Survival Situations & Personal Hygiene
In any situation, cleanliness is an important factor in preventing infection and disease. It becomes even more important in a survival situation. Poor hygiene can reduce your chances of survival.
A daily shower with hot water and soap is ideal, but you can stay clean without this luxury. Use a cloth and soapy water to wash yourself. Pay special attention to the feet, armpits, crotch, hands, and hair as these are prime areas for infestation and infection. If water is scarce, take an “air” bath. Remove as much of your clothing as practical and expose your body to the sun and air for at least 1 hour. Be careful not to sunburn.
If you don’t have soap, use ashes or sand, or make soap from animal fat and wood ashes if your situation allows.
To Make Soap
- Extract grease from animal fat by cutting the fat into small pieces and cooking it in a pot.
- Add enough water to the pot to keep the fat from sticking as it cooks.
- Cook the fat slowly, stirring frequently.
- After the fat is rendered, pour the grease into a container to harden.
- Place ashes in a container with a spout near the bottom.
- Pour water over the ashes and collect the liquid that drips out of the spout in a separate container. This liquid is the potash or lye.
Another way to get the lye is to pour the slurry (the mixture of ashes and water) through a straining cloth.
- In a cooking pot, mix two parts grease to one part lye.
- Place this mixture over a fire and boil it until it thickens.
After the mixture (the soap) cools, you can use it in the semiliquid state directly from the pot.
You can also pour it into a pan, allow it to harden, and cut it into bars for later use.
Keep Your Hands Clean
Germs on your hands can infect food and wounds. Wash your hands after handling any material that is likely to carry germs, after urinating or defecating, after caring for the sick, and before handling any food, food utensils, or drinking water. Keep your fingernails closely trimmed and clean, and keep your fingers out of your mouth.
Keep Your Hair Clean
Your hair can become a haven for bacteria or fleas, lice, and other parasites. Keeping your hair clean, combed, and trimmed helps you avoid this danger.
Keep Your Clothing Clean
Keep your clothing and bedding as clean as possible to reduce the chances of skin infection or parasitic infestation. Clean your outer clothing whenever it becomes soiled. Wear clean underclothing and socks each day. If water is scarce, “air” clean your clothing by shaking, airing, and sunning it for 2 hours. If you are using a sleeping bag, turn it inside out after each use, fluff it, and air it.
Keep Your Teeth Clean
Thoroughly clean your mouth and teeth with a toothbrush at least once each day. If you don’t have a toothbrush, make a chewing stick. Find a twig about 20 centimeters (cm) (8 inches) long and 1 centimeter (1/3 inch) wide. Chew one end of the stick to separate the fibers. Then brush your teeth thoroughly. Another way is to wrap a clean strip of cloth around your fingers and rub your teeth with it to wipe away food particles. You can also brush your teeth with small amounts of sand, baking soda, salt, or soap. Rinse your mouth with water, salt water, or willow bark tea. Also, flossing your teeth with string or fiber helps oral hygiene.