All Your Most Pressing Health Questions About ‘Survivor,’ Asked and Answered

Benjamin “Coach” Wade, one of Survivor’s most iconic competitors, appeared on three seasons that are particularly big among die-hard fans (Tocantins, Heroes vs. Villains, and South Pacific). He tells SELF that, during his runs on the show, he was sometimes able to take medications—but not always. In that personal medical box that you’re allowed to keep at camp, people also stash preapproved drugs: “[Production] checks it out, and you turn it in beforehand,” he explains. For him, that was hit or miss. “I had a prescription for allergies, and for some reason, they didn’t let it in the game [the third time]—the first two times, they did.” He says that certain meds just aren’t kosher, even if you take them regularly at home: “They won’t let Ambien or anything like that in there. Or probably Xanax—that’s a big no-no.” (CBS declined to comment about whether prescribed stimulants, sleeping pills, or benzodiazepines are permitted on the show.)

What about OTC meds, like if you have a headache or are vomiting? Coach laughed when this question was raised—“Give me a break!”—but says that contestants received supplements: “When I did it, they had a calcium tablet and a multivitamin.”

Do players’ teeth get really mossy and disgusting?

Absolutely they do! Apparently, the options when it comes to plaque removal are more or less the same materials contestants use to build their shelters. “You take a palm frond, the stem of it or the leaf, and you just get a little thin sliver, and you poke it between your teeth. It’s kind of like floss,” Coach says, adding that he also did his best to brush with “a small stick.”

Chong shredded a plant rather than using a twig, she says: “I personally chomped on softer pieces of bamboo to create a little ‘brush’ out of the stem and used that to scrub my teeth.”

Alternatively, Coach says, “A lot of us used our fingernails.”

Can castaways use sunscreen and bug spray?

On the show, you never see people putting on SPF or blasting themselves with insect repellent, but in a tropical environment that often has extreme weather, skipping either seems straight-up dangerous. (The show currently films in Fiji, but in previous years, including during the seasons featuring Coach, it took place in different locations.)

These products are, in fact, provided by production and kept close at hand at camp. “Sunscreen and bug spray are always available inside our medical box, which is situated far enough away from our shelter that you can never see us there,” Chong says, because the show doesn’t break the fourth wall in that way.

“The cameras don’t go there—it’s like your personal space,” Coach explains. That was a good thing for Chong, who says that she was so disoriented from not sleeping that she once bug-sprayed herself directly in the face.

Coach says that, during his tenure, contestants used a hybridized product for both critter and sun protection. “On all three [of my] seasons, they gave us ‘bug and sun’—it’s like a combination. It was, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none.’” He explains that the product protected him at least a little from sunburn, but bugs still feasted on him and others on the show. “Every season, you see people with massive bites on their legs,” he says. “When I slept in Tocantins, I could cover up most of my body, except for my hands—I would put ’em in my pants pocket, and there were two inches where [my skin] wasn’t covered. There’d literally be a hundred bites when I woke up—and that was slathering on the bug and sun.”

Are people worried about encountering toxic plants or venomous animals?

If you’re living among wild animals and God knows what kind of plant life, it would make sense to be on high alert. In terms of anything hazardous getting into the drinking water, Chong says there are protections in place: “Production provides potable water inside the well—the container was always filled and had a lid so that nasty creepy crawlies couldn’t get in,” she says.

Related Articles

Back to top button