My uncle was bitten by a rattlesnake but fortunately, everyone acted quickly, and his life was saved. So, while going camping and being out in nature is a great way to escape and relieve stress, we have to remember that we are not the only living things out in the woods.
There will be times when things do not always go as planned and nature's wild side can lead to unfortunate incidents, like my uncle’s.
Here are seven quick responses to help someone who’s gotten a poisonous snake bite.
Seven Quick Responses to a Snake Bite:
1. Call 911 and begin to transport the victim as safely as possible.
2. Remain calm.
3. Locate and Isolate the wound.
4. Clean and bandage the area.
5. Do not try to remove the venom.
6. Keep the person calm and the wound low and immobile.
7. Identify the snake.
This article today will specifically cover what to do if you or someone you are with is bitten by a snake. By and large, snakes are afraid of humans and will run away rather than engage or attack. However, there are rare times when someone is bitten. Knowing what to do in those times can save a person's life.
Call 911 and begin to transport the victim as safely as possible.
The sooner you call in the incident the better. Authorities in the area need time to prepare medical treatment and to find your location and help with extraction.
Most medical facilities do not readily carry antivenom so be sure to explain to the 911 dispatcher what is happening and provide any information you have about the snake so they can inform the hospital who will need to make arrangements to get the proper treatment ready.
Give the dispatcher, the age, sex, height, weight, age and name of the victim. And any known medical conditions and medicines they have. Also the approximate time the snake bite happened. If you can identify the snake that will be helpful as well.
While waiting for a medical evacuation or moving the victim yourself, be sure to remember the previous steps to keep the victim safe and as comfortable as possible. Move them slowly to any vehicle you have available while keeping the wounded area low.
When a person is bitten by a snake, everyone immediately panics instinctually. This is the worst thing to do, especially for the person who was bitten. Panicking makes the heart race which makes the venom flow faster through the body.
On top of that panicked people make mistakes and bad decisions. Staying calm and moving mindfully will ensure everyone stays safe.
Locate and isolate the wound.
Make sure to identify the bite area. Make sure it is a snake bite if you were not there to see it. Sometimes it is hard to know if you were bitten if it happened in the water or if it happened through tough clothes like thick denim.
Look for two puncture wounds that indicate a snake bite. It can also look like two rows of bite marks. Non-venomous snakes have more teeth which they use to bite and hold onto their prey. In either instance, you should look to get the bite treated by medical professionals as soon as possible.
Even if the snake is not venomous there is still a high chance of infection and you will still need to get a tetanus shot. Once you have located the wound bandage it on both sides of the wound. Do not make the bandage too tight. You want to slow the spread of venom but do not cut off the blood flow completely.
Clean and bandage the area.
You will need to use water and a bandage to clean the area. Do not use any alcohol or ointment on the bite. You only want to clean the wound of any venom left on the skin to avoid it spreading or causing any damage to the skin. Make sure to only use water and do not apply anything else to the wound as it may only exacerbate the wound or cause the venom to spread faster.
Do not touch the wound as it can pass on to anyone who touches it through any small cut or opening on the person's skin. Cover the wound loosely with a bandage. Do not place ice on it as this will increase blood flow to the area. Be sure to not give any medications to the victim as well as this can have unforeseen reactions. This includes pain killers as well.
Do not try to remove the venom.
We have all seen those scenes in movies where someone cuts open or sucks out the venom from a snake bite victim's wound. This is a very bad idea. Cutting open the wound exposes the wound further to bacteria and what were two small puncture marks is now something that needs to be bandaged and covered. Sucking the poison out is an even worse idea.
You should never place your mouth on a bleeding wound. There is an extremely high chance the venom will get into your system through a small cut, crevice, or opening in your mouth which means there are now two people who are suffering from snake venom. Also, there is the added issue of you ingesting the blood of someone else which comes with a myriad of other health risks. It is best to leave the wound and venom as is.
Keep the person calm and the wound low and immobile.
The venom is now in the victim's bloodstream. The key to keeping them safe and ensuring they make it to receiving medical treatment is slowing the spread of the venom as much as possible. While treating and cleaning the wound you would have bandaged the wound off at both ends by wrapping it snuggly but not too tight.
The focus is to slow the blood flow but not cut it off entirely. With all things going well, the body part that was bitten should receive treatment and make a full recovery but placing a tourniquet around the wound will cut it off too much from the rest of the body and end up doing more harm than good.
Keep the wound below the heart. Doing so will ensure the blood and venom from the wound will travel slower to the heart which will reduce the spread of the venom to the rest of the body and keep any damage the venom can do to a minimum.
Also, keep the victim as immobile and calm as possible. In optimal conditions, you will carry them from the place they were bitten to a nearby car or means of transport. Keeping them calm and still means the heart has to work less meaning the blood flows slower. All these precautions are meant to bide time for the victim to get proper treatment.
Identify the snake.
When you call 911 you will need to tell them what type of snake bit the person. So, before going camping it would not hurt to do a little reading up on what lives in the area you will be camping in. This would be helpful in rare instances like this.
Try to locate and identify the snake that bit the victim. DO NOT TRY TO CAPTURE IT. Trying to capture it may lead to another person being bitten by a snake. There is no reason to take the snake from its natural environment and harass it more.
If it is at all possible, try to take a picture of it. Any hint to the identity of the snake will help determine treatment and which antivenom to use.
Additional things to keep in mind with snake bites:
• Snakes have different types of venom unique to their species. With this unique venom there comes unique symptoms. Some venoms can take effect quickly and others may take longer.
• Just because a poisonous snake has bitten someone does not always mean they have injected venom. Venom is not an unlimited resource for a snake and takes time to replenish. Snakes decide when they will use their venom or not. When a snake bites with no venom it is called a "dry bite".
• As mentioned, it is a good idea to take note of the time of the bite and track the wound. The swelling can be observed by drawing a circle around the bite and tracking how long the swelling takes to grow beyond the circle.
• Do not give the victim anything by mouth, especially caffeine or alcohol. Doing so will only speed up the body's absorption of the venom.
• Be sure to remove any jewelry, shoes, or anything that might be constricting to the area. The snake bite will most likely induce swelling and these items could restrict blood flow too much and cause further damage to the area.
• Before beginning treatment for the bite make sure to move away from the area where the bite took place. If the snake has not run away, it could attack again. Be sure to be vigilant.
• Snakebite kits are not effective. Many of the tools included are to do the opposite of what is needed to treat a snake bite.
Snake bites should always be taken seriously whether the snake is venomous or not. The steps above are meant to be used as a temporary measure to help keep the victim safe and as comfortable as possible until actual help arrives, or they can be properly treated at a medical facility.
Snake bites are a rare occurrence, but it is great to be prepared. It is also helpful to know more about snakes before going out into nature. Please feel free to read our article on common questions and answers campers should know about snakes. Also, check out our article on the ten most venomous snakes in the United States and how to avoid them.
Hopefully, after reading this article you will be more prepared to handle a snake bite and can help save someone's life.
All the best,