The Survival Doctor

The latest posts from The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Back when I was growing up, I don’t think the phrase “universal precautions” was in a health care worker’s vocabulary. Now, we’re well-versed in such “precautions”—techniques that help prevent spreading diseases. But back then, people were more lax.

We lived more like you might live at home with your family today—which is not like you’d want to live during a disaster.

Back then, sure, people with highly contagious diseases were isolated, but few health care workers were afraid of getting a little blood on them from someone with no obvious illness. (Of course they should have been because people did get hepatitis from contaminated needle sticks, cuts, etc.)

Even when I was in training, I knew of a pathologist who examined surgical specimens gloveless so he could get a feel of the texture.

Then came AIDS, and everything changed.

Nowadays we use every gadget available to keep us from contact with bodily fluid, whether we know it’s contagious or not. The terms “universal precautions” and “personal protective equipment” (often known by its initials, PPE) are as well-known to health care workers as “surgical masks” or “hospital gowns.” [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: April 14, 2014, 10:00 am

A field technician demonstrates protective gear in Zaire during the first Ebola outbreak in 1976.

This is the third post in my “Long-Term Disaster Diseases” series. See the rest here.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

A new outbreak of Ebola is going on in Africa, and Doctors Without Borders is calling it “an epidemic of a magnitude never seen before”—not because of the number of cases or deaths. There have been more in previous outbreaks. It’s because of how the disease is spreading.

In the past, Ebola has always stayed confined to a small region. This time the same strain of the virus has been found infecting people several hundred miles from the original area.

The questions on the minds of many people who don’t live in Africa are, could it come here? If so, how do I prevent it?

What is Ebola?

Ebola is that horrendous viral disease in Africa (so far). It’s the disease with a death rate of up to 90 percent of those infected. The one where the victims sometimes bleed out of every orifice before they die.

But other than for humanitarian reasons or if we’re going to [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: April 7, 2014, 10:00 am

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Many people have asked where to find all the medical supplies I’ve mentioned in my posts. Well, you find them all over the place—some in pharmacies, others in outdoors stores, some in health-food stores, and still more in survival outlets.

Compiling an emergency medical kit can call for quite the time—and gas—commitment. So I set out to make life easier.

I searched Amazon, eBay, and other sites and developed my new online “store and more”—a one-stop shop plus supplies guide. In it, you don’t just get what to buy but why. I even share my personal experiences over the years with some of the supplies.

To make it as easy to use as possible, I structured the store into six user friendly sections:

  • The basics: what everyone should have
  • Additional supplies for your backpack or bug-out bag
  • Additional supplies for your car
  • Intermediate supplies: what to consider after you have the basics
  • Advanced supplies: for if you have advanced skills or wish to make a mini-clinic
  • Water and food
  • I think you’ll see that you have some of these items already, [... continue reading]

    Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: March 31, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH


    You have to admit, the commercials are convincing: Your allergies are keeping you inside, virtually blocked from the outdoors. Otherwise you’re sneezing, have watery eyes, just miserable.

    You take a pill, and whammo, you can do what you wish. Want to roll in the grass, sniff a little ragweed? No worries. Pet a cat even if they usually make you break out in hives? No problem. Whatever you were allergic to before, you’re not anymore, as long as you take the pill.

    But do these allergy medicines actually work? If so, how well? And what about home remedies for allergies? Have they gone the way of the iron lung?

    Here’s my take.

    Do Allergy Medicines Work?

    The over-the-counter nonsedating antihistamines, such as loratadine (Claritin), fexofenadine (Allegra), and cetirizine (Zyrtec), actually work quite well for many people … and not so well for some. The only way to know whether they’ll work for you is to try them and see. (Be sure to read the directions, precautions, side effects, and interactions carefully.)

    The sedating antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can work as well as or better than the nonsedating kind but [... continue reading]

    Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: March 24, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Last post, I wrote about the most common eye injuries I see: having something in the eye, a scratched cornea, or both. With these injuries, sometimes you may just start feeling discomfort, never even knowing what happened. But in the injuries I talk about in this post, you’ll know. With them, diagnosis is not the problem. But knowing how to treat them could mean the difference between having permanent damage and healing completely.

    Puncture Wounds, Blast Injuries, Blunt Trauma, and Cuts

    Any eye injury that involves anything other than the outer corneal layer (the clear coating) is a true emergency. Many times these injuries cause vision loss that can be permanent if not treated very soon at a medical facility.

    Until you can get to a facility, protect the eye from further injury or pressure.

    Here’s a trick that can help: Cut a small paper cup short and tape it over the eye. (Make sure neither it nor the tape touches the eye.)

