A Primer on Radiation Sickness

Editor’s Note: As much as we dread and fear nuclear war, we can’t ignore the possibility and consequences of it.

Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones, gives us a primer on radiation sickness in the following article. It originally appeared at and is reproduced here with permission. – John


Radiation Sickness


Many consider a nuclear attack an outlandish scenario to which only conspiracy theorists subscribe. Unfortunately, the threat of a nuclear incident, accidental or purposeful, exists, perhaps more than in recent years, due to recent developments in the Korean peninsula.

Atomic weapons can decimate a population from thermal blasts, but it also causes illness and death due to exposure from radiation. Although populated areas have experienced detonations only twice, (Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945), nuclear reactor meltdowns and other events have occurred from time to time since then, such as in Fukushima in 2011 and Chernobyl in 1986.

In an atomic explosion, radiation is just one of the possible causes of casualties; heat effects and kinetic energy damage near the blast will cause many deaths and injuries. Radiation released into the atmosphere, however, can have devastating effects far from “ground zero”.

A nuclear event produces “fallout”.  Fallout is the particulate matter that is thrown into the air by the explosion. It can travel hundreds (if not thousands) of miles on the prevailing winds, coating fields, livestock, and people with radioactive material.

The higher the fallout goes into the atmosphere, the farther it will travel downwind.  This material contains elements that are hazardous if inhaled or ingested, like Radioiodine, Cesium, and Strontium. Even worse, fallout is absorbed by the animals and plants that make up our food supply. In large enough amounts, it can rapidly become life-threatening. Even in small amounts, it is hazardous to your long-term health.

A nuclear power plant meltdown is usually less damaging than a nuclear blast, as the radioactive material doesn’t make it as high up in the sky as the mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb. The worst effects will be felt by those near the reactors. Lighter particles, like radioactive iodine, will travel the farthest, and are the main concern for those far from the actual explosion or meltdown. The level of exposure will depend on the distance the radioactive particles travel from the meltdown and how long it took to arrive.


The medical effects of exposure are collectively known as “radiation sickness” or “Acute Radiation Syndrome”. A certain amount of radiation exposure is tolerable over time, but your goal should be to shelter your group as much as possible.

To accomplish this goal, we should first clarify what the different terms for measuring the quantities of radiation mean.  Scientists use terms such as RADS, REMS, SIEVERTS, BECQUERELS or CURIES to describe radiation amounts. Different terms are used when describing the amount of radiation being given off by a source, the total amount of radiation that is actually absorbed by a human or animal, or the chance that a living thing will suffer health damage from exposure:

Marie and Pierre Curie

BECQUERELS/CURIES – these terms describe the amount of radiation that, say, a hunk of uranium gives off into the environment. Named after scientists who were the first to work with (and die from) radioactivity.

RADS – the amount of the radiation in the environment that is actually absorbed by a living thing.

REMS/SIEVERTS – the measurement of the risks of health damage from the radiation absorbed.

This is somewhat confusing, so, for our purposes, let’s use RADS.  A RAD (Radiation Absorbed Dose) measures the amount of radiation energy transferred to some mass of material, typically humans.

Some effects of radiation exposure (wiki commons)

An acute radiation dose (one received over a short period of time) is the most likely to cause damage.  Below is a list of the effects on humans corresponding to the amount of radiation absorbed. For comparison, assume that you absorb about 0.6 RADs per year from natural or household sources.  These are the effects of different degrees of acute radiation exposure on humans:

  • 30-70 RADS: Mild headache or nausea within several hours of exposure.  Full recovery is expected.
  • 70-150 RADS: Mild nausea and vomiting in a third of patients.  Decreased wound healing and increased susceptibility to infection. Full recovery is expected.
  • 150-300 RADS: Moderate nausea and vomiting in a majority of patients.  Fatigue and weakness in half of victims.  Infection and/or spontaneous bleeding may occur due to a weakened immune system. Medical care will be required for many, especially those with burns or wounds.  Occasional deaths at 300 RADS exposure may occur.
  • 300-500 RADS: Moderate nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and weakness in most patients.  Diarrheal stools, dehydration, loss of appetite, skin breakdown, and infection will be common.  Hair loss is visible in most over time.  At the high end of exposure, expect a 50% death rate.
  • Over 500 RADS: Spontaneous bleeding, fever, stomach and intestinal ulcers, bloody diarrhea, dehydration, low blood pressure, infections, and hair loss is anticipated  in almost all patients.  Death rates approach 100%.

