Friday, May 24, 2019

Guest Post: First Aid and Embarrassing Situations

by Wolfman

When I was in middle school, we had an outside teacher brought in to teach Health class because
the teacher was embarrassed. It was just as well, because that gym teacher had to put up with us for 5
more years, and he knew he would never live down the embarrassing things he tried to teach 13 year-old kids.

And so I find myself embarrassed about doing a guest post about things that nobody ever really wants to talk about. We’ve all got them, of course; one or another, we all have a thing that we have to deal with which we hope nobody else needs to know about. My wife and I have been married for a decade, she’s borne two children, and so I've had a chance to learn a lot more about female anatomy than the practical bits that I had studied earlier. She, on the other hand, has gotten surprisingly sharp on the subject of hereditary gastrointestinal disorders.

In the best of times, of course, these are things that we just don't talk about in polite society. They are subjects that don’t often come up, because nobody wants to admit that they are problems. So we do our own things, and hope for the best, and nobody is the wiser (if we’re lucky). However, this community is not for The Lucky; this community is for The Prepared, and in the worst of times, the things that we don’t want to talk about can absolutely kill us.

Sometimes, it's the thing we don’t want to admit is our fault. Recently, Lokidude was at an event with some other people and myself where circumstances -- partially of his own making, partially of some very entertaining friends -- caused him to require burn cream. Bear in mind that this wasn't a life-threatening injury, but rest assured that he did need burn cream. He could’ve shrugged it off, taken the injury stoically… and it could’ve gotten infected over the next few days, and caused a much larger problem when he got home. He didn’t do that. Instead, he looked at his injury, discussed it with a few others, and sought out a reasonable treatment. Don’t let relatively small problems become larger ones because you don’t want to admit the root causes! 

Sometimes, we think the thing is a sign of weakness. For example, I have terrible knees. Some of it is probably genetic and some of it is wear and tear from being a carpenter and taking terrible care of myself. I’m not proud of it, and it hurts. It’s not fun to deal with, nor to live with. At that same event with Lokidude there was a person who suffered an acute knee injury and who needed a medical brace, but the event was remote enough to require driving several hours round trip to obtain one. I, however, travel with multiple knee braces. I could have kept that to myself; nobody wants to admit weakness. But that would have been my selfishness being a direct cause of someone else’s extreme discomfort and considerable expense. I was happy to help out by donating my brace, and the other person was happy to not have to drive several hours. As it turns out, I didn’t need that brace anyhow, and even if I did, I had a spare. Keep in mind that it might not be you that you hurt with your hubris.

Sometimes, the thing that you are avoiding talking about is extremely personal. Remember that discussion of female anatomy? Trust me when I say that I have had plenty of conversations that went above and beyond the level of information that I once thought sufficient. Guys, ever bought tampons at the store? I guarantee the gals have had to ask a stranger for one. These are things that take up very little space but are extremely critical in certain situations, and when they are most critical is when the subject is most delicate. Under normal circumstances, their lack can be an inconvenience; in extreme, or even nominally difficult circumstances, failure to properly address the situation can lead to Toxic
Shock Syndrome and death. Men probably don’t want to think about or deal with this. Too bad! This is a subject that women have to deal with on a very regular basis. Be candid, be honest, and be attentive. There is no time for embarrassment.

What about things that aren't so common but are still personal? I’ll throw this one out there to the world: I have hemorrhoids. Yes, before you ask, they are a pain in the rear. They're extremely common in my family, and I’m given to understand they aren't unknown to others. In the best of times, of course, they are briskly unpleasant, and even then they require some very specific preparations. Chief among these are medicated wipes, which are kept 100% of the time in my vehicle and refit points. Is it embarrassing? Yes, but since I’m talking about it on the internet, I can’t say that I’m too terribly embarrassed. 
(A word to the wise: Spend the extra money on the good ones. Cheap store-brand wipes are honestly a bit lackluster, and when you need them most, you don’t want something that will let you down.) 
Secondary to those, but far more useful across the board, are the various anti-irritation creams and treatments. It may interest people to know that hemorrhoid creams use the same active ingredients as many insect bite creams: hydrocortisone, the H in Preparation H). This helps alleviate shame a couple different ways. First off, it is perfectly reasonable to have hydrocortisone cream for insect bites and rashes. Nobody will ever bat an eye at this, and if anyone ever finds themselves in a very specific need, it may be easier to ask for that in particular rather than ask for hemorrhoid treatments. Conversely, the properly prepared will be able to easily treat insect bites with hemorrhoid preps, and one can reasonably play that as the original goal, if needed. 
Another note: I strongly recommend the application of creams and similar to be executed by applying the cream to a square of clean toilet paper. This obviously prevents any unseemly cross-contamination.
Since we’ve come this far together, I may as well finish with one of the most common and easily treatable acute conditions: gastrointestinal distress. This also happens to be common in my family, but there are many acute conditions that contribute to it as well. Again, it's not a fun subject to broach with friends and acquaintances, but the consequences of avoiding it can be incredibly serious. Untreated, diarrhea can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and death. In normal times, not to mention survival or prep-consumption situations, gastrointestinal disorders can be rapidly life-threatening. Is it uncomfortable to admit to your friends that you are in gastric distress? Oh yes, it certainly can be, but not quite as uncomfortable as failing to properly address that distress. Towards that end, there are some easily maintained solutions, and some slightly more esoteric ones.
  • The most easily stowed, for those that only need to treat this as a mild likelihood, is in the form of loperamide tablets under brand names such as Imodium or Maalox AD. 
  • The most rapidly effective solutions are suspensions, usually of bismuth subsalicylate, which take up more space but work very quickly. You can find them under brand names like Pepto-Bismol or Kaopectate. 
  • Incidentally, bismuth subsalicylate suspensions are also safe for dogs with the same problems. They don’t care much for the taste, though. 
  • In a pinch (and there's an unfortunate idiom), dietary additions such as pumpkin or similar starchy fiber sources can help to regulate these issues. 
  • When dealing with diarrhea, the immediate concern is generally dehydration, which can lead very quickly to serious illness and death. In such situations, treatment with a rehydrating solution such as Gatorade or Pedialyte is critical to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance.
Now you know a considerable amount more about me than you ever needed to know. 

In an emergent or prep-consumption environment such as we prepare for, there will be many threats. Some of them are obvious, some are not. Some of them are extremely uncomfortable to deal with, and those ones can be just as deadly as the others. When it comes to survival, modesty and embarrassment must take a back seat to honesty and openness. Don’t let embarrassment, which is inherently survivable, make a bad situation worse.


  1. Packaged wipes that have lost their mojo can be rejuvenated with Witch Hazel.

  2. Intestinal cramps can be eased with a dose of valerian, which calms smooth muscle -- which the intestines are.

  3. While this topic can be difficult to discuss at times, it can also be painful and at other times, serious. I have had surgery for hemorrhoids. Twice. The first time, was on an emergency basis, and I was told that it was actually life threatening, with a possible blood clot situation, etc. The real pain starts AFTER the surgery, when it is more like passing a an elephant holding a porcupine holding a pineapple.
    I learned from my second doctor that I need to keep my fiber up, and my fluid intake up as well. That avoids the reasons for the surgery, and so far, it has worked, which is good since I never want to go through that surgery again.

  4. Thank you.

    Talking about hemmorhoids, diarrhea, and several other topics related to excretion and menstruation, are acutely embarrassing, and the only reason for it is cultural indoctrination. I hate it.


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