Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Sawyer Extractor

My primary first aid kit is a small trauma bag. It was a gift from a former employer for completing a 40-hour First Responder course and volunteering to be one of the medical aid staff at a large (800 acre) industrial site. Over the years, I've added things to it to better address the injuries I was dealing with when I had to open it, and one of  the first additions was a Sawyer  Extractor. This is the same company that makes good water filters, and they've been around for 30+ years, so they're doing things right.

Photo courtesy of

What is it?
The Extractor is a small, hand-operated suction pump for removing venom from stings and bites. It comes in a plastic case that is smaller than a paperback book and weighs only a few ounces.

It is not a replacement for an Epi-pen if you are allergic to insect stings, but it will reduce the amount of venom in your system and reduce your body's reactions to the venom.

What does it do?
By creating a moderate suction in a small area, the Extractor can pull venom from an insect or spider bite to reduce the pain and damage. I've used mine on wasp stings that would normally raise a welt and cause pain for days, and seen nothing more than a red spot and pain that only lasted a few minutes. They are very helpful when dealing with children who have been stung by a bee, wasp, or hornet, as the reduction in pain and swelling reduces the trauma (and drama).

They may help reduce the amount of venom from a snake bite, but since a snake's fangs are longer than most insect stingers, they tend to inject the venom a lot deeper and closer to blood vessels. While something is better than nothing, venomous snake bites are not to be taken lightly, so get proper medical aid ASAP.

How do you use it?
The Extractor is a large, double-chambered, spring-loaded syringe. After placing one of the reusable plastic cups on the tip, you pull the handle all the way to the rear (to compress the spring), place the plastic cup over the bite/sting and then push the handle back down. The spring will force an internal plunger up, creating a gentle suction that draws the venom or poison out. Once you have the venom out, use the alcohol swabs and band-aids provided in the kit to clean and cover the wound to prevent infection. There is also a disposable razor in the kit for removing excessive body hair from the bite/sting site if the hair is thick enough to prevent a good seal between the plastic cup and skin.

Where do I get one?
I've seen them for sale at Walmart for about the same price as you can get them on Amazon. If you want to help support this little blog, please consider using our Amazon link since we get a few pennies per sale through the Affiliate program. If you want to pay more, they are also found in most camping and hunting supply stores. $15 is cheap for something that can prevent a bee sting from ruining a weekend camp-out or make being stuck in the woods less miserable.

Having worked with Cub Scouts and several other groups of younger people, many of whom were not accustomed to living close to nature, I've had to use my Extractor a handful of times over the years. The one in my kit is due for replacement (I'm going through my kit and making some changes, so this is a good time to take inventory and replace things that are out of date), so I'll be picking up a new one soon. While it isn't a definite life-saving device, it is useful enough that I keep one in the big bag.

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