The effects related to exposure may occur over time, and symptoms are often not immediate. Hair loss, for example, will become apparent at 10-14 days.  Deaths may occur weeks after the exposure.


Radiation Dosimeter

In the early going, your goal is to prevent exposures of over 100 RADS. A radiation dosimeter will be useful to gauge radiation levels and is widely available for purchase.  This item will give you an idea of your likelihood of developing radiation sickness.

There are three basic ways of decreasing the total dose of radiation:

1) Limit the time unprotected. Radiation absorbed is dependent on the length of exposure. Leave areas where high levels are detected and you are without adequate shelter.  The activity of radioactive particles decreases over time.  After 24 hours, levels usually drop to 1/10 of their previous value or less.

2) Increase the distance from the radiation. Radiation disperses over distance and effects decrease the farther away you are.

3) Provide a barrier. A shelter will decrease the level of exposure, so it is important to know how to construct one that will serve as a shield between your people and the radiation source. A dense material will give better protection that a light material.


Radiation burns post-Hiroshima bombing

The more material that you can use to separate yourself from fallout, the more likely you won’t suffer ill effects. Barrier effectiveness is measured as “halving thickness”. This is the thickness of a particular shield material that will reduce gamma radiation (the most dangerous kind) by one half.  When you multiply the halving thickness, you multiply your protection.

For example, the halving thickness of concrete is 2.4 inches or 6 centimeters.  A barrier of 2.4 inches of concrete will drop radiation exposure by one half.  Doubling the thickness of the barrier again (4.8 inches of concrete) drops it to one fourth (1/2 x 1/2) and tripling it (7.2 inches) will drop it to one eighth (1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2), etc.  Ten halving thicknesses (24 inches of concrete) will drop the total radiation exposure to 1/1024th that of being out in the open.

Here are the halving thicknesses of some common materials:

  • Lead:   4 inches or 1 centimeter
  • Steel: 1 inch or 2.5 centimeters
  • Concrete: 4 inches or 6 centimeters
  • Soil (packed): 6 inches or 9 centimeters
  • Water:  2 inches or 18 centimeters
  • Wood:  11 inches or 30 centimeters

By looking at the list above, you can see that the same protection is given with 1/6 the thickness of lead plating as that of concrete.


Eliminating external contamination with fallout “dust” is important before absorption occurs. This can be accomplished d with simple soap and water. Scrub the area gently with a clean wet sponge. Safely dispose of the sponge and dry the area thoroughly.

Internal contamination is a more difficult issue. Emergency treatment involves dealing with the symptoms.  Once the diagnosis is made, methods that may help include antibiotics to treat infections, fluids for dehydration, diuretics to flush out contaminants, and drugs to treat nausea.  In severely ill patients, stem cell transplants and multiple transfusions are indicated but will not be options in an austere setting.  This hard reality underscores the importance of having an adequate shelter to prevent excessive exposure.

Protection is available against some of the long term effects of radiation. Potassium Iodide (known by the chemical symbol KI), taken orally, can prevent radioactive Iodine from damaging the specific organ that it targets, the thyroid gland. The usual adult dose is 130 mg daily for 7-10 days or for as long as exposure is significant. For children, the dosage is 65 mg daily. KI is available in a FDA-approved commercial product called Thyrosafe.

