Snake bite – This is what you need to do

Tomi Stojanovic
 
Rattlesnake

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have been bitten by a snake, DO NOT PANIC! I know that’s easier said than done but it’s very important that you keep your head and do the right things. If a venomous bite is not treated properly the outcome could be devastating.

Here are some tips on what to do if you get bitten by a snake.

1. Immediately call 911

The most secure way to survive from a snake bite is to get an antivenom as quickly as possible. So the sooner you call a medical help, the better.

  • Be sure you call the emergency service even if you don’t know if the snake that bit you was venomous or not, and whatever you do, do not wait to check for symptoms and figure out. While you wait for symptoms the venom can spread in your body and then it would be too late.
  • The responder on the phone will know what to do if given a good description of the situation and give you instructions on how to proceed while you wait for the emergency team.
  • If by any chance you are close to a hospital or an emergency room, make sure that somebody else drives you there. The venom from the bite effect you quickly and cause difficulty breathing, blurred vision, fainting and you won’t be able to drive yourself.

2. Describe the snake that bit you

When you are on the phone with the emergency responders make sure you give them a good description of the situation you are in and of the snake that bit you.

The responders will know what to tell you and what kind of antivenom to prepare before reaching to you. Be sure that you give detailed information to them:

  • Length and thickness of the snake
  • Color and patterns of the skin of the snake
  • Shape of the snakes head
  • Snap a photo of the snake if possible
  • Do not try to catch the snake and bring it with you

3. Keep calm

 

Whatever you do, make sure that you are calm the whole time, when you get bitten, while you wait for the emergency team or while you travel to the emergency room. Staying calm and breathing slowly will prevent your heart from pumping fast and spread the venom throughout your body.

Remember DO NOT PANIC!

  • Make sure that the bitten area is below your heart to reduce the circulation of the venom.
  • If bitten on an arm or leg make sure you relax them by laying them on a horizontal surface.
  • If possible make sure that somebody carries you around, as long as they are strong enough, or you get multiple people to carry you.

4. The wound will bleed


Immediately after being bitten there will be a stream of blood coming out of the wound.

You should let the wound bleed as much as possible unless the bleeding is excessive which could indicate the bite is deeper and hits a big artery you should stop the bleeding by making pressure to that wound so that you don’t lose much blood.

5. Symptoms

Snake bite (ictus serpentis) of left hand middle finger – Author: Aleksandrs Balodis – CC BY 4.0

A bite from a venomous snake may cause many symptoms, such as:

  • Swelling and redness around the bite
  • Burning sensation
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting
  • Vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe breathing problems
  • Fever, sweating, thirst
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of coordination
  • Rapid pulse
  • Paralysis
  • etc.

 

6. Other options if you are far away from an emergency center

 

Before making any decision make sure you call the emergency services so they can advise you on what to do. Always remember that sometimes the only way to survive from a snake bite is to take a shot of antivenom!

If by any chance you are unable to connect with emergency services here is a list of your best options to survive:

  • Hike until you reach an area where you can make a phone call, and make sure you move quickly but at the same time remain calm. If there is someone with you make sure that person helps you with your backpack if you can’t be left alone or send them to make the emergency call as long as there’s no danger to them.
  • If you cannot walk, make sure you clean the wound with soap and water so that the area does not get infected. If you have a bandage, wrap it around the wound firmly but not tight as it may cut off your circulation and that’s a bad thing.
  • A snake bite first aid kit with a suction pump is not the best option, but it’s worth giving it a try if it’s the only option you have, make sure you follow the instructions on how to use the pump.
  • It’s worth remembering that when snakes bite, they don’t always insert venom and if they do it’s sometimes a small amount, so you might get lucky if you just stay calm, rest and place the bitten area on a flat surface.

What NOT TO DO if get bitten by a snake:

1. Don’t use ice to cover the wound

Ice Pack – Author:Simon James – CC BY 2.0

Do not put pressure on with ice packs or cold items. If you do cool the area down you will reduce your blood circulation, and that may cause permanent tissue damage.

2. Do not cut around the wound

Whatever you do, you have to leave the wound intact. If you try to cut around the wound with the idea that you will stop spreading of the venom you probably just make a complete mess. The venom is likely to have already spread around, and you might get an infection from the cut.

3. Do not suck the wound

Attempting to suck the venom out of the wound has been proven ineffective and likely dangerous if any venom does get sucked into the mouth.

If you have to suck the venom be sure you use a suction pump.

4. Be careful with medications

Do not take painkillers or other drugs unless you are instructed by a medical professional to do so. They will not combat the antivenom and will not be effective in this situation.

5. Do not apply electric shock

This one’s nuts but some people have done it, so it’s worth including as a DO NOT DO THIS!  Applying electric shock or stun gun on the wound will not help you and may even harm you.  Just in case you were wondering…

6. Do not use tourniquet

Tourniquet – Author: Wheeler Cowperthwaite – CC BY 2.0

Trying to stop the circulation of the blood with a tourniquet will not help you. The blood will stop flowing, and the venom will concentrate in the limb and this can permanently damage the area where you were bitten.

You may consider applying gentle pressure on the area but do not cut off the circulation in any way.

 

Check our article on how to prevent a snake bite.

 

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