Help Out of Reach? The Doctor Is YOU

When you or your family are isolated far from medical infrastructure, that situation comes with responsibility. Whether you distrust modern First aid kit materials for self caremedicine or count on it, now YOU are the practitioner. Experts often advise us to seek the help of a medical pro, and that’s great advice.

BUT, if you’re on the island and the boat is gone, on the mountain and the snow is 3 feet deep or at the cabin when the cat 3 hurricane hits, seeing the Doc may not be an option.

If you don’t expect to ever have an accident or experience illness, then preparation is a waste of time.  Unfortunately, people DO make mistakes, get hurt and get sick. Considering that reality, getting ready to “Be the doctor” could be essential if you find yourself in isolation from modern medical attention.


I’m-the-doctor Readiness Kit

If you plan to be ready when the need arises, there are a few basic requirements you best put in place now. This will differ depending on who will be cared for, skills, ages, conditions and risks, but in general you will need:

  • A thorough understanding of a safe, healthy lifestyle and a willingness to live it – caring for yourself is hard enough for the healthy, learn not to make it worse
  • Basic knowledge of diagnosis, first aid, routine care, treatment and emergency care; if you are to respond effectively, you need a foundation of knowledge
  • A medical reference library to consult for diagnosis and treatment; if career professionals need references, you REALLY need them
  • A very well equipped medical/first aid kit including bandages, disinfectants, medicines, other first aid materials and treatment tools; if we are to assume you are truly isolated, UPS, Amazon and Uber will not be able to help
  • Remote access to health care professionals and technology for medical aid if and when you have the need and the opportunity. If you are isolated by choice, rather than necessity, access to the diagnoses and advice of professionals is a powerful asset, and you can have it without leaving home base, if you prepare

Take your time and plan out your response approaches, while you study your self-care options. Taking full responsibility for your own medical care is not for everyone.

Small sail boat on calm blue water under power, leaving ripples

Depending on the isolation situation you envision, it may well be easier to plan for emergency evacuation options to the nearest medical treatment center than to get ready for the DIY approach.

Remember that choosing an isolated living situation may leave you with limited choices. Be sure to plot out different problem cases so you can put together realistic response plans that are practical and safe for you and your family. Take this seriously, as lives depend on this planning.


Self education and your references

Educating yourself on healthy living, emergency care and diagnostics will be a lengthy process. After all, human beings are not simple systems – there’s a lot going on under that skin!

You can take on this task from a variety of angles, but I suggest you start with building up your medical references and getting familiar with them. You can then refer to these books, websites and expert contacts as you learn. You can start by getting a general self-care medical reference written for non-professionals.

There are many such books available, but one I can suggest is “Take Care of Yourself, 10th Edition: The Complete Illustrated Guide to Self-Care” which is available at Amazon for under $15 in ebook or paperback format. This is very reader friendly, and it covers many non-life-threatening conditions, while suggesting you seek professional care for the more challenging ones.

A more comprehensive book is “The Survival Medicine Handbook: THE essential guide for when medical help is NOT on the way.” This is a long and thorough handbook that covers much more serious conditions and even suggests alternate ways to treat them when conventional medical options aren’t available. This is available in e-book, paperback and spiral bound forms for under $23 on Amazon.

If you are adventurous you may also find heavy, detailed medical texts to add to the library, but consider getting these others first. The medical texts generally assume a lot of education, experience, tools and facilities you won’t have, though it may be helpful to have them for looking up symptoms or treatments not found in the more public-reader friendly books.

Another possibility is a military field medical handbook. There are many to choose from

Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook by [Defense, Department of]

but one of the better and more accessible ones is “Special Operations Forces Medical  Handbook” this is both thorough and inexpensive ( paperback under $25 and ebook under $9).  This book covers all manner of treatment from acute diarrhea to lightning burns. It even covers skunk bites!

What is important is that YOU feel comfortable with the material in terms of your ability to understand and use it, the credibility of it and the amount of your needs that it covers.

So long as you have internet access, several web resources can be great assets to assist with diagnosis and some routine care. WebMD, Mayo Clinic and Healthline are three powerful examples of fairly comprehensive diagnostic and advice sites. Both Google and Wikipedia also offer a great wealth of medical information, although both should be checked against multiple sources to ensure accuracy.

While these resources are great assets, they do have limitations. The judgement, experience and advanced tools of modern professionals can offer much that the best DIY approach can’t match. In a true emergency isolation situation, your DIY options may be the only ones that count. In other circumstances you may be wise to expand these resources with powerful services from the modern medical community:

If you can find a nearby doctor or other healthcare professional to assist you in or near your isolated home, that may be important for some complex problems.

