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Do Naked and Afraid participants get medication or sunscreen?

I have always enjoyed Naked & Afraid. … Do you know if the contestants are provided with sunscreen when they are dumped into the middle of a desert? The narrative seems to suggest not, but particularly in the initial hike to the place they build the shelter, near fatal sunburns are not out of the question.

I seem to remember reading something you wrote about contestants on Survivor getting sunscreen and medications. (I assume that folks on Naked & Afraid are people who are not on daily meds.) —Grant

Yes, you’re right: off-camera, Survivor do players have access to a bin with some medically-necessary supplies: contact lens solution, tampons, condoms, and a product that has both sunscreen and bug repellant—though considering the bug bites that have adorned players’ bodies over the years, it is obviously not all that effective.

Survivor cast members also have access to prescription medication, whether that’s something required for everyone because of the location (e.g. malaria pills) or a personal prescription. All of this is medically necessary, and not for comfort; after all, they do not get toilet paper.

Lisa Hagan, a two-time breast cancer survivor, on Naked and Afraid season 11, episode 9, "In Too Deep"
Lisa Hagan, a two-time breast cancer survivor, on Naked and Afraid season 11, episode 9, “In Too Deep” (Photo by Discovery)

The same is basically true on Discovery Channel’s Naked and Afraid, on which survivalists have to last with no clothes and no supplies for 21 days—and longer on Naked and Afraid XL, which returns Sunday for a season set in Louisiana that will extend the challenge to 60 days, making the elements even more of an issue. (XL seasons have a group of people trying to survive the elements and each other, and have previously lasted for 40 days, while the original series has pairs of survivalists—or, in one season, individuals—trying to make it through 21 days. )

As Naked and Afraid shows us in the episodes, each participant does bring a single survival item, such as a fire starter or fish hooks. They don’t get food, water, or shelter, but they do get medically-necessary supplies.

If its participants need prescription medication, they do have access to that, along with products for menstruation. A Discovery Channel spokesperson told me that, “Once the challenge begins, feminine hygiene products and any daily prescriptions drugs are given by on-site doctors.”

The spokesperson also added that, “of course, if anything is life-threatening the on-site doctors step in.” 

That medical intervention includes mental health, as we saw last year on Naked and Afraid XL, when producers and medics removed Ryan Eacret because of depression. Other medical intervention happens off-camera, like the reported care one contestant got for severe dehydration.

Interestingly, a company that provides set medics and has worked on the show, National Set Medics, says on their website that their role is “limited”: “Due to the extreme nature of this production we are providing limited ALS (Advance Life Support).”

They define “advanced life support” as including paramedics who “Can give some advanced medications” and “can give IV’s” and “advanced airway management and oxygen.”

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  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.