I am sure most of you know why us Brits are called Limeys. For those that don’t allow me to enlighten you.
Way back in the early 1800s James Lind, a doctor, discovered that citrus fruit prevented sailors on long voyages dying of scurvy. Some time later, the British Navy started carrying thousands of lemons and limes for the sailors to consume during the voyage, hence the nickname Limey. All I can say is I am glad whoever coined the phrase preferred green to yellow, I could have spent my life being called a lemon and that just doesn’t do it for me.
Moving on, scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C, a vitamin that is not readily stored in the body and needs to be topped up on a daily basis. Lack of it causes a whole shed load of problems, from bleeding gums and tooth loss, spots, sores, ulcers, fatigue, muscle loss, heart problems and death.
Scurvy is almost unheard of these days, there was one case in the UK in 2008, in a child who was a fussy eater and lived on bread and jam. (jelly)
Vitamin C is required to build collagen in the body. Collagen is a type of protein and it needs to be replaced regularly, without vitamin C this is impossible. Scurvy has never been eradicated, it is not that kind of disease, it is a condition that’s caused by a diet consistently short of this essential vitamin.
It does not occur over night, but a period of a three weeks without adequate vitamin C will start to see the symptoms appearing.
Small red dots appear often on the shins where the hairs grow from the skin, they continue to appear until patches of dots are formed. The hairs on the shins, break easily and have a twisted appearance.
Sometimes the patches of red dots join up forming large dark areas that ulcerate readily. Muscle pains in the legs start and fatigue sets in. The patient will experience severe shortness of breath particularly after exercise, blurring of vision and a damp sticky feeling around the eyes. The muscle pains get worse and the pain may become more generalised before it reaches the heart. If it does reach the heart, the muscles of the heart enlarge and bleed which leads to death.
There is no treatment for scurvy other than taking vitamin C, either from fruit and vegetables or in a supplement. Adults and children are equally susceptible but nursing infants more so due to the fact that they take nothing but milk from their mother.
If the mother is lacking in the vitamin, her body will use up available supplies leaving none for the infant. Baby formula usually has vitamins added to make it as similar to breast milk as possible, it is advisable to check the ingredients list on formula you are storing to make sure.
Even a poor stored food diet, that has no access to canned fruits etc will contain some vitamin C, but not enough to prevent scurvy on an on-going basis. Many dried fruits, particularly berries, contain more than enough vitamin C to keep a person healthy and storing them is highly recommended.
In addition supplemental vitamin C should be stored in quantity. Like all preparations it loses efficiency over time, but doubling up the dose of older tablets would not cause any harm as the excess is excreted without issues.
Knowing where to find berries in the wild or planting a few bushes can ensure your and your families health on an on-going basis, allowing you to hold onto your stored dried fruits until you have absolutely no choice but to use them.
Scurvy should present few problems to those who have prepared, even at a low level, for a crisis situation. Should that crisis continue for a period of years however, and access to fresh fruit and vegetables has not been secured, then it is more likely than not that there will be a resurgence of cases of this debilitating, and if untreated, fatal condition.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.