Away from society's normal safety nets a different approach is needed to diagnose and treat injury or illness. During expeditions, extreme sports or many other outdoor activities qualified high-tech health care is often far away. Wilderness medicine is the field and science of doing what we can with what we have at hand. Wilderness medicine as a concept is relevant for both laymen and professional health care providers. Some aspects of the field are listed below.
Many travelers are scared of large exotic animals like sharks or wolfs . In many cases, however, insects and especially mosquitoes pose a real and greater threat. Preventing and treating vector-borne diseases is of essence for travelers in many countries and even more so for expeditions.
In large parts of the world snake, spider and scorpion bites and stings are a very real problem. Knowing the local fauna is the first step to awareness and prevention.
High altitude medicine
Pulmonary edema (HAPE) and cerebral edema (HACE) can occur at modest elevations and recognizing these conditions at an early stage can truly be life saving. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is common and may be the greatest challenge for alpinists. Altitude medicine is the field of identifying and treating conditions caused by thin air.
There are many challenges for a medical professional responsible for an expedition. What should you bring and how should your equipment be transported? What are your evacuation strategies? You must be prepared to manage everything from sinus infections, fractures, psychiatric conditions to angina and constipation.
In large parts of the world preventing and treating hypothermia may be a vital survival factor for an injured patient. Both prevention and treatment requires experience and adaptation to local circumstances.
The rare birds
Wilderness medicine will force the health care provider to treat conditions that he/she will rarely encounter within hospital walls.
Handling and prioritizing these conditions on your own until evacuation is possible can save a life or an expedition.