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Medical & Other Good Stuff


Lyme disease is transmitted by the bite of the deer tick, which may be carried by field mice, deer, and other wild animals. Woodys areas, marshy areas, and areas with high grass and brush are prime breeding places for the tick.

One misconception about Lyme disease is that it is confined primarily to the Northeast. However cases have been reported in nearly every state. The areas where the most cases have been reported are in Wisconsin and Minnesota in the Midwest , California and Oregon on the West Coast. Lyme disease should be taken seriously in all regions of the country.

Lyme disease can be serious, but it is almost never fatal. If treated promptly, before you experience joint inflammation, the diseaes can be cleared up completely with antibiotics.

The most recognizable sign of Lyme disease is a slowly expanding skin rash at the site of the tick bite. Other symptoms include fatigue, fever, headaches, stiff neck, and muscle and joint aches. These symptoms, which can last for several weeks, may resemble those of flu.

Good news is, new studies suggest that doctors are overreacting to their fears that a tick bite will lead to Lyme disease.

In places where Lyme disease is present, only 1% to 4% of the people bitten by ticks get the disease. But those who go to a doctor after a tick bite, 95% have blood tests and 55% are given antibiotics.

"If I were to find a tick that had been on me for a few hours, I'd remove it and do nothing more," says Alan Fix, MD. "If a tick has been attached for three days, that is where Lyme disease comes from."

Remember the best approach: watch and wait, look for early warning signs of the disease, a rash around the bite and flu-like symptoms. Then call your doctor.

Note: another example of unnecessary antibiotic use, which is causing antibiotic resistance.

New studies suggest that doctors are overreacting to their fears that a tick bite will lead to Lyme disease.

In places where Lyme disease is present, only 1% to 4% of the people bitten by ticks get the disease. But those who go to a doctor after a tick bite, 95% have blood tests and 55% are given antibiotics.

"If I were to find a tick that had been on me for a few hours, I'd remove it and do nothing more," says Alan Fix, MD.

"If a tick has been attached for three days, that is where Lyme disease comes from."

Best approach: watch and wait, look for early warning signs of the disease, a rash around the bite and flu-like symptoms. Then call your doctor.

Note: another example of unnecessary antibiotic use, which is causing antibiotic resistance.


Many foot problems can be treated while in camp, some when on the trail with a little common sense, simple treatments and camp rest could keep you from retreating home. But always remember if the problem does not show improvement within a few days, you should concider seeing a doctor.

There's always another camp and common sense should say when to hang it up, it may be the difference between being krippled and healing up for another trip. You will note that most problems listed are of our own doing, poor fitting or wrong sized footwear.

MORTON'S NEUROMA; intense pain usually caused by tight-fitting shoes that squeeze the nerves between the bones, causing the nerves to swell. There may also be numbness between the toes.

Use footwear that have plenty of room around the ball of the foot. Take aspirin or another pain reliever as directed for a few days to a week while in camp. I have taken deer or elk mocs, put two pair of heavy socks on , walked in a near-by stream until soaked, then wear them dry. Takes a good day for drying, put them in my bed roll at night to keep them from getting to stiff. The next morning use one pair of socks or barefooted when in camp, this seems to help with the numbness in short order and the sole of your foot is still protected.

BUNION; when looking at your bare foot, if your big toe points toward your other four toes, the end of the bone behind your big toe may rub against your shoe. The skin thickens over this bone, and the bone itself may develop a bony spur - which is called a "bunion".

Place a small amount of cloth between your big toe and your second toe so that your big toe becomes aligned with the other toes, (several cleaning patches work very nicely). The same padding around the bunion may help relieve pressure. Use the method as described for Morton's neuroma for sizing an old pair of camp mocs . By the way I always carry an old pair of used mocs for camp; lets the trail footwear cool out and your feet do the same, plus I then have them for use as mentioned in foot care in camp, (deerskin mocs weight next to nothing and take very little room in your gear).

