The Survival Doctor

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Special note: I’ve crafted an exciting new course especially for my readers who want to gain confidence with saving a life. Don’t miss the end of this post for more.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

You’re in the midst of a storm. The streets are dangerous for travel. There’s no electricity and cell phones are not working. You notice movement outside your window and watch your neighbor drop slowly to the ground.

After making sure the scene is safe—no strange, suspicious-looking people or animals, etc.—you grab your pepper spray, just in case, and go out to check on him.

He’s awake but lethargic, says he’s just not feeling well and wants to sleep. He lives alone and was coming over to your house for help.

You have no idea what’s going on, and he’s no help. In fact, he’s snoring now.

What can you do? The possible causes of an altered mental status make up a pretty long list if you include the many you’re probably not going to think of.

Well, how about doing what we medical people do sometimes? Use a special trick to [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: September 22, 2014, 9:59 am

When treating a tension pneumothorax, place the needle and catheter above the third rib, about 2 inches from the edge of the breastbone. (Click illustration to enlarge.)

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

In my “What to Do for a Collapsed Lung” post, I promised future information on what to do for one of a collapsed lung’s most dangerous variants, a tension pneumothorax. So here it is.

This post covers an advanced procedure, but the procedure can save a life. If medical personnel aren’t able to get to the victim, you’ll likely be the only one around who’s even heard of this technique. So stay with me …

The Scenario

Your buddy’s been stabbed in the chest. You’ve taped up the chest wound as best you can—sealed it with petroleum jelly and gauze, as described in the collapsed-lung post, so air doesn’t get sucked in through it. But the ambulance isn’t coming anytime soon and your buddy is getting worse fast.

You check her over one more time, looking for things like bleeding or other wounds that could be causing her to go downhill. You find none.

You listen to her chest [... continue reading]

Author: LAwordsmith
Posted: September 16, 2014, 10:00 am

U.S. soldiers practice rescuing during medical training at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2011. The soldiers are assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

You’re driving down a highway when the car in front of you swerves to avoid something. You swerve too—right off the road.

You are able to stop on the grass, but the other car can’t. It flips and the driver is ejected. You find him lying on the ground, bleeding, groaning, but otherwise not responding.

At this point, what’s the number-one thing you’ll avoid doing if possible, even though it might be tempting?

Answer: moving him—unless you do it the right way.

In my last post I discussed the initial steps I’d suggest if you found someone unconscious. One of them is not to move the person unless you have to for safety. That’s a big deal.

But if you do have to move the person, there is a safe(r) way to do it. It’s called a logroll.

Why Not Move the Person?

If you find someone unconscious, you must assume they could have a spinal injury unless you know for [... continue reading]

Author: LAwordsmith
Posted: September 8, 2014, 10:00 am

Unconscious. What would you do?

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Here’s a scenario that happens more often than you might think. You come home from work and find your loved one lying unconscious on the floor in your house. What would you do?

Call 911? Sure. A#1 yes. But what can you do until first responders get there? Or what if they’re running late, or can’t get there at all? It happens. You need a system: First do this, then do this.

Okay, first thing after calling for help?

Your answer: _______________________

 

My answer:

  • Make sure you’re safe. Yeah, if it’s your loved one you’re going to make a beeline but remember to look around. What if there’s an intruder, a wild animal? If you’re the next victim you’re not going to be of much help. Same thing when you’re stopping to help with a highway accident. Every year people get hurt when they open their door and a car slams into it.
  •  

    Next? (Think about it before you read my suggestion.)

    Your answer: ________________________

     

    My answer:

    2. Check for signs of life. How? Check for breathing; yell, “Hey, are [... continue reading]

    Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: September 1, 2014, 1:50 pm

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    When you’re sick and go to the doctor, one of the first things we often do is feel your neck. We’re looking for swelling in certain places, which can indicate an infection.

    So if your child gets sick and you’re unable to get expert help, if there’s swelling in the neck, that can give you clues about what’s going on.

    Here, I’ll talk about three causes: strep throat, mumps, and diphtheria. In the U.S., strep throat is the most common. Because of childhood immunizations, mumps is much less frequent these days, and diphtheria is virtually wiped out. But it is still around in other countries and is occasionally seen here.

    What Causes the Swelling

    The swelling is usually from enlarged lymph nodes under the jaw and on the sides of the neck. These lymph nodes, or glands, are just doing their job to try to catch an above-the-neck infection (like in the ear, throat, or face) and keep it from spreading.

    Neck swelling from mumps comes from a different source: an infected parotid gland. Parotid glands produce saliva to keep your mouth moist. They’re [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: August 25, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    I thought I’d have a little fun today and walk you through what to do in some scenarios to test your basic survival medicine skills.

