Snake Bite. First aid course

What to Do if You Have Been Bitten by a Snake

Rarely does an encounter of the close kind with a snake end with a snake bite, but, when it does, you only have a few moments to take the right steps that will lead to you surviving the encounter. So, what do you do if someone you’re with or you get bitten by a snake?

Regardless of whether the snake is venomous or not, you must take swift action. Here are some steps you must take:

Remove Jewelry that May Constrict Swelling

Snake bites usually cause swelling around the area of the bite mark. If you have any jewelry or piece of clothing that may constrict the swelling, make sure to remove it immediately. Failure to do so could result in excruciating pain as the jewelry, clothes, or watch tightens around your flesh and cuts into the skin. Consequently, the constriction could also lead to your blood vessels rupturing.

Try to Note What the Snake Looks Like

Despite being in panic mode, always try to note what the snake that bit you looks like. Pay special attention to:

  • General color of the snake
  • Patterns on the skin
  • The shape of the head
  • Size of the snake

This is vital information that doctors can use to identify the snake and, thus, prescribe the relevant anti-venom. Other things to note are your location and the time of the bite.

Head to an Emergency Room

Whether the snake looks venomous or not, treat the snake bite as a life-threatening emergency. Head to your local emergency center and seek medical attention as quickly as possible. Never wait for the signs and symptoms to start showing before you decide to call an ambulance. If possible, ask to be carried to limit your movements.

Remain Calm, but Act Quickly

Speed is of the essence when it comes to getting treatment for a snake. However, that doesn’t mean you must be in panic mode. Try to remain as calm as possible when a snake bites you. But do act quickly. Panicking will only cause you to make unnecessary movements and delay your getting help quickly. Also, while snake venom doesn’t move through the blood—more on that later—it can enter the bloodstream through some veins near the heart. When you’re in panic mode, this will lead to the venom in your bloodstream moving through your body faster.

What Not to Do – Snake Bite Myths

Warning Snakes - Beware of Snakes Sign

Now that we’ve looked at what you should do in the event of a snake bite let’s look at the flipside—what you mustn’t do.

“Attack the Snake Back”

Never, ever, fight a snake that has just bitten you, and don’t try to trap or pick up the snake. This will only aggravate the situation and result in it biting you again, increasing the amount of venom in your body. Instead of attacking the snake back, calmly move away from it.

“Move Bitten Limb a Lot”

Try as much as possible to avoid moving when a snake has bitten you. If you’re with other people, ask them to carry you. If you’re alone and have to move, try to avoid moving the limb that has been bitten.

It’s a myth that snake venom moves through your body through the bloodstream. It moves through your lymphatic system. Unlike blood that is continuously pumped through your body, your lymph only moves when you move your body. Thus, the more you move your bitten limb, the faster and farther the venom spreads.

“Apply a Tourniquet”

Another snake bite myth that is a no-no is to apply a tourniquet. Applying a tourniquet will do you more harm than good, as it can lead to tissue damage around the snake bite wound. In the same vein, no pun intended, don’t apply ice to the affected area.

“Suck Out Venom”

You’ve probably seen it in movies—the hero sucking out snake venom from a bite victim. This doesn’t work, and it only puts the person trying to suck out the venom at risk of poisoning themselves.

“Drink Alcohol or Caffeine Immediately After a Snake Bite”

Never drink alcohol or caffeine after being bitten by a snake. Alcohol and caffeine help speed up the body’s absorption of snake venom. This results in you succumbing to the symptoms faster.

“Use Painkillers that Thin Blood”

No matter how excruciating the pain may be, don’t use painkillers that thin the blood. Examples include aspirin and ibuprofen, among others.

Avoid Snake Bites as Much as Possible

The best treatment for a snake bite is to avoid being bitten at all costs. If you’re on a hiking trail or working in an area that’s known to be a snake haven, make sure to wear protective clothing. This includes boots and clothes that cover your limbs adequately.

If, however, you encounter a snake in your home, never try to get rid of it yourself. You’re better off using a snake removal service. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, you can give Animal Capture Wildlife Control a call at (310) 551-0901. We’ll be glad to help you get rid of your slithering intruder.