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Health Experience of 122 Submarine Crewmembers During a 101-Day Submergence

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Horn WG, Thomas TL, Marino K, Hooper TI. Health experience of 122 submarine crewmembers during a 101-day submergence. Aviat Space Environ Med 2003; 74:858–862.

Introduction: The artificial environment encountered in submarine duty may affect the health of crewmembers. Previous studies of submariner health have not examined self-treatment habits or the incidence of minor health problems for which no care is sought from a health care provider. Our study examined patterns of minor medical problems and self-treatment among the crew of one submarine over a period of continued submergence for 101 d. Methods: Study data were obtained from three self-administered serial surveys of 122 medically screened U.S. Navy personnel onboard a submerged nuclear-powered submarine at the beginning, middle, and end of the study. Results: During the first half of the study, 82% had medical complaints, most commonly runny nose, difficulty sleeping, and backache. In the second half, 77% listed complaints, most commonly difficulty sleeping. Despite readily available medical care, self-medication for minor unreported health problems was common, with use of products such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, multi-vitamins, health supplements, topical preparations, and antihistamine/decongestants. Discussion: Planning for medical care in isolated environments should include consideration of unreported minor medical problems and self-treatment patterns.

Keywords: artificial environment; exercise; health; hygiene; military medicine; self care; submariners; symptoms

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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