Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Av 5760 - August 16, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Your Medical Questions Answered!
by Joseph B. Leibman, MD

Diplomate, Board Certification of Emergency Medicine

Chairman, Department of Emergency Medicine Ma'ayenei Hayeshua Hospital

Vacation in Israel is a special treat. Many vacationers come during the summer, and visit the holy sites and perhaps a museum. Others, like myself, are enchanted by the unique outdoor sites -- the fresh mountain air of the Golan, the sunsets over the Jerusalem hills, the allure of the desert oases in the Dead Sea, and the mystique of the badlands in the south.

A few weeks ago, five religious girls decided to visit the Flour Caves; a maze of subterranean caves that cause the visitor to exit the cave covered with fine flour-like dust. I've never been there, but I heard it is a lot of fun. After all, that is what vacations are all about. Israel was having one of its sharavs at that point, and when the girls arrived in the Sodom area where the caves are located it was above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

While it is a short trail to the caves, something went wrong. The five were lost in the unrelenting heat in a desert that had closed in on them. They split up to look for help. Only four of them were successful.

Not all of us enjoy the outdoors, but if you do, you must be attuned to basic safety rules. Never go swimming or hiking alone. When traveling even to popular places, let someone know where you are going. A basic first aid kit, containing bandages, a snake bit kit, waterproof matches, water purification tablets, iodine, and flares is a must. Canteens and a hat are a must in Israel.

If you get lost anywhere, find shelter and stay put. Waiting for a rescue team is always the best bet. If you aren't rescued, then sending someone for help is all right, but he should leave some signs of his path every few feet, so that people can find him or you. A pile of rocks is fine for this purpose. Maps are a must on all hikes. Cellular phones can be life saving. A knife is also very helpful.

Many hikers in the Golan and Scotland for example, climb hills for beautiful views, but once above the tree line (in Scotland), if you slip, there is nothing to grab on to. A rope may be helpful for rescues, but if used to steady a group of people on a hike, then if one falls he could pull the whole group down.

Respect the wildlife. Bears are common in many places, as are snakes, and occasionally leopards or wildcats. These animals can be dealt with safely by learning about them. For example, sudden moves are not a good idea with snakes. Reaching into dark surfaces such as under rocks can uncover snakes and scorpions.

Deserts and badlands have few landmarks and getting lost is fairly easy. Combine that with the impaired judgment of dehydration and the mirages that one sees in the desert, and you can understand how the tragedy of that group of girls occurred. A guide is important in these cases.

Do not drink untreated water unless you really have to. Never drink sea water (it will make dehydration worse), and don't eat plants -- especially mushrooms -- in the wild, unless you are 100% sure. Mushrooms are easily confused and, while toxic effects can sometimes take time to appear, poisonous mushrooms can destroy the liver.

We see some really bad sunburns, and suntan lotion must be reapplied every time you go into the water. People driving in the car can also get severe sunburn. Be especially careful at the beach, where the sun's rays are often not felt to be as strong as they really are.

In Israel it doesn't rain in the summer, but in the winter in Israel and in the American West, flash floods are quite common. Rain in Jerusalem, for example, can lead to a flash flood in the Dead Sea areas despite it being very warm and sunny. Flash floods can wash away an automobile. Don't take chances. Get to high elevations, or avoid areas like this altogether during danger times.

Don't ignore ranger warnings. Don't overdo it. Hiking is enjoyable, but serious heart and muscle problems can occur to people who aren't in condition for it, especially at higher elevations. This isn't only for mountain climbers. Visitors to the American West, Peru, Ecuador, the Alps, and Mexico City, all areas of high altitude, can have problems with this without even leaving their hotel room.

I love the outdoors and get lots of chizuk from seeing Hashem's world in all it's glory. You should try it. If done safely, you'll really enjoy it. Write me in care of the Yated.

A message Glaxo, sponsor of this column: It may be a little early to speak about flu season, but the medical literature is still bubbling with excitement over the new antivirals, of which Relenza is Glaxo's product. While immunization is still the best idea, Relenza will help if you didn't get the shot. Last year's flu was devastating and people were out of commission for at least a week. This winter, remember Relenza and forget the flu.


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