the best thing to do in a survival situation is to bury your waste, but in a manner that doesn’t contaminate your water supply or lead to a weakened tactical position. When conventional bathroom facilities aren’t readily available or safe to use, a “cat hole,” which should be about a foot wide and a foot deep, can be created for human waste disposal. The key is to bury the waste completely. When tactical situations allow for it, burning waste can be useful as well, however, great care should be used because of the lingering odor, and the sure give-away of your location with the smoke from the fire.
There are all kinds of critters in the world ready to feast on your bad day. Ticks, mosquitos, ants, fleas and other pests are ready, willing and able to add misery to your survival efforts with irritating bites, disease and compromising situations.
The U.S. Army suggests that the best strategy for defense against insects and other disease-bearing arthropods is use of the DOD Insect Repellent System, which is the application of extended-duration 33-percent DEET repellent to exposed skin, the application of permethrin to the field uniform and a properly worn uniform. So, use DEET, treat your clothes with permethrin and cover your body with long-sleeve shirts, socks, long pants, hats, gloves and other suitable clothing to minimize your exposure to bugs and other parasites.
The bottom line in field sanitation, whether it’s you alone or a survival party, is to be clean, keep clean and stay clean. Plan accordingly in this endeavor to strength your survival strategy.
This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Spring 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.
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