You and I are probably much more likely to get in an auto accident or slip and fall at work than we are likely to get injured while out fishing, hunting or hiking. The difference is that outdoor pursuits are often solitary in nature, and you are often in a remote location far from medical help. Thus, some simple first-aid suggestions are in order for those who spend time in the outdoors.
Some of the stuff is obvious, like get basic first-aid training, know how to swim and keep a first-aid kit handy. Some of the stuff is a little more esoteric, like carrying a snake-bite kit, a signal mirror, or colored smoke bombs for identification ad rescue in remote locations. With the advent of cell phones, reliable walkie talkies, and GPS units, you can often call for help electronically. Don’t expect a cell phone to work in the bottom of a Sierra canyon, but if you can get quickly enough to a ridge top it’s amazing how far a cell phone can reach.
Remember the old snake-bite kit with the rubber suction cups? They were standard gear for outdoors enthusiasts for almost 100 years. I guess the old suction cup kit would still be better than nothing, but technology has once again come to the rescue in the form of an invention called “the extractor.” It is a lightweight plastic plunger with interchangeable sized cups to fit fingers, wrists or hands or almost any other body part likely to get a snake bite. They are simple to use (even one-handed) and produce so much suction that they literally suck the venom right back out through the bite hole where the snake bit you. None of the old slash-and-suck nonsense that disfigured you and drove doctors crazy — just quick, simple, effective treatment.
I know it’s a form of mental illness, but for several decades now I have gone out afield to catch live rattlesnakes. I wear snake proof leggings that cover me from ankle to knee, and use a mechanical grabber to pick up the snakes and put them into the collection sack. Still, there is a chance that one day I’m going to make a mistake and get bit. Naturally, I carry my extractor at all times and while it is not yet medically recognized, I also carry a 50,000-volt stun gun for snakebite.
To my knowledge, there have never been any official scientific studies that recognize the efficacy of high-voltage shock in treating venomous bites. Still I have run into numerous examples of what doctor’s call “anecdotal evidence” that such treatment might save your life. The theory is that venomous bites have an electrical charge, which is opposite the charge carried by normal tissue, and that high-voltage current neutralizes the charge of the venom, which then is harmlessly eliminated.
Be advised: This theory is not scientifically prove, and I don’t recommend that you try it. I have run this theory by several physicians and the general response is that it probably won’t help. But if you want to shock the snot out of your hand, ankle, etc., it probably won’t kill you.
One of the most important ideas of all is that you have to carry your first-aid gear with you. I keep a complete first-aid kit in my truck at all times and then carry the extractor and a smaller first-aid kit with me when I’m away from the vehicle. Over the years, it has come in really handy.
A couple of years ago, my son and I watched an ATV rider plunge off a steep road and fall about 25 feet to land in a treetop. He was pretty badly cut up and the first-aid kit got a real workout that day.
If you should get injured in the wilderness, try to remember that you’re not a doctor and just apply temporary first-aid and seek professional medical help as quickly as possible. I also carry an emergency sterile suture kit in case of a serious laceration. I’m not a doctor and have never used the suture kit, nor do I want to. I have, however, seen houndsmen sew shut the slashes that an angry bear inflicted on a dog. Shouldn’t your vet be the one to stitch up your dog? Absolutely, but if you’re 50 miles by road at the bottom of a canyon and your dog is bleeding profusely, you may not have a choice.
If you don’t have first-aid training, call the Red Cross and get it. If you don’t have a good first-aid kit, get one and carry it. If you’re going to be in snake country, get the extractor and carry it. The great outdoors is a wonderful place to be and you’re probably safer afield than in the heart of a major city but a few precautions can reap lifesaving benefits. Don’t let me scare you into avoiding the outdoors. By all means, get out there and enjoy it, but take some sensible precautions and enjoy some peace of mind too.
Until next week, tight lines.
• Don Moyer is president and CEO of a consulting firm and has more than 20 years’ experience working with the outdoor recreation community, including anglers, hunters, backpackers, environmental groups and the public. He can be reached at email@example.com.