The Importance of Personal Hygiene during a Crisis
Personal hygiene is as critical if not more so during a crisis as it is at anytime. Keeping your hands and body clean is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the spread of diseases and bacteria. Just because the electricity is off and you have to boil or otherwise disinfect your water is no excuse for forgoing good sanitation practices particularly when it comes to human waste.
During the 16th century in Europe, so-called medical experts thought that bathing was dangerous because according to them water, warm water especially, opened the pores on the skin and allowed diseases to enter the body. Up until this proclamation, bathing was typically discouraged anyways, but not actually banned, because it led to immoral thoughts and removing the clothes to bathe was not recommended and in some cases not allowed.
Disease was rampant and yet people did not bathe and wore their clothes until they rotted off in tatters. Brushing up against someone could transmit any number of diseases and handshakes were literally a death grip because toilet paper was unheard of, the hands worked just fine, and remember washing up was frowned upon.
Public restrooms were the nearest gutter and heavy rains washed the waste to the river where the citizens drew their drinking water. The upper class not having to follow the rules decided that bathing twice a year was acceptable. They pranced around with perfume-laden handkerchiefs held to their noses, frowning at the other unwashed masses, until bath time rolled around every six months.
They obviously, ignored the warnings about washing their faces because according to the experts at the time, it could cause blindness. Experts may have been right however because the bacteria laden water they washed in contained all manner of parasites that could enter the nose, mouth and eyes.
Many accounts show that many people of that era bathed once they were born, and possibly once before marriage and that was the extent of their association with bathing.
What Happens If You Do Not Have Toilet Paper Available
Toilet paper is used to clean (wipe) with after using the toilet but it is also protection for the hand to prevent contamination during the cleaning process. It is absorbent, flushable and soft to the touch. In certain situations, being flushable is not a requirement. Knowing what toilet paper is means, you can find a substitute.
If you find yourself in a wilderness environment grasses and leaves can be used, as long as it is not saw grass, poison oak, ivy or thorn bushes. A handful of grass works well as do green leaves. Any type of dried vegetation will not work well if at all. Certain mosses such as sphagnum moss or peat works well and most have high moisture content so you also get the benefit of water during the cleaning.
The habit of carrying a newspaper or magazine to the outhouse was not always for reading in days past, and to this day, many are in the habit of reading while perched on the throne. The paper or magazine carried along was in case someone was rude enough to take the last page of the Sears Roebuck catalog. People have also used snow, smooth rocks and articles of clothing. Anything, well almost anything can be a substitute for toilet paper.
The hand has always worked well for many and in some cultures is still used today, and is acceptable as long as special care is given to washing the hands afterwards. Cloth has been used in the past and the Romans had perfected this method. The cleaning cloth was similar to a mop and was attached to a short handle and people usually carried it with them in their everyday kits. The Romans knew thousands of years ago the importance of fresh water and personal hygiene.
While humorous in some cases personal hygiene is important to prevent the spread of bacteria and illnesses. When access to medical care is limited or non-existent during a crisis, you must take extra precautions not to become sick. Wash your hands, and avoid shaking hands with others that are a bit too willing to start a project without all the proper resources available. So what will you do when you run out of toilet paper? I would love to hear your thoughts and how you are preparing for this on my facebook page.