Adventure Medical Kits - Adventure Discussions
24h-payday
     Posts Tagged ‘Snake Bites’

Lifetime Outdoor Enthusiast. Completely Unprepared. – Lessons in Wilderness First Aid

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Ever wonder what you’d do if a medical emergency happened while you were out in the wilderness? One of our employees recently took a course in Wilderness First Aid at SOLO Schools. She’s extremely excited to share what she learned! – Adventure® Medical Kits

My dad and I after hiking up Mt. Lafayette

My dad and I after hiking up Mt. Lafayette

An avid hiker, I grew up scaling the White Mountains of NH with my father without injury (excluding your normal blisters and scrape). Though I lacked personal experience with first aid in the wild, I knew wilderness emergencies weren’t uncommon.

I remember the day my father came home from a hike and said he’d spent 20 minutes near the top of Mt. Lafayette helping a stranger descend only a few hundred feet of the trail. The stranger fell and shattered his kneecap on the rocks, making every step excruciating. Thankfully, they bumped into a rescue team on a practice climb that quickly became real, and my dad continued down alone.

My dad and I on top of Mt. Jackson

My dad and I on top of Mt. Jackson

Since that day, I’d often wondered what I would do if faced with an injured hiker on the trail. Would I be able to offer any help at all? Miles from professional care surrounded by trees and mountains, I wasn’t equipped to be someone’s best chance at survival, and what if that someone was my dad?

This year, I was given the opportunity to attend a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course at SOLO School of Wilderness Medicine. Walking onto the campus, I was unsure of what to expect out of the next two days. If nothing else, I was excited for the chance to learn a few first aid tips from wilderness experts. I learned much more than that.

Wilderness First Aid: Day 1

“Is anyone NOT ready?”

When you have five people about to attempt lifting an injured companion, you don’t ask “Is everyone ready?” You may not here the responding “no” over all of the “yes’s.” With a possible spinal complication, missing something and dropping your injured friend is not an option.

“Okay… one, two, three, lift!”

With one smooth motion, we lifted our patient from the cold ground to waist level, all without moving his spine. Surprised at our success, we froze for a moment, before the team leader (holding the patient’s head) followed up with, “Okay, we move on three!” We traversed the rough ground and safely placed our friend onto a foam pad. Thrilled at our success, we listened to feedback from our instructor and “injured” friend on how they felt our practice had gone.

Practicing making splints at a SOLO course

Practicing making splints at a SOLO course. PC: SOLO Schools

We’d only met each other earlier that morning, but as we stood outside the main building in the afternoon sun, our group was already beginning to turn into a team, forged by a common desire to learn and to be prepared to help others. Like me, my fellow classmates were driven by this desire to take the WFA course at SOLO. None of us were disappointed.

In 2 Days, There’s a Lot You Can Learn

Over the course of those two days, I was immersed in an innovative, hands-on learning experience. I learned how to improvise splints out of coats and bandanas, immobilize a victim’s spine with backpacks and baseball caps, and treat wounds ranging from lacerations to serious burns with items like honey and rain jackets. We covered assessing both unconscious and conscious patients, including identifying and treating life threats, monitoring vital signs, maintaining a soothing presence, and making an evacuation plan.

Improvising a leg splint. PC: SOLO Schools

How often should you change burn dressings? How do you recognize potentially life-threatening infections? When should you be concerned about a spinal injury? What should you do in a lightning storm? What are the early signs of shock, and how can you treat it? These are only a handful of the questions we learned how to answer.

New Skills to the Test

 

Assessing and caring for a patient.

Working as a team to practice assessing and caring for a patient. PC: SOLO Schools

Not only did we learn though – we also did. Hardly an hour of lecture would pass before our instructor had us outside practicing our new skills, with some of us acting as patients and some as caregivers. Outside, lifting companions, assessing broken bones, and applying pressure to stop major bleeds, our class of about 20 learned how to manage difficult patients, quickly assess scenes, and rule out spinal injuries.

Course Highlights

So out of this whirlwind weekend of knowledge and skill application, what did I enjoy most? This is gonna take a list:

  • Our instructor. Seriously – she was awesome! An amazing resource for both professional medical knowledge and practical ideas for when situations actually occur. From improvisation techniques to a great sense of humor, I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. And she encouraged questions!
  • My classmates. I emerged out of that class with new friends who love the outdoors like I do, yet have a variety of experiences and backgrounds to speak out of. They asked relevant, insightful questions of our instructor that contributed to everyone’s learning. From a grade school teacher who leads the school’s hiking club to a wilderness first responder getting recertified, our differences and similarities worked together to make learning fun and effective.
  • Learning what’s left to learn. Headed into the WFA course, I knew I didn’t know enough… but I didn’t know how much I could know! Now, I have a firm grasp of what wilderness emergencies I’m equipped to handle and which I’m not, and I’m excited about the possibility of furthering my knowledge with another SOLO course in the future.
  • Packing recommendations. Ever wonder what you should be carrying for first aid supplies? Or have a first aid kit but only a vague idea how to use it? That’s part of what makes this course so great – throughout the day, we got tips from our instructor and each other on the most useful supplies to pack and when and how to use tools like an irrigation syringe, triangular bandage, tourniquet, and more.

