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Staying Healthy on the Road Medical info, e.g. malaria, vaccinations, travel medical tips, medical insurance, where to find a doctor.
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Old 11 Jan 2009
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I hope this isn't serious

In a few weeks my son is off to China, Japan etc for the best part of six months. We've been trying to anticipate what might go wrong medically and have been looking for a simple diagnosis book that could be used to give him some idea whether he needs to seek help / take an asprin / lay off the booze, that kind of thing.

We've not been able to find anything though in bookshops and a quick google search has not brought up anything suitable either. Anyone here got any suggestions.

The sort of thing I had in mind was a pocket book - maybe phrasebook size, laid out with a kind of flowchart approach that would be easy to read when you wake up in the middle of the night with a headache / stomach ache / sweating or whatever. The kind of approach used to diagnose why your engine won't start - do you have a spark? Yes/No. If yes ... etc

I'm aware of the problems that could come from following the wrong thread and concluding that you've had too much sake when you've really got malaria but for someone with no medical knowledge at all its got to be better than nothing.
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Old 11 Jan 2009
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Personally I'd be inclined to suggest he uses Google. For example, you could search for a combination of sweating and ear ache on Netdoctor by typing the following into Google:

site:netdoctor.co.uk "ear ache" sweating

The first bit restricts the search to netdoctor domain, and putting quotes round ear ache forces a search on the phrase rather than the individual words.

"For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
and enlarges the world in which you live,"
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Old 11 Jan 2009
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Hi Tim

He is pretty net savvy as most 19yr olds are so I think it's likely he'd do something like that if he was feelling ill. Even easier would be a phone call home as four of his near relatives, including his mother, are doctors but I was just surprised that a pocket guide to whats wrong with you seemed to be so hard to find.

I don't suppose mobile phone signals, web access or even medical services are going to be that scarce in China but they certainly are in much of Africa (well maybe not the phone signal!) and a well stocked medical kit isn't much help if you've no idea which bit to use.

There's plenty of first aid books that show you how to fold a triangular bandage or stop bleeding, but nothing that we could find on simple, easy to follow medical diagnosis. If there's really nothing available it might be a project for my wife's next sabbatical. Just as long as it says a bit more than "No user serviceable parts inside, contact your nearest authorised agent"!
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Old 11 Jan 2009
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I expect that every litigation lawyer is eagerly awaiting such a book and every publisher is too afraid to even read a draft outline in case they get sued.

9 times out of 10 the locals will have an appropriate cure for whatever ails you. I got a bad dose of Delhi Belly and was taking the usual Mylanta type remedy without any effect, a local pharmacist gave me a packet of rice husks and told me to drink it with a glass of water, I was solid as a rock within about an hour.
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Old 11 Jan 2009
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there are books made for yachtsmen and ships officers, to help diagnose sick crewmembers, try and search this area. Maybe even the navy/army has stuff like that.

example : Ship Captain's Medical Guide (it says, not in stock, order by e-mail)

There is an international medical service helping mariners (f.x. by telephone), they must have an internet site. I don't remember name nor url
May you enjoy peace and good health !
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Old 11 Jan 2009
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Jerome K Jerome. Three Men In A Boat, Not To Mention The Dog. Essential reading for anyone worried about sickness. Linzi.
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Old 11 Jan 2009
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Yes we did wonder about the "go straight to jail" aspect and if that was why we couldn't find anything in Stanfords. There were plenty of books on travel health but they were mostly warning you about camping near swamps or looking out for dead sheep in your drinking water.
I can't believe that a first guess guide to what's wrong with you would be any more litigation prone than the workshop manual for your bike - as long as the information wasn't actually wrong. Or maybe I need to get out more.

The Ships Captain Medical Guide looks like the sort of thing I had in mind - I found it on line in pdf form but it might be a bit ott. Chapters 12, the dying and the dead, Chapter 11, survivors and Chapter 8, diseases of fishermen could probably be left out of the pocket edition aimed at gap year students, but given bikers profile in the wider world perhaps Chapter 6.1, sexually transmitted diseases, could be expanded in the edition that comes free with every GS. (insert smilie here!) In my son's case we could probably save weight by leaving out the sections on pregnancy and childbirth.

