Medical Issues

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Hear are some on-the-river medical issues to remember.

Watch the NPS orientation video regarding snakes, scorpions and other critters. They can get on your boat!

Some trips will identify a Medical Manager. This person should be aware of any unusual medical conditions trip members may have, such as allergies requiring Epinephrine-pens, or diabetes requiring insulin, to name a few. This person should know what is in the major medical kit. You should know what's in there too, in case it's the Medical Manager who is hurt. In the event of a medical emergency which requires outside help, the Medical Manager can let rescue personnel know about medical conditions since if it has reached the point that the person being rescued may not be able to do so.

Insulin should be split into two supplies and kept in two separate coolers on separate watercraft if possible. The medical manager should also know where the signal mirrors/Ground to air radio/Satellite phone is, and where first aid kits are on every boat.

You may find yourself making lunch, dinner and or breakfast while floating on the river. This may especially be the case in the sections below Separation Rapid on the approach to Lake Mead. Wash your hands before handling any food product. Wash your hands before helping in the kitchen, including shopping for food. Wash your hands after using the Groover. And, Wash your hands before assisting in medical treatment in the Canyon.

If you are susceptible to sunburn, while in the sun wear sunscreen, a hat and long sleeve/long pants, and light colored clothing. You can receive sunburn through sheer cotton. Medical scrubs work well in the summer, as do sarongs to cover your legs. Sunburn can exacerbate other medical problems. Don't forget sunscreen for your lips.

It is important to check on others throughout the day. Sometimes folks behaviors may change and everyone should be looking out for each other. People may become electrolyte imbalanced from not drinking enough water or drinking too much water. Not eating enough while burning calories rowing or paddling may cause low blood sugar. Everyone needs to look out for each other and recognize that others may not recognize that they are having problems. Also, sometimes others simply overlook something like stepping on a stick and then days later have an infection...simply checking on each other can prevent an injury before it occurs.

Each boat will have a minor first aid kit. At least one boat will have a major first aid kit. For cuts, splits, and scrapes, you should consider having some small first aid capability to use in camp.

Personal medications are your responsibility. Have a plan if they get lost, which may include splitting your supply into two and storing on separate watercraft.

Treat cuts, splits, and other dings that day in camp or on the boat, and tend them every day. It is a long trip, with a lot of physical wear and tear. Untended wounds fester faster on the river than at home.

Superglue is good for splits on your fingers, but preventative hand and foot care is very important. Some people will start hydrating their skin a week before their river trip. While on the river, some people have had good results protecting their skin by apply a heavy skin moisturizer to their hands and feet multiple times throughout the day. When they go to bed at night, they apply moisturizer to their hands and feet, and then cover them with light weight socks, just before falling asleep for the night.

While the National Park Service (NPS) does not charge for NPS rescue helicopter flights, you will be charged for any air transport if you call for help and a private air ambulance arrives to assist with your evacuation. You will also have to pay for ground ambulance travel inside and outside the park.

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