As soon as returning home see your doctor, as an inflamed bunion may need a cortisone injection to provide relief, if to much out of alignment surgery may be needed.

CORNS & CALLUSES; usually caused by ill-fitting shoes and a friction or rubbing action happens.

Corns are usually found on top of the toes or arch. they appear as lumps of thickened skin that may either be hard, with a clear core, or soft and moist.

Calluses are thickened skin found across the heel and on the ball of the foot.

Make sure your footwear fits properly; wear your camp moc 's and pad your foot as mentioned before while taking it easy in camp. When you return home "corn plasters" may give you relief, they contain 40% salicylic acid, available without prescription, are very effective. Follow the directions on the packaging, if condition continues see your doctor.

PLANTAR WARTS; often found on the ball of the foot, are caused by a virus, not by friction that many claim. You'll see small, black dots within the warts.

Again good footwear and corn plasters can help, but you will need to see your doctor. Not really a good camp treatment other than wearing comfortable shoes and do not go barefooted as you can pass this virus to others.

Doctors can use cold liquid nitrogen, heat electrocoagulation, or surgery to remove a plantar wart; unfortunately, they often recur.

METATARSAL STRESS FRACTURE; unaccustomed, strenuous use of the feet can crack the long metatarsal bones in the foot. The pain usually comes on gradually, and it gets worse with continued activity.

Unusual but can happen, your laid up with giving your feet a rest for a few days to a week or more. Crutches may be in order for a period of time, and could last as long as six weeks or longer. A cast should be avoided if at all possible; it will not reduce the healing time and may create other problems.


Use common sense, exercise indoors; home, health club, mall walking, if its dark, icy, and /or very cold outside. If you have angina (chest pain) or asthma, exercise indoors and avoid the cold air.

Wear layers of clothing; peel them off if you become overheated. It's too cold to exercise outside when you can't put on or carry enough layers to stay warm.

Cover your ears, head and hands especially if it's cold and windy. exposed skin can freeze in one minute in bitter cold. Up to 50% of heat loss is through the head.

Warm your muscles up before you go outside, use a treadmill or stair climber, and do some stretching. Drink plenty of fluids, sweating in cold weather is less noticeable than sweating in hot weather.

Keep your feet warm and dry.


At the '97 Western Nationals I stepped over a dead limb, catching the end of it with my heel, causing it to fly up and hit me in the back of the leg and calf. I went down like being kicked my a mule, my calf and muscle tied-up so tight that I was unable to straighten my leg for 15-20 minutes, and could only lay on the ground. Such a dumb thing to happen when helping to carry in another's equipage and ended up having to be helped back to camp.

Turned out that stick hit my sciatica nerve and I ended up on crutches for a period, chronic pain in hip and thigh, with a 3 1/2 to 4 month recovery time; I am told that this is a common injury with hikers and skiers. You can not believe the pain such a simple injury can give one and our sport makes us a natural for such a problem with our footwear, heavy packs, etc.

The bottom line is good footwear that fit correctly, an old pair of camp moc 's

to let your feet relax while in camp and use care when moving down the trail, even flat ground can be a problem if not paying attention.


Take Care of Yourself by Donald M. Vickery, MD & James F. Fries, MD.

The Physician and Sportsmedicine, Vol 20, No1


Do not drink untreated water from lakes, rivers or streams, even if crystal clear. A number of micro organisms can cause illness for hikers and campers.

BOILING; bring water to a full, rolling boil for at least 3 minutes (5 to 10 minutes for elevations above 5,000 feet).

PROBLEM; flat taste, no removal of debris from the water; fuel is required; water must be cooled before you drink it.

A small group of us have traveled many of the waterways of the west, we carry oak kegged water for drinking and boil water for washing campwares and equipage. We bathe in these rivers and have been very lucky not to have had any problems yet. If limited for space figure about two quarts per person a day, if possible go with three quarts per person per day, and have resources available to refill your supply on longer trips.