I haven't read 3 men in a boat for a few years (decades) so I can't remember any medical advice from it. I have seen the (BBC?) recent adaptation - 3 comedians in a boat or should that be 3 jokers in a boat. Either way, advice on how to treat a bruised ego would have been useful for them
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Old 11 Jan 2009
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3 Men

It's worth another read and a great travel companion. The whole reason for the trip is Jerome having read a medical reference book. That plus his imagination. Don't want to give it away. Stay healthy anyway. It's very important of course. Linzi, cough. Sorry.
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Old 12 Jan 2009
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Here you go

This little book was recommended by abother Hubb member (dpdaniel) who from memory is a doc on expeditions etc (I think).

Treksafe: Pocket First Aid and Wilderness Medicine manual

We ordered the book and was REALLY impressed by all the info you get in it. It is definitely something that can be a lifesaver in some situations. It's got a few flowcharts for diarrea for eg and altitude sickness and also a very useful section on medicines and what you can use in certain situations.

The book is very small and was only about AU$ 20 from memory. (about 12 months ago)

Personally, the best first aid/medicinal book I've seen.

Thanks again dpdaniel for the original link
Jacques & Mandy with Pumbaa II
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Old 12 Jan 2009
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You could also take a look at: "Staying Healthy in Asia, Africa, and Latin America" by Dirk G. Schroeder.

It's light and easy to carry and pretty comprehensive, even has a small section on motorcycle accidents...

You can "search inside" on Amazon.com, used copies available on UK Amazon from 50p..!
Beware the dark, mechanical bird.
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Old 13 Jan 2009
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Originally Posted by backofbeyond View Post
I'm aware of the problems that could come from following the wrong thread and concluding that you've had too much sake when you've really got malaria but for someone with no medical knowledge at all its got to be better than nothing.
A friend of mine travelling in South Africa recently panicked that he had malaria, and ended up hiring a car at vast expense so his travelling companion could drive him to the nearest clinic. Turned out it was food poisoning...

NHS Direct - We're Here Whenever You Need Health Advice & Information also has some diagnosis type pages - you could always look up the likely things and print off relevant pages before going?

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Old 25 Jan 2009
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Expedition meds


I would recommend:

Oxford Handbook of Expedition and Wilderness Medicine (Oxford Handbooks Series)

this is also the recommended book of the RGS, and is written by Dr's who have recent upto date Expedition and far from help expedition knowledge.

Another that might be helpful are:

First Aid Manual printed by DK

this is the authorised manual of St Johns, St Andrews and Red Cross, and covers lots of stuff and ideas on how to make the patient comfortable.

The eigth edition is the current copy, as the nine is awaiting going to print. Available for £12-13 from some book shops
I have a spare copy you could have for £5

Hope he has a good trip

07812 344740
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Old 30 Apr 2009
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I'd also recommend the Trek Safe one, I used it for my last trip (UK to HK) and it is excellent, especially if carrying antibiotics and need to figure out which ones are the right ones to take and general self diagnosis. I found it excellent and it helped me quite a bit. It's small and light and fits super easily into a backpack. Sophie
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Old 1 May 2009
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Thanks for all your replies. Four months or so later and he hasn't caught anything yet so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

However we're visiting him at the moment (I'm writing this from Shanghai) and I've not been so lucky. I've gone down with multiple niggles which if you add up the symptoms sounds like a definition of pig flu but has come from a number of unrelated problems.

Fortunately my son's chinese has improved to the stage where we've been able to buy the stuff we need in the local pharmacies. All I've got to do now is hope it works before I've got to get back into the UK!
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Old 6 May 2009
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Having done a Ships Captains Medical course and obtained the relevant qualification, I can only envisage that the Ships Captains medical handbook would terrify the lay reader.

I would comprehensively disagree about the reduction of Alcohol though; every great explorer has relied strongly upon grog in his medical cabinet.

>Malaria: Drink Gin and Tonic (preventative).
Only treatment, is a massive does quinine. (Metakalfin)

>Fever: nil by mouth drink fluids, before going to bed, drink 4 shots of panfried whisky as soon as you can from a metal coffee mug immediately after it has started to boil.
If symptoms persist after 2 days administer Broad spectrum Antibiotic (500mg 2x per day)
>Kidney infection: Only substance to pass your lips is red wine for 1 week, 2 if you think its severe.

