Alt-Med or Alt-Menace? Kate Whimster on First Aid Travel Essentials

Practitioner

Kate Whimster (Toronto)

Qualifications

Naturopathic Doctor (ND), Master of the Institute for Human Individuality (MIFHI) 

Claims That…

Heat stroke can be treated during travel using jerry-rigged electrolyte replacement. In addition, heat stroke, trauma and shock can be treated with a homeopathic spray.

5 Responses to “Alt-Med or Alt-Menace? Kate Whimster on First Aid Travel Essentials”

  1. Eamon Knight says:

    Is there something wrong with Whimster’s electrolyte drink? Because AFAIK, sugar, salt and clean water, in approximately the right proportions, are basically all that’s needed, and that seems to be about what she’s prescribing (caveat: not sure if baking soda is a proper substitute for table salt). When our infant son had dehydration due to rotavirus, our GP just gave us a recipe to make at home (which was a damn sight cheaper than buying Pedialyte!).

    Aloe Vera gel is also a pretty standard home remedy for sunburn and mild burns/scalds (FWIW, the Wikipedia article indicates there is some support for efficacy).

    So that list looks like a mix of reasonable home remedies and woo.

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      Eamon,

      The overall problematic nature of opting to make your own electrolyte replacement drink in a situation that might require immediate professional medical care is the concern.

      Nowhere in that post does she outline when it might not be appropriate to try and self-treat. The overall impression is that if you carry the bag full of items she recommends with you while you travel, you’ll be able to take care of yourself naturopathically, risk free.

    • Dianne Sousa says:

      Eamon,

      I asked pharmacist Scott Gavura to comment on the quality of the electrolyte drink recipe:

      “Rehydration solutions are specific with respect to osmolality. Liquids without salt can lead to low body salt (hyponatremia) because the diarrheal stool contains salt that must be replenished. Additionally, sugar must also be present in the administered fluid because salt absorption is coupled with sugar in the intestine via the SGLT1 transporter. So the issue is that you should not be omitting salt and or sugar from any rehydration solution.”

      Here’s a source outlining oral rehydration therapy with respect to diarrhea.

      Ms. Whimster specifically says that if any ingredient is missing from the drink, it’s ok. However, from the above it’s clear that there could potentially be very serious complications arising from the omission of salt and/or sugar or the inclusion of these ingredients in the wrong proportion. There is no warning of this either in the first aid post, or the post with the recipe itself.

  2. Bryan says:

    Is there something wrong with Whimster’s electrolyte drink
    Yes and no. Any mix of salt/sugars in water, so long as not too concentrated, will do the job for the purpose of rehydration.

    The issue is that heat stroke is a serious medical condition, often requiring more than rehydration and a cool environment.

  3. Heat stroke is not just an electrolyte or fluid imbalance problem, though it is often preceded by it. Heat stroke is a failure of the brain (hypothalamus specifically) to properly regulate the bodies temperature: impaired sweat mechanisms, either internally through fluid loss or externally because of a loss of evaporative gradient due to high humidity, or due to medical or drug induced problems impairing sweating or heat regulation. Oral fluid replacement of any sort is not going to solve the problem – rapid cooling and emergency transport to hospital are the answer. What is even worse is a person in heat stroke is, by definition, altered mentally and may have impaired gag reflexes, so any oral solutions could cause choking or aspiration and should not be administered.

    That is where this advice fails. It may be that the practitioner does not know the difference between heat stroke and heat exhaustion or they might not care, but it is dangerous advice, none-the-less.

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  • Dianne Sousa

    Dianne holds a degree from the University of Guelph in criminal justice, public policy and social psychology. She became involved in the skeptical movement after becoming disillusioned with the addictions counselling field. Skeptical topics of interest include alternative medicine and it's regulation in Canada, pseudoscience and the law and skeptical activism. She also crochets extensively and enjoys bad film, usually at the same time. Follow me on twitter: @DianneSousa. All views expressed by Dianne are her personal views alone, and do not represent the opinions of any current, former or future employers, or any organizations or associations that she may be affiliated with.