Going Somewhere?

Mongolia Medic/aka Me!
Steve is on a Mission

Those of you who have been paying attention may have noticed that I'm planning on joining an expedition to cross the Gobi Desert next year, 2011. It's not just a jolly for a couple of days but serious stuff. I'm not saying it's not going to be fun, it is, but it's going to be tough at times too. One thing I know for certain is that it's going to be educational. That's one of the main reasons for doing it. Personally I can't wait, but I have a job to do also. It is going to be my responsibility to make sure everyone stays safe and well.

Someone asked what precautions we will be taking to ensure everyone’s safety, he said “will there be a medic in case of sprained ankles, heat stroke etc? I'm just trying to think of the what-ifs.”  Well, that’s a good question. The short answer is yes, me. On a trip like this, who knows what could happen. That’s why Ripley, the expedition leader, has emergency evacuation plans in place, just in case. I will be putting together a list of any vaccinations we’re going to need, and even telling people what to put in a ’small’ first aid kit. I say ’small’ because as the expedition medic, I will have some kit with me that should cover most circumstances, blisters on the toes, insect bites, right up to keeping someone alive should the worst happen, and if necessary staying with them until the afore mentioned emergency evacuation plans kick in and beyond. It’s what I do here in the UK after all. Just this week I must have attended a couple of dozen wasp stings, a judge got bitten by one of the show dogs (it didn’t win) and somebody discovered how much it hurts when not following instructions while using a bow and arrow. Don’t ask!
OK! When on an expedition like this, common sense states that safety is everyone's responsibility, we'll keep an eye on each other, and help each other out when necessary. Making sure simple things are done, like washing your hands before eating. (Don't panic, we won't be wasting water). But, as with everything we do in life, things can go pear-shaped. That's why I'm writing this little blog, to put people’s minds at rest that they will be as safe as it is possible to be.

Between Ripley, also a former medic, and myself we should have most things covered but, I’m going to be blogging like a man on a mission over the next few months for several reasons. These little words of wisdom are not only for people coming to Mongolia next year but for anyone who is planning expeditions, or trips to the wilderness. They are even suitable for Mr and Mrs Packaged Tour, spending a few days on the Costa Fortune. Don’t Panic! I’m going to be writing little bits at a time so that;

    a) People don’t get bored with Health and Safety and
    b) I can get on with, and I quote Mr Davenport, “doing a billion things at once”

So here is my first tip for a safe and enjoyable Gobi 2011…

Food and hygiene-related illness
Delhi Belly or in this case Gobi Guts, (diarrhoea, typhoid  and cholera) are contracted through contaminated food and water. “Getting the Squits” is the most common illness contracted abroad, affecting up to 60% of overseas travellers.
You can significantly reduce your risk of such diseases by following basic guidelines.

Water
In countries where sanitation is not up to scratch it’s a good idea not to drink tap water or use it to clean teeth unless it has been treated. Ice should also be avoided. Bottled drinks are usually safe, if sealed, as is boiled water, as boiling disinfects water. Although a reliable method, this is not always easy or convenient. Chemical disinfectants will usually kill bacteria and viruses. However, some parasites such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium are not reliably killed by this method. In this instance combining chemicals with filters should be effective. Iodine was one of my preferred weapons of bug destruction; however, since the EU in it’s ultimate wisdom decided that I can’t use it after October last year, I’m doing some research into other methods, including devices utilising UV light.

Food
Certain foods can be a bit dodgy and should usually be avoided:

  • Salads, lettuce for example, are often contaminated, and may have been washed (if at all) in dirty water.
  • Uncooked fruit and veg, unless they have been washed in safe water and peeled by you.
  • Fresh or cooked food that has be allowed to stand at room temperature in warm environments, or that has been exposed to flies, such as may happen at open buffets. This true in the UK too.
  • Unpasteurised milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy products.
  • Raw or undercooked shellfish
   
Do not assume that food served in hotels will always be safe, as it may have been contaminated during preparation. (Believe me I know)

Hands should be washed after calls of nature, and always before preparing or eating food.

Follow this advice and the chances of having your trip destroyed by spending most of it sat down with your trousers (or skirt) round your knees should be greatly reduced. On that note, my next blog will be on another common problem, dehydration. So come back and see me again soon.

Still to come...
  • Dehydration
  • Fitness problems
  • Sun and heat related problems
  • Infectious diseases
  • Skin infections
  • Insect bites
  • Animal-related problems

Comments

Kelsey said…
I am currently putting together a solo expedition to Mongolia for this coming year, and I was really happy to see that you are going to be posting about some of the health and safety concerns there! I have been communicating with other adventure travelers (including Davenport), but health and safety has been something most folks haven't been able to comment on much. I will definitely be continuing to check in here on your blog!

If you're interested, here's the site for my project: http://www.mongolianexperiment.com/
Steve said…
Hi Kelsey, Glad you stopped by. I've just posted another blog on H+S Dehydration this time, some of treatments will be impossible that's why I'm trying to focus on the prevention by letting people know what they're in for

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