Where There Is No Doctor


Self-help medicine

This is the only book in the world that will really help you be your own doctor. It tells you how to suture a wound, heal burns, make your own contraception, diagnose tropical skin diseases, and thousands of other do-it-yourself medical procedures you won’t find elsewhere. Originally written (in Spanish) for para-medicals in the developing world, the medical instructions are clear, methodical, reliable, and helpful. Not all the content is emergency care; a lot is basic hygiene and preventative care.

This book is crammed with essential, life-saving knowledge for anyone living or traveling for long periods in undeveloped areas without doctors close by. It can be found in the packs of transcontinental bicyclists, arctic explorers, missionaries and Peace Corp folks. The book is too heavy to lug around in a tourist backpack, but it is also available as a free PDF. But even with access to modern medical facilities, I’ve found this book gives me an abbreviated medical school education. It offers very realistic first aid treatments (more than just bandages), and very easy-to-understand explanations of what doctors see in injuries. It can help you talk to doctors. Finally, when you are done traveling, leave this book behind with someone who can use it.

There is also a companion book, Where There Is No Dentist, equally good.


Giardia is a tiny parasite that lives in the gut and is a common cause of diarrhea, especially in children.

A lot of gas. This causes a swollen, uncomfortable belly, cramps, nausea, and a lot of farts and burps. The burps have a bad taste, like sulfur or rotten eggs.
Bad-smelling, yellow, and frothy (full of bubbles) diarrhea, without blood or mucus.
There is usually no fever.

It can last for weeks, causing weight loss and weakness.

A mild giardia infection is uncomfortable, but will usually get better on its own within about 6 weeks. Good nutrition helps. A long-lasting case, especially in a child, is best treated with metronidazole. Quinacrine is cheaper and often works well, but causes worse side effects.


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03/21/12 -- KK