NC
Cooperative Extension Service


SNAKE BITE FIRST AID

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about 8,000 people a year receive venomous snake bites in the United States, and only 9 to 15 victims (.2%) die. In fact more people die from wasp and bee stings than from snake bites. Most of the fatalities received no medical treatment or first aid. The same simple care one takes around wasp nests and busy roads also suffices to keep the risk of snake bite to acceptable levels. Nonetheless venomous snakes must be considered dangerous and even non-fatal bites can cause severe pain and long-lasting tissue damage.

There have been many snake bite remedies offered over the years. Recent studies have concluded that the following protocols are best:

Stay calm, get safely away from the snake, and have someone call 9-1-1 (or the emergency number in your area). The less the victim moves the bitten site, the less likely the venom will be spread through the body and cause damage.

Have the victim lie down with the affected limb lower than the heart. Keep the limb immobilized. If practical, splint the limb.

Treat for shock and preserve body heat.

Remove any rings, bracelets, boots, or other restricting items from the bitten extremity. (It WILL swell.)

Apply a light constricting band about 2" above and below the bite, however never place the bands on either side of a joint (such as above and below the knee or elbow). This band should be made up of wide, soft material, which could be a handkerchief or shredded clothing. The band should only be as tight as the band the nurse applies when taking a blood test.

NOTE: The purpose of constricting bands is to restrict lymphatic flow, not blood, so they should not be too tight. Check pulses below the bands and readjust the bands as necessary when they tighten due to swelling.

Wash the bite with soap and water (if available).

If the victim has to walk out, sit calmly for 20-30 minutes to let the venom localize at the site, then proceed calmly to the nearest source of help and try to avoid unnecessary exertion which will stimulate circulation of the venom.

Get the victim to definitive medical care for antivenin, which will provide the greatest relief from the toxic effects of the bite.

ACTIONS TO AVOID:

DO NOT cut the bite. The additional tissue damage may actually increase the diffusion of the toxins throughout the body.

DO NOT apply a tourniquet. Such action can result in the loss of the limb.

NEVER try to suck out the venom by mouth. You can try the suction cup in a snakebite kit if it doesn't delay other needed treatment. Suctioning seldom provides any measurable advantages, however.

Do not apply cold and/or ice packs. Recent studies indicate that application of cold or ice makes the injury much worse.

The recommended treatments presented are those published in the current edition of Brady's Emergency Care for the Sick and Injured, the standard training and procedures manual for Emergency Medical Technicians.

This website is for informational purposes and no liability is assumed in its use. Always consult with a competent medical professional regarding health related issues. Because of its rarity, some doctors know little or nothing about snakebite management so one should always request that they contact a Poison Control Center and ask to be placed in direct telephone contact/consultation with a physician who is experienced in this area. A number of tragic deaths have occurred due to ignorance and failure to obtain competent medical treatment.

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/gaston/

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