How to Survive Food Poisoning?

Food Poisoning

During the holidays it seems that there are warnings everywhere about the dangers of food poisoning as we all gather together at eat. However, this nasty condition is also common during emergencies and disasters when people become desperate enough to eat almost anything regardless of how healthy it is. Food poisoning can be deadly, and even when it is not it leaves you weakened for days and can require others to care for you. Therefore, it is vital to understand how to keep from contracting it, and if worst comes to worst how to help someone survive through that grueling curative process.

Salmonella, E.Coli, Listeria, What is Food Poisoning?

Generally speaking food poisoning isn’t really one particular disease, but rather a catchall term for many kinds of viruses and bacteria that come from contaminated or undercooked food. Salmonella, E. Coli and Listeria are but a few of these agents that can bring about food poisoning, and while they all cause similar symptoms (vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, fever and chills, weakness etc.) some are more extreme than others. Salmonella, for example, generally requires a fairly large population of bacteria in order to harm you while Listeria can become much more potent even with small numbers infecting you.

In the modern world, you generally contract it by contamination from a factory or large farm that produces the food product or at home when you don’t fully cook eggs, meat, vegetables, or other products. In a survival situation you tend to see contamination from unwashed hands (fecal matter contamination, raw meat/blood, infections already present in the host spreading to others), risky food (expired, already opened and partially rotting) or improper cooking over low-heat campfires. In many ways, it is one of the most common ailments of a disaster particularly for people unused to cooking and eating properly without a bunch of modern conveniences.

How To Avoid Food Poisoning?

Two key terms here: Cooking and Cleanliness. Food needs to be cooked at the proper temperatures and must not be contaminated by the people doing the cooking or the surrounding environment. Cleanliness is simpler, but it involves honesty on the part of your cooks as anyone who comes down with any illness needs to step aside and let someone else take over. Beyond that, washing with hot water and soap will take care of most common diseases you’re likely to transmit.

It is essential that you kill all the bacteria by cooking meat to the proper temperature.

Cooking is another matter. You must cook foods to the proper temperature in order to kill harmful bacteria, and each kind of food, particularly meat, has a different temperature. Here’s an easy chart for reference:

  • Fresh beef or lamb: 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Fresh Pork: 145 degrees
  • Fresh Chicken: 165 degrees
  • Eggs: 160 degrees, or until yolk and white are firm

Vegetables and fruits need to be washed prior to cutting or preparation to remove dirt, insects/eggs and the bacteria that cling to them. Most other prepared foods (such as bread) mainly need to be watched for signs of contamination or decay, such as mold.

How To Treat Someone Suffering From Food Poisoning?

Some people will rush in with every anti-diuretic and fever breaking pill on the shelf to help the poor suffering patient, but in reality the best solution is to let nature take its course unless symptoms become life threateningly severe. The best thing you can do is to help the person keep a little water down, or if the puking and diarrhea lasts for more than a day some homemade electrolyte solution. Very tiny sips of water every 5 minutes or so once the initial “puking up every bit of food I’ve eaten for the past few days” stage passes will help keep the patient hydrated without triggering another vomiting episode. Try to hold off on eating much of anything for at least a day if possible, but if they really are hungry a few crackers shouldn’t upset their stomach much. Always keep an eye on their fever if they have one: only break it if it peaks over 101 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent excessive water loss due to heat.

For the safety of the caregivers, you need to be particularly careful when handling the person’s waste and any left over food. Bacteria that lead to food poisoning are often transmitted by fecal matter or mouth contact. Beyond that, just wear gloves and a mask to avoid infecting the patient with anything else while they are weakened and try to keep them well hydrated. Only administer anti-diuretics if the situation becomes more severe, such as a fever spiking or if the person becomes severely dehydrated even with constant help.

Food poisoning can be deadly, and even in our modern society it kills some 10,000 people each year. Be sure you know how to treat it so that you won’t suffer the same fate.

