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Medical Emergencies & First Aid
Remember ... you’re not right around the corner from the ER

Medical Issues

Real Life
Ironic how when I'm in the midst of writing this that one of the most serious, and most preventable emergencies in our neighborhood occurred just three days ago.

As I was outdoors working, a life-flight helicopter started circling near me, but not quite overhead. I dropped what I was doing and ran to see where it would land. 

One neighbor was already there because the emergency was at the new neighbors right across the street from her property. 

She had been working outside when she heard a woman scream in pain. As she looked, she could see smoke coming from the area of the scream. She raced to help and found the neighbor's mother with third degree burns on her face, neck and forearms. Thankfully she was wearing glasses that saved her from losing her eyesight.

She was burning brush and decided to pour gasoline on the fire when the gas can exploded. 

Here husband was near and she was screaming for him to take her to the hospital -- just a few major problems with that idea. One, the hospital with the burn center is a good hour away. Two, with narrow, windy roads, and accident or road closure could prevent them from getting there. Three, they were visiting from the Bay Area and didn't know where the hospitals were. And four, the woman was so badly injured, she would be in mortal danger to make the drive without the proper medical attention along the way. 

Thankfully one of us who has lived here for some time was there. She insisted they call 911 which they finally did. When the burns were described to the dispatch center they immediately dispatched the helicopter as well as a ground unit. 

The ground unit had to resuscitate her more than once before the helicopter arrived. A drive would have killed her. 

Hopefully the lessons here are obvious. And hopefully she'll recover.

One of the biggest medical issues you have is the fact that you're not close to medical help in many country areas. We have a minimum of a 30 minute drive to the nearest emergency room, and some medical emergencies can require action much faster to assure the best outcome. That means you need to become extremely knowledgeable about the conditions or problems that are most likely to occur. 

Known medical conditions can sometimes be treated on the way to a medical facility such as severe allergic reactions. If you or a family member has a known medical condition, it's wise for you to have a conversation with your physician regarding your distance / time from medical help and what the proper "first aid" treatment would be to assure the best outcome.

It would also be wise to get to know a couple of your neighbors well enough to know who is home most and who could drive you to medical help, or whether 911 is always your best answer. Whatever you do, DON'T TRY TO DRIVE YOURSELF if you're the one with the problem. You'll just endanger yourself and other drivers.

And don't panic. Whether you or a family member or friend needs help, keeping a cool head, knowing what to do (maybe you want to create a checklist so your kids or other family or friends can follow it also) and DON'T PANIC. Panic leads to bad decisions and when you or someone else needs help, panic is the least helpful thing you can do.

Here are some emergencies that can occur in the area and the accepted first aid for each. 

First Aid Rattlesnake Bite


  • apply an ACE bandage above the bite (between the bite and the heart). Make sure you can still find a pulse below the bandage to minimize tissue damage. 

  • try and keep the bitten extremity at heart level or in a gravity-neutral position. Raising it above heart level can cause venom to to travel into the body. Holding it down, below heart level can increase swelling.

  • get medical help immediately. Call 911 immediately if no one is home when you're bitten. The longer you wait, the longer the venom has to adversely affect your decision-making, or action-taking ability.

Do NOT: 

  • apply ice, cold packs or hot packs

  • cut or incise the bite site

  • permit removal of pressure dressings, Sawyer or ACE bandage until you are at a facility ready and able to administer antivenin

  • apply a narrow, constrictive tourniquet such as a belt, necktie, or cord

  • eat or drink anything unless okayed by medical sources

  • engage in strenuous physical activity

  • apply oral (mouth) suction to the bite

  • drink any alcohol or use any medication

  • waste time or take any risks trying to kill, bag or bring in the offending snake

  • waste time getting to the hospital. Call 911 immediately -- don't have someone drive you. If you need medical attention along the way, you want a paramedic -- not a family member or neighbor.

Animal Planet has a series called "Venom ER" which talks extensively about rattlesnake encounters, treatment, and outcome. It's a great learning tool.



















Have a First Aid Kit

Poison Oak

Poison Oak rashes will spread easily. If you scratch an affected area and then touch another part of your body or someone else's, it could easily spread. Be extremely cautious about touching your eyes, mouth or nose as the result will not only make you itch more, but once the rash is internal, it can be deadly.

NEVER burn dead Poison Oak. Inhaling the smoke can cause a deadly reaction. If you must burn it, let neighbors know and be sure you take precautions with a mask or breathing apparatus, goggles, and complete protective clothing. Also, burn only when the air is wet or misty. Wash all clothing immediately -- by themselves.

First Aid - Poison Oak
Learn to recognize poison oak so you can avoid it.

  • Immediately wash the affected area with "Tecnu" (available over the counter at most pharmacies - get some to keep on hand before someone is exposed!!!) poison oak and ivy cleanser. You can then use most spray antiseptics or anti itch medicines to help ease the itch during the healing process. If you don't have Tecnu on hand, then wash several times with a strong soap ASAP! 

  • Severe cases -- inhaled smoke, large areas of skin exposed. Do the above but get to a doctor or medical facility immediately. If you have inhaled poison oak smoke, call 911 as a sever reaction could disable you in route if you or someone else drives you. Again, you want a paramedic, not an unskilled person to help.


Bites & Stings - UC Davis Safety Information

Animal Emergencies & First Aid - 

There are a number of diseases and parasites that affect your animals in the Sierra Foothills. You should get familiar with them so you can provide the best protection for your pets. For a great overview of these issues, click here.

It may take the vet a long time to arrive for large animal emergencies, so you should check with your vet to see if you need to have any medications on hand for the animals you have. 

But, even if you do have some medications on hand, it's a good idea to call your vet immediately if you know your animal has been bitten by a snake or goes down for any reason.


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