SAEM Clinical Images Series: A Backpacker’s Rash


A 33-year-old female presented with a progressively worsening rash for one week. The patient just finished hiking the John Muir Trail, a backpacking trip that encompassed three weeks and over 240 miles. On the last days of the trip, the patient started to develop a severely itchy, red rash on both feet. She tried using a topical anti-fungal, which seemed to make the rash worse. She now has swelling and difficulty walking. The rash does not involve the hands or other parts of the body. She denies fever, open wounds, nausea, vomiting, or systemic symptoms, and has never had a similar rash before.

Skin: Diffuse edema and erythematous maculopapular rash to both feet, with vesicles and bullae overlying the dorsal and plantar surfaces of toes and feet. No rash proximal to the ankles. No petechiae or purpura noted. Normal hands and palms.


The rash has both vesicles and bullae which narrow the differential to contact dermatitis and dyshidrotic eczema. Without petechiae or purpura, it is less likely vasculitis (such as exercise-induced vasculitis). There is no fever, spreading redness, or systemic signs, and it is bilateral, making cellulitis less likely. There were no known exposures to poison oak and the patient never walked without shoes or socks. There were no known tick bites, the hike was in California, and the rash did not involve the palms, making an infectious cause such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever unlikely. The rash became worse with topical anti-fungal cream, making fungal infection less likely.

The most concentrated areas of the rash are on the plantar surface of the foot and toes. Upon further inspection, it appears in a pattern that may be consistent with sports tape being used during hiking for blisters and plantar fasciitis pain. The patient later received patch testing by dermatology and was diagnosed with a colophony allergy. In this case, colophony was found in the sports tape causing severe allergic contact dermatitis on the feet. This is a T-cell-mediated reaction caused by repeated exposure to an allergen on the skin. Colophony is a mixture of many different compounds that are all derived from pine trees and is a common ingredient in medical and sports tapes. It is also sometimes used in making shoes.

Take-Home Points

  • The presence of vesicles and bullae narrow differential to contact dermatitis or dyshidrotic eczema. Both of these should respond to topical and/or oral steroids.
  • Look for patterns on the highest concentrated area of the rash to suggest allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Repeated lengthy exposure over a short course of time can cause allergic contact dermatitis to develop.

  • Litchman G, Nair PA, Atwater AR, Bhutta BS. Contact Dermatitis. 2022 May 8. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan–. PMID: 29083649.

Trick of the Trade: Getting the last bit of ultrasound gel from the bottle

It’s a busy shift and you need to perform a bedside ultrasound on a patient’s belly to rule out cholecystitis, when you realize that the ultrasound gel bottle is nearly empty. No matter how many times you vigorously shake the bottle, it’s impossible to get the viscous gel out. In a pinch, you could use hand sanitizer, sterile lubricant, or even water as a substitute for gel. Or you could run to the storage room on the other side of the busy department to grab a new bottle. Or…

Trick of the Trade

Use centrifugal force to move the gel to the top of the bottle!

trick ultrasound bottle gel out

  • Turn the bottle upside down so the cap is facing the ground.
  • Place the bottle into a (fresh) patient’s sock or transducer cover. Alternatively, you can use a plastic bag or ortho tubular stockinette.
  • Firmly holding the bag, and spin the bag for a few seconds in a circular motion, almost like you were throwing a grappling hook.
  • The centrifugal motion will generate an outward force pushing all of the viscous gel to the bottle cap!
  • Once you’ve used the gel, store the bottle cap-side down so you don’t have to do this again.

This trick is useful in a pinch, because it makes use of the entire gel bottle and promotes an eco-friendly use of ED resources.

Tip: Just don’t let go while you swing, lest you turn that patient with the belly pain into a trauma activation from a bottle to the face.

Interest in other tricks?

Read more articles in the Tricks of the Trade series.

By |2022-07-25T11:26:09-07:00Jul 27, 2022|Tricks of the Trade, Ultrasound|

EM Pharm Pearls: Estimated rise in blood glucose concentration with dextrose administration

A common question is how much should we expect the blood glucose concentration to increase after dextrose 50% (D50) administration. Fortunately, there is an answer from 3 studies.

  1. Balentine JR, Gaeta TJ, Kessler D, Bagiella E, Lee T. Effect of 50 milliliters of 50% dextrose in water administration on the blood sugar of euglycemic volunteers. Acad Emerg Med. 1998;5(7):691-694. doi:10.1111/j.1553-2712.1998.tb02487.x PMID 9678393
    • Population: Healthy volunteers in the ED
    • Intervention: 25 gm (1 ampule of D50)
    • Result: Mean increase of 162 mg/dL at 5 min. Glucose concentrations returned to baseline by 30 minutes.
  1. Murthy MS, Duby JJ, Parker PL, Durbin-Johnson BP, Roach DM, Louie EL. Blood glucose response to rescue dextrose in hypoglycemic, critically ill patients receiving an insulin infusion. Ann Pharmacother. 2015;49(8):892-896. doi:10.1177/1060028015585574. PMID 25986006
    • Population: Critically ill patients experiencing hypoglycemia while on insulin infusions
    • Intervention: D50
    • Result: Median increase of 4 mg/dL per gm of D50 administered
  1. Adler PM. Serum glucose changes after administration of 50% dextrose solution: pre- and in-hospital calculationsAm J Emerg Med. 1986;4(6):504-506. doi:10.1016/S0735-6757(86)80004-3. PMID 3778594
    • Population: ED patients with altered mental status (23 with diabetes, 28 without diabetes)
    • Intervention: 25 gm (50 mL of D50)
    • Result: Mean increase of 166 mg/dL

Take Home Points

  • Glucose concentrations increase 4-6 mg/dL per gm of dextrose administered
    • 50 mL of D50 = 25 gm = expected 100-150 mg/dL glucose rise
  • D50 rescue glucose is short-lived (30 minutes)
  • If the blood glucose does not respond as anticipated, investigate further (e.g., IV decannulation)


Want to learn more about EM Pharmacology?

