The Stress Response Can Buy You Valuable Seconds – That Can Lead To Valuable Minutes

Survival in extreme situations often depends on an individuals ability to respond to the threat they are faced with. The stress response in humans has for decades been referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response.

Now if you have a couple of Uzi’s and enough ammunition none of this applies to you because you could probably wipe out any number of malcontents advancing towards your property. For the rest of you, well, I hope you find some use in what I have to say.

The Physiological Basics

When faced with a sudden or extreme threat, two body systems act together to give you the best possible chance of survival. The reaction is for the most part not under your control. Your brain and your body decide what happens, the biggest toughest guy in the bar may turn and run, the tiny young bar tender may not, 90% of what happens is decided by chemistry.

The sympathetic nervous system and the adrenal-cortical system get together at the first sign of a serious threat and if the threat persists for longer than a few more seconds both systems kick into high gear and adrenaline (epinepherine), noradrenaline (norepinepherine) and a couple dozen other hormones flood the body and the fight or flight response is triggered.

  • Pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible
  • Blood-glucose levels increase
  • Veins in the skin contract allowing extra blood flow to the muscles
  • Smooth muscle relaxes to allow extra oxygen for the lungs
  • Heart rate increases
  • Blood pressure increases
  • Non-essential systems shut down (digestion for example)
  • The only focus is the task in hand

It is your reaction to this flood of chemicals that decides what happens next. The first, often vital seconds can be wasted whilst your body decides what to do, which option will give you the best chance of survival. Your brain is processing information much faster than usual and increasing or decreasing the levels as the situation dictates. Running for your life or staying to fight is not at this point entirely under your own control, though the 10% of you not being guided by this chemical battle will have a bearing on the final outcome.

If you have previously thought through the likely scenarios, and come to a conclusion of what you will do about them, you will waste less time working out what to do at the point when time really does matter.

The Psychology Basics

Highly trained individuals are much more able to overcome the flight part of the response and stand their ground and fight. Equally, in a hopeless situation they’re training allows them to make the decision to retreat faster than the average person would. This should never be construed as cowardice, it is simply a tactical withdrawal that leaves them alive to fight another day.

Sadly some of those we may call ‘The Golden Horde’ may also possess the ability to make decisions faster than the average person. Those used to living on their wits will cope better in flight or fight situations than the average man simply because they have been in similar situations more often than Mr Average. Their most common reaction though is to fight, even when if they’d listened to the 10% of their brain not being controlled they would have realised that in some circumstances it’s unwise to do so.

I know the urge to shoot at a roving gang going door to door down your street would be strong, but if you are at home, holed up with the family and you’re drastically outnumbered this may not have the outcome that is best for you or your family.

The urge to shoot first and hope you’re alive to ask questions later is almost overwhelming in such situation, but sometimes you have to go with the 10% of you that isn’t under the control of biochemicals coursing around your body.

People hunting in gangs have a pack mentality, they are set on a course of action and it often doesn’t enter their head that they will fail, they have not failed before, why should this occasion be any different?

That’s where control and logical thinking comes into it. Announcing to said gang that you are there by spraying the road with bullets is unlikely to deter them…they are armed, and past experience tells them that you are outnumbered. They are not thinking tactics, they are thinking of nothing but what they can steal from your home.

This makes them dumb, and relatively easy pickings for someone who is thinking tactically.

The Bones Of It

Surprise is the weapon of choice in the first instance. Making something totally unexpected happen puts the aggressor on the back foot because he thinks he knows what happens next. Unusual and unpleasant chemical smells, loud noises, anything that isn’t expected immediately increases the stress levels of those that seek to do you harm.

Now here I have to be careful. I have been advised by a Lizzie loyal police officer that spelling out some of the methods that can be used to stop these roving gangs could get me arrested. It’s a British thing, the government decided a while back we were not allowed to defend ourselves. It’s best just to give you some examples of how dangerous ‘kitchen chemistry’ can be, and why therefore you should NEVER resort to using such methods…

We are told never to mix chemical cleaners as dangerous gases can be formed as a result. The son of a friend of mine didn’t believe this so he tried it, and produced a nice cloud of a chlorine gas.

The stupid boy had duct taped two jam jars together and put one solution in each jar, the idea being to drip one drop at a time from one jar into the other. Of course when he knocked it over the fluids mixed, and he spent several hours in the emergency department with streaming eyes, gasping for breath, and some nice burns from splashes that had landed on his legs.

Teenagers are indeed foolish. There are reports from police in the US that kids are making items based on an episode of MacGuyver. There have been some nasty injuries, and it’s a good job they used plastic bottles not glass or things would have been a good deal worse. Glass shards can travel a hell of a long way from their original breakage point.

There is even a case of a church receptionist using wasp nest killer instead of pepper spray on as it shoots way further than mace, not that we are allowed to use pepper spray in the UK. Remeber not to get a flame near wasp spray as it is highly flammable and becomes something of a flame thrower!