Thyrosafe (Potassium Iodide)

Taking KI 30 minutes to 24 hours prior to a radiation exposure will prevent the eventual epidemic of thyroid cancer that will result if no treatment is given. Radiation from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster has accounted for more than 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer so far, mostly in children and adolescents. Therefore, if you only have a limited quantity of KI, treat the youngsters first.

Although there is a small amount of KI in ordinary iodized salt, not enough is present to confer any protection by ingesting it.  It would take 250 teaspoons of household iodized salt to equal one Potassium Iodide tablet.

Pets may also be at risk for long-term effects from radioactive iodine. It is recommended to consider 1/2 tablet daily for large dogs, and 1/4 tablet for small dogs and cats.


Don’t depend on supplies of the drug to be available after a nuclear event. Even the federal government will have little KI in reserve to give to the general population. In recent power plant meltdowns, there was little or no Potassium Iodide to be found anywhere for purchase

Betadine Solution

If you find yourself without any KI, consider this alternative:  Povidone-Iodine solution (brand name Betadine). “Paint” 8 ml of Betadine on the abdomen or forearm 2-12 hours prior to exposure and re-apply daily. Enough should be absorbed through the skin to give protection against radioactive Iodine in fallout.

Betadine as an alternative for KI

For children 3 years old or older (but under 150 lbs or 70 kg), apply 4 ml. Use 2 ml for toddlers and 1 ml for infants. This strategy should also work on animals. If you don’t have a way to measure, remember that a standard teaspoon is about 5 milliliters. Discontinue the daily treatment after 3-7 days or when Radioiodine levels have fallen to safer levels.

Be aware that those who are allergic to seafood will probably be allergic to anything containing iodine. Adverse reactions may also occur if you take medications such as diuretics and Lithium. It is also important to note that you cannot drink tincture of iodine or Betadine; it is poisonous if ingested.

Although many don’t view a nuclear event as a likely disaster scenario, it’s important to learn about all the possible issues that may impact your family in uncertain times.

Joe Alton MD

Dr. Alton

Find out more about survival medicine with the 700 page Third Edition of the Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Medical Help is Not on the Way. And don’t forget to fill those holes in your medical supplies by checking out Nurse Amy’s entire line of kits and supplies at

Medical Kits by Doom and Bloom

See Dr. Alton’s follow up article, What is Radiation from a Nuclear Blast?

Go deeper into this and other topics related to protecting your family during nuclear war with Nuclear War Survival Skills.

Once Upon an Apocalypse – More Ponderings on the Aftermath of an EMP Attack

Everybody likes a good story because stories entertain and enlighten us. Sometimes they’re the only way to express significant ideas people will pay attention to.

And that’s what Jeff Motes had in mind when he began writing is Once Upon an Apocalypse novels. He wanted to tell the kind of story that would get people thinking about what they would do if we were hit with a widespread disaster, such as an EMP attack. The aim is for us to put ourselves in the shoes of the characters and consider the possibilities.

Apparently it’s working because reader response has been much better than Jeff expected. He’s making inroads with people who haven’t given much thought to being prepared for trouble.

As of this writing, there are two novels in the Once Upon an Apocalypse series. The first is Once Upon an Apocalypse: Book 1 – The Journey Home – Revised Version, and the second is Once Upon an Apocalypse: Book 2 – The Search. A third novel will be released shortly.

In April of 2016 Jeff and I visited on DestinySurvival Radio about his first book. He came back to talk about the second book and give a glimpse of what’s in the rest of the series. Below I’ll share a mix of highlights from our conversation and my thoughts on why you’ll want to read his novels.

See my thoughts on our first visit here.

Meeting the Story Teller

Like many authors, Jeff fits his writing around his day job. Here’s info about his background.

Jeff received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering in 1984 and a Master’s in Business Administration Degree in 1994. He is a licensed Master Electrician and a licensed Professional Engineer.

He owns and operates an electrical contracting business and has provided electrical services to many of the industrial plants and water systems in Southwest Alabama. Prior to entering into business with his father, Jeff work for 10 years as the System Engineer for the local electric cooperative.

