​How To Be Your Own Goddamn Doctor

Dr. James Hubbard doesn't want to treat your injury. He wants to teach everyone how to deal with their own medical emergencies. Here's how to avoid Obamacare and do it yourself.

Dr. Hubbard runs TheSurvivalDoctor.com, where he dispenses substantial medical advice and sells his three books: Duct Tape 911, Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid and The Survival Doctor's Guides series. You'll also find stuff like how to use Vodka to cure a cold sore.

I came across his work after a hangnail became infected and was able to walk away with a fixed finger, rather than the typical, "seek professional help" advice. So, we got to talking about how and why he does this.

IW: How did you become The Survival Doctor?

Dr. Hubbard: I'm a family doctor. I started my practice in my little hometown of Ponotoc, Mississippi. It's in a tornado zone, with all the power outages and havoc that implies.

In the late 1930s, my mother drove through Tupelo where a tornado had caused over 200 casualties and wounded a thousand or more. Her story of how there wasn't a lot of help available and how people were just left there suffering stuck in my mind. There's always disasters like that going on.

The people in Ponotoc couldn't get 911 right away. I learned a lot from them — how to treat things without real medical care, along with remedies that people thought were correct, but were actually wrong. There's a lot of that going around.

IW: Is it really a good idea to use duct tape in first aid?

Dr. Hubbard: I started thinking about duct tape initially when investigating ways to close a wound if you can't get to a doctor. I should mention that you always need to do other things first — stop the bleeding and clean the wound. Once you get to that point, you can use strips of duct tape.

A lot of people have had great success using duct tape to remove a ring from a swollen finger without cutting it off. Either the ring, or the finger.

There's also a lot of stuff you can do with safety pins.

Being equipped with medical knowledge may help people to tell when it really is time to go see a doctor. I'll have people come into my practice that are in serious condition and should have come sooner. And then I'll also have people who come in with no real need for medical attention; home remedies could have taken care of their ailments. I've got a new book coming out this year called, "When Help Is Not On the Way," for when you can't get an expert opinion or reach 911.

IW: What's your take on self-administering antibiotics?

Dr. Hubbard: Antibiotics are overused. My advice for anyone who plans to use them on their own is to read up on the facts — side effects, how to administer them, what to look for, when not to take them. Anything that helps the system can also potentially hurt the system. You need to know what they interact with. Antibiotics, for instance, can even react with herbs. There are also natural antibiotics like Manuka Honey and medicinal herbs to consider.

IW: Have you heard from people who follow the advice in your books?

Dr. Hubbard: People thank me for even the simplest things, such as removing something from one's eye. Often, if you can't see what's irritating your eye, it's on the inside of your eyelid, which you can flip out.

One of the most gratifying stories I've heard was from a missionary in Haiti who was able to help a burn victim using my book. I've also heard of people in remote villages using my books as a kind of medical lexicon.

IW: Tourniquets for snakebites, yes or no?

Dr. Hubbard: The latest research on tourniquets for snakebites shows that they don't help much. They can, in fact, end up working against their intent when it comes to poison containment; sooner or later you have to remove them and then all the venom floods the body at once.

If you have a poisonous snakebite, you will need to get the right anti-venom. Don't cut it or suck on the wound.

A lot of people don't need anti-venom, but I wouldn't take the chance. I'd get to a doctor as soon as possible. If I couldn't, I'd lie down, elevate the leg and drink plenty of fluids. The venom will cause your veins and blood vessels to dilate and your blood pressure will drop. Make sure to clean the wound and keep the infection down at the wound site.

IW: Should you drink your own urine Bear Grylls style?

Dr. Hubbard: Well, I've actually done research into the effects of drinking urine in a survival situation. What I've found is that, in the long run, drinking urine is going to dehydrate you more than it helps you. It's just like drinking seawater. The only reason you might drink it is if you are expecting to reach good water within 30 minutes to an hour. Over a longer period of time, it would effect your kidneys.

The short answer is: Don't drink it. There's a reason why your body is getting rid of it in the first place!

IW: Media's current fascination with "survival." Good or bad?

Dr. Hubbard: Everybody should be a prepper or survivalist to a certain degree. Everybody should know how to do certain things; everybody should know some medical procedures; everybody should keep a couple days to a few weeks' worth of food and water on hand. At some point there will be a time when electricity will go out and roads will be closed.

It doesn't take a lot of time to learn basic skills for saving lives. Things like how to use a tourniquet (for bleeding, not a snakebite) or how to administer chest compressions; things you can have in the back of your head should you ever need them.

IW: Can't people just look up skills on their smartphones?

Dr. Hubbard: I remember a few years back, during Hurricane Sandy. They had this emergency hub for charging your cell phone and there were tons of people trying to charge their phones there. But, the cell tower wasn't working, so what was the point?

I think 911 is a luxury that us Americans have (I'm glad that we do!). We have great paramedics and emergency people available, and that's good, but they spoil us too. What if they're not there when we call? What if they can't get to you for a minute or two or three? Sometimes, even that minute can count.

Knowledge weighs nothing, and it's the most important thing you can take with you.

Cameron Smith is the tallest photographer in Los Angeles. He keeps saying he's going to ride dirt bikes across South America with his girlfriend, then never actually leaves.

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