Long ago, we dubbed mishaps needing a band-aid “Emergency Spider-Man Situations” or “Emergency Princess Situations” or “Emergency Sponge Bob Situations” or whatever character happened to be on the band-aids we had available. Eventually, these Emergency Spider-Man situations, came to reference anything that demanded a first aid response.
A kid yelling that they are having an “Emergency Spider-Man Situation” sounds a whole lot better than their screaming, “I’m bleeding to death.” This especially true when you are in the Walmart parking lot and the local security force is already keeping an eye on you after perhaps one too many displays of questionable parenting because your kids will not stop running around the store and whinning that they some stupid thing or another. I digress.
While a scraped knee here and there can be expected on just about
any adventure, sometimes things get a bit more serious. After all, no matter how often you travel or how widespread your travels have been, there is always something that comes up that you could have avoided had you only known beforehand. What you do not know can cost you time and money, put you in jail, or even kill you. By no means exhaustive, in this article I am passing on some things I have learned along the way. Just keep them in the back of your head next time you travel.
- The Potentially Life Threatening
- Nose Bleeds
- First Aid
- Best Way to Save Fuel on a Road Trip
The Potentially Life Threatening
I live on the East Coast at just about sea level. Although the East Coast has “mountains”, the highest one in the Appalachian chain is Mount Mitchell in North Carolina at 6,684 feet (2,037 m). For my family, it turns out that being over 7,000 feet above sea level is an altitude problem. The higher I go above this number the more nauseous I become and the more my head starts pounding. At 6,000 feet, my oldest daughter just passes out. For whatever reason, our bodies have a tough time adjusting to the lower oxygen levels at higher altitudes. For us, altitude issues are a big Emergency Spider-Man situation that require preparation.
Will You Get Sick?
Will altitude sickness be a problem for you? You won’t know until you get there. Your experiences at higher altitudes are the best predictors of your next experience. However, altitude sickness can happen any time regardless of your physical condition. Most people who quickly change altitudes will at some point experience altitude sickness. Sometimes we can adjust quickly, sometimes we cannot.
Altitude sickness, however, can quickly turn into a life threating
issue. Both H.A.C.E. (high altitude cerebral edema – fluid buildup on the brain) or H.A.P.E. (high altitude pulmonary edema – fluid buildup on the lungs), can be fatal within hours unless emergency help is given immediately. So, if you are above your normal elevation level and start feeling dizzy, nauseous, or otherwise as if you are getting a hangover, move to a lower altitude as fast as you can. Check out Altitude.org for more information.
How to Avoid Altitude Problems
The best way to avoid altitude issues is to acclimate slowly. Spend a day or two at successively higher elevations until you reach your destination. However, unless you are camping with all the time in the world, this is not usually a viable option. Most of us either drive or day-hike to the top of a mountain, hang out for a bit, and then head back down. For example, taking the cog-wheel train to the Pikes Peak summit is a scenic way to get there. Climbing over 8,000 feet in 90-minutes can wreak havoc on your body.
Several prescription medicines are available that can help prevent or at least help minimize altitude issues. Most require that you start taking the drug at least 24 hours before you get to altitude. Needless to say, when we travel, I research the altitudes of where we are going. My trip itineraries include reminders for when to start the medicine. Ours may be an extreme example but you could always get lucky and have this issue too.
Killer Bees and Other Dangerous Critters
What to do about dangerous animal encounters while hiking is a function of where you are going and what critters call that place home. You probably already know how to deal with the “scary” animals, insects, and snakes where you live. It is those unfamiliar ones that might give you trouble. For example, the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states are plagued with deer ticks carrying Lyme disease, the Southwest grapples with fire ants and killer bees, the Gulf Coast states worry about Zika, and in Alaska you need to learn how to ride their mosquitoes. Depending on where you go, poisonous snakes and gators can also present challenges, especially if you are not used to being around them.
Bears, moose, and other large animals are unpredictable, especially if they feel threatened or have young ones nearby. It is important to know how to respect the space these animals need. It is critical to know what to do when you get too close. Unique critter situations should not prevent you from exploring new areas of the country. However, you should research what might be at your destination before you go so you can learn what to do if you have an encounter. Looking at national and state park websites near your destination is a good place to start.
Here is a fun Emergency Spider-Man situation. Sometimes the humidity or lack thereof can cause health challenges you may not have thought about. One thing we discovered in our travels is that being in dry air for a couple of days gives my two youngest kids nosebleeds. I know that sounds weird but I guess their membranes are very thin so it doesn’t take much to dry them out and crack open.
