Skin Diseases and Ailments
Although boils, fungal infections, and rashes rarely develop into a serious health problem, they cause
discomfort and you should treat them.
Apply warm compresses to bring the boil to a head. Then open the boil using a sterile knife, wire, needle,
or similar item. Thoroughly clean out the pus using soap and water. Cover the boil site, checking it
periodically to ensure no further infection develops.
Keep the skin clean and dry, and expose the infected area to as much sunlight as possible. Do not scratch
the affected area. During the Southeast Asian conflict, soldiers used antifungal powders, lye soap,
chlorine bleach, alcohol, vinegar, concentrated salt water, and iodine to treat fungal infections with
varying degrees of success. As with any “unorthodox” method of treatment, use it with caution.
To treat a skin rash effectively, first determine what is causing it. This determination may be difficult
even in the best of situations. Observe the following rules to treat rashes:
l If it is moist, keep it dry.
l If it is dry, keep it moist.
l Do not scratch it.
Use a compress of vinegar or tannic acid derived from tea or from boiling acorns or the bark of a
hardwood tree to dry weeping rashes. Keep dry rashes moist by rubbing a small amount of rendered
animal fat or grease on the affected area.
Remember, treat rashes as open wounds and clean and dress them daily. There are many substances
available to survivors in the wild or in captivity for use as antiseptics to treat wound:
Iodine tablets. Use 5 to 15 tablets in a liter of water to produce a good rinse for wounds during
l Garlic. Rub it on a wound or boil it to extract the oils and use the water to rinse the affected area.
l Salt water. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons per liter of water to kill bacteria.
l Bee honey. Use it straight or dissolved in water.
Sphagnum moss. Found in boggy areas worldwide, it is a natural source of iodine. Use as a
Again, use noncommercially prepared materials with caution.
This injury results from frozen tissues. Light frostbite involves only the skin that takes on a dull, whitish
pallor. Deep frostbite extends to a depth below the skin. The tissues become solid and immovable. Your
feet, hands, and exposed facial areas are particularly vulnerable to frostbite.
When with others, prevent frostbite by using the buddy system. Check your buddy’s face often and make
sure that he checks yours. If you are alone, periodically cover your nose and lower part of your face with
Do not try to thaw the affected areas by placing them close to an open flame. Gently rub them in
lukewarm water. Dry the part and place it next to your skin to warm it at body temperature.
This condition results from many hours or days of exposure to wet or damp conditions at a temperature
just above freezing. The nerves and muscles sustain the main damage, but gangrene can occur. In
extreme cases the flesh dies and it may become necessary to have the foot or leg amputated. The best
prevention is to keep your feet dry. Carry extra socks with you in a waterproof packet. Dry wet socks
against your body. Wash your feet daily and put on dry socks.
The following field treatment for burns relieves the pain somewhat, seems to help speed healing, and
offers some protection against infection:
First, stop the burning process. Put out the fire by removing clothing, dousing with water or sand,
or by rolling on the ground. Cool the burning skin with ice or water. For burns caused by white
phosphorous, pick out the white phosphorous with tweezers; do not douse with water.
Soak dressings or clean rags for 10 minutes in a boiling tannic acid solution (obtained from tea,
inner bark of hardwood trees, or acorns boiled in water).
l Cool the dressings or clean rags and apply over burns.
l Treat as an open wound.
l Replace fluid loss.
l Maintain airway.
l Treat for shock.
l Consider using morphine, unless the burns are near the face.