Allergy

The Apollo Astronaut Who Was Allergic to the Moon

The inside of Apollo 17’s lunar module smelled of gunpowder. It was December 1972, the last of NASA’s manned moon missions, and astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt had just finished a successful survey of the Valley of Taurus-Littrow, a spot on the southeastern “coast” of the Moon’s Sea of Serenity. They had returned to the landing module with their spacesuits caked in moondust.

The men brushed themselves off and removed their helmets. Suddenly, Schmitt began having a sneezing fit. His eyes reddened. His throat itched. His sinuses clogged.

“I didn’t know I had lunar dust hay fever,” Schmitt said. Listening in, men stationed back on Earth began to bust Schmitt’s chops over the radio transmission. “It’s funny they don’t check for that,” said Joseph Allen at Mission Control. “Maybe that’s the trouble with the cheap noses, Jack.”

Schmitt, it turns out, was basically allergic to the Moon.

Of all the difficulties involved with putting a man on the Moon, “the major issue the Apollo astronauts pointed out was dust, dust, dust,” Larry Taylor, director of the Planetary Geosciences Institute, said in an interview with the Soil Science Society of America. The Apollo 11 astronauts griped that the “particles covered everything and a stain remained even after our best attempts to brush it off.” An Apollo 12 crew member moaned that the lunar module “had so much dust that when I took my helmet off, I was almost blinded.”

Moondust may look soft and pillowy, but it’s actually sharp and abrasive, largely the detritus of micrometeorite impacts. With no wind or moving water on the Moon’s surface, moondust never erodes. Effectively, no natural process exists on the lunar surface that can round its edges. When astronauts inhale what is essentially finely powdered glass, it becomes a huge health hazard [PDF]: The powder is so jagged that a deep breath could cause it to lodge in the lungs and pierce the alveolar sacs and ducts [PDF], resulting in a lunar version of “stone-grinder’s disease,” or silicosis, a deadly condition that commonly killed coal miners (and still kills 100 Americans a year). To complicate…

Horses Kill More People Than Venomous Creatures Do In Australia

In Australia, the dangers of snakes, spiders, and other venomous creatures may be far overblown in the popular imagination, as the BBC recently highlighted. The most dangerous animal in the country, in fact, is a more unassuming creature: the horse.

Research published in the Internal Medicine Journal examined 42,000 hospital admissions for venomous stings and bites over the course of 13 years (2000–2013). Bees were the most dangerous, comprising 31 percent of hospital visits, while spider bites made up 30 percent and snake bites made up 15 percent.

And yet, as the BBC reports, none of the animals the researchers specifically studied was as deadly as the unassuming horse. Study author Ronelle Welton found during…

10 Extreme Survival Scenarios And How to Handle Them

Most of us are used to living in the confines of civilization, and probably won’t ever have to worry about hypothermia, or bears, or a snake bite. But once you head out in the wilderness, you can never be sure when a catastrophe will strike, or when you’ll be separated from your group. Read on for some things to keep in mind if you should ever find yourself in crisis mode.

A body temperature below 95 degrees will draw blood away from the skin to protect vital organs. If you find yourself exposed to the elements long enough for this to happen, you’ll want to get to a warm area quickly. Once you do, it’s best to warm up slowly. Wrap yourself in as many layers as you can, and try taking in warm food and drink and avoiding alcohol until help arrives.

More than 8000 people are bitten by snakes each year. Fortunately, only a tiny percentage are fatal—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry. Some people can have serious allergic reactions to bites, even if the offending reptile isn’t venomous. If you find yourself victimized, keep the bite site at or below heart level, let it bleed for 30 seconds before cleaning, avoid tourniquets—concentrated venom can be damaging—and don’t over-exert yourself getting help. Try your best to take a picture of the snake so medical professionals can identify an antivenom as needed. If you’re extremely isolated, Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) can help guide you through additional steps to take.

3. STRANDED AT SEA

Boat capsized? Try using clothing, tarps, or other fabric to act as a catch for rainwater. (Make sure to let the rain wash salt off the surface first.) Wring it out in a container to drink and stay hydrated. And think of the good news: small fish tend to like crowding under rafts, making fishing for sustenance easier.

While adventure movies have exaggerated how deadly a pit of quicksand can be, not knowing how to react can absolutely make it worse. Trying to “swim” out of it in a panic will only allow you to sink…