    If something is stuck in your eye, let a medical expert take it out because you’re likely to damage the eye further by trying. If there’s [... continue reading]

    Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: March 17, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Cornea rust ring. If a speck of metal is left in the eye, a rust ring forms around it. Usually this will go away on its own several days after the metal speck has been removed.

    You’re working around your home doing some cleanup, and something hits your eye.

    Or you’re hammering a nail or two and start having eye pain out of the blue—a scratching feeling. Something must have gotten in your eye, you figure.

    What do you do?

    Hopefully in either scenario you’ll get to a doctor ASAP, but what can you do until you can? Or what if that’s impossible?

    Eye injuries run the gamut from just being a nuisance to causing devastating vision loss. In this post I’ll share the most common injuries I see. In the next post, I’ll write about others that are not quite so common but potentially even more dangerous

    What to Do If You Think Something’s in Your Eye

    You’re working outside, and the wind’s blowing. Something—dust?—gets in your eye.

    What not to do: Remember what your mother said: Don’t rub it. Your tears will probably wash the foreign body out. If you [... continue reading]

    Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
    Posted: March 10, 2014, 9:55 am

    Sometimes you just have to live with thick toenails—and get some strong clippers.*

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Several of my Facebook fans have asked what to do for their thick toenails. And to tell the truth, it’s not a trivial question. Thick toenails can be the starting point for bad bruises, infections, even gangrene.

    In a disaster situation, these problems could become more likely if you have to do a lot of walking or even just standing. If your shoes press on the toenail, the toe can become quite bruised. Then, if your toes swell from the bruising, the shoes will be tighter on them, causing a dangerous cycle, even to the point of killing some of the tissue under the nail.

    So it’s best to treat thick toenails before a disaster rather than during.

    5 Causes of Thick Toenails

    1. Fungi. A fungus is a common cause and hard to get rid of.

    Treatment: You can try daily application of:

      • Tea-tree oil, an antifungal
      • Noxema
      • Topical antifungals bought at the drugstore; the label will say they’re for toenail fungus
      [... continue reading]
    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: March 3, 2014, 11:00 am

    Some diseases that aren’t a big problem in the most industrialized nations now could become a problem during a long-term disaster. This is the second in a series of posts I’m writing about such diseases. See part one, on typhus, here.

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    We don’t hear much about typhoid fever in the United States. To most of us, it’s a mysterious disease that we know is serious, but we’re not sure what it looks like. Is it even really a fever?

    We need to be able to recognize it, though, because in certain conditions during a long-term disaster, it could spread rapidly. And proper early treatment dramatically lowers your risk of dying from it.

    Where Is Typhoid Fever Most Common?

    Make no mistake, typhoid fever is still a problem worldwide. In fact, over 20 million people get it each year, mostly in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. India has a particularly high incidence.

    The only things that keep typhoid fever from becoming a problem in countries like the U.S. are our good sanitation and relatively uncrowded conditions. Even then, around 400 people come down with it here every year, mostly [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: February 24, 2014, 11:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    One of my Facebook followers recently asked me what I’d suggest keeping in the car for winter weather. I started to tell her to go to my website, but then I realized, surprise, I don’t have it listed. Well I’m sorry for that, but here’s my list.

  • Cellphone. Always have it fully charged. It can be a lifesaver when used to call for emergency help, but even if you’re out of range, rescuers can use past signals to narrow down where you’re lost.
  • Coat, hat, gloves. It may seem obvious, but how often do you just not bother if you’re going on a short drive to a convenient location? So, what if you’re in a wreck or your car stalls? And, after this year, we know that a short drive can turn into a multiple hours traffic jam where you might have to cut the engine or even walk a short way for shelter in a store or office building.
  • Blanket. If you don’t have room for one, consider a space blanket or three, which you can get in [... continue reading]
  • Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: February 17, 2014, 11:00 am

    Previously the top-7 medical uses!

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    Thursday, the U.S. government banned liquids, including gels, in carry-ons to Russia. That means hand sanitizers. That means hand sanitizers that reporters and visitors on their way to Sochi for the Olympics probably packed because of tales of contaminated water.

    What to do? Even if you didn’t put sanitizer in your checked bag and Russia’s all sold out when you get there, remember, this country just so happens to be famous for … its vodka. Vodka is about 40 percent alcohol. Alcohol kills germs. So in a pinch, vodka = medical supply.

    Unfortunately vodka kills brain cells and the liver too, so let’s not take it too far. But in The Survival Doctor world, I’m always looking for alternatives to regular medical supplies, and this is just too good. In fact, vodka—and other strong alcohols—have a lot of medical uses.

    What Kind of Vodka?

    The seven tips in this post don’t involve drinking the stuff, so I wouldn’t buy the most expensive brand. I wouldn’t get the flavored type either since you’d just be [... continue reading]

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

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