Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Helpful Tools in Haiti

Prior to departing for my assignment in Haiti for International Medical Corps, I didn't have much time to pack, so wasn't able to bring everything I might need. However, I was able to carry a few items that proved quite useful. First and foremost was a new EMS-type trauma shears. Scott Forman, MD of Adroit Innovation, LLC has created a very functional titanium shears in which one finger loop has been replaced by a carabiner, so the shears can easily hang from a belt or other loop. I used them all the time to cut tape, change dressings, slice through wire, and other assorted tasks. I just purchased one for each member of the Stanford team.

I posted previously about elete electrolyte add-in solution. One dropper bottle holds enough electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride and magnesium) in concentrated solution to make ten 32 ounce (one liter) servings - which is 2 1/2 gallons. Everyone on our team made use of this product, because it was extremely hot and we were sweating a lot. We generally alternated bottles of unsupplemented water with bottles of water to which we added elete solution. The solution is absolutely tasteless, so we were able to add flavoring to the treated water as well. I will never travel anywhere that I expect to need to stay hydrated without bringing along elete.

We did a fair amount of cutting - both to treat patients, fashion splints, and perform mechanical repairs. I had my Kershaw carbiner cutting tool with me, and it was a terrific crossover instrument. I kept it attached to my fanny pack. Combined with a multi-tool, I had what I needed to be both a doctor and a handyman.

Finally, two of us each carried a SteriPEN with us for water disinfection. When we couldn't obtain bottled water, it was necessary to use other sources, which sometimes was filtered and sometimes was not. Whether or not it had been through a filter, the water purity (disinfection) was pretty unreliable, so "touching it up" with the SteriPEN probably prevented more than a few cases of infectious diarrhea. It's a convenient and very useful device and always travels with me when I have any question about the disinfection status of drinking water.
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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.