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Snakebite Procedure Safety

A return to warm weather means snakes are resuming activity. An afternoon of yard work or a leisurely hike in the woods could end disastrously by surprising a snake. Before disaster strikes, learn the best practices to avoid snake bites and how to treat them when a bite is unavoidable.

Prevention

  • Know the types of venomous snakes in your area or the areas you visit.
  • Snakes typically avoid people. Don’t attempt to pick up or agitate a snake. Snakes bite when they are threatened or surprised.
  • Avoid walking through tall grass and piles of leaves.
  • Avoid climbing on rocks or piles of wood where a snake may be hiding.
  • Don’t step in or put your hands in ground holes.
  • When hiking, look before you step, especially in rocky areas, thick brush, or over fallen logs.
  • Wear boots and long pants when working outdoors.
  • Wear leather gloves when handling brush and debris and working in the yard.
  • Carry a snake bite kit when hiking or camping during warm seasons when snakes are most active.

Symptoms of a Snake Bite

A snake bite is a medical emergency if the snake is venomous. Seek immediate medical attention in the event of a venomous snake bite, if you do not know what type of snake the bite came from, or if you suspect a snake bite but did not actually see a snake.

  • Fang marks or puncture wounds
  • Burning
  • Sweating
  • Fever
  • Rapid pulse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fainting
  • Convulsions
  • Weakness
  • Loss of muscle coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme localized pain
  • Swelling
  • Diarrhea
  • Tingling or numbness

First Aid Procedures

  • Remain calm.
  • Stop the bleeding by applying pressure with gauze.
  • Clean the wound with mild, unscented soap and warm water several times. Pat the wound dry with clean gauze.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment and a clean bandage.
  • If able, note the distinctive features of the snake (its coloring, markings, size, and head and eye shape) to help identify it to medical professionals and emergency responders.
  • Do not attempt to capture the snake. You risk having another bite trying to capture a snake. If you don’t know if the snake was venous, treat the bite as if it is from a venomous snake until you learn otherwise.

For a Venomous Snake Bite:

  • Call 911 and seek medical help immediately.
  • Remove tight clothing and any jewelry. The affected area may swell quickly and severely.
  • Position the bite below heart-level.
  • Do not use a tourniquet or apply ice.
  • Do not attempt to handle the wound as far as removing venom or cutting around the wound.
  • Clean the wound by wiping away.¬† Do not flush with water.
  • If assisting someone else who has been bitten, keep watch for signs of shock.
  • Do not eat or drink anything, including medicine, unless directed to by a professional.
  • Do not allow the victim to become over-exerted.
  • Call ahead to the emergency room so that anti-venom may be obtained.

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