Common Hunting Injuries and Their Treatment

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ISSN 1059-1865 Voulume 29 Number 1

By Jeff DeBellis

To those who don’t hunt, loading a weapon and marching off into the icy pre-dawn woods where dozens of other hunters are waiting with rifles pointed in countless directions may seem like an unnecessary risk in an era when good-quality, grass-fed meat is available in nearly every grocery store. True or not, nearly fourteen million Americans set off into the woods to go hunting every year. Countless others are hiking, biking, skiing, or backpacking in those same woods during hunting season. Hunting injuries are rare, but they are increasing. In the two decades between 1987 and 2006, they rose twelvefold. The causes vary widely, and, at times, the research appears to contradict itself. What is clear is that a little bit of prevention and basic knowledge of treatment goes a long way. A brief review of the research found six common categories of hunting-related injuries: gunshot wounds, tree stand falls, knife wounds, heart attacks, and arrow impalements.

Gunshot Wounds

The majority of hunting injuries are not firearm-related. Still, a number of fatal and non-fatal gunshot injuries do occur every year. About half of these are self-inflicted. One of the easiest things to do to prevent being accidentally shot by someone else is to wear blaze orange. One study in New York found that 94% of victims of firearm injuries were not wearing blaze orange (New York is one of only eight states that does not require hunters to do so). Avoiding alcohol while hunting should go without saying, but it plays a role in about 10% of hunting injuries. Other common tips are to treat every gun as though it is loaded, never point a gun at anything you wouldn’t want to kill, and keep your finger outside of the trigger guard until ready to fire.


At the very least, gunshot wounds cause either puncture wounds or impalements, depending on whether or not shrapnel remains in the body. Sometimes it’s not easy to tell if it has. At worst, these wounds could cause fractures (including spinal), cardiothoracic trauma, and, of course, death. The majority of gunshot wounds from hunting accidents occur in either the arms or legs. Even these could be fatal because of heavy bleeding and result in hypovolemic shock. If the patient’s airway and breathing are not affected, the first priority is to stop the bleeding by applying a pressure dressing. Elevating the wound above the heart is not always taught but will do no harm. Digital pressure should be used if necessary, and, as a last resort, a tourniquet or hemostatic agent. Clean the exposed part of the wound as well as possible, bandage it, and evacuate the victim as rapidly as possible.

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Pencil Cactus or Euphorbia tirucali

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ISSN 1059-6518 Volume 28 Number 3

By Brandon Munsell NREMT-P , WEMT-P, SOLO Instructor

A Cactus! Oh how our legs and hands quiver at the mention of these spiny land urchins…but it may well be the spike-less Pencil Cacti that should send danger signals to those who venture into the southern climates.

In this article we are going to explore the Pencil Cactus or Euphorbia tirucali from a EMS perspective.

The Pencil Cactus, or Milkbush, is not a true cactus at all but rather belongs to the Euphorbia family. It originates from the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa and India. This Pencil-cactusfamily also includes the festive poinsettia and the Cathedral Cactus.

Out in the bush it can grow as tall as 30-feet and is a leafless plant that has tendril like green branches that are about the width of a pencil. When no growth begins at the distal end, tiny leaves may briefly appear before falling.

This attractive plant has become a popular large houseplant that can reach ceiling height when given a couple years in a properly-sized container. As the size increases, large limbs fall off. This species has also gained popularity as a landscaping plant in the Southern U.S.

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Volume 28 Number 3

By Frank Hubbell, DO

May 2015 – St. John, USVI

A spectacular day of snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea off the island of St. John, USVI is temporarily interrupted by an itchy, red rash on the sides and abdomen of one of the swimmers. What the heck is that all about?

She states that she did not feel any pain, stings, or itchiness while in the water. The rash came on about an hour after getting out of the ocean and seemed to coincide with jumping into the freshwater pool back at their villa to rinse off. She states that as she got out of the pool, she felt stinging sensations on her sides and abdomen. While snorkeling, she had been wearing a t-shirt over her bathing suit to protect her back from sunburn.

After a bit of research, it turns out that the rash is referred to as a seabather’s eruption or pica pica, and is caused by “sea lice.” The misnomer is that the rash is not caused by “sea lice,” which are fish ectoparasites, but instead, by the teeny, tiny larvae of the thimble jellyfish.

The Thimble Jellyfish, Linuche unguiculata, also known as a sea thimble or button jellyfish is a small, (strangely enough) thimble-sized, 13 – 20mm jellyfish. Even though it does have nematocysts, stinging cells, it is not considered a threat to humans.

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Wild Parsnip

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ISSN-1059-6518 Volume 27 Number 4

The Invader: Wild Parsnip

By Paul MacMillan, AEMT

Illustrations by T.B.R. Walsh


Pastinaca sativa

Danger: Stay away from this invader: wild parsnip in our woods. Wild parsnip juice and ultraviolet light lead to burned skin.

Wild parsnip is also called Pastinaca sativa, its scientific name in Latin. The homeland for this eye-catching, tenacious invasive plant is Europe and Asia. It was introduced into this country as a root crop by European settlers in the 17th century, and it escaped colonial gardens, spreading nearly everywhere. The only states currently free from wild parsnip are Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Hawaii, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

You may ask what does it look like? It is a member of the carrot family. Wild parsnips are typically biennials, but, on occasion, they can become perennials. The plant will form a rosette of basal leaves for the first year, then flowering the second year. It flowers primarily from May through July.

In its first summer the wild parsnip will have a rosette of leaves close to the ground. The plant is anchored in the soil by a long, thick, edible taproot, much like a carrot. If the growing conditions are right in the second summer, meaning soil impregnated with limestone or lime and in a sunny area, the plant will send up a single flower stalk that will produce hundreds of tiny yellow flowers. They form flat-topped, umbrella-like clusters called umbels. The stalks on the plant can grow up to 4 feet tall or higher. Wild parsnip plants produce a large number of seeds, which contribute to their persistence and spread.

Simple contact with this plant will cause you no harm unless you have supersensitive skin. The danger comes if you damage the plant, and you get the toxic plant juice on your skin. The wild parsnip plant parts contain chemicals called furocoumarins which cause “phytophotodermatitis.” The combination of this plant juice on your skin and some ultraviolet light will produce a burn on your skin.

When your skin comes into contact with these furocoumarins from wild parsnip the chemicals are absorbed into your skin. These chemicals are then stimulated by ultraviolet light, which is present during sunny and cloudy days, causing them to bind with nuclear DNA and cell membranes. This process begins the breakdown of cells and skin tissues. This reaction will take time before the actual skin damage is visible.

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