Tips for surviving wounds and illnesses related to animals and bugs.

How to Identify a Spider by Its Bite

A black widow spider, with its tell-tale red hourglass. If you feel pain when the spider bites, this is likely the culprit. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH I’ve seen a lot of spider bites in my day, and more often than not, the spider is never seen. Over the years I’ve developed several tricks for how to identify the spider by the bite. There are three types of poisonous spiders in the U.S. The brown recluse is found in the southern two-thirds of the country. It likes to hide in boxes so I often wonder if it doesn’t catch an occasional ride by freight. The hobo spider likes it out west. The black widow has been found in every state but Alaska. Here are my tips on how to identify a spider bite. […]

By | September 25th, 2012|Critters|332 Comments

4 Ways You Can Get Hantavirus

Deer mice are the most common carriers of hantavirus. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Hantavirus has been in the news lately. Several have died from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, with as many as ten thousand thought to have been exposed while staying in Yosemite National Park this summer. Rats and mice give it to you, so it’s one of those diseases that’s sure to get more prevalent in any long-term disaster. Hantavirus was officially discovered after a 1993 outbreak in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. It’s been around much longer but we just didn’t know what caused it. That year 48 cases were reported. Since then there have been anywhere from 20 to 46 cases per year. Most are in the Western states, but there have been a few in the Midwest and Northeast, with one in Florida. Since the deer mouse is one of hantavirus’s major carriers, and is found all over the place, hantavirus is a risk anywhere. […]

By | September 11th, 2012|Critters, Infectious Disease|20 Comments

When the Bugs Aren’t Real

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. I never heard of this in medical school, so when I saw my first patient with delusional parasitosis, I was quite bewildered. Here sat a well-dressed, anxious looking guy, scratching all over, who said he scabies and handed me the proof in a tissue. It was a flake of skin. “And look, Doc. See the bites.” I looked and saw where he’d been scratching—digging and clawing actually—into his skin. But no bugs of any sort. […]

By | August 23rd, 2012|Critters|57 Comments

Is It Really Scabies? Felt-Tip Markers and Other Diagnostic Tricks

Is it a scabies rash? by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. The seven-year itch they used to call it, and if you’ve ever had it, you know the scabies rash itches like crazy—even worse at night. As with head lice, I see more scabies cases when school starts back. It can also become a problem for shelters, nursing homes, even hospitals. Like head lice, the scabies mite feeds on the human body and likes to jump ship, so to speak, when people are in close contact. But, in my opinion, tiny scabies mites aren’t as simple to diagnose as the bigger bugs. […]

By | August 21st, 2012|Critters, Infectious Disease, Rashes, Skin|124 Comments

Why Mosquitoes Don’t Like Rain. 6 West Nile Myths, Busted.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. I heard on the radio that this summer is going to be a bad one for West Nile virus. They were talking about how many cases some areas have had and how many people have died. USA Today reports 693 cases and twenty-eight deaths scattered through thirty-two states. Last week alone there were 390 cases and eight deaths. And it’s only going to get worse. For some reason West Nile is usually worst in mid-August through mid-September. It got me to thinking, if it’s this bad now, how much worse it would be during a disaster. We’d probably be outside more, maybe have holes in the inside walls, probably have more mosquitoes due to stagnant water. Could it be one disaster on top of another? And, for this year, should you and your kids stay inside? Well, hold on answering until you read my list of myths below. […]

By | August 16th, 2012|Critters, Infectious Disease|19 Comments

How to Check for Head Lice. Step 1: Brace Yourself.

A nit (egg). Those red spots are eyes. When you check for head lice, the nits look like white dandruff, but they don’t brush off easily. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. It’s back-to-school time. And soon afterwards, a young child’s rite of passage—the note from the teacher stating your little darling has head lice. I can hear the collective “but we’re not a nasty family” now. For the umpteenth time, no one—not the teacher nor the principle nor the doctor—thinks you are. It’s not a question of cleanliness. […]