Otherwise, there are two ways we can recommend to access medical resources remotely:

  1. Tele-medicine*: the consultation and guidance you can get via phone or video chat that can take the place of most doctor visits. This is powerful and readily available, and surprisingly inexpensive compared to most insurance or private office visits. There are tele-health networks that provide all the virtual office visits with board-certified physicians (in your state – sorry US only) you need for a low subscription price well under the cost of one family meal out per month.
  2. Medical Testing Services: if you have concerns that are not easily diagnosed, the services of a modern laboratory can be critical, and you can order them with or without a doctor. They can be expensive, but they are available across most US states by mail-in, mobile or walk-in services. In any case, they are completely confidential, and YOU are in full control. Some laboratory firms offer a thousand test types or more. Walk-In Lab (one of our sponsors) is a good test service for US residents.

*Note: this is a sponsored topic.

After obtaining medical reference books, beginning your study, and arranging for Tele-Health protection you will be ready to start the next step: Self Care in Isolation, Part 2

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10 thoughts on “Self-Care in Isolation

  • By S. Fred - Reply

    I really like the idea that we can take control of our own health, no matter what the government or insurance establishment wants to put us through. I heard that you can’t order your own medical lab tests in some states. I live in Ohio and I have friends in Arizona and Oregon – can my friends and I order medical lab tests in those states?

    • By SteveT - Reply

      It is fairly surprising just how much healthcare you can control on your own, and how little it costs. I find it empowering.

      The Lab test service we recommend (Walk-In Lab) has no restrictions on use in Oregon, Arizona, Ohio or anywhere else except for a few east coast states that can’t use some of the major laboratory firms. I think all US states can use the home “mail-in” kits, but that’s a small fraction of the tests available.

  • By Bonnie Baker - Reply

    I had no idea this was available. Thanks for the great article!
    Question about this tele-medicine service; can I use it when I’m traveling on business?

    • By SteveT - Reply

      The tele-health service we recommend is available 24/7 across the US. If you are travelling, and you know what city you will stop in, the service will connect you with a board certified Medical Doctor in that state. That way, if she needs to write you a prescription, that will be easy and legal. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • By Melani - Reply

    Thank you for this important information about book and digital products of medical field. I agree with you about the powerful three website you have mentioned. We can get a lot of sound knowledge about health from them. My question is how if we can not get internet access to get medical information? What should we prepare to anticipate the medical problems?

    • By SteveT - Reply

      Thanks for these great questions. Yes, there are many powerful medical resources available on the web, but what good are they if you lose power and web access? I suggest 3 steps to allow medical help options after power and web access are lost.
      1- Be sure to have good medical reference books or e-books with lots of backup power or batteries
      2- Subscribe to a Telehealth program like that can be accessed by phone
      3- Keep power in place for a smart phone with voice, web and text access – a power bank, solar charger or crank charger is a good idea for keeping the phone charged
      Of course if all the cell towers are knocked out, you are on your own, but at least there are usually a few options for dealing with this bad situation.

  • By Brandon - Reply

    Absolutely! You have hit the nail right on the head with this one my friend. As an avid camper I’m always in the wilderness, and even though I’m not always on a solo trip, I have to know how to treat my wounds and my friends/families wounds. My father got me into camping from a young age and taught me the basics, but it was up to me to educate myself on first-aid and whatnot, which I did thanks to the help of the internet 🙂 Thank you, great article.

    • By SteveT - Reply

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Brandon. If you are out of reach of doctors and hospitals, your choices are limited. It’s great that your dad included the essential first aid basics in your family education. Most of us were not so fortunate.

  • By hong - Reply

    Thank you for this wonderful article. We are living in a society where we have been told that we have to see doctor for everything. I am glad I saw this article. Hospitals and medical professional are great, but unfortunately many people seek medical attention too often for minor problems which can be taken care of when given the proper education. You are doing the right time educating people about what to do when you are isolated from modern medical attention, I will send your link to my friends and family to spread the word. Thank you again for this information.

    • By SteveT - Reply

      Thanks for your thoughts, Hong. I agree that we are often given poor advice about our medical care. While this post is directed at those in isolated situations where conventional doctors are out of reach, it is true that understanding how to take control of your care is empowering and opens up options. When traditional care is too expensive or misses effective options empowerment can provide practical alternatives.

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