Diseases in an SHTF

Diseases in an SHTF or Post Collapse Environment – Remaining Healthy in a Long Term Survival Situation

Diseases in an SHTF

Many people prepare for all kinds of situations, but the one thing they don’t prepare for is how to deal with Diseases in an SHTF event. Diseases after SHTF will be deadlier than any band of marauders.

That’s why I always recommend focusing on things like food preservation, water filtration and stockpiling medicines over stockpiling weapons and ammo.

Today, if we’re sick we can simply go to the doctor and have them prescribe medication to us. After a collapse, that luxury will be gone. Something as simple as a small cut or an eye infection could eventually become fatal.

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This makes dealing with diseases after an SHTF event one of the most important things that you can prepare for.

Common Ways to Contract a Disease After an SHTF

After an SHTF there are going to be a lot of changes in the way that we live our lives. With no modern conveniences like running water, indoor plumbing (at least to an extent), and curbside garbage pick-up there is certain to be a lot more people getting sick and we’ll probably even see a resurgence of diseases that haven’t been common for decades.

People just aren’t used to getting rid of their garbage and waste anymore so there will certainly be trash and human waste in the streets in certain areas. (Look to the homeless encampments in places like L.A. for an idea of what you’ll probably see.) I don’t even think it’s going to be because they’re lazy, it’s most likely going to be because they won’t know how to deal with the trash they produce.

Poor Hygiene

Hygiene will become even more important after a collapse than it is today. The bad part is keeping yourself clean is going to become much more difficult!

After a collapse, we most likely will not be cleaning ourselves daily. It will simply be too difficult for us to collect the amount of water needed to wash our entire bodies every day.

Instead of cleaning your whole body, keep your hands clean, and wash your armpits, groin, and feet daily. Taking a bath every few days is more than enough when water may be scarce.

Poor hygiene can lead to a whole host of bacterial viral and parasitic infections. These diseases transmitted either directly, which is most commonly the fecal to oral route, or indirectly which means that infected people or animals have come in contact with your food or water.

Poor Sanitation

Sanitation is another aspect of survival that everyone must take seriously. There are many ways to handle sanitation in an emergency. Possibilities include building an outhouse, using a composting toilet, or using premade options such as a Luggable Loo.

One of the easiest permanent solutions is to build an outhouse. The work upfront is strenuous, but the end result is well worth it. If you are staying in an area for any length of time, this is the option that I would suggest.

Diseases in an SHTF

For a temporary solution, you can dig a simple hole and dispose of your waste in that. These are often referred to as cat holes. The downside with this method is that every time you wish to bury your waste you must find a new place to dig a hole and aren’t using an area that’s been used before. Another drawback is that you must make sure you are disposing of your waste far enough away from where you’re living so that bugs and animals aren’t attracted to your living area.

Contaminated Water

Gathering clean, drinkable, water will become a daily activity in an SHTF environment. Even if you have a working well, it’s going to be hard work.

Feces is often the cause of contaminated water around farms and areas where humans are living. Therefore, we have to take exceptional care to dispose of our feces and waste properly. If we don’t, we can easily contaminate an otherwise perfectly good water source.

Diseases in an SHTF

Read our article about contaminated water supplies to find out more about all the diseases that can be contained in water.

Diseases Caused by Insects

In many parts of the world, diseases are commonly spread by insects. Some of the deadliest disease outbreaks in history have been spread via insects.

In the United States, many of these insects are kept at bay by insecticides sprayed by communities and local governments. If a major disaster occurs many of these programs would become unsustainable. This means that we should be ready to expect a massive increase in the insect population in a post-collapse environment.

One of the best ways to keep mosquitoes from growing is to ensure that pools of stagnant water are not allowed to sit around. This can be done by covering water collection devices with a screen or by simply not allowing water to gather in things like spare tires, buckets, or shallow pools.

Diseases in an SHTF

A great way to prevent water from becoming a breeding ground for insects is to use it to water plants or as drinking water.

Another great way to prevent insects from spreading disease is mosquito netting. By making sure everyone in the family has a mosquito net you can prevent mosquito bites and many types of other biting insects from getting a chance to bite you while you sleep.

Ticks and fleas can also spread disease. Having the means to prevent fleas and ticks from infesting your animals is a necessity. This goes for both livestock and any household animals.

Malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, West Nile disease, Japanese encephalitis, sleeping sickness, Lyme disease, and tick-borne spotted fevers are all spread by insects.