Read other articles in the EM Pharm Pearls Series and find previous pearls on the PharmERToxguy site.

Trick of the Trade: A “Fiberbougie” through a supraglottic airway device (King tube)

king tubeResuscitation before intubation is a critical construct in modern emergency medicine. The prevention of peri-intubation arrest by correcting pre-intubation hypoxia, hypotension, and acidosis is often easier said than done. Worse yet, the intubation process itself, especially if difficult, can worsen hypoxia and hypotension which is often unrecoverable [1, 2] Supraglottic devices, such as a King Airway or laryngeal mask airway, can be placed quickly, and they effectively oxygenate and ventilate patients with a high degree of success [3]. Unfortunately, when the King (or similar device) is exchanged for an endotracheal tube, success is far from guaranteed. Ideally the King could be blindly changed over a tube exchanger however it is quite easy to lose the airway completely during this process. We describe a potentially safer and more effective alternative.

Trick of the Trade

After a patient is stabilized after initial resuscitation, the supraglottic King airway device should be exchanged. A disposable, single-patient-use bronchoscope can serve as a bougie-like guide.

equipment fiberbougie king

Equipment Needed

  • Disposable bronchoscope
  • Endotracheal tube
  • 50 mL syringe
  • Laryngoscope (video or direct)
  • Trauma shears
  • Suction
  • Capnography
fiberbougie through supraglottic device king airway

Left: Demonstrating the technique inserting a single-use bronchoscope through a supraglottic King tube in a simulation patient. Right: Corresponding view of the vocal cords through the King side port in a real patient.

Description of the Trick

  1. Insert a disposable bronchoscope through the airway port of the King airway
  2. Guide the bronchoscope to exit through the side port of the King and into the trachea until you approach the carina
  3. Cut the disposable bronchoscope at the level of the handle, leaving a “fiberbougie” in the trachea above the carina
  4. Remove the King airway over the cut fiberscope in a modified Seldinger technique while suctioning airway
  5. Insert the endotracheal tube over the “fiberbougie”
  6. Use video or direct laryngoscopy to visualize the tube sliding over the “fiberbougie” into cords
  7. Confirm placement with capnography and/or with direct visualization and x-ray
bronch bougie equipment

Insertion of the endotracheal tube over the “fiberbougie” with video laryngoscopy confirmation with a simulation patient. The inset image was captured from a Glidescope on a real patient during the exchange.


Video Tutorial of the Fiberbougie Technique to Exchange a King Tube




  1. April MD, Arana A, Reynolds JC, et al. Peri-intubation cardiac arrest in the Emergency Department: A National Emergency Airway Registry (NEAR) study. Resuscitation. 2021;162:403-411. doi:10.1016/j.resuscitation.2021.02.039. PMID 33684505
  2. Russotto V, Tassistro E, Myatra SN, et al. Peri-intubation Cardiovascular Collapse in Critically Ill Patients: Insights from the INTUBE Study [published online ahead of print, 2022 May 10]. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2022. doi:10.1164/rccm.202111-2575OC. PMID 35536310
  3. Burns JB Jr, Branson R, Barnes SL, Tsuei BJ. Emergency airway placement by EMS providers: comparison between the King LT supralaryngeal airway and endotracheal intubation. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2010;25(1):92-95. doi:10.1017/s1049023x00007743. PMID 20405470 

SplintER Series: Stop! Hammer Time

mallet finger
A 54-year-old female presents to the emergency department with 3rd and 4th right finger pain after “jamming” them a week ago. She was reaching to tap someone on the shoulder and they backed into her hand forcing her fingers into flexion. She has swelling and pain at the distal interphalangeal (DIP) joint of her 3rd and 4th digits on the right and cannot extend the digits at the DIP joint. An x-ray of the right hand was obtained and is shown above (Figure 1: Lateral radiographs of the right hand. Author’s own images).


Trick of the Trade: Don’t fight the ultrasound cord for peripheral IV access

ultrasound POCUS peripheral iv trick

Ultrasound-guided IVs require hand-eye coordination and fine movements of probe in Goldilocks fashion. Apply too much pressure, and the vein in question is compressed. Slide a little to the right, and now it’s out of the window. Something that practitioners don’t think about is the tension from the cord. If left to its own devices, the cord will tug on the probe, making the probe harder to steer and handle, especially for those tiny veins.

Trick of the Trade: Reduce cord tension

Have the patient grasp the cord!

This makes them an active participant. Usually, if they are awake and good-humored, tell them “audience participation is required.” Doing so will give you enough slack to effectively visualize and troubleshoot the ultrasound-guided IV.

ultrasound cord trick POCUS


What if the patient is intubated, or altered, doesn’t quite grasp, or can’t handle the situation?

Tape the cord to the gurney side rail. Use a 2×2 gauze as a buffer between the tape and the rail so the tape doesn’t damage the cord itself.

ultrasound cord POCUS tape


Want to learn other tricks?

Read other articles in the Tricks of the Trade series.

By |2022-05-31T00:37:48-07:00Jun 3, 2022|Tricks of the Trade, Ultrasound|
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