Health Concerns for the Chilean Miners

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Even as plans are made to try and speed up their rescue, the physical and mental health of the 33 trapped Chilean miners remains a primary concern. Especially troublesome is the fact that several are middle aged, and may suffer from underlying health issues that could well be magnified or brought out by the stress of the situation.

Here are some of the major concerns I have as an internist, with a background in emergency medicine_

--With the average heat being around 85 degrees, dehydration will be a primary concern. Miners should drink 4 liters per day, (with electrolytes if possible). But depression and disorientation may interfere with compliance.

--This kind of physical and mental stress will bring out underlying diseases like heart disease or lung disease (asthma and emphysema) and diabetes.

--Without a toilet or proper sanitation, infectious diseases especially E. coli and bacteria, will spread back and forth and could be life threatening.

--There is a first aid kit, rubbing alcohol, and medicines, but this may not prove sufficient. Doctors are trying to keep them well nourished by supplying food through a 3 inch tube. But there are concerns about nutritional deficiencies, given the lack of sunlight, and heat-induced sweating.

--Oxygen is being piped in but will it be adequate? There will be a concern about too much carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide which could prove life threatening. Lack of oxygen or excess carbon dioxide would interfere with clear thinking and functioning.

--Depression, anxiety, and impaired judgement are major concerns

The sooner the miners are rescued the better for all.

Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel is the author of a new ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at