The Survival Doctor

The latest posts from The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Here in Colorado, we’ve already had some really cold days and then some sneaky mild ones. Sneaky because I get all comfortable going out with a light jacket one day; the next, the sky is clear, and it looks the same—from the inside. I walk out, and bam, it’s biting cold. Or the day is pretty mild and the night is freezing.

Winter is upon us, and I have this sneaky feeling it’s going to get colder before it gets warmer. So I went back and reviewed my previous posts for winter safety tips (hey, sometimes even I don’t remember every detail I’ve written). And below I’ve linked to the 10 most popular ones for 2014.

Even if you’ve read them, I’d suggest you, like me, could benefit from a review, to get you ready for the upcoming cold. And even if you live in a warm climate, check out number eight for sure.

10. How to Walk in the Snow Without Falling (Much)

9. Low Body Temperature: More Than Frostbite (and More Dangerous)

8. Why Winter Heart Attacks Are More Common No [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: December 16, 2014, 11:09 am

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

A few weeks ago a patient I was seeing in the office asked me to look at a copy of his lab work he’d received from an alternate medicine provider. It was the usual chemistry screen and all looked great, to me at least. But two figures were circled, a slightly low creatinine level and a slightly high BUN/creatinine ratio, and yes, the lab printout had those in the out-of-normal range. His provider had asked that he come back in several weeks and have them rechecked. The retest would cost around $150.

This jogged my memory of some wise advice one of my medical school professors taught: Doing a medical test is useless if you have no idea what you’re going to do with the results.

And you’re not going to do much if there’s no danger from a slight abnormality. This goes for everyday situations and survival ones.

Thinking It Through

Creatinine is one sign of how well your kidneys are working. Every day your body breaks down a small portion of your muscle, and creatinine is a byproduct. It’s excreted out your kidneys. The higher above normal your creatinine level is, [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: December 8, 2014, 10:29 am

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

What do asthma attacks and panic attacks have in common, besides the fact that they’re both more likely during a disaster?

They both cause you to hyperventilate (breathe faster), which in turn makes them worse.

There’s a breathing technique that can help stop the cycle. But it’s the opposite of what you probably think. It’s not deep breathing; it’s slow, shallow breathing. And practicing it can even help prevent attacks from coming on. But you have to learn to do it properly—preferably straight from a professional.

How Everyday Breathing Affects Attacks

Asthmatics and people prone to panic attacks (panic disorder) tend to breathe in some slightly different ways than others, which keeps their carbon dioxide at a slightly lower level.

In everyday living, you never think about needing to maintain the carbon dioxide level in your blood in a certain range. Your body just does it. If you’re perceived as having too much, you exhale a bit more to release it through your lungs. Too little and you breathe a bit slower. But the level your body decides you should live with can affect you in many ways, large [... continue reading]

Author: James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.
Posted: December 3, 2014, 9:09 pm

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Today, I’m launching my first ever big holiday survival sale.

There are personalized gifts for under $20 plus deep discounts on training.

Has taking a great first aid or wilderness survival course been on your to-do list? Why not make 2015 the year of getting it done? With these specials, you could even take my course with a friend.

If some of The Survival Doctor products are on your own Christmas list, now’s the time to tell friends and family about them. They can get them for you at a discount, so, you know, you’d be doing them a favor by letting them know, right?

But don’t delay. That snail mail can be a bit overwhelmed during this time of year, and the sale is for a limited time only. In fact, I don’t know when I’ll offer these deals on the training course again, if ever.

Feel good about your purchase! Thank you for supporting a small business made in the USA.

Happy Thanksgiving Week!

Back when I was in medical school, my family [... continue reading]

Author: LAwordsmith
Posted: November 25, 2014, 8:58 pm

Part 2 in a two-part series on cold weather and your heart. See part 1 here.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

In my last post, I talked about the effects of cold weather on your heart. But there are other possible reasons winter is prime time for heart attacks even when it’s warm out. So there are even more steps than the ones I mentioned that may help lower your risk.

Beyond the Cold: More Ways the Winter Affects Your Heart

We’re not really certain how much any of the following factors increase your risk for a heart attack. But for now, it’s a best guess that they do at least to some degree.

  • Stress. The winter holidays bring on more stress, which can be hard on your heart.
  • Depression. The holidays can also trigger depression. So can the short days and having to stay in. Depression leads to not really caring about diet or making sure all prescription medicines are taken—like ones for your heart.
  • Vitamin D deficiency. Less daylight and less getting outside may lead to a vitamin D deficiency, [... continue reading]
Author: LAwordsmith
Posted: November 17, 2014, 11:00 am

Part 1 in a two-part series on snowy weather and your heart.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Every year people have heart attacks shoveling snow. Your heart attacking you is never good, but a slick road may make quick emergency transport harder than ever. And since the first few minutes can be crucial, that could make a difference in life or death.

