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.
- 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
- Rapid pulse
- Difficulty breathing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Blurred vision
- Extreme localized pain
- 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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