Recent Studies have concluded this Stun Gun devices
do not work on Venomous Snake Bites!!
Debunking Usage of Electric Shock for
First-Aid Treatment of Venomous Snakebite
How the Electric Snakebite Treatment Craze Got Started
Dr Ronald Guderian, a missionary doctor in South America sent a letter to the prestigious medical journal The Lancet and they published it in July, 1986. Guderian wrote that while working in the lowland rain forests of Ecuador he had occasion to witness the application of electric shock to some 34 alleged snakebite victims. Application consisted of five one-second high voltage, low amperage shocks using the spark plug cable of a running outboard motor. According to Guderian none of the victims that were treated had the effects of snakebite envenomation. Within a few days of this letters publication, a variety of mass media including the NY Times, AMA News and Time Magazine picked up on the story and the treatment was sensationalized as a panacea for venomous snakebite. The fact remains that even up to today there is not one shred of scientific proof that the victims sucessfully treated by electricity had received venom from their snakebite and in some cases, identification of the offending snake was undetermined which means that they could well have been non-venomous. Any treatment, including water, will work on a “venomous” bite where no venom was injected or in a simple bite by a non-venomous species. A variety of reasons for the success of the treatment were postulated including a direct effect on venom chemistry or a shut down of local blood vessels by a spasmogenic response to the shock. About a year later the story was picked up by Outdoor Life Magazine, a publication for sportsmen and campers. Their article extolled the virtues of Guderian’s report and rather forcefully, if unscientifically, advocated the use of stun guns (already on the market as immobilizing weapons) for the treatment of venomous snakebite in spite of the fact that there is not an iota of scientific evidence to back this up. A number of researchers performed animal studies with electric shock and in every single instance it was determined that electric shock had absolutely no beneficial effect in a snakebite envenomation. Outdoor Life then published more articles on the subject, catering perhaps to the desires of stun gun manufacturers who advertised in their pages. The use of stun guns was recommended without reservation on snakebite in hunting dogs as well as humans. To this end Outdoor Life also published testimonials from people who used stun guns with apparent good results on their dogs or on themselves! . Again it must be pointed out that the vast majority of snakebites are trivial with little or no venom injected; such bites are known as dry or blank bites. Many people also believe all snakes are venomous so that bites by non- venomous species, which require no first-aid other than disinfection and dressings, were also stunned into submission by these devices.Others may be bitten by a non-venomous species that they believe to be venomous. In such situations any treatment will be effective.
Some Substantiated Facts about Electroshock in Snakebite
Fact: There is absolutely no scientifically sound evidence that electric shock or the use of any stun gun on a snakebite, either in man or animal, is effective in preventing the effects of venomous snakebite. In victims with serious snakebite who used the device they still had symptoms of snakebite and required standardized medical treatment including antivenom. They may have had some relief from pain and swelling as a result of the shock but that is all.
Fact: Application of electric shock with a stun gun is intended to immobilize a target, making it go down. It is risky and dangerous to apply this sort of insult to a person who may already be severely compromised by a venomous snakebite. The shock itself can be painful and damage to local tissues can exacerbate local tissue necrosis and infection.
Fact: In spite of anecodtal and non-scientific testimonial reports to the contrary, unless or until the beneficial effects of this treatment can be duplicated in animal experiments in the laboratory, the use of a stun gun on electro shock can be dangerous as well as a useless, time wasting exercise and time would be better spent applying more conventional means of first aid and arranging transport to the nearest medical facility.
Fact: The use of electric shock as reported by Guderian in 1986 is nothing new. It was widely used at the turn of the century under similar promise supported by unscientific, testimonial or anecodtal reports. It fell out of favor when people who used it did not achieve relief….some no doubt died and the idea of electric shock for snakebite was swiftly relegated to the trash heap. It is particularly frustrating, therefore, that in 1998 the scientific and medical communities are again faced with an unsubstantiated treatment for a disorder that can have grave consequences if improperly treated.
We urge all readers of this website who pack a stun gun for the purpose of treating a snakebite to reconsider their views and choice of first aid in this matter unless or until there is bona fide scientific evidence the method is of benefit. Thank you.
The following scientific studies and references concern the inability of electric shock (stun gun and other forms of electricity delivery) to benefit victims snakebite.================================================== Postgrad Med 1987 Oct;82(5):32 Another warning about electric shock for snakebite. Russell FE Publication Type: Letter ================================================= Postgrad Med 1987 Aug;82(2):42 Don't use electric shock for snakebite. Ryan AJ Publication Types: Letter ================================================= Ann Emerg Med 1988 Mar;17(3):254-256 Electric shock does not save snakebitten rats. Howe NR, Meisenheimer JL Jr Department of Dermatology, Medical University of
South Carolina, Charleston 29425. A team of missionary doctors from Ecuador recently
described striking success in the treatment of
venomous snakebites with a series of brief, high-voltage, low-current electric shocks applied
to the bit site. We designed a randomized, controlled,
blinded test of their methods in laboratory rats.
Venom of the Common Lancehead, Bothrops atrox, was
injected subcutaneously into rats in a series of
increasing doses. Half of each dose group then
was shocked with a device used by the Ecuadoran
group. Envenomated animals developed hemorrhagic
ulcers at the injection sites, the size of which
was strongly related to venom dose. Electric shock
did not influence the development of morbidity or
the eventual ulcer size in sublethally envenomated
animals, nor did shocks reduce mortality in lethally
envenomated animals. We conclude that shocks are without effect on snakebitten rats, and we discuss
implications of our findings for the treatment
of snakebitten human beings. ================================================= Toxicon 1987;25(12):1347-1349 Electric shocks are ineffective in treatment of
lethal effects of rattlesnake envenomation in mice. Johnson EK, Kardong KV, Mackessy SP Department of Physiological Sciences, Oklahoma
State University, Stillwater 74078. Electrical shocks, even crudely delivered from
'stun guns' and gasoline engine spark plugs,
have been reported to be effective in the
treatment of snake bite. We thus applied similar
electric shocks to mice artificially injected
with reconstituted rattlesnake venom at various
LD50 multiples. Those envenomated mice treated
with electric shock survived no better than the controls. We thus found no evidence that electric
shocks crudely administered had any life saving
effect in mice. ================================================= Ann Emerg Med 1991 Jun;20(6):659-661 Failure of electric shock treatment for rattlesnake
envenomation. Dart RC, Gustafson RA Section of Emergency Medicine, University of
Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson. The use of high-voltage electric shock therapy for
the treatment of snake venom poisoning has recently
gained popularity in the United States. We present a case that documents the dangerous,
ineffective application of electric shock to the
face of a patient envenomated by a Great Basin rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis lutosus). The successful
use of antivenin in this critically ill, antivenin
allergic patient is described.
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