Some folks in the preparedness community consider themselves ready for any disaster if they have some food, water, and a means of personal defense. Being prepared, however, is more than that. You have to be able to treat medical issues. And not just that: Attention to hygiene is equally important in preventing some of those issues.
Those concerned about a long-term event should know that the expenditure of various supplies over time will be a major problem. What will you do when you run out of one item or another? You have to find substitutes that can serve double (and triple) duty. The more versatile the item, the more useful it is to store.
Baking soda is one item you should have in quantity. Yes, baking soda. Many years ago, one of our readers wrote an excellent article on baking soda in survival settings. He opened our eyes to its many uses.
WHAT IS BAKING SODA?
Baking soda (also known as sodium bicarbonate or bicarbonate of soda) is a popular and inexpensive household product. You can actually mine deposits of it if you live in parts of California, Colorado, and Mexico (as well as Botswana). It has been historically used as a leavening agent for baking bread and does a fine job absorbing odors in your refrigerator.
Baking soda is not the same as baking powder. Baking powder contains baking soda, but it also contains an acidifying agent and starch. Both produce carbon dioxide which causes baked goods to rise and, indeed, you can substitute baking powder in place of baking soda (usually, you’ll need three times more baking powder), but you can’t use baking soda when a recipe calls for baking powder.
MEDICAL USES FOR BAKING SODA
Are there medical uses for baking soda? The answer is yes. So many, in fact, that you might want some around even in normal times.
You can treat insect bites and itchy skin with it. Some find it effective for poison ivy. Make a paste out of baking soda and water, and apply like a balm onto the irritated area. You could shake some baking soda into your hand and rub it onto wet skin.
Baking soda can help unblock nasal congestion by adding a teaspoon to some hot water and inhaling the vapors.
For those who suffer from acid reflux (heartburn), eventually the Tums and Rolaids will run out. Baking soda was what they used before these products came into being. Just add a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water after meals.
Recent medical studies, including one published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, suggest that sodium bicarbonate tablets may help slow progression in those with chronic kidney disease. The researchers concluded, “This study demonstrates that bicarbonate supplementation slows the rate of progression of renal failure to ESRD and improves nutritional status among patients with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).”
Baking soda has mild antiseptic and drying properties, and helps keep a wound clean. When a wound is healing, repeated cleaning of the area can result in dry skin and a hard, itchy scab. Baking soda can help soften and remove the scab once the wound is no longer painful or draining. One treatment regimen uses 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking soda with a half cup of water. Leave the paste on the wound for 15 minutes and then rinse thoroughly (be aware that it might burn a little).
You’re not medically prepared until you’re dentally prepared. In long-term events, the family medic will have to deal with a number of dental problems that crop up. Baking soda can be a replacement for toothpaste. Add a little 3% hydrogen peroxide to it and use it as a rinse for bad breath.
Adding baking soda to boots keeps your feet drier, less smelly, and help prevent blisters. A little in the right places can prevent general chafing or body odor.
Off the grid, you might run out of things like disposable diapers. You’ll be using cloth diapers like your ancestors. A little baking soda in a diaper might prevent diaper rash. If the baby already has diaper rash, a couple of tablespoons in the bath water can decrease the irritation.
Speaking of children, your four-legged children (and you) might benefit from some baking soda to deodorize pet bedding and cat boxes. Cover the bottom of litter boxes with baking soda, then fill as usual with litter. Eliminate odors from your pets bedding by sprinkling some baking soda and wait 15 minutes. Take the bed outside and beat it like you would a rug.
You can also bathe pets using baking soda. It’s good for getting rid of that wet dog smell. Taking it to extremes, it can help after your less-than-friendly encounter with that skunk that lives in the woodpile.
That last one addresses hygiene more than health, but they are intertwined. If you don’t have good hygiene, you eventually won’t have good health. Baking soda can be used to scrub down kitchen counters, wash clothes, and even cleaning out a car you had to sleep in for a week while bugging out.
Before you head in for lunch after digging a latrine at your new retreat, you can use some baking soda as a hand cleaner. It will gently scrub away ground-in dirt and neutralize odors on your hands.
OTHER USES FOR BAKING SODA
As a general cleaner, baking soda can be used for just about everything from cookware to silver. For stubborn stains on fabric, try soaking overnight with baking soda solution or scrubbing with baking soda on a damp sponge.
After using sponges for a while, they can begin to smell like mildew. To clean your sponges, mix four tablespoons of baking soda with a quart of warm water.
Going even further afield, baking soda can be used on septic tanks, drain pipes, and can even neutralize battery acid corrosion in cars and generators (disconnect battery terminals while cleaning).
Baking soda can also discourage bugs like ants and roaches; some people use it to keep snails from eating their plants and some say it works to stop rabbits from coming around.
You can extinguish minor grease and electrical fires with baking soda. When baking soda is heated, it gives off carbon dioxide, which helps to smother the flames. For small cooking fires (frying pans, broilers, ovens, grills), throw handfuls of baking soda at the base of the flame.
How can you tell if your baking soda is still fresh enough to use? Simple, just take a bowl with some baking soda in it and pour some apple cider vinegar on it. If it’s good, it’ll start fizzing like crazy. Use a large bowl.
It’s important to know that survival is not always about guns, ammo and tourniquets. Our ancestors used what they had to live full lives and you might have to go back to the basics one day in times of trouble. Baking soda might just be handy.
Joe Alton MD
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