Super-soaker water guns can shoot any liquid a hell of a distance so be sure you only put water in them.

Laser pointers can reach the moon, a great way to show the kids certain features, just make sure you don’t shine them in peoples eyes, they can cause major damage.

The smell of petrol or diesel automatically makes people stop and think…hoping there’s no flame or spark nearby that could ignite the vapours. Be sure to keep open flames, sparks and batteries away from petroleum based products. This includes petroleum jelly that burns like hell and sticks like napalm, never mix open flames and petroleum jelly.

I digress, sorry, back to tactics. Anything you can do to put these people on the back foot is to your advantage. Hidden tanglefoot, or even a board with nails whacked through becomes invisible at night, as do mains powered extension leads with the wires exposed at one end, nasty if it’s wet out there…

Darkness is the prime time for attacks and you need to take as much advantage of the night-time hours as you can.

The delay, the putting off of firing for a minute or two has given you a few distinct advantages:

  • You will be mentally calmer and therefore thinking more clearly. You know something they don’t, the basis of tactical warfare for centuries.
  • You will be more in control if the situation deteriorates into one that requires direct confrontation.
  • Some of the group are most likely injured and will therefore hold back leaving less people for you to deal with.
  • They will be confused at coming across unanticipated obstacles/chemicals This can cause loss of concentration and hesitation.

Giving yourself time to listen to the 10% of your brain under your control can, in many circumstances can pay dividends that brass and lead alone cannot deliver. Don’t get me wrong guns are great, I wish I had one but the chances of outshooting a large group of armed people is remote. Every bullet you save is one you can use in close quarters should the situation deteriorate.

Be inventive, think outside the box and if you are fortunate enough to have lead and brass I envy you.

Take Care


New Cases Of Polio-Like Illness That Paralyses Children Increasing


In the first six months of this year 32 people, predominantly children, have been diagnosed with a polio like illness called Acute Flaccid Myelitis. The AFM info sheet  published by the California Department of Public Heath gives the following details:

Acute Flaccid Myelitis

In 2012, CDPH began receiving reports of patients with acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). The clinical picture of these patients was similar to that of poliomyelitis, but they were not infected with poliovirus.

Clinical symptoms included respiratory or gastrointestinal prodrome, fever, limb myalgia and pain or burning sensations in weak limbs and/or the back.

Probable/Possible Etiology

The specific cause(s) of this illness are still under investigation. However, these cases are most similar to illnesses caused by viruses, including:

  •  enteroviruses (polio and non-polio)
  •  adenoviruses
  •  flaviviruses (West Nile virus)
  •  herpesviruses

Out of the 32 cases this year only three children have made a full recovery. Last year there were only 21 cases across the United States and nobody is sure why this year has seen a surge in cases, particularly since April.

In 2014 the illness sickened 120 children and only one has completely recovered. There was an outbreak of D68 at the same time and doctors initially thought there was a link between the two conditions but 71 of the children sickened in the 2014 outbreak had no enterovirus in their spinal fluid.

Speaking to The New York Times Dr. Samuel Dominguez an epidemiologist and an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital Colorado said:

“It’s unsatisfying to have an illness and not know what caused it,”

The report goes on to say:

For many families, the onset of persistent limb paralysis has been a bewildering experience. Roughly two thirds of the children with A.F.M. have reported some improvement, according to the C.D.C. About a third show none. Only one child has fully recovered.

And while enterovirus 68 is the prime suspect, the C.D.C. has not ruled out another infectious cause, said Mark A. Pallansch, the director of viral diseases.

The CDC is working to find the cause of the disease that is leaving children with disabilities across the country. At this point they are not saying which states or locations are affected in the latest outbreak of AFM, which is worrying. Warning people that a disease is in their area and publicising the symptoms of that disease makes people more aware and likely to take children for treatment far more quickly than they otherwise would have done. Knowing so little about the disease I would have thought this was of prime importance. Time could be of the essence for these children. From digging around I have found that both Texas and New Hampshire have reported cases of AFM in children.

Take the example of Jack, still suffering from AFM two years after contracting it.

In August, Jack Wernick, a first grader in Kingsport, Tenn., developed a “crummy little cold,” said his father, Dan Wernick, who works for a paper company. It seemed ordinary, until Jack complained that his right arm was heavy, his face began drooping and pain started shooting down his right leg.

Today, Jack still cannot lift his right arm, though he never lost use of the affected leg. He is adapting well, but his mother, Nicole Wernick, says she worries that he will never be able to tie his shoes again or drive when he is older.

“I’ve run out of tears,” she said.

Parents like her are desperate for scientists to identify the cause, and they are already pursuing a number of theories. But the research will be slow and painstaking.

And while enterovirus 68 is the prime suspect, the C.D.C. has not ruled out another infectious cause, said Mark A. Pallansch, the director of viral diseases.

Jack was one of the children who tested negative for the D68 enterovirus.  The Washington Post has the stories of two children whose lives have been changed forever by this mysterious illness.