IODINE CRYSTALS & TABLETS; available in recreational stores, shelf life printed on the container is very important, many are only dated with a 6 month useable date. Most with current dates are effective and convenient.

PROBLEM; slight change in the taste; no removal of debris from the water; does not kill cryptosporidium (systemic infection caused by fungus).

FILTERS; best systems have replaceable filters that can be removed and cleaned or replaced. Some filters screen out all organisms over 0.5 microns, which takes care of giardia cysts. Some filters screen down to 0.2 microns and eliminate cocci, protozoa, fungi, bacteria, and parasites. Some remove cryptosporidium.

PROBLEM; cleaning or disposal of used elements; cost. Filters are probably not effective against viruses such as hepatitis A.


If you have diarrhea or stomach cramps that last more than several days, call a doctor.


REI, Seattle; EPA, Groundwater & Drinking Water Branch


These plants can cause an allergic reaction in a large number of us, only a small minority have significant swelling and blistering.

One does not have to touch the plant to have problems. You can pick up oily resin of these plants from your clothes, a pet’s fur or a fellow trekker, even the smoke from burning the plant will give you problems.

Symptoms are: itching, redness, swelling and/or blisters. The itching and rash may not begin for several hours or even a day later.

If known, you touched a poisonous plant, wash with soap and water to clean the area and change or wash your clothing. Many carry baking soda in camp supplies, this works when mixed. (1 tsp. of water with 3 tsp. of baking soda). This makes a paste and can be applied until you return home and then use modern items and a possible treatment from your doctor, if required. While in camp if the itching continuities, immerse the area in hot water, (water should redden, not burn), do not use soap. The heat will release the histamine in the skin’s cells that cause the itching. Even though you feel itchy during the process, it should give you up to eight hours of relief.


Blood poisoning is a serious condition where there is a bacterial infection in the bloodstream.

In normal wound healing, the body pours out a yellow and/or clear serum into the wound area, later it becomes a scab.( Often this serum is mistaken for pus. Actually, pus is thick, cheesy and smelly, and not seen in the first day or so.) In normal wound healing, the edges of a wound are pink or red. The wound area may be warm and swollen (this is normal).

An infected wound usually festers beneath the surface of the skin, which leads to pain and swelling. If the festering wound bursts open, pus will drain out. This is good, and the wound will usually heal well.

Bacterial infection requires at least a day, usually two or three days to develop.

Always keep wound and wound area clean, leave wound open to the air, unless its unsightly, oozes blood or serum or gets dirty easily. (If so, put a clean dressing on it daily and whenever bandage gets wet.) For short periods, soak and gently clean the wound with warm water, three or four times a day. This will remove debris and keep the scab soft.

If your wound fails to heal within a reasonable time, you will need to contact a doctor. He will need to examine the wound and regional lymph nodes. Your temperature may be taken (fever is an indication of infection). It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor on any wound that is taking longer than usual to heal.

This should jog the old gray matter and bring back some of our teachings in the Boy Scouts, military and Red Cross classes we had many years ago about general first aid.


In the Stoney Mountains , sometimes called the Rockies , newcomers find they get nosebleeds very easy. "Partly due to your higher altitude and thinner air" is their first statement, when asked if we can help.

This is only part of the problem in the higher passes, the drier climate, seems to dry out the thin layers of tissue (membrane) on the inside of the nose, causing it to crack and bleed very easily.

We were at 9,500 feet in northwestern Colorado a few months ago with some brothers from Pennsylvania, one brother went to swing under a small pine limb and hit the bridge of his nose when he turn to see where we were. Almost instantly the blood flowed like you turned on a hose. He fought nose bleeds off and on the whole weekend, not a fun time for him and after returning home we found several of our home remedies, were not the right things to have done.

After talking to the family and company doctors, here are a few proven methods we should have used.


1. sit or stand so the head is higher than the heart, this slows down the flow of blood to the nose.