We found that one of the best ways to stop a nose bleed is to take preventative measures. Swabbing a bit of petroleum jelly into each nostril and squirting in some saline nasal spray a couple of times a day works well. I also found that shoving a tea bag up a nostril end a hard to stop bleed – something about the tea being astringent. Just grab a couple from the hotel breakfast bar before you head out. Of course, you can also channel your inner Channing Tatum, a la She’s the Man, and use a feminine hygiene product….
Basic knowledge of first aid and the right supplies can help you get through just about any situation until help arrives. If you never learned or it has been a while, sign up for a first aid class that includes how to perform rescue breathing and CPR. The American Red Cross has a nifty class-finder on its website. First aid kits are always great to have when you travel. Whether extensive or basic; answering “what should be in my first aid kit” all depends on what you are going to be doing. For example, having a couple of stick-on bandages in your wallet comes in handy for minor scrapes and blisters.
If you are doing something more challenging than just lying on the beach or walking around, you might want to add an ace bandage, a couple of gauze pads, and some anti-biotic ointment. I like to keep a bit of duct tape handy because it is just so darn versatile. I have used it to reattach the sole to a shoe, as an emergency bandage, and even to plug holes in ripped clothing. Just roll some around a couple of toothpicks and you are good to go.
My rule of thumb on the contents of a first aid kit is the more remote or dangerous, the more I include. A Band-Aid won’t do much if you are lost, unless you happen to be MacGyver. Think about the kinds of emergencies that might come up and pack your emergency kit accordingly. Do not forget the salt tablets if you are heading somewhere that is dry and hot. A solar blanket and emergency food and water are important if you will be driving in the middle of nowhere, especially during the winter.
Even if you are not going to a National Park, check out the website for the one closest to where you will be. Open the “Plan Your Visit” menu and click the “Safety” tab where you will find important safety information which may be applicable to where you are going.
A big question for may travelers is will I have cell phone coverage? When you look at the coverage maps for the major cellular carriers, you quickly notice that some cover more of the U.S. than others. More importantly, no one has complete coverage, especially out in those thinly populated states like Nebraska and Wyoming and Montana. You will also notice that once you get into the middle of nowhere using your phone for an emergency is going to be a problem. Even if your carrier shows coverage, it may still be spotty or non-existant. You probably have dead zones where you live too. If any of this sounds like your next trip, be sure to check your carrier’s coverage map to see when you will be out of touch. While not having cell service can be a good way to electronically detox, it can be a problem if you have an emergency in a remote area.
Cellular Coverage Maps
Depending on where I am and what I am doing, I may bring along a personal locator. This gadget allows me to transmit my location via satellite GPS. Knowing that I can call for help at a push of the S.O.S. button, gives me peace of mind. I have never had to use it for an emergency. However, I do use it to update the rest of the group and the family back home. For example, if I am doing an all-day or multi-day excursion, I periodically send a pre-typed message that say, “all is well.” This is a bit like sending a “proof of life” picture to your mom when she has not heard from you recently. There are several options on the market with varying features and price points.
Fun Fact: I had watched that movie “Taken” not long before my oldest was leaving to study abroad. I made her take my personal locater with her just in case. I might be a bit overprotective, but then again, she was not taken.
Best Way to Save Fuel on a Road Trip
Fuel costs on a road trip can quickly add up. Knowing how to save on fuel not only saves you money but can keep you from becoming stranded in the middle of nowhere that probably does not have cell phone coverage.
Having traveled all over this country, I have discovered that there are places where you can be driving along at 80 mph with absolutely nothing around you. Two hours later, you can still be going 80 mph and still have absolutely nothing around you. Most of us live on the east or west coasts, down south between Texas and Florida, or up north between Minnesota and Maine. In case you have forgotten your 4th grade geography class, the middle of this great nation is either farmland, forest, desert, or otherwise sparsely populated.
While driving in these areas, the two things you always need to worry about are:
- How far away is the next gas station, and
- Do I have enough fuel to get there.
Here is where renting the most fuel-efficient vehicle you can find comes in handy because the big old gas-guzzler is not going to be your friend. Here is also, where it helps to slow your roll. Sure, it is tempting to see how fast your rental can go, but the faster you go the more fuel you burn.
Finally, remember that using your air conditioner burns extra fuel. Switching to the four windows down economy cooling option is a great way to reduce fuel consumption. The locals in these places routinely carry extra gas cans with them and keep their tanks full. I haven’t needed an extra can, but I do fill ‘er up every time I get the opportunity.
Have you had an “Emergency Spider-Man situation?” Please
share with how you resolved it.
Not sure what emergency Spider-Man situations you may face on your next trip? Preparation help is just a click away.
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