How to avoid life-threatening diarrhea and what to do if you get it

Wednesday, December 02, 2015 by

( It’s not a pleasant thing to thing about or discuss, but it’s a very important issue nonetheless because it is a health condition that, if serious enough, could cost you your life: diarrhea.

Now, all of the prepping and survival training you undertake will be for naught if you develop diarrhea, which is much more likely when you are forced to dramatically alter your lifestyle and, in particular, your eating and drinking habits. Thousands of rounds of ammo and boxes of firestarters won’t save you if you mishandle this condition.

So, what makes this such a serious condition? Consider:

Hygiene: Once stuff hits the fan, human waste will quickly become a “big deal.” In a collapsed society in an urban or suburban setting, sewer systems will cease to function properly. If you’re not prepared to properly handle human waste (more on that below), it will quickly escalate into a danger. Lack of clean water will also hamper hygiene, adding to your problem. In 2009, 1.1 million people died from diarrhea aged 5 and older; another 1.5 million under 5 died.

Lack of knowledge: Many preppers believe that if they simply stock up on an anti-diarrheal, they’ll be fine, but if your diarrhea is being caused by a parasitic infection, taking an anti-diarrheal like Imodium can kill you. Use of a broad-spectrum antibiotic like Levaquin or Cipro can also cause a colitis that can also be deadly if left untreated.

Not understanding: If you don’t know or understand the causes of diarrhea, you’re more likely to contract it. You should know that, according to health care professionals, diarrhea can often be a good thing, flushing out so-called “bad bugs” from your system. You can usually tell because that process only lasts for a couple of days in healthy adults.

Maintaining good hygiene is probably your most important strategy for preventing diarrhea, and that begins with proper disposal of human waste. That will be difficult in an urban/suburban environment, and you will quickly understand that as, within a few days, the pungent smells of this problem will permeate your existence.

If you’ve managed to escape the urban nightmare and have struck a camp somewhere in the countryside, you will have to properly dispose of your human waste. The military goes into great detail on this subject and provides several alternatives for waste disposal (check them out here).

Now, what can you do to treat diarrhea?

— First things first: Don’t immediately take an anti-diarrheal. If, after a few days, you’re still having issues and you believe you may have an infection, continue to refrain from taking an anti-diarrheal and instead begin taking a binding agent like Bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectade or Pepto-Bismol). That should help get rid of the bad bugs while slowing the diarrhea and dehydration (the latter one of the BIG reasons why diarrhea can kill).

— Start a BRAT diet: This diet consists of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. You may not have all of these food items, but the idea is to ingest foods that are soft, bulky and easy to digest, in order to give your system a rest (consider instant mashed potatoes as well).

— Assess: How did you contract diarrhea? Did you drink some unfiltered water (or is your water filter bad)? Ingest spoiled food? Any change in your sanitation? Etc. If you can correct these problems, do so.

— Plain water is bad: You don’t want to continue ingesting plain water because this will induce a shift in fluid at the cellular level as your body attempts to combat electrolyte depletion. You should instead drink an electrolyte replacement like Pedialyte or take electrolyte tablets available at many survival stores.

— Learn: Teach yourself to spot the signs of dehydration. Per the Mayo Clinic:

  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • No wet diapers for three hours for infants
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
  • Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
  • Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be darker than normal
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched into a fold
  • In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby’s head
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Fever
  • In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness

An anti-diarrheal should be taken as a last resort to prevent severe dehydration. Also, if you can, pick up some vaseline to rub on your tender nether-regions, to soothe the pain and rawness caused by repeated use, so to speak.

H/T The Survivalist Blog


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