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How Allergies Work

Part 1 in my seasonal allergies series. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH For some of us, the spring season is a beautiful trap. It entices us outside with such great weather but hides an unseen danger—pollen. But truth be told, it’s not the pollen that’s the trouble. It’s the body’s reaction to it. In about 30 percent of people, the immune system goes way overboard to protect them from pollen, which their bodies see as an invader. This is called an allergic reaction. There are medicines that can combat the miserable symptoms, but to understand which ones you might want to store, it helps to know how an allergic reaction works so you’ll know what you’re trying to combat. […]

By | April 27th, 2015|General|14 Comments

3 Age-Old Wound-Dressing Questions, Answered

Part 2 in my modern wound care series. See part 1, on the latest advice for cleaning a wound, here. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH How many cuts and scrapes have you gotten in your life? Probably quite a few. Yet, to this day, do you know whether it’s better to keep a wound covered or let it air out? Simple wound-care questions like that have left even doctors debating the answers. So earlier this year, an article in American Family Physician, the journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians, offered some answers. For the article, three researchers from Thomas Jefferson University looked at a number of studies on wound care and formulated guidelines based on the findings. Here are some highlights. […]

By | April 20th, 2015|Cuts, Other Wounds, Skin|3 Comments

The Latest on Advanced Wound Cleaning: Beyond the Paper Cut

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH If you want to expand your survival-medicine knowledge beyond first aid but don’t know where to start, wound treatment is a great choice. Whether it’s during a disaster or just in your everyday life, you’ll eventually face a wound of some sort. You can learn a lot of advanced but easy-to-follow treatment details from my two affordable, interactive e-books, The Survival Doctor’s Guide to Wounds and The Survival Doctor’s Guide to Burns. They cover gashes, bites, burns and more. I’ve also come across an excellent review regarding certain aspects of wound care: the Wilderness Medical Society Practice Guidelines for Basic Wound Management in the Austere Environment, published last summer. To create the recommendations in this report, researchers reviewed available studies for objective evidence of what works and what doesn’t. In this post I’ll go into some of their conclusions about cleaning a wound. Some of the findings may surprise you. […]

By | April 13th, 2015|Cuts, Skin|10 Comments

The Survival Doctor’s Latest Tips on Tourniquets

This is the Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T) by North American Rescue ($28.99*). Note the stick you can use to wind the tourniquet tighter. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH A tourniquet seems so simple. At its most basic, it’s just a strip of strong material. Its use seems simple too. You tighten it until the bleeding stops. Voilà. Life saved. But thanks to studies conducted over the last several years, the guidelines on tourniquets have become more sophisticated, causing emergency professionals to change how they use these lifesaving devices. Here’s the latest thinking, according to the research I’ve been reading. I’m eager to also hear from you if you’ve used a tourniquet in the field. What have you found works or doesn’t? […]

By | April 6th, 2015|Cuts, Skin|16 Comments

How to Set a Broken Bone or Treat a Dislocated Joint

The X-ray owner, Tim Snell, says this injury didn’t hurt as much as you’d think. “I can’t claim that the process of ‘popping it back in’ didn’t hurt though,” he wrote on Flickr, where he shared the X-ray. “What i thought would be a 5 second ‘click’ ended up taking 3 professionals over 10 minutes of tugging, twisting and pulling to get the little bugger back in place. it’s a good job i was pumped full of laughing gas.” (“Snap My Fingers,” shared via CC BY-ND 2.0.) by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Broken bones and dislocated joints are pretty common injuries, and I have several posts on how to treat them in an emergency. But many people have asked specifically how to “set” a bone, meaning, I presume, how to straighten a broken arm, leg, finger, or toe if it is crooked. The answer is most of the time, you should do nothing for a crooked bone or displaced joint other than splint it as-is until you can get to a doctor. Trying to move it around is likely to cause more damage. But there are some injuries when, indeed, you may want to take that chance and try to set (straighten) the bone or put the joint back into place. And, of course, there’s always a chance you’re in a situation where expert help is many days away. In those cases, the key to treatment is to apply traction—properly. […]

By | March 30th, 2015|Bones|26 Comments

Can Cayenne Pepper Really Stop a Heart Attack?

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH A couple of weeks ago I wrote about deciding what to do if you have chest pain far away from expert help. As usual my readers contributed some thought provoking comments. Two suggestions in particular inspired me to write additional posts. Last week I discussed so-called cough CPR. This week, it’s cayenne pepper. The claim that cayenne pepper can stop a heart attack in its tracks is found far and wide on the Internet. So I decided to check out, as best I could, whether there’s any truth behind the headlines. […]

By | March 23rd, 2015|General|8 Comments

Does Cough CPR Work?

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Last week I wrote about deciding what to do if you have chest pain far away from expert help. Several comments on that post and on Facebook suggested vigorous and repetitive coughing could be tried. Since that suggestion is found far and wide on the Internet, I decided to check out, as best I could, whether there was any truth behind it. […]

By | March 16th, 2015|General|7 Comments

Wilderness Heart Attack: Should You Walk or Wait?

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH If you have a heart attack in the wilderness, it’s judgment-call time. In my last post, I talked about the fact that you’ll have to weigh walking for help with waiting for help that you don’t even know is coming. Walking could damage your heart further. Waiting could postpone care too long. In this post, we’ll go into the details of how I’d make the decision. […]

By | March 9th, 2015|General|11 Comments

Wilderness Heart Attacks: When There’s No Perfect Choice

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Many years ago, my wife and I were in Arizona to attend a conference. We had several hours to kill until the first meeting that night, so I decided we’d make a quick trip to the Grand Canyon. Then, I calculated we had three hours to kill before we had to leave and decided we should hike the trail down the Canyon, at least for a bit. Well, I miscalculated the extra time and effort it would take to walk back up, so the hike became a speed walk. With about a mile to go, I heard my wife from behind me yell, “I think I’m having a heart attack.” […]

By | March 2nd, 2015|Uncategorized|23 Comments

15 of the Worst Things to Do If You’re Stranded in the Cold

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH In 2002, a couple of years after he won the Olympic gold medal in wrestling, Rulon Gardner went snowmobiling in Wyoming. “I told myself it would be a short trip,” he told the Associated Press. “We were going to go out about three hours and get home for dinner.” But he got lost and ended up stranded for 17 hours. The temperature reached as low as 25 below zero, according to the AP. […]

By | February 23rd, 2015|Cold, Weather|11 Comments