The Survival Doctor

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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.”

I replied, “You can’t be.”

“Why not?”

“No one can get to you. We’re on the edge of one of the steepest canyons in the world. And we’re behind schedule. You can’t have a heart attack until we get back to the top.”

Well, that wasn’t my finest moment as a doctor (or husband), and I reaped the consequences of my words for quite a while, but seriously, what if you find yourself on a hike, far from help, and begin to [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: March 2, 2015, 1:19 pm

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 the time Gardner was found and flown to a hospital, he had extreme hypothermia and severely frostbitten feet. But he ended up losing only one toe.

What Most People Don’t Learn About Cold-Weather Survival

As I explained in this post, one reason Gardner’s frostbite didn’t have a worse outcome is once his feet got frozen, they stayed that way. He didn’t warm them, only to have them freeze again.

That’s a tip most people don’t know. He may not have either; he just said he had to choose between keeping his hands or his feet warm. Gardner’s father said his son’s “knowledge of the cold” helped pull him through. But even in wilderness-survival [... continue reading]

Author: LAwordsmith
Posted: February 23, 2015, 11:00 am

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

A reader emailed to remind me there’s been a spate of carbon monoxide poisonings and several carbon monoxide deaths to go along with the cold weather in the Northeast United States. To me, that sort of news is always so troubling because even though carbon monoxide is a stealthy killer, the deaths are so preventable. All you need is a working carbon monoxide monitor. (Working is key, so test it occasionally to make sure the audible alarm is good to go. Also ensure the battery is alive and well and you have a few extra batteries just in case.)

No matter how safe your home may seem you need this monitor. Any furnace may malfunction; any vent to the outside may get blocked. All you need is exposure to the fumes of something burning to potentially be in trouble. Whether they’re from automobile exhaust, a generator, or a heater, if you breathe in these odorless fumes, you’re at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. The only heat that I know of that doesn’t contain carbon monoxide as a byproduct is electric.

For more information about carbon monoxide poisoning from heat sources, check out continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: February 17, 2015, 10:30 am

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I get a gnawing feeling in my stomach when I hear stories of people who died from an injury they might have survived if they’d just known a little more basic medicine. Or maybe they knew but just weren’t thinking right at the time.

And then there are the people who saved lives with well-applied tourniquets and other techniques, makeshift or otherwise, that often aren’t even taught in typical first-aid classes. If you’d like to know more about such techniques, I do have a video course.

Getting a devastating injury doesn’t always equal a death sentence, even if you’re in a disaster or homesteading or otherwise unable to get immediate professional help. If you know the right things to do, you may be able to survive—or save the life of a loved one.

Here are my best tips to deal with five life-threatening injuries when you can’t get to a doctor, until you can. (In addition to all these tips, have someone quickly call 911 if possible.) My suggestion is to put these to memory.

1. Deep Wound to an Extremity

Most common immediate threat to [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: February 9, 2015, 10:10 am

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Every year we have a few measles outbreaks in the U.S., but they’re still pretty limited to a few hundred people. You’ve probably heard about the most recent one that started in Disneyland and may have led to over 100 people getting the measles so far in 2015.

The worry is the outbreaks are going to get more frequent and bigger, and that’s not just because of people coming to the U.S. from countries where fewer children are vaccinated, as some have speculated. The percentage of children getting vaccinated in the U.S. is down to 91 percent. Compare that to 89 percent in Mexico, for example, and you can see there’s not a lot of difference.

Measles is one of the most contagious diseases ever. If you get exposed and you’re not immune, you have a 90 percent chance of getting it. Now, if one person gets the measles and everyone else is immune, it’s not going to spread. But if they’re not, it will, big time. Last year, some unvaccinated Amish missionaries caught it while overseas. They came [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: February 4, 2015, 10:20 pm

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Doc, how call I tell the flu from a cold? Should I get seen? How long do the flu symptoms last?

Both online and in clinic, I get a lot of questions about the flu. In this post I’ll answer some of the most commonly asked.

Q: How do I know if I have the flu?

A: When seeing a patient for aches, pains, and fever, here are some of the clues that make me think I’m dealing with the flu:

  • It’s going around. While there’s a chance for flu anytime, it’s much more likely in winter, late fall, or early spring.
  • The person looks ill and essentially tells me they feel like they’ve been beaten up and then kicked some more.
  • They say they were feeling fine and then, out of the blue, started getting chills and muscle aches. Quickly, they felt like they’d just run a marathon and then been stuck in a blender.
  • Most of my patients with the flu are fatigued and their muscles hurt, down to the bone. The fever goes up to 102 or higher—maybe even 106. [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: February 2, 2015, 11:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Two weeks ago, I asked what you want to learn more about this year. The most popular answer was “advanced” techniques.

    Last week, I covered some really advanced questions about smoke inhalation—even ones experts have trouble answering. You responded by making that article the most popular post with subscribers in almost three months. Thanks. I’ll keep going in this direction.

    I have one more important set of questions for you, and then we’ll get back to survival medicine.

    This year, I want to create the products you need—things that fill gaps and help you prepare in practical ways. So I’ve created a brief follow-up survey about that.

    If you’d like to have your voice heard (whether or not you took the first survey), please click here. (There are only five questions.) I’m really listening, and I hope we can make this the best year yet for your medical prepping.

    Thanks for your support.

    >> Take the survey.
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    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: January 26, 2015, 11:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    The recent train disaster in Washington, D.C., reminded me that I haven’t covered smoke inhalation in my posts.

    Picture this. You’re on a subway going through a tunnel when you hear a loud pop. The train stops, the lights go out, and the air starts filling with smoke. And it’s getting worse.

    A voice comes over the intercom. “The train is not on fire. Please, everyone, sit on the floor and wait for help.” The voice orders you not to open the doors. You’re trapped.

    In the D.C. event, which resulted in one woman dying and dozens being hospitalized, I don’t know why they weren’t allowed to evacuate. Perhaps because no one knew exactly what had happened and how safe it was to go out.

    About 35 minutes later, emergency help arrived. But that means that in a major metropolitan city, all these people were trapped for over half an hour with no help. It’s a tragic example of not always being able to predict when or where an emergency will happen.

    Many of the passengers probably thought they were just making a quick trip out. I mean, I’m guessing [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: January 19, 2015, 11:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Thank you for the wonderful response to last week’s survey. It will help me a great deal in focusing on what you’d most like to learn about.

    As promised, here are the results.

    1. What type of information would you like me to focus on most this year?

    From this, it seems I have been going in the right direction, covering diseases in the blog and including advanced survival techniques in the blog, books and especially the training course.

    I would just add a note that it’s important to get the basics down first, as I’m sure you’d agree. In an emergency, if the immediate threats to life are not corrected there may be no reason to do the advanced procedures. (That’s why I also cover some basics in nearly all my educational products.)

    I’m interested to know more about what type of advanced information you want to learn, so I’ll be following up with a survey about that next week.

    2. What topic would you like to learn most about this year?

    This helps a lot. Thanks.

    3. Which emergency-scenario [... continue reading]
    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: January 12, 2015, 11:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    My resolution for 2015 is for The Survival Doctor to focus even more on your needs. I want to help you prepare easier and quicker—in the exact ways you want to.

    To that end, would you tell me how I can best help you by answering this five-question survey? It’ll only take about five minutes.

    I want to know how you like to learn new things and what you most want to learn about. I’ve been soaking up medical information for over 40 years, so there’s a lot I could share. Where do you want me to focus?

    After you take the survey, feel free to expound on your answers in the comments section below. I’ll share the survey results next week.

    >> Take the survey.
    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: January 6, 2015, 11:00 am

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