Tincture of Iodine in Emergency and Survival Planning

A solution of Tincture of iodine (usually 2% Iodine and about 47% alcohol) can be found in nearly every drug store and should be considered in every emergency/survival/camping/first aid kit. The uses of iodine (in liquid or tablet form) are extensive. Researching its benefits is worth the time.

In this Post, I will focus on the liquid form. Iodine is a chemical element in the halogen family. In solid form, iodine is a heavy, gray-black material that develops as seawater evaporates. When heated, it does not change to a liquid, but instead becomes a purple-colored gas. Although only slightly soluble in water, iodine will dissolve in alcohol and produce a solution called tincture of iodine. Tincture of iodine has a number of practical uses.

Wound and Pre-operative Disinfectant / Antiseptic:
People began using tincture of iodine as a topical wound disinfectant in the late 1800s. Although not as popular today, it is still in use as an antiseptic to prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes and burns. It can also be used as a skin disinfectant preparation prior to surgery. Tincture of iodine is suitable for topical use only and can be irritating to your skin.

Drinking Water Disinfectant / Antimicrobial Agent:
Tincture of iodine is moderately toxic when ingested in amounts larger than those required to disinfect water. In a situation where your water source becomes contaminated, such as during a flood or other natural disaster, you may receive instructions to disinfect water before using it for cooking, drinking or for brushing your teeth. If boiling the water is not an option, you can use tincture of iodine as a disinfection method. For tincture of iodine to be effective, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends you first filter the water and allow it to settle. If the water appears clear, add five drops of 2 percent tincture of iodine per quart. If the water is still cloudy, add 10 drops of tincture of iodine and then let it sit a minimum of 30 minutes before using. Though this treatment is effective against bacteria and virus, it does not protect against protozoe parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia. When an alcohol solution is not desirable for this purpose, the alcohol-free Lugol's iodine, an aqueous solution of iodine in potassium iodide solution, or else povidone iodine (brand names Wokadine, Betadine), a PVPI solution, can be used. Tincture is more toxic than Lugols solution.

Surface Sanitizing:
Iodine solution is used to sanitize the surface of fruit and vegetables for bacteria and virus. The common concentration for sanitization is 25 ppm idophor for 1 minute. However, the effectiveness depends on whether the solution penetrates into rifts, and whether dirt is effectively removed at first. But, oocytes of protozoe parasites will not be killed, and it is also doubtful that bacterial spores are killed. Iodine solutions should not be considered able to sanitize or disinfect salad, fruit or vegetables that are contaminated by faeces. Thus, it should not be considered safe to eat raw fruit, salads and vegetables which are sanitized with iodine, if they could be contaminated by faeces

Emergency Signaling:
Because of its rust color, it can be used to smear on a white or light-colored cloth or surface to signal for help in an emergency, however, you might want to explore other, less expensive and more effective, methods that might be available at the time.

Warnings - Should not be used:
when boiling water can be accomplished.
when a more effective disinfectant is available.
when a more effective antiseptic is available.
on open or puncture wounds.
if you are allergic to seafood.
on infants.
during pregnancy.
by nursing mothers.

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