Getting Started

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What to Do If You’re Having a Heart Attack

Automated external defibrillators are now widely available in public places. (This one’s at the September 11 memorial in New York.) If you’re having a heart attack in a mall or school, for example, have someone look for an AED in case you need it. AEDs are also available to buy for home use. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH When I first started practicing, in the early 1980s, what we would do for a heart attack was simple. (Of course many more died back then also.) If you were suspected of having a heart attack you were placed in a cardiac-care unit, put on oxygen, and given pain medicine as needed. We tried to regulate your blood pressure and carefully monitored and treated you for the dangerous irregular heartbeats. […]

By | November 6th, 2012|General, Getting Started|34 Comments

When to Suspect a Broken Neck or Back

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. A devastating spine injury could happen to anyone. A simple fall or hit on the head can break the spinal bones. But a break doesn’t always cause paralysis—if people react to it correctly. Spinal bones surround and protect the fragile spinal cord. You can feel their prominences, called spinal processes, along your neck and back. Like any bone they can be broken. The difference is, if this fracture moves, it can push against and permanently damage the spinal cord. That’s why it’s essential to learn when to suspect a broken neck or back and what to do about it. […]

By | December 8th, 2011|Bones, Getting Started|81 Comments

Video: How to Make a Splint

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. If you injure your neck or an extremity and can’t get to medical help, you may need to stabilize it with a splint. Materials Needed to Make a Splint SAM Splint or other firm material Elastic bandages Duct tape You can make a splint out of virtually any firm material that fits the area of the body, but there’s a fairly inexpensive tool you can buy and have on hand. It conforms to the injured area, and you can cut it to size. It’s called a SAM Splint. It comes in many lengths and widths to fit fingers, forearms, ankles, knees, etc. If you’re on a budget, buy a few of the longer ones. (If you cut it, curl up the sharp edge so it won’t cut you back.) The thing about SAM Splints is they’re light, and they take up little space if you fold or roll them. Unlike braces, they can fit all sizes. Unlike cast material, they don’t have to harden. You can wrap them around the neck or ankle, or use them on finger, wrist, arm, elbow, foot, leg, or knee injuries. Someone told me the idea came from playing with a gum wrapper. […]

By | December 6th, 2011|Bones, Getting Started, Videos|10 Comments

How to Disinfect Water

The Russian River in Alaska. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. You can’t count on water anymore. No matter how pristine looking, a mountain stream is full of parasites, such as giardia from animal feces. Pond water, even rainwater, is loaded with bacteria just waiting to make you deathly ill. But what if that’s all there is? It’s relatively simple to disinfect water manually so it becomes drinkable. […]

By | November 10th, 2011|General, Getting Started|38 Comments

Skin Lacerations: How to Treat a Cut, Scrape, Gash, Stab Wound

IN AN EMERGENCY: Treating a wound with no access to medical care right now? This is the post to read. You can sometimes use duct tape to close a wound. (See step four.) by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. You’re cleaning up after the big storm. You’re wearing gloves but grab a pile of rubble that contains some sheet metal. Next thing you know, your glove is red with blood. You cannot get medical help. What do you do? Basics for Treating All Cuts, Scrapes, Gashes and Stab Wounds: 1. Stop the bleeding. Apply direct pressure. If it’s a cut finger, squeeze the wound with your other hand. With a larger area, push down with the base of your palm. Use a clean rag if available. Even if it’s a small artery, you can temporarily stop the bleeding by squeezing proximal (closest to the heart) to the wound. A tourniquet is a last resort. Direct pressure is always better if it works. For Visual Learners Here’s my video series on how to treat cuts: Part 1: Stop the Bleeding Part 2: Assess and Clean the Cut Part 3: Repair the Cut With Duct Tape Be careful if you suspect a broken bone underneath. You don’t want to push too hard and move the bone out of place. As a rule, sharp cuts bleed more than dull, at least at first. (Dull cuts pull more on the blood vessels, causing them to spasm and close more). This has nothing to do with the severity of the cut. Cuts on the face and fingers tend to bleed more (more dense blood supply). If you have a mouth or tongue cut, click here for special instructions. […]

By | September 28th, 2011|Cuts, Getting Started, Other Wounds, Skin|177 Comments