Treating A Venomous Snake Bite

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

A venomous snake bite in the wilderness is a very quick way to end up in a difficult situation. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. The most important thing to do is to try and prevent a venomous snake bite if possible.

Prevention:

Do not intentionally handle a venomous snake. Do your due diligence to know which snakes are venomous in the area you intend to be. Understand that snakes can strike from quite a distance away. For example, a rattlesnake can strike from a distance of half its body length. if you intend to go hiking in areas where venomous snakes are known to be, stay out of tall grass and stay on well-traveled trails as much as possible. Wearing snake boots or snake-proof gaiters will help avoid strikes to the feet. To avoid strikes to the hands be careful moving rocks or picking up firewood.

Symptoms:

A snake bite can have various different symptoms but below are some of the most common.

  • Puncture wounds
  • redness, swelling, bruising, or bleeding around the wounds
  • pain at the sight of the bite
  • nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing
  • respiratory arrest
  • low blood pressure
  • rapid heart rate
  • weak pulse
  • blurry vision
  • metallic, mint, or rubber taste
  • increased sweating
  • increased salivation
  • numbness or tingling around the face or limbs
  • muscle twitching

First Aid Treatment:

  1. Keep calm. Lay or sit down with a bite in a neutral position.
  2. Remove all rings and watches immediately.
  3. Wash the bite with soap and water.
  4. Cover the bite with a clean and dry dressing.
  5. Mark the edges of the swelling and write the time.
  6. Write down your symptoms next to the time.
  7. If you begin to experience anaphylaxis, use an epinephrine autoinjector or an EpiPen if you have one.
  8. Try to get to advanced medical treatment immediately by dialing 911 or contacting the local emergency medical services.
  9. If you cannot reach authorities, try to find the quickest and safest path to a vehicle where someone can get you to medical care.

Other Tips:

  • Try to get a photograph from a safe distance of the snake. Identifying the snake will help medical professionals later in administering anti-venom.
  • Do not drive to the hospital by yourself. People with snake bites can pass out and this will cause a car accident.
  • Don’t wait for symptoms to appear if you’ve been bitten. Try to get advanced medical assistance immediately.
  • Do not try to suck the venom out.
  • Do not cut the wound with a knife to pull the venom out.
  • Do not take any pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.
  • Do not drink alcohol as a pain reliever.
  • Do not try electroshock therapy as a treatment.

Depending on the site of the bite and the type of snake’s venom, the area can swell to almost double in size. Some snakes’ venom causes coagulation at the snakebite site. Other snakes cause neurotoxic issues. The Mojave rattlesnake, some timber rattlers, and the tiger rattlesnake of the Sonora desert are some of the snakes with neurotoxic venom.

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