Depending on the type of survival situation you find yourself in, you may need extra precautions in the hygiene department. Although this is about survival and the wilderness, survival in a suburban home when there’s a situation that makes it where hygiene becomes difficult is just as important. This article will cover survival hygiene in various cases and lengths of time. However, it will cover only the very basics.
Clothes: If you’re hiking in the woods and need to keep your clothes clean according to the old army manual, the best way to do that is to take them off and air daily. Additionally, it suggests that clothing should be left in sunlight to disinfect and discourage bugs. For a short-term situation, this works great. For longer-term conditions, the advice needs to be altered. Clothing would need to be hand washed and rinsed in boiling water if the situation lasts more than a couple of days. Then you would hang the clothing to dry in the sun. In a survival situation, soap would be great to remove stains and built-in dirt, but boiling the garments removes germs and parasites.
Latrine: When you’re out in the wilderness, digging a cat hole to cover your mess at least 250 yards from any water and burying it is the best method of dealing with human waste on the trail. Previous to indoor plumbing, much of North America had outhouses. Outhouses were essentially a hole dug very deep into the ground with a little house on top with a wooden toilet seat over the hole. Some basic rules for latrines outdoors are never to place it near a water source, never have it uphill from your camp, and always keep it from proximity to food and 250 yards from any resources. Covering waste is very important to prevent vermin from spreading it. It also reduces the smell.
Body: Keeping a clean body in the wilderness or even a survival situation in suburbia can be difficult, especially without clean water. The first step is always to take whatever water you can find and purify it. This can be done through various means, including filtering, boiling, or adding bleach. Doing all three is not excessive. Without soap, it’s challenging to maintain proper hygiene, but using just water or water and salt to clean the body, hands, and hair can help reduce the bacterial load on the skin. Ideally, a type of crude homemade soap or a plant with lots of saponins such as soapwort can be used under such conditions. It would be best to wash your hands at least three times a day and after every bathroom trip as they are most likely to get dirty.
Feet: Feet are of particular note because they tend to get worn out and used the most in a survival situation. Keeping feet clean and dry with a regular change of socks is a must. Treating and protecting any cuts or preventing infection is very important. Checking your feet every night before bed to ensure they are clean, dry, with nails cut straight across, and having a decent pair of socks is probably the best thing you can do for your feet.
Teeth: Most people in a survival situation won’t be thinking about their teeth, but keeping your teeth clean will help reduce infection throughout your body. In the book Where There Is No Dentist by Hesperian Press, they suggest chewing on safe twigs like Willow and others. Chewing these sticks separates the fibers and creates a brush-like apparatus. However, using salt or baking soda on your fingertip for short-term situations will at least help reduce the bacterial growth in your mouth. Of course, the last thing you want in this situation is an abscessed tooth.
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