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Backpacker Magazine – November 2009

The Ultimate First-Aid Manual: Gastrointestinal Illness

Ugh. It's happened to us all. Here's how to handle a bad belly when you're away from far from home.

by: Buck Tilton


LEARN MORE
The Ultimate First-Aid Manual
Wilderness Medicine Institute cofounder Buck Tilton boils down a lifetime's worth of experience into 62 tips

Photo Tutorials: First Aid Center
From splinting a broken leg to duct taping a bloody wound, the BACKPACKER First Aid Center is an invaluable resource for backcountry first aid.

Diarrhea
In all cases, give lots of fluids to prevent dehydration and pop an Imodium AD tablet. For more severe diarrhea, add electrolyte tablets, such as NUUN, to the water. Give him easily digested foods (such as rice or oatmeal); avoid fats, dairy products, and caffeine. If it's not under control within 24 hours, find a doctor–sooner if bloody bowel movements, fever, and pain exist.

Vomiting
Give as much fluid as the patient can tolerate and have him rest–but evacuate if the problem persists for more than 24 hours.

Wash Your Hands
A 2004 Journal of Travel Medicine report found that 61 percent of Appalachian Trail hikers who "rarely or never" washed their hands after a bathroom break got diarrhea, compared to just seven percent of those who did scrub. Here's how to wash up right:

  • Wet hands (hot water is best) and add a drop of biodegradable soap.
  • Work up a lather and scrub for 30 seconds–especially fingertips and under nails.
  • Rinse, repeat, then dry hands with a bandanna reserved for this purpose.


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Reader Rating: Star Star Star

READERS COMMENTS

John Doe
Aug 18, 2011

No Hot Water Germ-x works or any rubbing alchohol.

lis
Sep 17, 2010

What about hand sanitizer? Is that a viable option?

Yvette
Aug 21, 2010

I fully agree..BUT.....Where ya' gonna' git HOT WATER on the App. Trail??? Or, any other long-term hike, for that matter!!??

KGood
Jul 21, 2010

I agree John, like that old aphorism, "better out than in"

John Smith
Jun 30, 2010

Rehydration salts, yes. I think Imodium is a bad
idea. You would usually want to blow the bad
stuff up, not keep it bottled up...

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