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What I Learned As a Lifeguard Could Save Your Child From Drowning

Two things The Survival Doctor learned when he was a lifeguard that could save your child from drowning.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

When I was a teen I lifeguarded, first at the public pool, then at a lake. Here are two things I learned:

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“Sunscreen Causes Cancer”: Truth or Fiction?

"Sunscreen Causes Cancer": Truth or Fiction? | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I didn’t realize until a few days ago how prevalent the view is—at least on the Internet—that sunscreen causes cancer. Many people state the claims of dangers as given facts. And they say organizations like the American Medical Association stand behind them. (Not true. I don’t know of any mainstream medical organization that recommends against sunscreen when you’re in the sun.)

The truth matters here. Because not even the fiercest critics of sunscreen debate against the fact that absorbing too many UV rays from the sun is a big risk factor for skin cancer.

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Pop Quiz: Do You Know How to Survive the Heat?

Pop quiz: Do you know how to survive the heat? | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

 

First question: What natural phenomenon kills more people in the United States than all other disasters combined?

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Spring Survival Quiz

Spring Survival Quiz | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Springtime. It always reminds me of the cycle of life, rebirth, new beginnings. And, of course, it’s a time to get outside, to hike, camp, play … and spring clean.

This is the first of a two-part true/false spring quiz to help you get you prepared for all of the above. In the comments, let me know how you do!

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Going to the Pool? Watch Your Kids—Even With a Lifeguard

children at a pool

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

I worked as a lifeguard when I was a teen. Great job, usually. The Fourth of July was always an exception—so crowded. There was no way to keep up with everyone in the water.

I basically hoped (prayed) that if someone started drowning, a person close by would shout, really loudly, above all the other shouting. Because, contrary to popular belief, a drowning victim usually doesn’t throw up their hands and shout, “Help, I’m drowning!” Usually they don’t shout anything. They’re doing all they can to stay afloat and gasp for breath. Sure, they may be splashing like crazy. But everyone was splashing like crazy.

Then there are those who just silently go under.

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How to Keep a Heat Rash from Turning Dangerous

heat rash on the back

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Believe it or not, I grew up in Mississippi and didn’t know what prickly heat was until I started my practice. In medical training we didn’t concern ourselves with such trivialities. But in real life prickly heat, or a heat rash, can be quite an itchy, prickly nuisance. Many people came to see me for this, and I learned how to recognize it pretty fast. And the heat-rash remedies? They haven’t really changed in those thirty years.

So why, in a survival medicine blog, should I even bring it up? Because in summer disaster situations, with less bathing and no air-conditioning, heat rashes are bound to be more common, and more likely to become serious skin infections. They can even make you more prone to heatstroke. Here’s why.

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What to Do for Heatstroke When You Can’t Get Help

Man cooling off in an inflatable pool

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Many years ago, before many of you were born, I trained at a large Dallas hospital. In the summers, the ambulances carried tubs of ice, and if they picked up someone with probable heatstroke, they’d start to ice them then and there.

I don’t know if they still do that, but heatstroke continues to be an emergency, killing hundreds each year and leaving many more disabled. And cooling remains the top priority in treatment.

Heatstroke Warning Signs

In order to know what to do, you need to be able to recognize the warning signs of heatstroke (also called sunstroke). With heatstroke your vital organs shut down. Many people even stop sweating. It’s like your body has given up (or burned out).

One of the first organs that shows damage is the brain. Therefore, many of the signs and symptoms of heatstroke are related to brain function, such as:

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Deadlier Than Natural Disasters: How to Prevent Heatstroke

Hot thermometer

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at the period between 1979 and 2003 and found that more people died from heatstroke than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined. And most heatstroke deaths are so preventable.

In my last post, I suggested 10 ways to cope with the heat until you can get acclimated. That’s a good start to preventing heatstroke. But some of us are still going to get too hot. The youngest and oldest, the chronically ill, and those who work outside are especially at risk.

To Prevent Heatstroke, You Must … Recognize Heat Exhaustion

The good news is heatstroke doesn’t just come out of the blue. It’s one problem in a spectrum of heat-related illnesses. First comes heat exhaustion. If you heed its warnings and do the right things, you can prevent what’s sure to follow otherwise—the potentially deadly heatstroke.

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10 Tips to Breeze Through the Heat (and Why Fans Don’t Always Work)

sun shining through branches

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Where I used to live, in Mississippi, it got hot in the summer. Really hot, and humid. Going outside was like entering a sauna. Many of my patients worked outside. Others worked in large metal buildings with no air-conditioning. Each year, I would have to treat several for hyperthermia. The surprising thing, though, was how few.

A big reason is they worked yearlong that way. The seasons change gradually, and their bodies adapted. Even then, though, when it got in the high nineties their bodies needed help. The smart ones had learned the tricks on how to survive the heat.

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