Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What to do if Snake Bitten on the Applachian Trail

Jim Hall is health reporter at The Free Lance-Star
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A reader, Paul Shelton, was critical of me and the story I did last week about the snake bite scene in the movie “True Grit.” He complained that I did “half an article” and wanted me to report the “whole story.”
Hailee Steinfeld plays Mattie Ross in the latest version of "True Grit."

I reported that the original “True Grit” novel by Charles Portis and both movie versions, the 2010 version with Jeff Bridges and the 1969 version with John Wayne, contain a scene with a questionable bit of first aid. In the scene, Rooster Cogburn lances Mattie Ross’ snake bite wound and sucks the poison from it.

Dr. Christopher Holstege, medical director at the Blue Ridge Poison Center in Charlottesville, told me he didn’t like Rooster’s first aid and recommended not “cutting and sucking.” Instead, he recommended putting  the patient in a position of comfort and going to the nearest ER.
That prompted this from Shelton:
First of all: There were no ER’s when John Wayne treated Mattie! Second: What idiot would not go an ER if snake bitten?You should have asked that doctor what he would do if he were bitten while hiking the Appalachian Trail, or say, the Blue Ridge or Rocky mountains, miles from any ER, vehicle or other people!
I bet he would change his tune and attempt…maybe even the exact same method as Rooster Cogburn!!! At best, you wrote “half an article.” You should have gone deeper and given readers “the whole story!”
I did as Mr. Shelton suggested and wrote to Dr. Holstege yesterday to ask him what he would recommend for someone who is bitten in a remote area like the Appalachian Trail. This was his reply:
I would do nothing different for first aid if I was hours/days from a facility.  A common error is ‘we must do something.’  Sometimes the best treatment is to do nothing.   Evidence clearly demonstrates that old first aid measures (e.g., suction, tourniquets, incision) only do harm regardless of time to care.

What if that snake bite occurs on the Appalachian Trail? « Rapid Assessment

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