Thursday, August 26, 2010

Expedition Medicine - be prepared!

The importance of understanding the basics of medical treatment cannot and should not be underestimated.
Accidents happen.  Be it in the form of a cut hand, a vehicle accident or in the worst scenarios, serious bodily harm that results in a medical evacuation.
Getting ill on an expedition also occurs.  Understand where you are going and the possible diseases that occur.  Malaria, dysentery, dehydration - to name a few.

The RGS Expedition Medicine book starts chapter 1 with the following:
An expedition is an organised journey with a purpose. 
This purpose can be exploration, acheiving a particular aim such as reaching the summit of a mountain, scientifc research, surveymg for minerals or a test of endurance. 
In the nine-teenth century expeditions consisted of rugged Victorians seeking to map and claim some remote piece of land for their Crown and country. In the twentieth century expeditions increasingly had a scientífìc purpose, but in the populous world of the twenty-first century personal development and cultural exchange are becoming the predominant reasons for travel.
Exploration and adventure travel are now big business. Some groups still raise their own funds for independent travel, large charitable and commercial organisations send thousands of young people overseas each Year. With specialist tour companies now offering vacations to remote places, boundary between an expedition and a leisure is becoming blurred- Americans recognise this and call what we are describing in this book “Wilderness medicine”. Chapter 1, p3
A few interesting chapters that cover majority of overland expeditions include:
  • Malaria and other tropical diseases
  • Medical problems of environmental extremes - deserts, tropical forests (jungles), etc
  • Plus a host of appendices covering rick assessment and medical analysis 

Plan ahead:

Photo: Daphne Overland (See Below)
  1. Training courses: find an organisation that can provide basic medical training.  In the UK the Red Cross offer a one day training course which covers the basics.
  2. Medical Kit: spend time understanding what you have in your medical kit and how to use it.
  3. Vaccinations: See the blog post on this topic which covers the recommended inoculation's for Africa.
  4. Driving course:  find an organisation that can provide an overview of your vehicle, how to use the 4wd and especially the safety elements of offroad driving and recovery. See notes below
Photo Source: Daphne Overland with Adrian & Catherine
See article on Nomad Adventure

Vehicle Training Courses:
I would recommend that team members from any vehicle based expedition attend a training course to familiarise themselves with their vehicle, the equipment they are taking and the basics of 4wd safety.

USA: Graham Jackson from Overland Training
UK: Paul Marsh from Footloose 4x4

Whilst thinking about this topic, and that accidents occur, made me pause to think.  My trans-Africa trip went relatively smoothly with only a few stitches, acute malaria, and the odd sore throat.  We had planned well and attempted to keep ourselves healthy through good diet and cleanliness.  However, I do realize that certain overland expeditions attempt difficult tasks (finding new routes etc) which increase the risk level.  Do a risk assessment prior to undertaking a task - walk the muddy road to find good traction ; carry clean water whilst on safari.  These small trivial tasks go a long way in keeping you safe.
In closing, should an accident occur, make that cuppa tea and assess the situation. Once you have gathered your thoughts, plan the recovery.

Buy the Book:
Amazon UK link (cheapest option)

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