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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.

4-23. 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.

If you have cavities, you can make temporary fillings by placing candle wax, tobacco, hot pepper, toothpaste or powder, or portions of a gingerroot into the cavity. Make sure you clean the cavity by rinsing or picking the particles out of the cavity before placing a filling in the cavity.

Take Care of Your Feet

To prevent serious foot problems, break in your shoes before wearing them on any mission. Wash and massage your feet daily. Trim your toenails straight across. Wear an insole and the proper size of dry socks. Powder and check your feet daily for blisters.

If you get a small blister, do not open it. An intact blister is safe from infection. Apply a padding material around the blister to relieve pressure and reduce friction. If the blister bursts, treat it as an open wound. Clean and dress it daily and pad around it. Leave large blisters intact. To avoid having the blister burst or tear under pressure and cause a painful and open sore, do the following:

  • Obtain a sewing-type needle and a clean or sterilized thread.
  • Run the needle and thread through the blister after cleaning the blister.
  • Detach the needle and leave both ends of the thread hanging out of the blister. The thread will absorb the liquid inside. This reduces the size of the hole and ensures that the hole does not close up.
  • Pad around the blister.

Get Sufficient Rest

You need a certain amount of rest to keep going. Plan for regular rest periods of at least 10 minutes per hour during your daily activities. Learn to make yourself comfortable under less-than-ideal conditions. A change from mental to physical activity or vice versa can be refreshing when time or situation does not permit total relaxation.

Keep Campsite Clean

Do not soil the ground in the campsite area with urine or feces. Use latrines, if available. When latrines are not available, dig “cat holes” and cover the waste. Collect drinking water upstream from the campsite. Purify all water.

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