Jeff is a strong believer in “life-long” learning and holds to the idea we should do “the best we can with the best we have to live, and help those around us live.”

Jeff lives in the Salitpa community, near Jackson, Alabama, with his wife, Donna and youngest son. His two other sons are married and living with their families elsewhere in Alabama.

You’ll enjoy my chat with Jeff because he’s a soft spoken, modest, Southern gentleman.


Once Upon an Apocalypse--Book 1--The Journey Home--Revised Version


Getting Acquainted with the Series

The Journey Home has been rewritten in the first person point of view of each character. Jeff went to considerable trouble (and expense) to make sure it flows better and is easier to follow.

Chapters in both books are short, making for quick and easy reading.

Incidentally, the voice actors who read the audio version of The Search are the same pair who read the first edition of The Journey Home, and they do an excellent job.

Book 1 gives the account of John and Jill from Alabama who meet up in the wake of an EMP attack and struggle to get home. How they developed a love for one another unfolds as the story progresses. Book 2 tells us about their teenage children, Will and Lizzy, and how they fared in their community after what people call the day.

Though these stories aren’t meant to be “how-to” books, plenty of instructional information is woven into events. For example, two chapters in the first book describe the packs John and Jill carried. Near the beginning of the second book we see how John, his father and several neighbors put a preparedness plan into action and formed the Repose Alliance Group.

A few books on preparedness mindset and self defense receive several mentions in Book 2, including one by the late Col. Jeff Cooper.

Both novels are openly pro-gun. We meet women and girls who aren’t afraid to use firearms.

In contrast, we’re introduced to Jimmy, the father of Lizzy’s friend Amy. He and his family typify those who aren’t well prepared. You and I don’t want to be like him. He’s an example of what desperate people will do when things get desperate.

As I said in my earlier post about Jeff’s first book, these novels defy genre labeling. They’re prepper adventures, but they’re more than that.

Most of the main characters are Christians. Yet, because some profanity and violence are scattered throughout these stories, they wouldn’t likely qualify as strictly Christian fiction.

There’s enough romance to keep the interest of romance fans, but the books aren’t strictly romances either.

I’ll be honest. Romances and Christian fiction aren’t my cup of tea. And, believe it or not, I don’t read much so-called prepper fiction either. Nonetheless, as I read Jeff’s novels, I couldn’t help but be drawn in.

Regardless of what niche this series might fit into, I invite you to give the stories a chance, and you’ll be drawn in as I was.


Once Upon an Apocalypse--Book 2--The Search


Exploring The Search

The Search picks up right at the cliff hanger Book 1 has left us with. The first two chapters continue the narrative of John and Jill before giving way to a flashback in chapter 3. We’re taken back to “The Day” of the EMP to see how the area copes where John and Jill came from.

While Book 1 takes us to 13 days after the EMP event, the second only takes us through day six. We know there has to be more to come in a third book which will bring us through day 13. Jeff said Book 3 will tie up several loose ends.

We meet John’s son Will for the first time in chapter 3 of Book 2. We meet Jill’s daughter Lizzy in chapter 5. Several chapters throughout the book feature Jimmy, the father of Lizzy’s friend Amy.

At first people sought to figure out what happened. Endeavoring to maintain the sense of a normal life, Jimmy went to the mill where he worked and got stuck there.

He made it home, but it wasn’t easy. To make things worse, he received an injurious welcome, thanks to his wife’s incompetence with firearms. You’ll have to read the book for details of how that plays out.

Will was fortunate to have support from his grandpa and several other men in the community who pulled together a group for survival in the event of the kind of situation they were experiencing.

While Will searched for Lizzy, he and his friends encountered a number of challenges, such as vandalism, looting, and dangerous bullies. Just when it seemed like things were going reasonably well, bad guys popped up from nowhere.

Jammer, one of Will’s good friends, is black. They got along famously and didn’t experience racial tension until they found themselves in a crime and drug infested area by mistake.

