What to Do if You Are Bitten by a Snake
I HATE snakes… I really do. If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of time fishing, camping and exploring in the mountains and the great outdoors. I enjoy getting away from the hustle of life and relaxing along the river banks with a rod in my hand or along the trail that will lead me to a beautiful waterfall where the sound of rushing water can do more for your health than any modern medicine. However, there are over 21 venomous snakes here in America and every state having at least one of these snake within its borders that are venomous, with the exception of Alaska. The chances of coming across one are somewhat high. I have never been bitten by a snake, but I have had a few close calls over the years.
While not every snake is venomous, every bite should be treated as if it is. Below is a list of steps you should take in the event that you or someone you are with is bitten by a snake.
- Keep Calm and relax. If you panic, run or increase your blood pressure in any way, the venom will spread throughout your blood stream. Try not to move the affected arm or leg as much as possible.
- Call 911 – Let them know that you have been bitten by a snake, what kind and how long ago
- If They Are Coming: Give them easy and clear instructions on where you are and how to get to you.
- If You Are Driving to Them: Tell them what route you are taking and how soon you will be there.
** If it is safe to do so, bring the dead snake to the hospital or take a picture of it so that the staff can identify what type of snake you have been bitten by. DO NOT RISK A SECONDARY BITE! Or another person getting bit trying to kill the snake! If the snake can’t be easily or quickly killed just leave it alone. Remember: Snakes have a reflex bite that can last for an hour after they have been killed.
- Heart Level: Keep the location of the snake bite below the heart level to help reduce the flow of the venom.
- Lower Your Heart Rate: Try to lower your heart rate. This can be done by either lying flat and closing your mouth and breathing through your nose or with the Valsalva Maneuver.
– Valsalva Maneuver: Sit with your butt on the ground, knees to your chest, close your mouth and nose, this will build some pressure in your chest. After the pressure has built up in your chest, breath in slowly for 5-8 seconds, hold that breath for 3-5 seconds then slowly exhale. Repeat this a few times until help arrives.
- Remove any rings: Wedding rings or toe rings on the affected arm or leg. The venom will cause extreme swelling and a ring will restrict the blood flow. A finger without blood flow could turn black and possibly need to be amputated.
- Snake Bite Kit: If you have a snake bite kit with you open it up and use it. Most snake bite kits include a pump suction device, sterilizing wipes, band-aid’s and a tourniquet band. This is not a solution but rather a tool to help minimize the spread of venom and buy you time to get to the hospital.
If you do not have a snake bite kit, you can use your belt or some other material to wrap above the snake bite and use your mouth to suck and spit the venom out. While this is not nearly as effective, it is better than nothing.
- Be Aware: Look for signs of swelling or change of color around the bite location or surrounding area. If it does swell or change color, it is most likely a venomous snake and you’ll be glad you took the steps above!
- Signs of Shock: If you notice the person going into shock or having trouble breathing, lay them flat on their back and raise their feet about a foot above the ground and cover them with a blanket or jacket.
Snake Bite Kits
There are a few different brands of snake bite kits on the market and it is smart to have them with you if you are adventuring into snake country. I like the Ven-Ex Venom Extractor the most. You can use it on yourself, friends or even your pets. But remember, snake bite kits are a tool, not a solution.
Ven-Ex Venom Extractor:
This is a light and compact kit that fits easily into your car glove department, hiking backpack, fishing pack or any other pack you may have with you when you are in the outdoors. It is advertised as a great option to removing other venom such as spider, wasps or bee stings. No mention of mosquitoes – though I wonder. There is one disclaimer mentioned by the manufacturer:
“Note, venom extractors work well to pull venom from just beneath the skin but not from within the muscle tissue. Effectiveness will vary depending upon where the bite/sting occurred and how deep it is. Always seek professional medical attention immediately.”
By following the steps above, you’ll greatly increase your chances of survival and minimize the amount of damage to your body from the snake venom. Share this article with your friends and family that enjoy the great outdoors so that they too can be better prepared in case they are ever unfortunate enough to have a run-in with a venomous snake.