Choosing to Be Prepared

 

Hiking down Mt. Washington with my dad

Hiking down Mt. Washington

Whether you’re a trip leader or just an outdoor enthusiast looking to become more prepared, I highly recommend the WFA course at SOLO as a great starting point to build a foundation of first aid knowledge that could save your life, a friend’s, or a total strangers. If you own a first aid kit and haven’t taken the time to look through it, this course is a must for preparing you in how to use what’s inside. A bit of advice I learned from my course: first aid supplies are only as effective as the person carrying them.

About SOLO

The oldest continuously operating school of wilderness medicine in the world, SOLO offers wilderness medicine education on a variety levels for everyone from outdoor enthusiasts to trip leaders to trained professionals. The WFA course is a 16-hour course that provides a 2 year certification and covers the basics of backcountry medicine. On the other end of the spectrum, SOLO’s Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician (WEMT) course lasts a month, and participants who pass emerge with the national EMT certificate and thorough training in wilderness-specific medicine and long-term care. Courses can be attended on their campus in Conway, NH, or at off-site locations across the United States.

Ask the Doc — What’s the best way to treat a rattle snake bite?

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Q. What’s the best way to treat rattle snake bites in the wild?

Thanks –Lorenzo.

A. Lorenzo, please check out the “Venomous Snake Bites” chapter (excerpted below) from Dr. Weiss’ A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine, 3rd.

Treatment

The definitive treatment for snake venom poisoning is the administration of antivenin. The most important aspect of therapy is to get the victim to a medical facility as quickly as possible.

Signs and Symptoms of Envenomation

  • One or more fang marks (rattlesnake bites may leave one, two, or even three fang marks).
  • Local, burning pain immediately after the bite.
  • Swelling at the site of the bite, usually beginning within five to 20 minutes and spreading slowly over a period of six to 12 hours. The faster the swelling progresses up the arm or leg, the worse the degree of envenomation.
  • Bruising (black and blue discoloration) and blister formation at the bite site.
  • Numbness and tingling of the lips and face, usually 10 to 60 minutes after the bite.
  • Twitching of the muscles around the eyes and mouth.
  • Rubbery or metallic taste in the mouth.
  • After six to 12 hours, bleeding from the gums and nose may develop and denote a serious envenomation.
  • Weakness, sweating, nausea, vomiting and faintness may occur.

First Aid

  1. Rinse the area around the bite site with water to remove any venom that might remain on the skin.
  2. Clean the wound and cover with a sterile dressing.
  3. Remove any rings or jewelry.
  4. Immobilize the injured part as you would for a fracture, but splint it just below the level of the heart.
  5. Transport the victim to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. If you pass by a telephone, stop and notify the hospital that you are bringing in a snakebite victim so they can begin to locate and procure antivenin.
  6. It is not necessary to kill the snake and transport it with the victim for identification. If the snake is killed, it should not be directly handled, but should be transported in a closed container. Decapitated snake heads can still produce envenomation
  7. Extractor pumps designed to provide suction over a snakebite wound are sold in many camping stores and endorsed by some as a first aid treatment for snakebites. Based on recent scientific evidence, these devices are no longer recommended. A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2004 showed that these devices remove an insignificant amount of venom, and may also be harmful to the victim. The best first aid for snakebite is a cell phone (call the hospital that you are going to so that they can procure antivenin) and a car or helicopter to get the victim there as quickly as possible.

Other First-Aid Treatments That May Be Beneficial

Immediately wrapping the entire bitten extremity with a broad elastic bandage (the “Australian Compression and Immobilization Technique”) has proven effective in the treatment of elapid and sea snake envenomations only. It is only recommended when the victim appears to have suffered a severe envenomation and is several hours from medical care.

The wrap is started over the bite site and continued upward toward the torso in an even fashion about as tight as one would wrap a sprained ankle (Fig. 60). Monitor the color, pulse and temperature of the hand or foot to make sure that there is adequate circulation. If circulation appears compromised, loosen the wrap. Otherwise the bandage should not be released until after the victim has been brought to a medical facility. The limb should then be immobilized with a well-padded splint.

Things Not To Do

  1. Do not make any incisions in the skin or apply suction with your mouth.
  2. Do not apply ice or a tourniquet.
  3. Do not shock the victim with a stun gun or electrical current.

Snake Bites – How to Treat

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

by Eric A. Weiss, M.D. (excerpt from his book,
A Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine
)

VENOMOUS SNAKE BITES

There are two classes of poisonous snakes in the United States:

• Pit Vipers (rattlesnakes, cottonmouths [water moccasins], and copperheads) have a characteristic triangular head, a deep pit (heat receptor organ) between the eye and nostril, and a catlike, elliptical pupil.