Treating Starvation

Food is one of the major supplies most preppers focus on owing to its immense importance. In a world where Wal-Mart or Kroger no longer have shelves and shelves full of food and fresh trucks bringing in daily deliveries, the average person will have maybe 2 weeks worth of food in their pantry before they begin to starve. Once the malnutrition and general destruction of lack of food starts to set in, people will wander around desperately searching for anything to fill their stomachs. You may have the opportunity to save a life if you should happen across one of these starving refugees, so be sure you have the skills needed to properly care for them.

Understanding What Starvation Does To The Body

In order to properly treat the victim, you need to know what you’re trying to fix. You see, when the body goes on for an extended period of time without food the body actually makes substantial physiological changes in order to compensate. The body actually transitions into a sort of “hibernation mode”, where it attempts to minimize energy usage by making the person extremely lethargic. This state also prepares the body to begin using alternative energy sources within the body, including muscle tissues. Furthermore, insulin production is brought as low as possible, which is of particular importance when trying to feed a starving person.

As the body begins eating through any tissues and energy sources that aren’t strictly required for survival, the victim will become unable to stand as muscle mass decreases. Since a starving patient will be too weak to quench thirst, the skin will become cracked and dry as a result of dehydration. The immune system will begin to fail, allowing many diseases to run rampant in the weakened person’s body. In many cases fungi will also gain a foothold, and if they reach the throat the sheer pain of swallowing could make the chances of survival extremely slim.

Although emaciation (that horrifying state in which the fat and muscle is so diminished that the person is reduced to a sack of loose skin draped over bones) is quite common in starvation, in some cases fluid will collect in the gut and give the appearance of an overly large stomach. This is particularly common in children who are suffering from lack of food. Once emaciation has begin to set in, the person will become mentally weak and vulnerable as well, and so they tend to lack independent thought and will obediently follow most orders given to them. This is part of the reason warlords and tyrants have kept slaves in a state of near starvation, since it made them less prone to rebellion.

Emotionally, hunger creates a universal sense of despair, hopelessness, and sadness. Part of this is because the body wants the person to just sit down and rest, conserving energy and so it actively suppresses proactive thought. The other part is usually related to the victim’s powerlessness as they slowly wither away and die. This can result in a mental state in which a person will just give up, refusing treatment or aid even when it is offered. Short of a means to force nutrients into their body (usually through tube feeding or some other similar method), it can be nearly impossible to save someone in this state.

Isn’t Treating Starvation Simple if You Have Food to Give Them?

Unfortunately, no it is not. You see, the body is an immensely complex system that experiences a great deal of damage when the nutrients, calories and other fuel it depends on are cut off. Imagine running a car without oil in it for a long trip: just adding some oil isn’t going to fix all the damage!

Further complicating matters is the “hibernation state” that the body regresses into when it is starved. Since the body has switched gears over to consuming every speck of useful nutrients from its own tissues, it isn’t really setup to handle a fresh hamburger or even a big meal of rice and beans all of a sudden.

In particular the body experiences a sudden shock to the insulin production system as soon as it detects food entering the body, firing it back up to normal production levels. Unfortunately, although the new insulin does its part of the digestion job just fine, all of the other trace vitamins and minerals that are needed to complete the job are usually consumed when the body is in hibernation. Thus, when the body starts pumping in the insulin it starts scraping the reserve levels of minerals rapidly, leaving the body without magnesium, potassium, or phosphates. This results in an imbalance which will eventually damage the body’s ability to transport oxygen to vital organs, and can result in a coma, heart arrhythmia, and even heart failure. This chain reaction resulting from too much “normal” food at once is commonly called Refeeding syndrome.

How To Properly Feed A Patient And Avoid Refeeding Syndrome?

Milk is the perfect nutrient-rich food for a starvation victim.