Geographical RegionsDiseases
North AmericaLeishmaniases, Lyme Disease, West Nile Disease
Central and South AmericaMalaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Leishmaniases, Chagas Disease, West Nile Disease
North AfricaLeishmaniases, Lyme Disease, West Nile Disease
Sub-Saharan AfricaMalaria, Chikungunya Virus, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Lymphatic Filariasis,
Human African Trypanosomiasis, West Nile Disease
AsiaMalaria, Chikungunya Virus, Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Lymphatic Filariasis,
EuropeLeishmaniases, Lyme Disease, Tick-borne Meningoencephalitis Virus
OceaniaMalaria, Chikungunya Virus, Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, Lymphatic Filariasis,

Lung Diseases and Infections

Lung diseases are one of the most common medical conditions found in the world. Because lung health is so important to living a full life, it makes these diseases one of the most important to be aware of.

Lung diseases that affect the windpipe are things like asthma, COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, and cystic fibrosis. Bronchitis is a sudden infection of the airway that is usually caused by a virus.

Lung diseases that affect the alveoli ( air sacs in the lungs) are pneumonia, tuberculosis, pulmonary edema, and pneumoconiosis.

Pneumonia is usually caused by bacteria. Tuberculosis is a form of slow, progressive, pneumonia that’s caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Pulmonary edema is caused when fluid leaks out of the blood vessels and into the air sacs within the lungs.

This can be caused by either heart failure or injury to the lung. Pneumoconiosis is caused by inhalation of a substance injures the lungs. Black lung disease from inhaled coal dust and inhaled asbestos dust are both examples of this.

Most common causes of respiratory infections are the common cold flu and sore throat. However, other diseases caused by bacteria and viruses are also possible. These will be one of the major causes of death in an SHTF environment.

Living closely with others in cramped, closed in conditions can make the transmission of lung diseases extremely common. This means that families with infants, the elderly, and the wounded will need to ensure that they keep an eye out symptoms of lung disease.

Covering your mouth when you cough, washing hands frequently, and not sharing utensils whenever you can help contain the spread of respiratory illness. If you, or a member of your group, contract a respiratory disease, it’s best that you maintain some distance from the remainder of your group and don’t sleep in the same room.

Food-borne Diseases

Food poisoning is something that is extremely uncomfortable but is rarely fatal in modern society. However, in the event of a societal collapse, severe diarrhea and vomiting could become a death sentence.

Foods that you gather from animal sources such as dairy products, eggs, and meat have the potential for being contaminated with salmonella. These items can also cause cross-contamination in other food items such as produce and vegetables.

A rare steak always tastes great but in a survival situation, you’re going to want to make sure that you thoroughly cook all meat before you consume it.

Canned foods can be another source of foodborne disease. Botulism can also grow in canned foods that are not properly processed.

One way to avoid contracting any disease from home-canned foods is to boil them for 10 minutes before you consume them. For factory canned items, you’ll want to ensure that the can is not dented, punctured, split or leaking. If it is, it’s better to skip a meal then risk food poisoning.


Without easy access to a doctor, the likelihood of gaining access to a tetanus shot or large quantities of antibiotics is limited. Simple wounds that you get during a survival situation could become massive problems in the long run if not properly treated.

Be sure to clean any wounds, cuts, scrapes, etc. that you may get as soon as possible. Use soap and water or other means to sterilize the area and then cover it with a bandage. Band-Aids should be used to cover small cuts and scrapes.

Diseases in an SHTF

How to Tell if You Have an Infected Wound

If you’re feeling exhausted and run down or begin sleeping more than usual this could be a sign that your body is fighting an infection.

A fever is one of the easiest ways to tell if someone is suffering from an infection. Temperatures over 101 degrees typically mean that the body is suffering from an infection of some kind.

Fluid draining from a wound should be expected, however, the color should remain clear or just slightly yellow. If the fluid is cloudy, green, or has a foul smell this means that the wound is most likely infected.

After contracting a wound, pain is normal, however, in the coming days, the pain should gradually subside. If the pain continues to increase over time this is sometimes a sign of infection or further damage.

Swelling, redness, and heat are all expected at the site of the wound. Similar to pain, if swelling and redness don’t begin to go away within a few days, or get worse, this could be another sign that the wound is infected.

Most of these symptoms will show up in conjunction with one another so it should be relatively easy to identify an infected wound.


Right now we have modern conveniences like running water, curbside trash pick-up, and doctors on call 24 hours a day. If we ever lose the things that keep us clean, healthy, and disease-free there are a whole host of problems that we’re going to have to learn to cope with on a daily basis.

Diseases in an SHTF are going to run rampant in certain areas, but hope certainly isn’t lost. Take the time to learn now, while we have access to the internet and endless amounts of knowledge.

Diseases in an SHTF are going to be a real thing, we’re all going to have to deal with them, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t figure out how to live with them. Learn basic ways to keep yourself clean, get rid of trash, waste and even the dead and you’re going to be fine if everything does eventually go belly up!

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