One of the greatest health risks in the bush is illness caused by poor hygiene. We have a camp rule that we never touch food or eating utensils without washing our hands.
We have a pump-action bottle of waterless hand-wash and keep it near the food prep area. We have another bottle in a pocket of the hold-all between the car seats and a small flip-top bottle in each toilet kit.
We use disposable dish cloths as they dry out quickly after use and can be burnt in a camp fire or thrown in the bin after a couple of uses. Tea towels are laundered as normal with a capful of disinfectant added to the washing water.
Chopping boards are wiped down with anti-bacterial spray after each use and are left to dry thoroughly before packing away.
Personal Hygiene (when water is in short supply)
There’s nothing quite like a shower at the end of a hot day in the dusty Outback, so when a couple of our mates showed us their bush-bathroom; a pop-up shower tent and a five litre garden pressure spray unit, we decided to purchase a pressure spray unit to include in our own shower kit. We cut the metal spray-wand back to a more manageable length of about 10cm. When we’re out camping and water isn’t scarce, we put the kettle on and have a warm pressure wash shower; luxury! We don’t waste water though: we use less than two litres of water each.
When water is scarce, conserving water for drinking becomes much more important. That doesn’t mean that you have to be smelly; a full body wipe down with baby wipes combined with a wash with a small amount of mildly soapy water is all that’s required to keep clean. Hair washing is usually left until a shower is available and is the only real complaint most people have when they can’t shower, but it’s not all that bad. We take a dip whenever the opportunity arises.
Spending more time outdoors means that you need to protect your skin from burning. Apply a 30+ protection sunscreen and re-apply regularly. Look for sunscreen that dries on your skin after rubbing in and doesn’t make you feel sticky – that’s important in a hot, humid climate.
Skin can be further protected by wearing a broad brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face and neck. Lightweight, quick-dry clothing with UV protection is also available from most adventure sports stores. Add a pair of good quality sunglasses to help protect your eyes.
Flies are very persistent in the Outback. They’re out as soon as the sun gets up in the morning and they don’t go away until the sun goes down. The best deterrent we’ve found so far is a product called Nature’s Botanical – Rosemary & Cedarwood Oils in Natural Crème. The fragrance is similar to that of Vicks VapoRub – and the flies don’t like it at all. They’ll still buzz around you, but if they do land on skin treated with the crème, they leave in a hurry. We haven’t had to wear fly veils since we started using it.
Dengue Fever and Ross River viruses are spread by mosquitoes and it’s important to protect yourself and your family from becoming infected. Bites from mosquitoes, sand flies and midges can be extremely itchy and irritating. Scratching can cause bites to become infected; in some cases people can have a severe allergic reaction requiring medical attention.
Personal insect repellents such as RID, Bushman’s (80% DEET Heavy Duty) and Aeroguard are very effective against biting insects, mosquitoes, sand-flies, midges, ticks, leeches and march-flies. Most are available as an aerosol spray, pump spray or roll-on. Some people may find that one brand of repellent works better than another, the only way to find out which of them works best for you is to try them. Repellent should be applied before you get bitten or stung; apply it even if you think there’s no need to.
If you do get stung by mozzies, sandflies or midges, anti-histamines (available from chemists) can provide relief. Anti-histamine tablets are an essential first aid kit inclusion.
We’ve been testing the Biteaway, a battery operated insect bite treatment and we are pleased to report that it works. While it isn’t completely painless, the slight burning sensation isn’t that bad and provides instant relief. Our grand-kids ask to use it whenever they’ve been bitten or stung. Another non-drug insect-bite treatment is the ‘Mosquito Click’, we’ve had success using one for mosquito and sand fly bites.
Always keep a can of insecticide in your camp kit and spray inside your tent (don’t spray directly on tent / fabric) before you go to bed each night. Make sure to keep your tent ‘door’ zipped closed as much as possible to keep insects and other creatures out.