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Healthy hunting, is good hunting

Hunting season in North Dakota is like a merry-go-round as one season folds into another, with deer, moose, and elk season underway currently. While hunting, the activity, excitement, weather extremes, sleep deprivation and "diet," which can ofte...

Hunting season in North Dakota is like a merry-go-round as one season folds into another, with deer, moose, and elk season underway currently. While hunting, the activity, excitement, weather extremes, sleep deprivation and "diet," which can often include snack foods and use of alcohol, places the hunter at risk for exposure injury, bites/stings, stroke, heart attack/stroke, choking, or accidental injury. The following presents actions that hunters can take to maintain health while hunting. The intent is not about gun safety, a subject that I will defer to the experts.

Medical emergencies while hunting happen. I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather as he died in my 14-year-old father's arms while deer hunting in east Texas in the 1930s. Today, we marvel at the ability to save lives with our emergency and health care systems of care. Yet, if hunting in a remote region, if the hunting team does not know first aid and CPR, our modern systems may not be able to help much given the time that it would take to get to safety. Typically it is only a matter of 4-6 minutes without oxygen before brain death commences. All hunters should take a course in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and first aid. In our readership area, the public can take such courses from several places, such as the Grand Forks YMCA http://www.gfymca.org/adult/ or the American Red Cross in East Grand Forks at (218) 773-9565. Then if someone in the hunting party has a problem, a fellow hunter can resuscitate or apply first aid until help can be called on an emergency communication device or working cell phone.


While it is safer to hunt with partners, if however you are alone, here are some helpful considerations. If you are choking and you are alone, the technique to use is the same one you learn in CPR class, however you can deliver an abdominal thrust on yourself by positioning your hands in the same way as if you were to perform the thrust on another and deliver an inward and upward thrust. Or you can bend your abdomen over a firm object, such as a fallen log in the woods or a chair in from the deer stand, and thrust yourself into the object.

Bites, stings,


animal exposuresThe beautiful grass lands of North Dakota and woods of Minnesota harbor small critters such as ticks and spiders that are active even in the cold months of hunting. Minnesota averages about 1,000 Lyme Disease case reports while North Dakota has fewer than four cases annually. West Nile Virus cases numbered more than 300 in North Dakota and nearly 100 in Minnesota in 2007.

The best defense, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is proper clothing (long sleeves, tucked pants inside boots) and repellents. The CDC site explains repellant use: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/RepellentUpdates.htm .

During 2006, North Dakota reported 32 cases of rabies and Minnesota 42. Of those combined 74 cases, 55 were attributed to wild animals. CDC suggests that hunters handling raccoons, foxes, and skunks, should use care and gloves when skinning animals, to avoid exposures through bites and contamination of mucous membranes and open wounds with potentially infectious saliva and brain tissues of the animal. Any bite or nonbite exposure, after prompt treatment with the hunter's first aid kit, should be reported to appropriate local or state health officials for rabies post exposure prophylaxis.

HypothermiaHypothermia is defined as an unintentional lowering of the core body temperature to less than or equal to 95 F (less than or equal to 35 C). This low body temperature is associated with a high death rate. The onset of hypothermia is heralded by shivering, numbness, fatigue, poor coordination, slurred speech, impaired mental ability, blueness or puffiness of the skin and irrational behavior. Early recognition, immediate care, and if needed CPR can improve the outcome, even if the person appears dead, due to the lowering of body metabolism requiring less oxygen circulating.

Heart attack and stroke symptomsThe American Stroke Association publishes the warning signs of stroke, which includes the sudden appearance of any of these: numbness/weakness of the face, arm or leg; confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or severe headache with no known cause. You should keep a list of emergency rescue service numbers in your pocket, have a means of communication where cell towers may fail, find out where critical access hospitals are located near the hunting site and map prior to the trip. If you're with someone who may be having stroke symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1 or the EMS. Some physicians recommend that a person take an aspirin if one feels symptoms of a stroke. Discuss this with your physician.

For heart attacks, most involve discomfort near the center of the chest that continues more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. People report that this feels like pressure that is uncomfortable, a squeezing sensation, or a feeling of fullness or pain in the chest, arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach or a shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort. Some feels other signs such as nausea or lightheadedness or sweating. The American Heart association suggests that you "learn the signs, but remember this: Even if you're not sure it's a heart attack, have it checked out. Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives - maybe your own. Don't wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1."

Don't forget

the orangeLastly, out of over 350 two-party hunting associated firearm injuries from 1989-1995 in one state, over 20 percent were wearing "hunter-orange" and over 70 percent were not. So dress up orange, carry a first aid kit, learn CPR and emergency care. Healthy hunting!


For answers to nursing questions about your health write to: ask.a.und.nurse @gmail.com . Nurse faculty from the University of North Dakota College of Nursing or our nursing partners in the community will reply in this column.

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