>Delhi Belly: One shot of Brandy mixed with one shot of Port (administer orally).
or Immodium

>Poison: Eat the ash from your fire the night before, but be conscious of what wood you burnt. (the smoke alone can cause up to blindness)

>Indegestional pain:
1> press the afflicted area in deeply and then release quickly: if the sudden pain is from the release not so much from the pressing, odds are you need to get to any hospital and have you appendix whipped out. Doctors talk about a high white blood cells, but I saw my sample it was dark red... (for appendicitis you would have had a warning twinge a couple of months previously but you probably ignored it.)
In all other circumstances, very little is better than a good cuppa herbal tea (any fruity tea) and also a strong marc/cognac/brandy.

>General Lathargy:mums whisky laced fruit cake. (XXX - thanks mummy) or double vodka (depending upon previous medication)

>Head Aches:
1 stop doing what you were doing wait 10 mins with eyes closed (stop riding first)
2 Drink water mixed with lime/lemon and teaspoon salt wait 30 mins
3 take 2 Panadol wait two hours
4 Sleep if it hasnt gone away in 4 hours youve got a big problem, and its nothing to do with the head.

>Cuts/Bites: Rinse with Alcohol, cheapest strongest available (good news in Russia) clean thoroughly allow to dry, dont leave covered up
>2 types of toxin, neuro toxin -affects the Central Nervous System take alcohol to relieve the immediate pain, increase the heart beat and dissipate the poison as thinly as possible, also helps sustain the tide of Adrenalin. Continue Administering alcohol Until youve achieved a horizontal position. (then treat for head ache)

>Cyto-toxin, cell destroying: rinse out the afflicted area with alcohol, elevate limb to stem the flow of blood and hence toxin, in many instances heat the afflicted area as much as possible to destroy the enzyme, generally dunked in water is better than in the fire... bearing mind the alcohol you just cleansed the wound with, makes this prohibitive from a common sensical point of view.
Locate creature that bit you if not already flattened, identify it, and then flatten it. (absolutely no help whatsoever but feels damn good)
(To prevent the above bites always use a highly environmentally unfriendly pesticide of some kind Various plants can be used prior to the whole processing and packaging thing ie pyrethrum megalocarpus leaves etc.)

>3 Day sand fly fever: No specific symptoms other than General lethargy (eat alcoholic cake) Feverish (drink yourself sterile) Dheli belly (Brandy&port mix) headache, Drink vile lime/salt concoction
So best to wait until fourth day you should be ok by now, unless youve followed all of the above rules, in which case resort to the water/lime/salt as primary intake. Until dull thudding disappears.

>Breaks outlook not good.
Shock is your friend, think practically and act quickly whilst you have this 30 minute pain free window.
If youre with friends transporting you to hospital; administer you annual quota of alcohol preferably strongest form first in the shortest time frame possible - too little alcohol and you become an enhanced liability. 1 bottle of vodka over the course of 5 minutes should do the trick.
Sasha broken leg middle of lake Baringo in a storm flown to Aga Khan hospital, 6 hours from break to hospital and that was with the best possible facilities to hand, ie own aeroplane 15 minutes run from the shore. Believe me johnnie walker was her saviour.

If youre on your own, well youre in for a rough time. Seriously a strop (leather or wood) to bite on is invaluable, seek local assistance, pour alcohol onto spare innertube and green vegetation to create a smokey fire to attract attention. (try not to back-burn the indigenous population's harvest.)

>Always a good rule is to never take any form of medication with you that you are not happy administering to yourself, I regretfully have taken sutures in the past and have needed to use them which was not a pleasant day. I was struck by the irony or injecting myself with a thicker needle on the anesthetic than the suture to stop the pain, in the end did without the anesthetic. Might have been different doing it to someone else.

When in doubt there will always be a medical clinic of some description somewhere nearby. Generally the poor gloriously under-payed, under-stocked, over-worked physician has seen far worse than you could offer him and has treated whatever you present to him often.
Leave them with a generous expression of your gratitude. They deserve it (Thanks again Dr Kilonzo)

> STD's: Eat two raw whole cloves of garlic, chew thoroughly. This will prevent the consequential action resulting in STD's.
More seriously garlic is probably the one most important food stuff, its a very strong insecticide, and in my experience most bugs prefer their meals un-marinaded. Birds regretfully react similarly to bugs, unless accompanied with a bottle of crisp dry white wine and a panfried fish with lemon garlic sauce. At which point use a condom.

Ohhh... Condoms also very useful for sealing things away from an unpleasant environment eg cellphone in a rain forest, and for inside water bladders: Take loads.

Cheers G

P.S. Though written partly tongue in cheek all of the above is tried and tested for a primary response in an absolutely remote location.
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