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What Not To Drink In A Survival Situation

What Not To Drink In A Survival Situation

There are dozens of ways to get drinking water during a survival situation in the UK whether you are searching for water in countryside or trying to find water in an urban environment. However there are some places that may seem appealing to get drinking water from but will be detrimental to your survival, so

There are dozens of ways to get drinking water during a survival situation in the UK whether you are searching for water in countryside or trying to find water in an urban environment.

However there are some places that may seem appealing to get drinking water from but will be detrimental to your survival, so these should be avoided at all cost.

Let’s look at a list of places you definitely should not get water from if you are looking to stay healthy and hydrated.

Will Alcohol Hydrate Me?

Alcohol will only serve to dehydrate you further and will cloud your judgement in what is essentially a critical survival situation. Spirits and wines in particular will have a negative effect, alcopops, beer and cider still aren’t great options but choose those over anything with a high alcohol content if you happen upon an abandoned bar.

Alcohol is a well-known diuretic, which causes the human body to actually remove liquid from the bloodstream using the kidneys. If you drink alcohol alone without any water or mixer, you become dehydrated within just a few hours, this is what causes the headaches experienced with a  hangover. It enters every part of your body, including your brain to give you that buzz and into your lungs so you breath it out too.

Liver enzymes process alcohol where it is changed into a toxic substance known as acetaldehyde. Alcohol also has the ability to regulate how much of a certain hormone is created relating to how much water you are able to hold onto – known as vasopressin. You will lose more water than your body can process the alcohol you’re drinking.

Can I Drink My Own Urine For Survival?

Whilst drinking your own urine will sustain you once or twice, you’re actually putting toxins your body has expelled back into your system which isn’t great for your kidneys or liver. You could try to boil, filter out and distil your urine first to make it clearer and rid it of contaminants, but in a way it is just as bad as drinking sea water, your body works harder to get rid of the salt and loses more water in the process.

man in car drink urine for survival

The bottom line is that there is no science that supports the drinking of your own urine for survival, no matter what Bear Grylls says, and it has the potential to put your kidneys under greater stress.

Although urine is up to 96% water, the rest is ammonia and salts which aren’t supposed to be re-ingested – your body has a specific way and reason of getting these contaminants out of your system in the first place.

Some people argue that because it has come from your own body that urine is both safe and sterile, however this is not true either. You may have an unknown urinary tract infection or bacteria in your urine that your body has ejected, and you’d be putting that back into your stomach, a place where urine is not supposed to be.

Can I Hydrate By Drinking Blood?

Animal blood may seem like an appealing liquid if you’re thirsty but it’s not as great as it appears,so do not drink for survival purposes. Blood has a concentration of salt which can lead to you dehydrating further, and what’s more, blood can carry diseases from the animal and infect your own body and make you severely ill.

Fresh blood is likely to coagulate in your stomach and cause you some discomfort, plus you have to deal with the strong metallic taste and unfamiliar texture of drinking animal blood, two things that could make you gag and vomit, losing more water at a time when you want to be increasing fluid intake.

Blood is also very high in iron which can do more to affect you negatively than it can have a positive effect as it enters your bloodstream. Even if you cooked the blood and turned it solid, the liquid left over will still be very salty and not a great thirst quencher. What’s more, it contains very few calories so isn’t going to give you any energy either.

Should I Eat Cold Snow Or Ice?

Melted snow if fine to drink, especially if boiled first, however eating snow straight from the ground is not advisable. Firstly it doesn’t give you a great deal of water as it is mostly made from air, and secondly it will cause your core temperature to decline quickly as your body tries to heat it up.

eating snow on a cold mountain drink

The snow is going to freeze you from the inside out, so it doesn’t matter if you have a great camp set up, cold snow is going to slow down your metabolic rate and make your body work harder as it tries to raise the freezing water you’ve ingested up to your body temperature.

You are therefore burning calories much faster by bringing 0 degrees snow up to 40 degrees.

Eating a snowcone with syrup on is fine as the ice has been carefully created in a clean environment, however as snow falls from the clouds to earth it has a habit of picking up and filtering all of the contaminants and pollutants in the air.

This is especially true for carbon and soot from power plants and wood burners. It is a known fact that air pollution is reduced after a large snow fall for this reason.

What Effect Does Seawater Have On The Body?

If you’re by the coast and thirsty in a survival situation, looking out at the vast body of seawater may seem tempting, but drinking seawater or sea ice will have the opposite effect, dehydrating you faster than you can replenish it with your own body’s water.

When you drink seawater, not only will it taste extremely bitter and cause you to gag, but if you manage to ingest it the 4% salt which the water contains is absorbed straight into your bloodstream – so do not drink for survival unless processed thoroughly.

This makes your bloody very salty, and it is the job of the kidneys to desalinate the blood – a process that requires water. So it becomes a vicious cycle that will eventually incapacitate you.

