LOS ANGELES (August 18, 1999) -- If you're going to be sitting in a metal boat on a sun-drenched lake an hour's hike from the Amazon River, it's a good idea to take along plenty of fluids and possibly a doctor or two.
"It's hot and very humid. It's hard to get a good evaporative cooling process going," says Mary L. Hardy, M.D., director of the Integrative Medicine Medical Group at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a program that integrates Western medical practice with botanical medicine, traditional Chinese approaches, acupuncture and other alternative therapies. Dr. Hardy has studied traditional healing systems in Kenya and China, as well as in Peru. A board-certified specialist in internal medicine, she journeyed into Peru five years ago with a group of researchers studying botanical medicine and traditional healing systems and practices.
"It's not so bad in the jungle because you have a lot of shade but in this open, metal boat, we were all really sweating. On the hike back, one of the members, a pharmacist I was hiking with, suddenly got very sick, was throwing up and appeared flushed. She was normally a very pale person so it was very clear that she had heat exhaustion. We had to quickly figure out how to take care of her so we wouldn't have to carry her out."
One team member contributed a powdered sport drink and Dr. Hardy added oral rehydration salt from her emergency kit. "We made a salty drink and gave her small sips because if you give too much, the sufferer will throw it right back up. We moistened a bandana with water, added a little bit of lavender/peppermint oil to make it even a little bit more cooling, and put that on the back of her neck, along with one on her face. Then we fanned her. In about 15 or 20 minutes, she was able to walk again."
"For the trip down the Amazon, I had two medical kits," she says. "I still take
two with me, one with natural medicines and one with pharmaceuticals, so that
I'm prepared for anything that come
Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center