Simple solution: Don’t shovel snow, correct? Well, maybe. Maybe not.

There are suggestions that it’s not only the exertion that puts you at risk. Just getting a bit too cold can also. And it doesn’t have to be freezing. There’s evidence that risk starts increasing when the weather is in the 50s Fahrenheit.

Cold Weather and Your Heart

There are two ways the cold affects you that experts think could increase your risk for a heart attack:

  • It constricts your blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to rise a bit.
  • It causes your blood to clot more easily. (By the way, strokes also increase in cold weather.)
  • So, dress warmly or stay inside. Problem solved?

    Not so fast. As with a lot of medical risks and associations, it’s complicated: people living [... continue reading]

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

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    It’s disaster time and you have a problem. Maybe pain from an injury or headache or misery from indigestion or a cold. You delve into your stash of over-the-counter medications you’ve saved for times just like this and take one you’ve taken many times before. Two hours later, you have a rash or stomach pain or some other odd new problem. Is it related to the medicine? I mean, you’ve taken it so many times in the past.

    Remember this: Any medication, herb, supplement, oil, or food that can work on your body in a positive way has the potential to affect it in a negative way as well. No matter how many times you’ve taken something in the past, it can give you just about any side effect you can think of at any given time, and that includes an allergic reaction.

    Some side effects are more serious or debilitating than others. If you’re at increased risk for a bad one, think about whether the medication’s benefits outweigh its potential risks, knowing you couldn’t get expert help if you needed it.

    Below are my [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: November 3, 2014, 11:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    You let the dog out one last time before bed, and you hear a yelp. Somehow she’s managed to cut her leg pretty deep.

    Being a fan of The Survival Doctor, you know to apply pressure to stop the bleeding, but she just keeps crying. You know of a vet clinic that stays open until 11, and it’s 10 right now. You tie a rag around the wound and head out the door.

    After a couple of miles, you hear a bump, bump, bump. It gets louder. You pull over and dig out your flashlight from the glove compartment. The batteries are dead.

    You get out and see the flat tire. And suddenly you notice it’s cold outside. The wind has picked up and you didn’t bring a coat. There’s a lot less traffic than you had expected. Someone may stop and help, or not.

    Either way, it’s cold and dark, and you’ve just noticed you’re low on gas. You think you have a spare tire but haven’t checked in a while. Thankfully you have your cellphone. You dig around where you usually [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: October 27, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    In the medical field, other than death, nothing is absolute. One radio interviewer told me recently he would never be comfortable about the Ebola risks until we knew absolutely everything about it and there was zero risk for everyone. Guess what. He’s never going to be comfortable.

    Part of the Ebola fear fuel in America right now is the fact that we don’t know everything about this disease. And when questions arise, people come out of the woodwork with answers, whether they know what they’re talking about or not. Often, their answers boil down to: Well, we don’t know, but maybe, and if so, yikes!

    All I know to do is go with what we do know now. As with any disease, we can ask: How much at risk are we? Can we can change any of our actions to reduce our risk? Is it worth it to us to change those actions? And if what we know changes, we can reassess the risk.

    The facts, for now, Oct 20, 2014:

    • Ebola kills big-time; 50-70 percent mortality rate with this strain. (Keep in mind, [... continue reading]
    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: October 20, 2014, 10:00 am

    by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

    If you read my post about Hands-Only CPR Monday, you know that I believe the American Heart Association’s guidelines leave room for interpretation. So my team emailed them to see if they could officially clarify some points.

    Here’s part of their response. It addresses some issues related to Hands-Only CPR, a trademarked term for doing chest compressions only (no mouth-to-mouth), but doesn’t clarify completely.

    First, the AHA explained the rationale for not doing respirations (mouth-to-mouth) in most teens and adults:

    … when a teen or adult suddenly collapses with cardiac arrest, his or her lungs and blood contain enough oxygen to keep vital organs healthy for the first few minutes, as long as someone provides high-quality chest compressions with minimal interruption to pump blood to the heart and brain. This is the rationale for Hands-Only CPR for these folks.

    Then, the AHA answered our question about bullet point three in their guidelines. That point says respirations are still recommended for “anyone found already unconscious and not breathing normally.” I assumed this referred to people who are exhibiting agonal breathing (which, as I explained in [... continue reading]

    Author: LAwordsmith
    Posted: October 13, 2014, 10:00 am

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