Winter Blog 2018

It comes every year so don’t be too surprised.

Rain, sleet, snow, ice, and darkness.

All familiar and all with a challenge.

Hypothermia, the condition of low body temperature, is the main peril of rain, sleet and snow.

If you get too cold, all the systems in your body do not work well. It rather quickly leads to weakness, loss of coordination and inability to think clearly. If you are alone, it can be difficult to self-rescue. Prevention is the key: Dress for the weather you fear. Generally, a wind and waterproof outer layer, then sufficient insulating inner layers to stay warm. You want to stay dry because you lose heat very rapidly from a wet body. A balaclava, face covering or equivalent is suggested when it starts to get quite cold. Obviously, adequate gloves or mittens, and shoes or boots are needed.

A diet higher in protein will aid in keeping the metabolic furnace output high and keep you warmer. Alcohol in any form increases heat loss; it will not keep you warm and will increase your chance of hypothermia. Though with enough alcohol inside, you may not care or be aware enough to know that you are getting dangerously cold.

I have seen enough broken bones, hips and sprains to know that a slip and fall from icy conditions is too common. Prevention is key. Crawling will work in an extreme situation! I suggest using a slip-on crampon that goes over shoes or boots. They work well with minimal inconvenience. They are so effective that in some Arctic communities they are given away to some of the residents.

Darkness is a underestimated winter variable. The loss of joy, the restlessness, anger, and depression should not be discounted. Broadly speaking, our geographic migration has outstripped our genetic makeup. People freak out in both the extremes of the long Arctic winter and summer. Twenty-four hours of darkness or light is not psychologically comfortable for most people.

Exposure to bright light of sufficient (individual) duration is the treatment for shorter days. Buy one and follow the exposure directions. They work!

Tips to Avoid the Busy Emergency Room This Summer Season

Summer will be here so soon.

Water - Enjoy the water but don’t drink then swim, raft or dive. An elevated blood alcohol concentration (that means if you’re buzzed or more) will allow you to be confused and drown more easily than not. It may also alter your judgment and allow you to be in risky situations (going down those rapids that you were always afraid sober to try and raft)

Fire - Like they say: Fire is a great servant but an awful master. Take caution in starting fires with any of the fire-starter accelerants. A flash burn or worse can be the result. Remember to stop, drop and roll if you need to extinguish yourself.

Allergy - Just the usual avoidance of the plants and take antihistamines (OTC usually works well).

Insects - Don’t mess with the hive. Africanized honey bees can be nasty in their vigor and persistence in attacks upon those who torment them. Distance and barrier protection will minimize the problems. Call for help promptly.

Avoid being outside at dawn and dusk without insect repellent (high concentration applied DEET is excellent repellent). Too many viruses are spread by insect diseases. 

Tics - Let someone check you each 24-hour period or less. Remove them carefully (see internet for management).

Other Summertime Activities - Generally, don’t mow grass barefoot. Do not put hands in holes unless you can see that it is safe. Watch for snakes. Climb trees carefully. Think before you use a rope swing: Are my arms/hands strong enough?

July 4th - A big day in the Emergency Room. Too much sun, alcohol, fire and explosions.

Fireworks - Remember, if a firecracker goes off in your hand (blowing off fingers) it can also blow out your eardrums! If you dare, you can drunkenly firewalk across the still-hot coals and maybe still Have a Glorious Fourth!

Softball - remember to not slide in that softball game; too many severe ankle fractures, even in those cases when there is a break-away base. Head first? Do you really need to be that hero?

Sun - A tan is not your friend! Despite the popularity suggested in the fake press.

It speeds up the aging of the skin and thus your appearance. It will also increase your risk for a variety of skin cancers (the surgery required can be somewhat disfiguring); some deadly. Cover up completely and use sunscreen. Practice looking at your shadow to protect your face!  Lol

Temperature and Humidity - Stay hydrated. Keep drinking and urinate about once each hour. With usual (non-alcoholic or weakly alcoholic) liquids and pretty normal kidneys, drinking is more important than what you drink in keeping you going. Volume is more important than particular ingredients or lack of ingredients. In low humidity areas (think the Arizona desert) where you may not notice sweat, since the sweat you produce evaporates so quickly you miss identifying it; nevertheless, you are losing water. So, keep drinking. Plain water is good, but after a couple of quarts try something with some electrolytes in it. That can help avoid a low sodium concentration in the blood (it’s not good and makes you feel bad).

Have a great summer and as always Be Emergency Free

Paul Weinberg, MD


Want to Avoid the Flu? Get the Vaccine

Don’t be fooled. The generic term “flu” - referring to one of many  viruses that cause the common cold with fever, achiness, runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion and generally feeling poorly - is not Influenza.

Influenza, the name of the specific virus responsible for the big, bad, deadly, worldwide pandemic of 1918, is the virus category I am talking about.

It is the virus the Influenza vaccine (a.k.a. flu vaccine) is trying to stop or at least stun. Influenza can be and is an annual killer. Usually the very young or old, chronically ill, smokers, and others who are immunologically depressed from their disease burden suffer the most from catching Influenza.

Get the vaccine!! The earlier in the season the better and also better late than never.

No vaccine is 100% effective (is anything really?) but it helps against the risk of death across a wide category of disease. The flu vaccine has low side effects and it does not give you Influenza.  You still might get the common-cold type ailment right after being inoculated (given the shot).

Vaccine = Avoidance

Avoidance also is keeping those viruses, which are riding on microscopic droplets of water from sneezes, coughs, and non-clean hands, from entering your body through the nose and mouth. Keep three or more feet away from those who spray those droplets, and, never touch your face without first washing or cleaning your hands (an alcohol-based hand sanitizer also works).

Pretty simple.

Obviously, wearing a mask that covers the nose and mouth may be helpful as well.

Keep it safe and healthy. Be Emergency Free!