When putting together a disaster plan, it’s important to prioritize human needs in the way that you prepare. To put together a solid short-term survival plan, you need only to address the most basic of human necessities: water, shelter, food, and security, but as short-term survival transitions into “well I guess this is what’s left of the world now,” it’s important to have a plan in place that can help you get by a bit longer than just the first few days after a disaster.
While ensuring you have adequate food and water will prevent death from hunger or dehydration, it’s important to remember that those are often the very easiest forms of death to avoid. We worry about supply lines drying up after the collapse of our infrastructure for good reason, but humans have been surviving without grocery stores and running faucets for millennia… what tends to kill us in such situations often isn’t a lack of food, but rather a lack of hygiene.
Enter my favorite survival item: hydrogen peroxide. Most of us are familiar with the brown bottle of bubbling goodness from our childhoods, when our mothers would pour a bit of the elixir onto our scraped knees to disinfect it before armoring the wound with a Batman band-aid and providing an emergency booboo-kiss for pain relief. While wound care is certainly one of the things hydrogen peroxide is good to have around for, it’s far from the only thing.
In order to discuss some of the other important uses for the magic brown bottle, I’m going to have to delve into some of the health issues that may impact a person in an extended survival scenario; some of which are likely to sound gross, but it’s important to plan for potential health hazards other than gunshot wounds and zombie bites, because dying of an infection all by yourself will leave you just as dead as the sexier alternatives we see on TV.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Mouth Care
I’m not normally one to close my eyes during a rough scene in a movie – but watching Tom Hanks remove an infected tooth with an ice skate in “Cast Away” was tough for me. I don’t like going to the dentist, let alone the idea of serving as my own using bits of trash I found on a beach, but I have to credit the movie for including an element of survival that is often ignored in movies and television: dental hygiene.
An infected tooth is a serious issue. If left unchecked, and infection can spread throughout your body, possibly even killing you without antibiotic treatment. Beyond that, an infected tooth can make eating an excruciating endeavor and can serve as a serious distraction when you need to keep your wits about you. If at all possible, one should avoid having to do their own oral surgery, and hydrogen peroxide can help.
That same brown bottle you use on cuts and scrapes is also a FDA approved mouth wash. Pouring a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water into your mouth and swishing it around once in a while may not give you the same fresh breath you’d get from a tooth-brush and a new tube of Crest Whitening, but it could keep the bacteria in your mouth from going rogue and rotting you from the inside out. Keeping your teeth intact will keep you eating, and hydrogen peroxide can help stave off infections and even cavities.
Hydrogen Peroxide to Fight Fungus
Athlete’s foot and other fungal infections of the hands and feet can be serious trouble for the long-term survivor. The reduction in available means of hygiene that may come after a disaster could leave you more vulnerable to this sort of ailment, and yet again, hydrogen peroxide can help kill the fungus causing itching and burning on your extremities.
Perhaps more important though, is hydrogen peroxide’s ability to combat yeast infections. While we tend to think of such things as a uniquely female issue, and in today’s world, we even see it as more of an inconvenience than a matter of life and death, developing a yeast infection in a survival setting is bad news and must be addressed.
Hydrogen Peroxide is safe to be used as a douche for women suffering from a yeast infection after the stores have long stopped stocking Monistat, and can be used externally for men suffering from the same ailment. Didn’t know men could get yeast infections? They absolutely can – and the resulting itching, burning and open sores could lead to any number of further infections, or simply leave you too distracted to handle your day-to-day survival needs with the level of focus they require. Hydrogen peroxide will not work as well as traditional anti-fungal medications, but as a multi-use tool, it’s good to know that you can keep the swamp-rot off your fingers and toes as well as out of your underoos with the same bottle you keep around for wound care and oral hygiene. I’d just recommend cleaning the spout before switching between uses (just kidding, do not put the spout inside any part of you, use a different means of application).
Hydrogen Peroxide for Cleaning (everything)
If you wear contact lenses, hydrogen peroxide and water can be used to clean them between uses – extending the life of your contacts and possibly your ability to see if you don’t have access to your glasses. It can also be used to clean food containers and utensils, water carriers, or even cooking surfaces to kill things like salmonella.
You can also use a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water to clean and disinfect your clothes. A clean pair of undies may not sound like the most important thing after the end of the world, but remember, we haven’t evolved to prefer the smell and touch of clean things for no reason. Cleaning your clothes will help prevent skin irritations and even infections. In fact, using hydrogen peroxide to clean your underwear could prevent you from having to using hydrogen peroxide to treat a yeast infection in the first place.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Farming
In a long-term survival situation, cultivating your own food may be a necessity, but if you weren’t blessed with a green thumb, you’ll likely need all the help you can get in order to turn your little garden into something that’ll feed your family. Believe it or not, hydrogen peroxide can also help you start to grow your own food.
Adding a small bit of hydrogen peroxide to the water you pour on your plants can help fertilize the soil, prevent mold and mildew from developing, and even help an ailing plant regain its health. Soaking seeds in water that contains a small amount of hydrogen peroxide will even make them germinate faster. It’s important to use the correct amount of hydrogen peroxide however, otherwise it could kill your plants before they have a chance to grow. Check out this chart to help you determine how much peroxide you should mix with water for various agricultural needs.
These handy uses for the old brown bottle in your medicine cabinet are far from all of the ways hydrogen peroxide can benefit a disaster victim attempting to transition from short-term to long-term survival. I highly recommend doing some research and attempting to use hydrogen peroxide for things like oral hygiene once or twice before the world comes crashing down on you.
And maybe grab an extra bottle or two of the stuff the next time you go shopping. Just in case.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alex Hollings served as an active duty Marine for six and a half years before being medically retired from service. As an athlete, Hollings has raced exotic cars, played Marine Corps football and college rugby, fought in cages, and even wrestled alligators. As a scholar, he has earned a master’s degree in Communications from Southern New Hampshire University, as well as undergraduate degrees in Corporate and Organizational Communications and Business Management.