Will discovered more than once how costly seemingly little mistakes can be.

The Search contains plenty of suspense. It’s amazing how the characters manage to make it through each situation as well as they do.

Of course, this is fiction. But we should all be so fortunate in the real world.

Pondering Issues Beyond the Story

We must be extra alert. We never know just what might happen in the aftermath of a long term disaster.

The mistakes Will made should serve as reminders to us. How important is it to follow protocols set up by family or the community group? Who can be trusted and when?

Will there be bad guys around every corner? If we must be on guard all the time, and we have to forget about trusting others, how can we maintain such a tense demeanor?

After an event like an EMP, how many towns and cities will roll up the sidewalks, so to speak, and not readily let people in or out. How will we cope with road blocks and checkpoints as the new norm?

How might we become part of a well prepared community like the Repose Alliance Group?

What does it take to start such a community?

In my chat with Jeff, you’ll hear his advice for starting such a community preparedness group.

How prepared do we need to be?

Consider John and Jill in Book 1. Some readers may think it isn’t realistic that John was so well prepared. But Jeff meant to show us the positive possibilities of preparedness.

What could you and I accomplish if we started now to work on getting prepared with those around us? It’s something to think about and act on whenever possible.

As noted above, Jeff’s stories aren’t “how-to” books. But The Search shows us how everyday situations might be handled, such as doing laundry by hand, patching up cuts and scrapes, the need for a dentist, and giving birth to a baby.

Other topics Jeff and I covered include…

  • Aftermath in rural vs. urban areas
  • How people will behave in the short and long term
  • Response of police, military and government authorities
  • The rise of good and bad militia groups
  • Avoiding costly mistakes
  • How and when to trust others

Hearing Our Conversation

Hear my conversation with Jeff Motes by listening to DestinySurvival Radio for August 10, 2017. (Right click to download.)

To get either of Jeff’s books, click on their titles where you see them linked in this post. You’re welcome to connect with Jeff on Facebook.

During our conversation we didn’t give away too many details about the events that take place in these novels. But I hope we wwhetted your appetite to read them and ponder what you would do to survive in the aftermath of widespread disaster.

The Survival Mindset – Mistakes to Avoid

A friend brought to my attention an insightful BBC article entitled What Not to Do in a Disaster. Below I’ll share highlights. Read the full article by clicking on its title.

A quote sums up the main point. “Survival is less about heroic actions than avoiding mindless mistakes.”

Experts note people don’t often make good decisions when under the pressure a disaster brings. Brain fog can hit each of us. Many times survivors make it through a plane crash or earthquake in spite of themselves.

The trick is knowing what not to do when the chips are down.

Here’s what usually happens. Notice how closely related these points are.

  1. Freezing, or doing nothing. It’s a surprisingly natural response.
  2. Inability to think. We may not be able to think through or remember our options fast enough to take action.
  3. Tunnel vision. We become locked into thinking a certain way. Our focus is too narrow.
  4. Staying stuck in routine. We want to do the things we’re used to. An example would be grabbing for our wallet even when leving our burning house. New situations are taxing, and doing the routine seems to free up mental space for dealing with the new situation.
  5. Denial. We want to ignore the danger or we can’t believe it’s happening. We’re not able to accurately assess the risk.

With these points in mind, what should we do?

  • Have a plan.
  • Practice what you need to do to survive.

The article concludes by noting good luck sometimes enters the picture.

I prefer to think of it as divine providence.

But don’t count on that. Prepare to the best of your ability now, both physically, mentally and spiritually. Hopefully, you can avoid the mistakes most of us are prone to make.

Remember, think survival.

Canning Game Meat

You probably already know you can home can more than vegetables and fruit from your gardenor farmers market. You can also can meat.