Nevertheless, the victim still needs food! The key is in providing easy to digest sources in small amounts, restoring normal levels of minerals and vitamins without suddenly forcing the body to resume normal insulin production. Milk is one of the best foods for a starving person, since it is designed to be easily consumed by a delicate infant animal and is full of vitamins, minerals, and other needed nutrients.

If the person is dehydrated as well, an electrolyte solution will be vital to ensure proper nutritional balance during this time. A good rule of thumb is to keep the person at about 40%-75% of their usual healthy calorie needs for the first week, to give the body time to adjust and awaken from hibernation properly. Keep meals very simple, with minimal sauces or flavorings for at least a few weeks afterward to avoid upsetting the stomach.

Other Care And Treatment

The key to helping a recovering starvation victim is to minimize the work the body needs to do. Much like when someone has been ill, a starving patient is lacking the usual reserves of energy needed to move or heat themselves, since the body is focusing all of its limited resources on fixing the inner workings. Keep them wrapped in blankets but minimize sweating if possible since that burns away vital minerals. Keep the person comfortable in a bed, and do your best to keep them from so much as moving their arm to point or their mouth to speak for at least the first week. For this reason, it is usually best to work out a rotation of several people to help them get up to use the restroom, change clothing/bedding, and generally keep an eye on the patient 24/7.

Care should be taken to prevent any infections or sicknesses from taking hold during recovery since the immune system will still be very weak for some time. Wear masks and wash hands when close to the person, and be sure that everyone washes their hands before preparing the patient’s food. Antibiotics and anti-fungal agents may be needed, particularly if the throat or other vital area is strongly infected and preventing food ingestion. Although fevers are healthy to some degree, be aware that owing to their weakened state you may need to use medicines to break it sooner than you would for a normal illness.

One key point on the mental and emotional front is friendliness and assurance of both food and safety. The person will awaken from their hibernating state much more aware of the pain and trauma of their ordeal and it will probably cause deep emotional scars. A need for counselling is very common for starvation victims, and so the caregivers should make a point of taking the time to speak to the victim when they are still weak, and then later to carry on a conversation when they’re somewhat stronger.

Full recovery could take months, and should not be rushed. The person should minimize doing any physical activity for at least a month, and then take things very slowly in order to rebuild lost muscle mass. If they become impatient, it may be helpful to explain to them that they are literally rebuilding most of their body. Giving them mental puzzles and books to pass the time will be very helpful, since their mind will likely recover faster than their body.

Starvation can often cause despair as the body starts shutting down active mental functions. This can lead to suicidal thoughts, and even cause a victim to refuse help.

If the person refuses to eat, there really is very little that you can do to help them. Even if you could feed them via a tube shoved down their throat, without the will to live you may not have the resources needed to force them to stay alive long enough for their mental health to recover. Give them what encouragement you can, but if they are truly obstinate you may be better off trying to spend resources to help someone else.

Starvation will be a constant specter hanging over your head during a disaster, but with the proper supplies and techniques you can be ready to save people who are suffering

How To Know If Hunted Meat Is Safe To Eat?

Even if you have stored food available, you might be planning on keeping an eye out for some wild meat to add to your table during an emergency. However, just because the meat is wild doesn’t mean that it’s healthy to eat and in a world without hospital access diseases in your meat could prove deadly. Thankfully there are some helpful signs that can indicate whether or not your freshly-killed meat is safe to eat so let’s take a look.

Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist, doctor, or hunting expert. This advice is not intended to be a complete or comprehensive guide, and is merely my opinion. This advice is only to be used after a disaster, and you should consult a proper expert for any questions you may have.

How is Meat Dangerous?

