Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Toubkal preparations – First aid kit

Continuing on my theme of Toubkal preparations this post will focus on additions made to my first aid kit to accommodate issues we may experience at altitude. I will be sticking with my standard Mountain Leader kit by Lifesystems, and making some modifications and additions for stuff that I may require for altitude related issues. Also past experience of this type of trek has taught be carrying certain medications is very useful, below is a summary of the kit I will be carrying in addition to my standard gear:

Acetazolamide – Anyone who has done any altitude work will be familiar with Acetazolamide (aka Diamox). Diamox is a drug that is used to treat the initial stages of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). It is one of 2 drugs usually carried on expeditions the other being Dexamethasone (something I would never use or carry). Essentially I carry Diamox for use to treat initial AMS, I do not take it as a preventative measure. Diamox is a prescription only drug, and you should consult your GP in order to get this prior to a trek. The drug works by acidifying the blood, this means the blood functions more efficiently in its removal of CO2. In this way it minimise the effect of high altitude on the body.

Co-codamol – Co-codamol is the strongest pain killer available without prescription. It is essentially codeine combined with paracetamol. I carry it so that in a worst case scenario I have a strong pain killer to mask any discomfort I may be feeling. This came in particularly handy when I broke my collar bone at 18,000ft. This is available over the counter at most pharmacies.

Imodium – Imodium is an over the counter drug used to treat diarrhoea. I carry this because more often than not changing to a local diet when abroad can mean your body struggles a bit. Personally I try to avoid this my changing my diet over about 2 weeks before I go to help me. I am usually ok (touch wood), others I have been on expedition with have not been so lucky....

Oximeter – I carry a small oximeter. This allows me to accurately check my own (and others) oxygen saturation rate (SP02). Oxygen saturation is a measure of how much oxygen is in the blood in a given sample. It can be a useful tool in an emergency as an indication of weather altitude is hitting someone hard.

You should always consult a medical professional when using/buying any of these drugs. I have been revising all my expedition medicine skills by using the Royal Geographic society expedition medicine book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Expedition-Medicine-Royal-Geographical-Society/dp/1861974345/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1282077807&sr=8-2 very worthwhile if you aspire to learn first aid abroad.

I have been on a number of courses that focus on first aid and emergencies in remote areas, in particular I can highly recommend High Peak First aids expedition medic and wilderness level 2 courses http://www.highpeakfirstaid.co.uk/. They really helped increase my existing first aid skills to include remote care and emergencies.

More prep to come.....

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