In “Backwoods Home Magazine” for July/August, 2017 (Issue #166), Linda Gabris gives us guidance on canning in general with a specific emphasis on canning game meat. You’ll find advice and recipe tips on…

  • Two methods for packing food into jars
  • Headspace
  • Raw-pack canned venison
  • Raw-pack venison stew (with vegetables)
  • Hot-pack ground browned venison
  • Hot-pack canned grouse or rabbit
  • Processing
  • Tips for safe eating

Here’s an article excerpt. Click the link below to view the whole thing.

Happy and safe canning.

Canning game meat

By Linda Gabris

Attempting to can meat (or any other low acid food, for that matter) without the use of a pressure canner is every bit as foolhardy as arming up with the wrong gun for your chosen quarry … sort of like going after grizzly with a .22 rifle!

Most old-timers like my grandma never heard of pressure canners so they used the boiling water bath method to can jars. I’m thankful that we never got sick eating Grandma’s canned goods. The highest temperature a boiling water bath canner can reach is 180° F, which is considered safe for canning high acid foods like fruits, jams, and jellies. For processing low-acid foods, only a pressure canner can reach the internal temperature of at least 240° F, which is required to kill botulinum toxins.

Read the whole article here:

Excerpt used with permission of Backwoods Home Magazine. (541)247-8900.

You might also like…

Survival Defense – What About Your Gun Rights?

It’s no secret that prices and availability of ammunition have fluctuated greatly in the past several years. Politicians frequently threaten to regulate guns more tightly or even ban them altogether.

It doesn’t seem to matter who’s president. And the antigun rhetoric goes on at the federal, state and local levels.

As a public service to my readers, here’s a list of gun rights groups for your consideration or action, as the case may be.

Here’s something to keep in mind. I’ve never heard of muzzle loading firearms being on any proposed gun ban list.

Perhaps you’ve heard it said that if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns. Choose for yourself whether or not one of your options for self defense and survival is to be an outlaw in the eyes of those in power.

Growing Open-Pollinated Tomatoes

Tomatoes may be the most popular garden crop ever. Very likely they’ve found a place in your survival garden.

Jackie Clay-Atkinson has written a mini-primer to help you and me grow open-pollinated and heirloom tomatoes in “Backwoods Home Magazine” for July/August, 2017 (Issue #166). Check out the excerpt below, then go on to read the whole thing at the link for it.

Grow open-pollinated tomatoes

By Jackie Clay-Atkinson

Nearly all of us homesteaders grow tomatoes in our gardens. Tomatoes are hugely valuable as a homestead crop. After all, they give us a wide variety of products.

Many people just run to their local big box store and buy seeds or tomato plants as spring hits full force. But homesteaders are self-reliant; with tomatoes, this means not only starting your own plants to set out in your garden but also planting tomatoes from which you can save your own seeds, bringing things full circle.

Read the whole article here:

Excerpt used with permission of Backwoods Home Magazine. (541)247-8900.

You might also like…

Survival Strategies for Safe Summer Camping

Editor’s Note: Camping is a great way to have fun and practice preparedness at the same time. Plus, it gets the whole family involved.

Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones, gives helpful advice and survival strategies for safe summer camping in the following article. It originally appeared at and is reproduced here with permission. – John



Camping Safety

The kids are out of school, the weather’s great, and families are planning this summer’s camping trip. Camping is a great way to create bonds and memories that will last a lifetime. A poorly planned outdoor vacation, however, becomes memorable in the worst way, especially if someone gets hurt. A little planning will make sure everyone enjoys themselves safely, and some of these plans are similar to survival strategies.



Bad Idea

Not the best choice for a family camping trip

If you’re not a veteran camper, don’t start by attempting to climb Yosemite’s El Capitan. Start by taking day trips to National Parks or a local lake. Maybe you could start using that firestarter tool, setting up your tent, and making a campfire in your backyard to get through the learning curve. See how things work out when you don’t have to stay in the woods overnight. If the result is a big thumbs-up, start planning those overnighters.

