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Hunter Safety

November 28, 2018


Hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania sportsman will take to the woods this hunting season. Like preparing for any sport, hunters need to be in good physical condition to be able to take the extra stress on their heart, muscles and joints.

Most hunters pack on an extra 10-20 pounds of clothing and gear and walk deep into the woods through rough and slippery terrain. However, for hunters who are unprepared to take on this extra exertion, there are many emergency health conditions that can occur, according to Shaun Sheehan, DO, Emergency Department medical director at Penn Highlands Healthcare. 

“If you’re travelling away from home to hunt, it’s important to know which hospitals provide 24-hour emergency care in advance,” Sheehan said. “It’s also important to know the warning signs of a heart attack so that you are empowered to act fast.” 

The signs of a heart attack are not always immobilizing, Sheehan said. The body can signal that the heart is starving for oxygen via the following warning signs:

  • Chest discomfort that lasts for more than a few minutes or comes and goes (may feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain); 
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach; 
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort;
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat; 
  • Nausea or lightheadedness.

“If you or someone you’re with experiences these symptoms while hunting, call 911 immediately or get to the nearest hospital,” Sheehan said. 

While this hunting season is already in full swing, it’s not too late to take control of your health. The following tips can keep you healthy and enjoying your time in the woods for years to come:

Visit your primary care provider for a check-up. Routine health exams with your primary care provider can help find problems before they start. If you have heart concerns, ask your healthcare provider to go over what you need to know about the early signs of a heart attack. If you need physical therapy for a joint issue, your healthcare provider can diagnose the problem and make a referral for therapy. Make sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

Talk to your primary care provider about establishing an exercise program that’s right for you. Your provider will help you pick a program based on your age and level of fitness. You should establish both a cardiovascular routine and a strength routine. For hunters who do a lot of walking over rough terrain, pick exercises that help strengthen your legs, ankles and core. This will help your overall balance and help you prevent falls that could end your season. Even walking briskly for 20 minutes a day can improve your cardiovascular conditioning and help you prepare for the hunt.

Quit Smoking. Quitting smoking has numerous benefits for your heart and health. You’ll also find that the deer won’t be able to smell you as easily. Penn Highlands has a smoking cessation program that can help you kick the habit. Call The Lung Center at 814-375-3770 to find a time and location of a smoking cessation program that can help.

Eat right and drop the extra body weight. Just concentrating on avoiding snacks that are high in sugar or salt, and avoiding soft drinks and alcohol, can help you lose a few pounds. If you’re in need of a more regimented diet, talk to your healthcare provider.

Protect yourself against ticks. It’s difficult to avoid the habitat that ticks live in when hunting, so limiting your skin exposure while hunting is important. Wear long pants and long sleeves that have tight-fitting material at the ankles and wrists to keep the ticks away from your body. Wear a hat, tuck pants into socks and wear light-colored clothing that will make it easy to see the ticks when they are on your clothing. If you’re not worried about the smell giving you away, purchase a good insect repellent that contains DEET.