In May and June 2016, the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) received reports of seven children suspected of having acute flaccid myelitis (AFM). The patients have been reported from Central Texas and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex areas. Prior to May, no AFM cases had been confirmed in Texas in 2016 and five had been reported nationally. Due to the sudden increase in case reports, DSHS is urging clinicians to be aware of AFM and to report suspect cases to DSHS or their local health department (LHD). Reporting of cases will help DSHS monitor clusters or increases in this illness and better understand potential causes, risk factors, and preventive measures.

AFM clinical presentation

Patients with AFM present with acute focal limb weakness, frequently two to three weeks after a respiratory or febrile illness. They may also have facial droop, diplopia, dysphagia, or dysarthria. You can download the full PDF here

There are nowhere near enough answers about AFM coming from public health services. Parents should be alerted to the signs and symptoms of this condition regardless of if it is in their area or not. We are seeing a very low full recovery rate from the disease. Children who don’t fully recover are going to be affected for the rest of their lives and more effort needs to be put into tracking down the cause of this terrifying condition.

Take Care


7 Pieces Of Medical Advice You Should Ignore


It’s pretty difficult to keep up with the latest medical advice these days. It’s even harder to find out when something has been superseded or debunked because just like the rest of us the medical profession hates to admit it got it wrong!

Here are a few snippets of information that may help you make informed choices in the future. Click the red links to find out more.

  1. Eggs are bad for you. False. Eggs have enough vitamins and minerals in them to grow an entire chicken. They are low carbohydrate and low fat. These little protein bundles are the perfect food to start the day on, and consuming protein first thing has been proven to reduce calorie intake for the rest of the day. Eggs raise the levels of HDL, High Density Lipoprotein, which to you and I is ‘good cholesterol’.
  2. Multivitamins make you healthier. False. If you have an adequate diet there is no need at all to take a multivitamin supplement each day. Multivitamins are big business and we have been told for years that we should take them. Unless you are debilitated, or have a diet that you know is lacking in certain vitamins or minerals there’s no point buying them. If you decide you want to be on the safe side, you want to make sure you have everything you should have, consider cheap generic brands. Fancy boxes and big names don’t alter the amount of vitamin you are getting.
  3. Skimmed milk is better for kids. FalseActually studies reveal that kids drinking skim milk from an early age have higher levels of obesity. Full fat milk is more satisfying and actually the fats, good ones might I add, are what contributes largely to the satiety factor of drinking the milk. The vitamin and mineral content of full fat Versus skimmed is surprising. Full fat contains marginal more B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic acid), selenium and vitamin E. Skim contains more carbohydrates, quite a lot more sodium and potassium, something those with kidney issues may need to think about and marginally more vitamin A, Vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
  4. Salt  is bad. False. Based almost entirely on faulty research and the findings of a single cardiologist who was asked by the American Heart Association to give his findings. Salt is actually beneficial to the body in many ways and we need it in our diet to stay healthy. Salt ensures muscles work properly, that vital fluid balance is maintained and plays a part in some of the bio-feedback loops essential for good health.
  5. Don’t eat fats. False. There are many types of fats, some good, some bad. It is way beyond the scope of this article to go through them all but I recommend you read this, which gives an easy to read overview, with back up research about all types of dietary fat. Saturated fats have been demonised for years but there’s no need to be afraid of them, in moderation they are actually good for you!
  6. Eat more carbs. False. The dietary advice on carbohydrate consumption given to Americans and the rest of the Western World has sparked a massive rise in obesity. A high carb diet spikes blood sugar levels which in turn causes a rise in insulin. Ultimately this makes you feel hungry so you eat again and the whole thing just keeps on rolling – not good. You can read more about the mechanism of how carbohydrates affect the body here.
  7. Fresh food or bust. False. Studies have proven that some frozen fruit and veg is actually healthier than fresh food that has been left standing for a while. As soon as fresh food is picked or dug up it starts to degrade so companies that freeze their fruit and veg quickly after harvest are preserving the vitamin content of the food. Growing your own or buying from farm shops and farmers markets on the day you intend to use your veggies ensures the food you buy is fresh and bursting with goodness. Supermarket produce, shipped half way around the world and backlit with lights that make it look like it was picked that morning are best avoided. 

As with all things common sense and moderation are the key with diet. Eating fresh foods on the day of purchase and storing food correctly helps maintain the vitamin and mineral content of the food. Making informed choices means looking into the research around dietary advice, or finding a site that does the research for you. I very seldom, if ever actually recommend another site, I’m a bit selfish like that, but I have made a gem of a discovery. Authority Nutrition has very up to date and fully referenced information. This is not the author making it up, this guy looks into it and references his work…I can’t fault it, and all those of you who have been reading my stuff for a while know that’s a rarity for me!

Oh, and for the sceptics, no, he didn’t pay me to say that. Good advice is hard to find and I like to share information that I know can make a difference.

Take care