It would be better not to drink at all than to drink seawater if you are in a desperate situation. If you are by the sea, then you should be trying to catch a fish or forage shellfish to eat, as you will get nutrients and some water from those which is not overly salty.

Scout along the coast, check your maps, and you should eventually find a freshwater stream or river that is flowing into the sea, walk upstream a few hundred metres, dip your finger in the water and check the salinity.

What Are The Dangers Of Drinking Polluted Water?

Most water can be filtered out of contaminants, however if you notice that there is a putrid smell like eggs or even a small rainbow coloured slick of oil on the water then you should stay clear of it. Drinking water that has visible excrement floating in it too will make you extremely unwell quite quickly and taste bad too – it’s one of the main things not to drink for survival no matter how thirsty you are. 

This includes flood water which has all sorts of nasties lurking in it, even if you plan on using a quality filtration device like a LifeStraw

fish and rubbish floating in polluted water

Power plants are usually based on the coastline because they need a constant supply of water, however they are one of the biggest polluters. The runoff from a coal power plant for example can contain everything from lead and mercury to cadmium, arsenic and selenium – always avoid it.

Many times you can’t tell if water is polluted or not. A stream may look clear but there may be invisible chemicals and toxins in it. You never know what is upstream pumping into the river.

If you see dead fish or scum on the edges of a river then that’s not a good indication. Orange water indicates there is iron present, and purple water could mean it is contaminated with manganese.

Can I Drink Unboiled & Unfiltered Water?

It may seem like the crystal waters flowing from a mountainside or the clear water in a lake is perfectly fine to drink, however there may be hidden germs, bacteria and viruses that can cause illnesses such as vomiting and diarrhoea, causing you to lose more water than you ingested.

When you boil water living organisms cannot survive, so a rolling boil for around one minute at sea level or three minutes if you’re above 2000m will kill any parasites or bacteria in the water. This is because at over 60 degrees cells can no longer function properly and the organism dies.

The best practice for making sure water is clean enough to drink is to first filter it through a range of different mediums such as a cloth, then a proper filter, and the resulting water can then be boiled to ensure that the water is made as sterile as possible.

Aim to do this for water that you drink, that you use for first aid to clean wounds and even for washing dishes in. A handy way to do this is with a specialist water filter bladder that can process thousands of litres after it has been boiled. 

Does Bottled Water Go Bad?

Bottled water is the easiest and most convenient way to store water, and the expiration date on the side is only a guide that has to be there – an indication of quality not safety.

The taste of the bottled water may not be as great a few months or years after the expiration date has passed, but it is still drinkable even if you have bought water in bulk for SHTF situations. 

lots of bottles of bottled water

Research has shown that that vast majority of bottled waters contain synthetic polymers from the bottling process. Over time bottled water can deteriorate because the plastic it is stored in can leach into the water itself.

Always aim to keep water in plastic bottles out of the sunlight, especially from extreme heat where this process happens faster. If you can, try to vacuum seal the water in glass bottles in a cool, dark location so it stays fresher for longer.

Can Stagnant Water Make You Sick?

Water can endure a lot before it is classed as non-drinkable, and stagnant water that does not move with a flow is one of the worst offenders and a clear example of what not to drink.

It invites bugs, animals, bacteria and viruses to inhabit the water where algae can grow easily. Even animals avoid pools of this kind of water, and so should we, even if you think your water filter bottle can handle it. 

stagnant water pond not potable

Stagnant water is usually found in marshy areas or near areas of a river that have been cut off from the regular flow. The water often has a film on the top of it or is covered by dead insects and growing plant life which thrives in this nutrient soup.

Drinking it without a filter can cause you to ingest hundreds of micro-organisms, bacteria and parasites which will cause you to become ill.

When it comes to stagnant water use your senses to make your decision. Does it look unclear and unappetising, with particles, pond scum and insects floating in it? Does it smell strange and earthy, or even decaying and pungent? If so, do not risk it, continue your search in the local area for fresh water.

Should I Eat If I Have No Water To Drink?

The short answer is no, if you do not have any water to drink then you shouldn’t be eating solid foods. If there’s nothing to drink and wash it down with, then eating most items is likely to contribute to dehydration.

Even if you eat watery types of food like watermelon, tomatoes and cucumbers, water will be pulled out of your body to enable the food to move through your digestive system.

If you eat lots of food that is solid such as biscuits, beans or cooked meat without any water, then you’ll likely begin to suffer from constipation, or even a painful intestinal block which can make the situation worse. You can go a long time without eating but you need water every day in order to maintain proper functioning of your organs. 

When you have food but no water, try to get the water out of the food first and drink it. This can be done with fruits such as blackberries and oranges, where you squeeze the fruit through a medium such as a cloth to make a juice. Eating the whole fruit, skin and seed, will make your body use more water to process it.


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