2. tilt the head forward to prevent blood from running down the throat.

3. pinch the nose between the bridge and the nostrils with the thumb and index finger. Hold for 5 to 10 minutes firmly with steady pressure.

4. when bleeding stops, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly (patch lure worked OK for us) inside the nose, helps to keep moist.

5. avoid blowing your nose hard for at least 12 hours. If bleeding recurs go through same steps again, if it continues contact you doctor as soon as possible.


do not hold head back or lie down, these positions allow blood to run down the throat which may cause vomiting. (we did this, wrong).

do not pack the nose with gauze, its uncomfortable and may lead to infection.. (we did this with cleaning patches, wrong).

ice can help swelling caused by a blow to the nose, can not stop bleeding.

According to the doctors, they see a lot of people from lower elevations that come to the western states have nosebleeds, they feel its about equal / altitude and dryness.


On another trek a friend who I usually travel with, (he’s always looking out for me, as I have the lower (3) vertebrate fused and a steel pin in my back) puts his back out while unloading some of our gear from the iron mule. He rests for an hour and we decide to give up the trek as my pain medicine does not give him much relief. (Brother did I catch hell from my doctor about giving him my medication and all the possible side effects he could have had).

According to my family doctor and an article he loaned me in one of his medical magazines, 80% of adults suffer from back pain. Back pain and back injuries are one of the most common problems among adults, on and off the job. Back injuries are the most reported type of injury in hiking, climbing and lifting accidents in North America today and also at the top of the pile for work related injury. So, we are walking on a dangerous trail and need to be aware of what we are doing. That's been a problem for several of my friends and yours truly for years, taking chances or doing silly things ones body is not built to take, like lifting too much or lifting wrong, falls, etc.

Interesting facts taken on trekkers (hikers) back injury.

• 95% of back-pain patients recovered within six months, regardless of the type of doctor they saw or the treatment they received.

• People who saw their family doctor or an orthopedic specialist made 3 to 5 vists. People who saw a chiropractor made 10 to 15 vists.

• Only 19% to 30% of the people who saw a family doctor got x-rays. Orthopedic specialists and chiropractors order x-rays for 60% to 70% of their patients.

• Average charges over the course of treatment: urban family doctor: $214; orthopedists: $383; and chiropractors: $545.

Research showed instead of one large pack, split the load up into two lighter packs, maybe a backpack and a haversack. Day "use items" in haversack can help to balance with your rifle or fowler and shooting bag.

Try to not twist your back when raising from a kneeling to standing position, turn your body in a controlled manner after reaching the standing position. This is easier said than done in some conditions.

Bend your knees and use your thigh muscles to lift heavy packs or equipage.

Never swing heavy loads in one swooping motion from one level to another level, make the transfer in several forward lifts avoiding twisting and lifting.

Everyone should use good lifting techniques - back straight, lifting from your legs rather than your back whenever possible. Wear proper fitting footwear, adjust your backpacks to fit firmly (not sliding around), keep items hung on belt or packs from swinging (could throw you off balance). If you give it some thought, you will find several items that can be either packed inside or fastened from moving around.

Only, one with a bad back, can know what a problem little things can be and how they can become big problems down the trail if not cared for.

We can still be period with our reenactment of the different periods, but use a little common sense, so we’re around for another adventure. You don’t have to be a hero, when physically uncomfortable or hurt, take care of the problem first.

Good trekking and as always we leave as friends,


"Your Body Comes First" by Chris Plott, MD, MS.

New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 333, No.14

Take Care of Yourself by James F. Fries, MD & Donald M. Vickery, MD


The legendary 17th century Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave left in his will an elaborately bound book said to contain the secrets of medicine.

All its pages turned out to blank, except one on which was written, "Keep the head cool, the feet warm, and the bowels open."


Until next time, we leave as friends and followers of those that went before us.

Buck Conner 

"One who trades”

"Uno quién negocia"

“Unqui commerce”