By | August 14th, 2012|Children, Critters, Infectious Disease|48 Comments

Rabid Rabbits, Mad Cats, and How Soap and Water Could Help Prevent Rabies

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Weird Fact: According to the CDC, in the United States, more cats than dogs were reported with rabies between 2000 and 2004. Did you know rabbits can get rabies too? That one’s rare, but if you’re outside, and out of nowhere a rabbit attacks, just know it could be a rabid rabbit. Rabies is a virus spread through saliva that affects the brain and is a death sentence. I can count on my hands the worldwide total number to ever survive without getting the vaccine. The latest survival was a girl scratched by a feral cat. Somehow the saliva got into the wound. Fortunately, though, the rabies vaccine works well. It’s a series of shots you get after being bitten by an animal that prompt your body to produce antibodies to kill the virus. Without these immunizations giving your immune system a head start, it becomes overwhelmed by the rapidly multiplying virus. Still, there are a few things you can do to decrease your odds of coming down with rabies in the first place. […]

By | June 12th, 2012|Critters|34 Comments

Why You Could Die of a Bee Sting–Even If You’ve Never Been Allergic

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. On my Facebook page, Terri asks: What can be done if the person has a allergic reaction to a [bee] sting. What are the signs? What should I do if there is no bee sting medicine? medical facility. Good questions. First you need to know, there are bee-sting reactions and there are REACTIONS. The second kind can hit ANYONE and kill you in minutes. I’m not exaggerating. You can go all your life and not be allergic to bee stings, and wham. It’s speculated that many outdoor sudden deaths where the cause is unknown happen from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. Recognizing the warning signs can save your life. When to Get to the ER Generally, a local reaction—anything from a minor ouch to a major swelling of the affected extremity—isn’t immediately life-threatening. Any reaction beyond that, and you should get to a medical facility immediately. In fact, you should go soon if you have major swelling. It can be treated with antihistamines and steroids, or antibiotics if it’s an infection. But it’s not the kind of reaction that’s going to kill you in minutes. The lethal kind can hit within a minute or up to two hours from the time of the sting. Your blood pressure can drop, and your airways may swell. You can go into shock and die. Warning signs are: […]

Tips to Tell You If a Tick’s Made You Sick (Even If You Haven’t Seen One)

About 80 percent of people with Lyme disease from a tick bite develop a target lesion, or bull’s-eye rash. It’s not always so visually well-defined. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Where I come from, it’s tick season. I suspect it is in your area too. On many a tree leaf or tall grass, the tiny blood-suckers lie in wait—ready to pounce on any warm-blooded creature that gets within distance—eager to share their multiple array of germs. The CDC lists twelve tick-borne diseases in the U.S. alone. Early recognition and treatment is vital to prevent permanent disability, even death. But these diseases can be hard to diagnose. Symptoms can be very general—say, fever and muscle aches—and their onset can be delayed for days or weeks. Tick-borne diseases can be hard for a doctor to pen down. So what if no doctor is available? Here are a few steps you can take to decrease your chance of a devastating outcome. […]

By | April 24th, 2012|Critters, Rashes, Skin|68 Comments

A Smelly Remedy for a Yucky Problem

Garlic is an age-old home remedy for pinworms. Studies on its effectiveness are scarce, but it’s worth a try. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Warning: Gross-out level 8/10. Someone on the Homestead Survival Facebook page asked me, if there’s no way to get to a doctor, how does a person get rid of pinworms? Good question. There are plenty of home remedies, but there’s little objective proof they work. Garlic for Pinworms: Worth a Try(?) Using garlic is an age-old remedy for pinworms. We know it kills the worms and eggs through direct contact in a lab, but that’s different than going through the digestive system. The only study I could find using the stuff in a person showed a seven percent cure rate. Even the authors were surprised and suggested further study, but I found none. I suspect some reasons for the lack of studies are: (1) There are good pharmaceutical cures, such as prescription mebendazole and over-the-counter pyrantel (not to be taken if pregnant). (2) No one’s going to pay for a study using garlic. (Is there a Garlic Association?) (3) A pinworm infestation is not considered life-threatening. But I hear it can make your butthole itch like crazy. They like to come out at night, so that can certainly mess with your sleep. Two Steps to Killing Pinworms at Home So, what do you do if you can’t get the medicine? I’ve done a little research, and here are some suggestions for getting rid of those nasty creepy crawlies. […]

By | April 17th, 2012|Critters, Infectious Disease|440 Comments