Be Safe: First Aid Info for AfrikaBurn

Graham Abbot 2008

Fellow burners, this is your dark knight in shining armour with a heads up on how to suffer less. I am a doctor practicing full time in emergency medicine and my gift to you is to be always alert, always aware, always available and to back up our team of paramedics should any of you need it.
Now I have often been asked by the likes of you, “Do you practice holistic medicine or just normal medicine?” I still don’t understand the question. But I write to inform you of a life, limb and laugh preservation strategy. This should fit well into one’s holistic life…
Vincent Raffray
A master once told me, “Luck is the residue of design”. So lets run a thought experiment: imagine you’re going into a wild African desert with extremes of temperature, flash floods and dust storms, creatures that bite and sting, towering infernos and beds of hot coals, random pieces of sharpened rebar sticking out of the desert floor and the occasional anvil falling from the sky. Imagine further that you are surrounded by thousands of horny happy people, all forms of physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual stimulus and expression; the possibility of melting your mind in various ways and a tenancy to explore repressed hedonism are all in the mix.
Remember too that you intend to have a good, wholesome, interactive sharing caring supercharged fun time. What could possibly go wrong? Give it some thought.
Fortunately, you know your own strengths and weaknesses. You have the ability to plan ahead and bring what you want, and your emergency resources can be shared between a group. I have studied the last 4 years’ worth of medical incidents at the burn and there were no surprises. Let me walk you through your preparation.
Environment: hot, cold, sharp, dusty, alive…
Typical injuries: lacerations to the feet and legs, scorpion stings, dust in eyes, sunburn, sun stroke/heat exhaustion, cold exposure, burns.
Prevention: shoes, sunscreen, hats/robes/shade, sunglasses/goggles, warm clothes at night.
First aid kit: disinfectant, plasters, burn-shield, pain killers, something like saline to flush an unhappy eyeball, simple bandage, antihistamine if you tend to get itchy and sneezy from dust or pollen.
 
Hedonist activities: sex, drugs, rock and roll, you name it. Casualties: hangovers, bad trips, ego/emo crises, unforeseen physical trauma, hot/cold exposure, woopsie pregnancy, potentially embarrassing infections, muscle strain from overenthusiastic dance technique…
Prevention: Know Thyself. Keep your shit together. Also, keep hydrated. Don’t take it all at once. Look after your friends and strangers. Wear shoes. Use sunscreen if running amok naked; bums bits and boobs can burn in the African sun. Stay warm at night. Condoms… Be responsible for your MOOP. You may need to pre-negotiate whose responsibility that is.
First Aid kit: Rescue remedy and Vitamin C to help bring you back if you’re spinning. Some rehydrate and a painkiller for the hangover. Adequate supply of condoms.
 
Infectious diseases: Colds and flu, gastro, bladder infections & STDs
Prevention: WASH YOUR HANDS!  REGULARLY! Stay well hydrated (the walk to pee is good for you). And yes, cautious coital collaboration.
First aid kit: Alcohol hand wash. An antihistamine for the running nose /itchy eyes.
Some Valoid or Ondansetron to stop the vomiting. Something like Myprodol which has codeine is helpful for diarrhoea and cramping. If you want to have an emergency antibiotic in there I would suggest Azithromycin, 3x500mg tabs (one daily for 3days). This can treat most respiratory infections, bladder infections, bacterial gastroenteritis and soft tissue infections. You’ll need to speak to your GP or pharmacist about some of this.
 Pre-existing conditions: if you have asthma, diabetes, severe allergies, epilepsy or anything else that requires special consideration, please give it that special consideration
Prevention: Let your doctor know what you’re up to so you can be at your best possible baseline to have your best possible time. Make sure you are well stocked on your chronic medicines and keep them in a cool environment. If diabetic, please eat regularly, treat yourself with care, wear shoes. Asthma? Keep what you need with you, remember there’s dust, cold and excitement. If you have allergies that need adrenalin, bring it.
Mark Chipps - AfrikaBurn 2012
So Burners, there’s the information. Responsibility is empowered by knowledge. Knowledge is impotent without action.
Most of you will be coming in groups. Collectively construct a first aid kit. Go over its contents together. Share your knowledge with one another. Keep it where everybody has access to it, (in a cool place). Help those who are suffering. Always gain consent and check for allergies before administering any medicine to skin, ears, eyes, nose, mouth or bum.
Take care, be present in all you do and with luck you’ll need none of the above information.
– Volunteer Doc Solomon
(photos by Graham Abbott, Vincent Raffray and Mark Chipps)

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