Whatever type of camping you do, you should always be aware of the capabilities and general health of the people in your party. Children and elderly family members will determine the limits of your activities. The more ambitious you are, the more your plans may be beyond the physical ability of the less fit members of your family. This leads to injuries as the end result in normal times or in survival scenarios.



An important first step to a safe camping trip is knowledge about the weather and local terrain you’ll encounter. Talk with park rangers, consult guidebooks, and check out online sources. Some specific issues you’ll need to know:

  • Temperature Ranges
  • Rain or Snowfall
  • Location and Status of Nearby Trails and Campsites
  • Plant, Insect, and Animal Issues
  • Availability of Clean Water
  • How to Get Help in an Emergency



Not Dressed for Success

Probably Not Dressed for Success in the Snow

A very common error campers make is not bringing the right clothing and equipment for the weather and terrain. If you haven’t planned for the environment, you have made it your enemy.

Although Spring and Fall have the most uncertainty with regards to temperatures and weather, storms can occur in any season. Conditions in high elevations lead to wind chill factors that could easily cause hypothermia. Here’s the thing with wind chill: If the temperature is 40 degrees, but the wind chill factor is 20 degrees, you lose heat from your body as if the actual temperature were 20 degrees. Be aware that temperatures at night drop precipitously. Even summer rain can lead to a loss in body temperature if you get soaked.

In cold weather, you’ll want the family clothed in layers. Use clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material for protection against the wind. Wool holds body heat better than cotton does. Some synthetic materials work well, also, such as Gore-Tex.

That’s all well and good in cool temperatures, but if you’re at the seashore or lakefront in the summer, your main problem will be heat exhaustion and burns. Have your family members wear sunscreen, as well as hats and light cotton fabrics. Sunscreen should be placed 15 minutes before entering a sunny area and re-applied to skin that gets wet or after, say, a couple of hours.



If you don’t take the environment into account, you have made it your enemy

In hot weather, plan your strenuous activities for mornings, when it’s cooler. In any type of weather, keep everyone well-hydrated; dehydration will cause more rapid deterioration in physical condition in any climate.

The most important item of clothing is, perhaps, your shoes. If you’ve got the wrong shoes for the activity, you will most likely regret it. If you’re in the woods, high tops that you can fit into your pant legs will provide protection against snakebite and tick bites. Tick populations are on the rise in the Northeast and Midwest, so beware of signs and symptoms of Lyme Disease. If you choose to go with a lighter shoe in hot weather, Vibram soles are your best bet.

Special Tips: Choosing the right clothing isn’t just for weather protection. If you have the kids wear bright colors, you’ll have an easier time keeping track of their whereabouts. Long sleeves and pants offer added protection against insect bites and poison ivy.



Real estate agents’ motto is location, location, location and it’s true for survival retreats and camping safety too. Scout prospective campsites by looking for broken glass and other garbage that can pose a hazard.

Look for evidence of animals/insects nearby, such as large droppings or wasp nests/bee hives. If there are berry bushes nearby, you can bet it’s on the menu for bears. Berries that birds and animals can eat are often unsafe for humans to eat. Advise the children to stay away from any animals, even the cute little fuzzy ones. Even some caterpillars are poisonous.



Bear Droppings! Camp somewhere else!

Learn to recognize poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Show your kid pictures of the plants so that they can look out for and avoid them. The old adage is ‘leaves of three, let it be’. Fels-Naptha soap is especially effective in removing toxic resin if you suspect exposure. The resin can stick to clothes, so cur chips off and use for laundering.

Build your fire in established fire pits and away from dry brush. In drought conditions, consider using a portable stove instead, like the EcoZoom. In sunny open areas, the Sun Oven will give you a non-fire alternative for cooking. About fires: Children are fascinated by them, so watch them closely or you’ll be dealing with burn injuries. Food (especially cooked food) should be hung in trees in such a way that animals can’t access it. Animals are drawn to food odors, so use re-sealable plastic containers.

