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Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about wilderness medicine

Ask Stanford Med: Answers to your questions about wilderness medicine

Thanks for the great questions about health and safety in the wilderness. I enjoyed reading them and hope these responses will help you better prepare for your adventures this summer.

@sarahwhelchel asks: What’s the craziest situation you’ve ever had to deal with in the wilderness?

This is not “crazy,” but it was memorable. I was hiking near a lake when I was approached by a young boy out fishing with his friends. He came up to me in distress and it was quickly obvious that he had a problem. There was a big treble hook anchored in his nose, with one barbed prong embedded pretty far up inside a nostril and the other two hanging outside his nose. He was pretty agitated, so from a distance I asked him if it was “hurting real bad.” He shouted, “No.” Then he got closer he said, “It don’t hurt that much, but I sure would ‘preciate it if you could take off the worm.” I looked closer up his nose and there it was, wiggling around. I tried not to smile, but I couldn’t help it. I had one of his friends help me stabilize the hook to keep it from moving too much, and then I reached up with a tiny blade and scraped the crawler off the barb. The kid was a tough little fellow and let me push the point of the hook through his nose so that I could cut it off and extract the hook. Afterwards, I asked him to tell me the truth – what was the worst part? He was emphatic: it was the worm!

@rdicker asks: I pack all the basic first-aid stuff for hiking. What is the most common serious injury people don’t prepare for?

I can’t say for sure the most common serious injury for which people don’t prepare. But I can provide a list some things that are tragic because they could have been avoided with proper preventive measures. These include:

  • Drowning because a person wasn’t wearing a life jacket or didn’t have a personal flotation device
  • Being struck by lightning because a person failed to seek shelter during a thunderstorm
  • Suffering an attack by a wild animal because of intentionally approaching the creature
  • Falling over a cliff or waterfall after ignoring a posted warning sign
  • Sustaining a head injury because of failing to wear a helmet while rock climbing or mountain biking
  • Being bitten by a rattlesnake after trying to handle a venomous reptile
  • Suffering a serious burn after tripping into a campfire while intoxicated
  • Breaking a leg because the person didn’t bring a hiking pole to maintain balance on a rocky, uneven trail
  • Developing disabling blisters because boots were not properly broken in or were too tight

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