10 Reasons Hunters End Up in the ERSep 25, 2013
Play it safe on your quest to bag Bambi. Dr. Troy Madsen weighs in on common injuries and illnesses for Utah hunters, and provides suggestions for avoiding similar pitfalls.
Dr Troy Madsen: Hi. I'm Troy Madsen, emergency physician at the University of Utah, and its hunting season. We've got a lot of hunters heading out now, trying to bag some big game, but a lot of them are bagging a trip to the ER.
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Dr Troy Madsen: Hunting season is right around the corner, and, unfortunately, I get to see a lot of hunters in the ER. Here are the top ten reasons they come to see me. Joining me now is our producer, Scott.
Scot: All right. I've got my numbers ready.
Dr Troy Madsen: Ready?
Scot: Ready. All right.
Dr Troy Madsen: Let's jump right into it.
Scot: Top ten potentially avoidable reasons for hunters to end up in the ER. Number one.
Dr Troy Madsen: Number one is falls. We see a lot of people who are falling from cliffs, falling from tree stands. You know, it happens. It gets like this during this time of year where it gets a little bit wet outside. You get some rain and you stand on stop of a boulder. We can see some very serious injuries from these sorts of things.
Scot: Number two of the top ten potentially avoidable reasons a hunter could end up in the ER.
Dr Troy Madsen: Gunshot wounds, and I'm not talking about people shooting other hunters, necessarily. I'm talking about self-inflicted gunshot wounds. These are people who are trying to clean their gun or are just carrying their gun. They may not have their safety on, and something goes wrong. It's crazy, but I would say the large majority of gunshot wounds I see in the ER, overall, are self-inflicted.
Dr Troy Madsen: These are not people shooting other people, so you've got to be careful.
Scot: How about number three?
Dr Troy Madsen: Number three is ATV accidents. It's kind of an obvious one. Yeah, we get people out there on mud and slick roads. They may not be wearing a helmet. Again, these things can roll fairly easily in some cases, and it can be very serious.
Scot: Number four.
Dr Troy Madsen: Number four. This is kind of a crazy one because I've done this myself, and it is not a smart thing to do. But this is burns with lighter fluid. You may be out trying to start a fire. You've just got a little flame and you're, like, "Man, I really need to get this fire going." So you grab a bottle of lighter fluid, and you squirt it on the flame. Well, that entire liquid is flammable. That flame travels right up that stream.
Scot: Oh, no.
Dr Troy Madsen: Yeah. It hits the bottle. It explodes. We see flash burns every season from people from exploding bottles of lighter fluid.
Scot: All right. Kind of, like, peeing on the electric fence. That stream will burn you.
Dr Troy Madsen: It will burn you, and it is not safe.
Scot: All right. Avoidable reasons for hunters to end up in the ER. It's a top ten list. Number five.
Dr Troy Madsen: The next one is rabies. Yeah. So these aren't hunters getting rabies, but they're hunters we have to treat for potential rabies. You know, I don't know what some of these guys are doing, but I think they just get bored. They're sitting around. Maybe they take a shot at a raccoon. Sometimes they'll just tell me, "This animal came out of nowhere and bit me. I think it was a raccoon." So, unfortunately, any time you're in this kind of situation, you need to get the rabies vaccine. So we've got to treat them to prevent them from getting rabies. Also, don't skin raccoons. People will start skinning raccoons. They get the blood and little cuts on their hands. That exposes them to the risk of rabies as well.
Scot: Is that true with all animals?
Dr Troy Madsen: Not all animals. Just the animals like raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Animals that potentially carry rabies.
Scot: All right. Number six.
Dr Troy Madsen: Lightning strikes. This isn't real common, but we do have cases now and then, and you think if I were to create a perfect scenario for a lightning strike, what would it be? It would be walking out in the woods with a tall, metal rod, and I'm wet. Well, that's essentially what you're doing if you're walking out in a rainstorm with a gun. So we occasionally do see these sorts of things in the ER.
Scot: Number seven.
Dr Troy Madsen: The next one's a very serious one and one we see in hunters. We do see it in campers and all sorts of people this time of year, and that's carbon monoxide. You may have a tent or you may have a generator running next to your trailer or something like that. You get cold, and then you bring that propane stove into your tent. You say, "I got to keep warm. I'm going to bring in the propane stove." But that propane stove produces carbon monoxide. It's odorless. You can't smell it. You don't know it's there. You may just feel a little sick to your stomach, maybe you just think, "I'm a little nauseated," and you may not wake up in the morning.
Scot: Quite often, it'll put you to sleep, won't it?
Dr Troy Madsen: It will. It'll put you to sleep. You're drowsy, you're out, and then you don't wake up the next day.
Scot: And also, isn't it true that carbon monoxide is cumulative? So you're on the ATVs, you're breathing it in there, so you might be more susceptible.
Dr Troy Madsen: That's exactly right. It takes four and a half hours to get this stuff out of your system. So it's going to sit there. Whatever you were exposed to on your ATV, then you go in your tent. You add that on top of it if you've got a propane tank in there. You can be at toxic levels very quickly.
Scot: It's hunting season. Unfortunately, some hunters end up in the ER. Number eight.
Dr Troy Madsen: Number eight is heart attacks. This is something I see every year. I think for a lot of hunters, getting out and hunting is the most exercise they get in a year. I mean, let's be honest.
Scot: I know that's true for my father-in-law.
Dr Troy Madsen: Yeah. It's true for a lot of people, and it's a lot of exercise. You're going down up and down mountains, oftentimes running, going in very fast pursuit. I've had hunters flown from the top of a mountain where they were running up and chasing a deer, felt crushing chest pains, shortness of breath, and they're sweaty. We bring them into the ER. They're having a massive heart attack. We get them into the catheterization lab and open up a big blockage. But it's common. It happens.
Scot: All right. Number nine.
Dr Troy Madsen: Number nine is hypothermia. You know, you're out. It rains. It gets wet. We oftentimes think of hypothermia with temperatures maybe in the low teens or maybe the single digits. You can have hypothermia with temperatures in the 40s. You know, you just get wet a little bit and it gets cold at night. Your body temperature can drop quickly, so try and stay dry and be aware of that potential.
Scot: So it's a serious thing?
Dr Troy Madsen: It is. Absolutely.
Scot: All right. Top ten potential avoidable reasons hunters end up in the ER. Number ten.
Dr Troy Madsen: Number ten. The final thing is alcohol plus any of the above.
Scot: I was wondering where that would end up.
Dr Troy Madsen: Yeah.
Dr Troy Madsen: So you bring alcohol into the mix. You add it to lightning. You add it to ATVs. You add it to raccoons. Any time you bring all that stuff together, you're just going to compound the situation and make it worse. So best of luck to you this hunting season. Stay safe, and remember these things so that I don't see you in the ER.
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