If you camp near a water source, realize that even the clearest mountain stream may harbor Giardia, a parasite that causes diarrheal disease and dehydration. Water purification is basic to any outdoor outing. There are iodine tablets that serve this purpose, and portable filters like the Lifestraw and the Mini-Sawyer which are light and effective. Boiling the water first is a good policy in any situation, although time-consuming. Remember to add one minute of boiling for each 1000 feet of elevation above sea level. Water boils at lower temperatures at higher altitudes, and takes longer to kill microbes.



Preppers Survival Navigation

Glen Martin’s Book on Navigation

Few people can look back to their childhood and not remember a time when they lost their bearings. Your kids should always be aware of landmarks near the camp or on trails. A great skill to teach the youngsters is how to use a compass, a skill you can find in Glen Martin’s new book “Prepper’s Survival Navigation“. Besides a compass, make sure children have a loud whistle that they can blow if you get separated. Three consecutive blasts is the universal distress signal. If lost, kids should stay put in a secure spot instead of roaming about. Of course, if you have cell phone service…


Even if you’ve clothed the kids in protective clothing, they can still wind up with insect bites. Carry a supply of antihistamines, sting relief pads, and calamine lotion to deal with allergic reactions. Asking your doctor for a prescription “EpiPen” is a good idea if anyone has ever had a severe reaction to toxins from insect bites or poison ivy. They’re easy to use and effective, and few doctors would refuse to write a script for it.

Citronella-based products are helpful to repel insects; put it on clothing instead of skin (absorbs too easily) whenever possible. Repellents containing DEET also can be used, but not on children less than 2 years old. Don’t forget to inspect daily for ticks or the bulls-eye pattern rash they often cause. If you remove the tick in the first 24 hours, you will rarely contract Lyme disease.



Amys Survival First Aid Supplies

Get a Medical Kit!

Besides appropriate clothes, insect repellants, and a way to sterilize water, you will want to carry a medical kit to deal with common problems. This should contain:

  • Antiseptics to clean wounds (iodine pads are good)
  • Bandages of different types and sizes: butterfly, roller, pads, moleskin, elastic (Ace wraps)
  • Cold packs to reduce swelling
  • Splints (splints and larger conforming ones)
  • Burn gel and non-stick dressings like Telfa pad
  • Nitrile gloves (some people are allergic to latex)
  • Bandannas or triangular bandages with safety pins to serve as slings
  • A bandage scissors
  • tweezers (to remove splinters and ticks)
  • topical antibiotic cream
  • Medications:

Oral antihistamines (such as Bendadryl)

Pain meds (Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, also good for fever)

1% hydrocortisone cream to decrease inflammation

BZK (Benzalkonium Chloride) wipes for animal bites

Your personal kit may require some additional items to handle special problems with members of the family that have chronic medical issues. Take the above-listed items and add more to customize the kit for your specific needs. Maybe adding a tourniquet, hemostatic gauze, and an Israeli dressing for more significant injuries? Perhaps some antibiotics for longer backcountry outings? The more you add, the more it approximates a survival medical kit.


Trauma Kit

Grab and Go Deluxe Trauma Kit, made by Doom and Bloom Medical with quality first aid supplies

One suggestion for a quality, custom designed kit is our Grab and Go Deluxe Trauma Kit, which weighs less than 3 lbs. and is stocked with first aid and trauma supplies. Another smaller kit that weighs less than 1 lb, is our Ultimate Compact First Aid Trauma Kit, newly redesigned and perfect for short trips outdoors.

In an emergency, the most important thing to do is to simply stay calm. If you have the above supplies, you can handle a lot of medical issues in the wilderness. Gain some knowledge to go along with those supplies, and you’ll have the best chance to have a safe and fun outing with your family.

Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones

Author Joe

Joe Alton MD


Are you ready to deal with medical issues when the you-know-what hits the fan? You will be, if you get a copy of Joe and Amy Alton’s #1 Amazon Bestseller The Survival Medicine Handbook.

Survival Medicine Handbook, Third Edition

Survival Medicine Handbook, Third Edition