    To get the most out of this post, wait for a minute after reading each scenario and think what you’d do in such a situation. Then you can see my answers. And maybe together, we can come up with a better plan. You know, two heads and all that. (In this case, thousands of heads.) I think if you really participate we’ll all be the better for it.

    Thanks to Sara Hathaway for providing the scenes from her new novel, Day After Disaster. “The novel takes place in a world being ravaged by earthquakes and rising water levels,” Hathaway says. A good world to know some survival medicine in.

    Scenario 1: Travel Threats

    The main character, Erika, starts out trapped in Sacramento, CA, and must make her way back to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Sacramento has been inundated with toxic water, making it a treacherous journey to dry land. Toxic water aside, once Erika reaches dry land and is journeying [... continue reading]

    Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: August 18, 2014, 10:00 am

    Part 2 in my childhood charts series. See more charts here.

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    This is part two of my series about tips on recognizing childhood illness. Last time, I talked about illnesses with rashes. This time, it’s illnesses that come with bad coughs.

    If you can’t get expert help, you need to be able to recognize them so you’ll have an idea of how long they’ll last, what the most common complications are, and which can be helped with antibiotics in case you have them or can get to a doctor for them.

    If you wish, print out and store the chart, along with the one on rashes and the upcoming one on illnesses that can cause neck swelling.

    As you can see many of the symptoms are initially the same for each disease in this chart. So are the general treatments except for whooping cough’s. Early treatment with antibiotics can decrease the severity and length of this bacterial disease. In fact, if it’s going around, close contacts can go ahead and start antibiotics before symptoms.

    How Common Are These Diseases?

    All [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: August 11, 2014, 10:00 am

    Disease scares getting you down? 4 action-based tips you can take other than just worry.

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Scares … can be quite scary. And the scarier the news, the more it sells. So headlines emphasize the worst scenario.

    A few years back, a producer of a popular television program told me their crew called this phenomenon of headlining the latest bad health news their “scare of the week.”

    Well, OK, they’ve scared us. Now what do we do?

    Just in the last few weeks I’ve read of MERS, multidrug resistant TB; listeria; plague; and the flesh-eating bacteria Vibrio vulnificus, found in warm seawater. Let’s see. Oh yeah, and Ebola. And there will, no doubt, be multiple scares to come.

    I worry about what might be called “disease-scare burnout,” especially if you read only the headlines or start worrying about the what-ifs too much. And all of these diseases have those rabbit-hole what-ifs. What if they become even more contagious and start spreading like wildfire? What if terrorists alter one into a bioweapon? What if I become exposed and don’t even know it? I mean, the possibilities are limited only by your, or a [... continue reading]

    Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: August 4, 2014, 9:44 am

    Ebola Facts, Risks, and Air Travel

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Ebola is highly contagious and kills nine out of 10 people infected. So, why do I think headlines like USA Today’s “Ebola only a plane ride away from USA.” paint the wrong picture? Now that I think of it, why does my first sentence do the same? It’s all about perspective.

    First, a little background.

    The current Ebola outbreak in Africa has been going on for several months. It hit the American news cycle big time on Monday because an American doctor contracted it while in Africa. And someone on a plane there was found to have the disease. The media is asking, “Could it come here?”

    This is not the first outbreak in Africa, but past ones have been localized to small villages. The usual outbreak runs its course and eventually just goes away. But this one has been spreading—to multiple regions, including large cities.

    This is serious business. For those in Africa, it’s a nightmare. Horrible. Devastating. But here are some more facts to put it in perspective for the rest of us:

  • Ebola has never been shown to [... continue reading]
  • Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: July 29, 2014, 9:55 am

    This is the first in my series of childhood-illness charts. See more here.

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Unless you’re of a certain age, you may have never seen some of the diseases in the chart on the next page. Join the crowd; many younger doctors haven’t either. Measles and rubella, which used to be so common, have been close to wiped out in the U.S. Chickenpox cases have come down to an estimated 80 percent of what they were in the 1990s. (Scarlet fever cases have remained about the same, but they’re still pretty rare compared with fifth disease and roseola.)

    So why should you care about them? The words “close to” are key. Measles and rubella are still very prevalent in many countries and crop up in outbreaks in children and adults here in the United States and other developed countries every year. (In fact, my daughter Beth Hubbard, a flight paramedic and owner of the Alaska wilderness medical survival school Solace of Safety, suggested I put together this chart. She plans to utilize it at work.) And you need to [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: July 28, 2014, 10:00 am




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