• Elapids (coral snakes) are characterized by their color pattern with red, black, and yellow or white bands encircling the body. The fangs are short — these snakes bite by chewing rather than by striking.

All states except Maine, Hawaii, and Alaska have at least one species of venomous snake. The states with the highest incidence of snakebites are North Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arizona, and New Mexico. About 90 percent of snake bites occur between April and October, because snakes are more active in warm months of the year. Your chance of dying from a venomous snakebite in the wilderness is extremely remote — about one in 12 million.

Snakes can strike up to one-half their body length and may bite and not inject venom (dry bite). No poisoning occurs in about 20 to 30 percent of rattlesnake bites, and fewer than 40 percent of coral snake bites result in envenomation.

Pit Vipers

Signs and Symptoms of Envenomation

• One or more fang marks (rattlesnake bites may leave one, two, or even three fang marks).

• Local, burning pain immediately after the bite.

• Swelling at the site of the bite, usually beginning within five to 20 minutes and spreading slowly over a period of six to 12 hours. The faster the swelling progresses up the arm or leg, the worse the degree of envenomation.

• Bruising (black and blue discoloration) and blister formation at the bite site.

• Numbness and tingling of the lips and face, usually 10 to 60 minutes after the bite.

• Twitching of the muscles around the eyes and mouth.

• Rubbery or metallic taste in the mouth.

• After six to 12 hours, bleeding from the gums and nose may develop and denote a serious envenomation.

• Weakness, sweating, nausea, vomiting and faintness may occur.

Treatment

The definitive treatment for snake venom poisoning is the administration of antivenin. The most important aspect of therapy is to get the victim to a medical facility as quickly as possible.

First Aid

1) Rinse the area around the bite site with water to remove any venom that might remain on the skin.

2) Clean the wound and cover with a sterile dressing.

3) Remove any rings or jewelry.

4) Immobilize the injured part as you would for a fracture, but splint it just below the level of the heart.

5) Transport the victim to the nearest hospital as soon as possible. If you pass by a telephone, stop and notify the hospital that you are bringing in a snakebite victim so they can begin to locate and procure antivenin.

6) It is not necessary to kill the snake and transport it with the victim for identification. If the snake is killed, it should not be directly handled, but should be transported in a closed container. Decapitated snake heads can still produce envenomation

7) Extractor pumps designed to provide suction over a snakebite wound are sold in many camping stores and endorsed by some as a first aid treatment for snakebites. Based on recent scientific evidence, these devices are no longer recommended. A study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine in 2004 showed that these devices remove an insignificant amount of venom, and may also be harmful to the victim. The best first aid for snakebite is a cell phone (call the hospital that you are going to so that they can procure antivenin) and a car or helicopter to get the victim there as quickly as possible.

Other First-Aid Treatments That May Be Beneficial

Immediately wrapping the entire bitten extremity with a broad elastic bandage (the “Australian Compression and Immobilization Technique”) has proven effective in the treatment of elapid and sea snake envenomations only. It is only recommended when the victim appears to have suffered a severe envenomation and is several hours from medical care. Fig.-60 Australian wrap for snake envenomation

The wrap is started over the bite site and continued upward toward the torso in an even fashion about as tight as one would wrap a sprained ankle (Fig. 60). Monitor the color, pulse and temperature of the hand or foot to make sure that there is adequate circulation. If circulation appears compromised, loosen the wrap. Otherwise the bandage should not be released until after the victim has been brought to a medical facility. The limb should then be immobilized with a well-padded splint.

Things Not To Do

1) Do not make any incisions in the skin or apply suction with your mouth.

2) Do not apply ice or a tourniquet.

3) Do not shock the victim with a stun gun or electrical current.

Coral Snake

Signs and Symptoms of Envenomation

• Burning pain at the site of the bite.

• Numbness and/or weakness of a bitten arm or leg develops within 90 minutes.

• Twitching, nervousness, drowsiness, increased salivation, and drooling develop within one to three hours.

• Within five to ten hours, the victim develops slurred speech, double vision, difficulty talking and swallowing, and difficulty breathing. The venom may cause total paralysis.

Symptoms may sometimes be delayed by up to 13 hours after the bite.

First Aid

Treatment is the same as for a pit viper bite. Early use of the pressure immobilization technique is highly recommended because it is both effective and safe (coral snake venom does not produce any local tissue destruction).

Download Printable PDF:

adventure-medical-kits-snake-bites

BE SAFE – Outdoor Tip – Snake Bite Prevention

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

BE SAFE Tip – Outdoor Tip – Snake Bite Prevention

  • Stay away from infested areas.
  • Do not hike at night when the snakes are out.
  • Only place your foot or hand in areas you have visually searched for snakes.
  • Shake out your shoes, clothing and bags in the morning.
  • Don’t try to pick up a snake.
  • Wear high leather boots in snake country.

Learn more wilderness medicine and first aid tips – click here for Dr. Weiss’s Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness and Travel Medicine.