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Tips on surviving medical issues caused by weather conditions.

How to Avoid a Disaster After the Disaster

New Orleans about a week after Hurricane Katrina in September 2005.* by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado, oftentimes as many people get hurt after the event as during it. Here are a few common injuries and diseases that pose dangers after a natural disaster—some I’ll bet you haven’t thought of. […]

By | August 30th, 2012|General, Weather|8 Comments

Going to the Pool? Watch Your Kids—Even With a Lifeguard

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. I worked as a lifeguard when I was a teen. Great job, usually. The Fourth of July was always an exception—so crowded. There was no way to keep up with everyone in the water. I basically hoped (prayed) that if someone started drowning, a person close by would shout, really loudly, above all the other shouting. Because, contrary to popular belief, a drowning victim usually doesn’t throw up their hands and shout, “Help, I’m drowning!” Usually they don’t shout anything. They’re doing all they can to stay afloat and gasp for breath. Sure, they may be splashing like crazy. But everyone was splashing like crazy. Then there are those who just silently go under. […]

By | July 3rd, 2012|Children, Hot, Weather|17 Comments

How to Keep a Heat Rash from Turning Dangerous

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Believe it or not, I grew up in Mississippi and didn’t know what prickly heat was until I started my practice. In medical training we didn’t concern ourselves with such trivialities. But in real life prickly heat, or a heat rash, can be quite an itchy, prickly nuisance. Many people came to see me for this, and I learned how to recognize it pretty fast. And the heat-rash remedies? They haven’t really changed in those thirty years. So why, in a survival medicine blog, should I even bring it up? Because in summer disaster situations, with less bathing and no air-conditioning, heat rashes are bound to be more common, and more likely to become serious skin infections. They can even make you more prone to heatstroke. Here’s why. […]

By | May 31st, 2012|Hot, Rashes, Skin, Weather|59 Comments

What to Do for Heatstroke When You Can’t Get Help

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Many years ago, before many of you were born, I trained at a large Dallas hospital. In the summers, the ambulances carried tubs of ice, and if they picked up someone with probable heatstroke, they’d start to ice them then and there. I don’t know if they still do that, but heatstroke continues to be an emergency, killing hundreds each year and leaving many more disabled. And cooling remains the top priority in treatment. Heatstroke Warning Signs In order to know what to do, you need to be able to recognize the warning signs of heatstroke (also called sunstroke). With heatstroke your vital organs shut down. Many people even stop sweating. It’s like your body has given up (or burned out). One of the first organs that shows damage is the brain. Therefore, many of the signs and symptoms of heatstroke are related to brain function, such as: […]

By | May 29th, 2012|Hot, Weather|11 Comments

Deadlier Than Natural Disasters: How to Prevent Heatstroke

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the period between 1979 and 2003 and found that more people died from heatstroke than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. And most heatstroke deaths are so preventable. In my last post, I suggested 10 ways to cope with the heat until you can get acclimated. That’s a good start to preventing heatstroke. But some of us are still going to get too hot. The youngest and oldest, the chronically ill, and those who work outside are especially at risk. To Prevent Heatstroke, You Must … Recognize Heat Exhaustion The good news is heatstroke doesn’t just come out of the blue. It’s one problem in a spectrum of heat-related illnesses. First comes heat exhaustion. If you heed its warnings and do the right things, you can prevent what’s sure to follow otherwise—the potentially deadly heatstroke. […]

By | May 24th, 2012|Hot, Weather|26 Comments

10 Tips to Breeze Through the Heat (and Why Fans Don’t Always Work)

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Where I used to live, in Mississippi, it got hot in the summer. Really hot, and humid. Going outside was like entering a sauna. Many of my patients worked outside. Others worked in large metal buildings with no air-conditioning. Each year, I would have to treat several for hyperthermia. The surprising thing, though, was how few. A big reason is they worked yearlong that way. The seasons change gradually, and their bodies adapted. Even then, though, when it got in the high nineties their bodies needed help. The smart ones had learned the tricks on how to survive the heat. […]

By | May 22nd, 2012|Hot, Weather|38 Comments

Carbon Monoxide: How Your Choice of Heat Can Kill You

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. CDC. A family of four found is found dead in a two-room tent with the propane heater still running. The cause of death: carbon monoxide poisoning. A father and son fall asleep in their charcoal-heated tent. They don’t wake up. Your choice of heat can kill you without singeing a hair. Carbon monoxide is colorless and orderless—a silent killer. It’ s the leading cause of poisoning deaths. How can you ensure you or your family isn’t its next victim? When you’re camping or the heat goes off, remember that unless you have a working chimney, makeshift heating may be your greatest danger. […]

By | February 16th, 2012|Cold, Weather|35 Comments

Stranded With Frostbite? 17 Dos and Don’ts

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. In my last post, I talked about how Olympic gold-medal winner Rulon Gardner saved most of his foot despite severe frostbite. The main thing is, he didn’t rewarm it while there was still a chance of the tissue refreezing. (If it had refrozen, it would have been dead meat—literally.) And of course, he was able to get to a medical facility. But what if you can’t get expert care? What if you’re stranded in some shack or tent? Here are some first-aid dos and don’ts for severe frostbite when help is not on the way. […]

By | February 14th, 2012|Cold, Weather|5 Comments

Frozen Foot? When Not to Rewarm It

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Relatively speaking, losing just one toe and a couple of toe tips was pretty much a best-case scenario for Rulon Gardner. He could have lost his entire foot—and some people would have in the same situation. As I talked about Tuesday, the Olympic gold-medal wrestler survived being stranded on a mountainside for seventeen hours in 2002. His right shoe was frozen to his foot. I imagine the tissue was gray or white and hard to the touch, frozen with severe frostbite. But Rulon did a few things that saved his foot—things anyone in the same situation could do, high-level athlete or average joe. […]

By | February 9th, 2012|Cold, Weather|1 Comment

What an Olympian’s Brush With Death Teaches Us About Frostbite

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Rulon Gardner is one megatough dude. He’s a local celebrity here in Colorado (Olympic wresting gold medalist and The Biggest Loser participant). A giant of a guy, he was stranded for something like seventeen hours on the side of a mountain after a snowmobile accident in 2002. You can read his story in Sports Illustrated. They found him almost dead from hypothermia. His right shoe was frozen to his foot. He survived and is back to competitive wrestling. He lost the tips of both big toes, all of his right middle one, and a lot of skin. But it could have been so much worse. We can learn a lot about frostbite from his experience. […]

By | February 7th, 2012|Cold, Weather|0 Comments