Survival Skills: Dealing With Diarrhea and Dysentery In the Field

Digestive ailments can be a dangerous thing, especially when they occur in an emergency scenario. The diminished hygiene of a survival situation is a ripe breeding ground for all sorts of organisms that could lead to diarrhea and dysentery. Here’s what you can do to stop these problems before they start, and some options to try if you aren’t successful.

Prevention
Diarrhea is a loosening of the stool. Dysentery is the same, with the addition of blood. Either of these conditions can be caused by bacteria, virus, or parasite. If untreated, either of these could be fatal over a period of several weeks. Prevention is the best course of action. Mix up a disinfecting solution of bleach or iodine and water for use after a crisis. Place 20 drops of tincture of iodine 2% in one quart of water. It doesn't matter if the water was potable, as the high level of iodine will disinfect it within minutes. Wipe down all surfaces that could transmit pathogens, especially around the latrine area. A similar wash can be made from 10 drops of bleach in one quart of water. Make sure that dishes and hands are adequately washed during your emergency situation, and that only safe foods and drinks are consumed. If you try to wash clothing, use scalding hot water for an initial soak to disinfect the fabrics.

Treatment
Depending on the organism that's causing your illness, you may need some very specific medicines to treat it. Bacterial dysentery is treated with antibiotics. Amoebic dysentery is often treated with antimicrobial drugs such as metronidazole or paromomycin. You probably won't have these things lying around in your med kit, but you can stock your emergency medical supplies with anti-diarrheal medicines to help with the symptoms of mild to moderate diarrhea.

Another diarrhea treatment option is more traditional, using wild medicines. Blackberry roots can be brewed into a tea that can help to relieve diarrhea. Use one tablespoon of chopped root pieces in one cup of hot water. Allow it to soak for 10 minutes and sip this drink over the course of an hour. Drink up to four cups over the course of a day, and continue for up to three days. Back down the dosage when a positive change is noted. Blackberry leaves make a milder version of this medicinal drink, which is a better choice for sick children, though should not be used on toddlers and babies. Don’t use any of these in the case of dysentery.

If you’re dealing with dysentery, try to keep the patient well hydrated and fed until proper medical care can be achieved. Anyone suffering from dysentery should have their own bathroom or latrine to prevent the spread of that pathogen.