You probably understand that hunted meat can rot or be contaminated after you’ve killed it, but what makes meat dangerous even before your bullet or arrow strikes the target? Unfortunately, there are several ways that your soon-to-be dinner could kill you:

  • Disease. Tuberculosis, Trichinellosis, and plain ole’ food poisoning can all be acquired from the host animal when you touch or eat their meat. There are also additional bacterial infections that can arise from consuming scavengers such as raccoons or opossum that have eaten other corpses or rotted garbage.
  • Parasites and worms. Much like farm animals, wild game can also acquire worms and other parasites that could be passed on to you. Even fish can pass on tapeworms that drain nutrients from your body! Sometimes evidence of infestation is obvious (tapeworms evacuating a dead host) but others may not be so easy to see.
  • Wounds and infections. Toxins that penetrate the body via an open wound can ruin much of the meat in the animal, to say nothing of the pus and other nasties that can form on severe gashes. These ruin an entire animal even if the rest of it seems alright.
  • Fungi and outer parasites. Fungal infestations in an animal’s hide, in a wound, or around certain areas like the eyes, feet or groin can indicate other problems in the body. Parasites like ticks aren’t likely to latch onto you once their host is dead, but their blood diseases such as Lyme disease can be passed from them to you through the meat they infest.

How To Determine If The Meat Is Edible At All?

There are two ways to look at hunted meat, either it is edible with proper thorough cooking to eliminate bacteria, parasites etc or it is too infested and must be disposed of regardless. Generally speaking almost all meat is going to have something wrong with it, so the presence of a few minor problems isn’t a definite sign to bury the corpse.

During a disaster, unless you are literally going to starve without it you want to be overly picky about your meat. If you get a roundworm infestation or go through a bout of Tuberculosis when hospitals, dewormers, and antibiotics are unavailable you may well die or become severely crippled. So long as there is food that is known to be clean available, treat meat like a helpful, nutritious option rather than a necessity.

That said, there are a few criteria that makes meat definitely unusable:

  • Obvious signs of illness. These can be hard to see from a distance sometimes, but before you shoot you can listen for labored breathing or wheezing, check the animal’s stool for signs of distress, blood, or worms, and observe how it moves and walks. Once you’ve brought it down you can look closely for signs of weakness like sunken eyes, weak or ruined limbs, or major outer infestations of fungi. A sick animal is useless to you, and it should either be left alone (if noticed from afar) or buried carefully (if killed before you see any signs).
  • Major wounds or infections. Even a fresh wound (aside from the ones you caused of course!) leave the body open to infections you may not be able to see. On the other hand, smaller wounds might well have become infected and should show signs of puss or off-colored liquid oozing out. Any wound that smells strongly of decay, rot, or anything else that isn’t just animal scent should cause you to reject the animal immediately.
  • Problems on the inside. When you gut and clean the animal, check to ensure that there are no abnormal growths, spots of dark blood, or worms wriggling around. Muscles should be strong without discoloration or obvious signs of weakness. Check organs for signs of failure, weakness, or worm infestation as well. In particular, blood-related organs like kidneys, the heart, and the liver are good indicators of overall health.

Assuming that nothing seems out of the ordinary, the meat should be good to be cooked and eaten. I would recommend that the meat be even more thoroughly cooked than it would have been during normal times in order to compensate for the lack of control over cooking fire temperatures.

Anyone who is particularly weak or susceptible such as the very young, the old, and nursing or pregnant mothers should only eat of meat from a new kill once everyone else has eaten of it for a few days if possible. This will keep the odds of someone dying from an infection lower, since a strong and healthy person can usually tough it out through some of these illnesses. You could also reserve someone to be a food taster who tests new kills for infection by getting the first cuts of meat for a few days beforehand. It’s hardly a scientific method, but it is one more barrier to keeping disease at a minimum in your camp or retreat.

The Number One Rule

Above all, any meat that makes you uncomfortable or seems “off” should be discarded unless starvation will result. You’ll get better “gut feelings” from someone who has cleaned game animals before and knows the difference between a healthy one and a sick one, but regardless never eat of meat that you’re not willing to bet your life on. Follow this rule, and you should be able to enjoy the delights of wild meat at your post-disaster table without losing half the group to worms or tuberculosis.

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