Dos and Don’ts of snake bites
In a previous article we took a look at 5 of the most common poisonous snakes that you might encounter when you’re camping or hiking in the great outdoors. Knowing how different snakes look and where they live is important, but it’s only half of the equation.
The other half is how to prevent from getting bitten and what to do if you are. Unfortunately the internet is full of farfetched notions, misconceptions and plain old bad ideas, that it becomes a challenge learning how to deal with this problem.
But don’t worry, today you’ll learn all you need to know when it comes to snake bites and everything I’ll share with you has been checked and double-checked.
Before we get to the dos and don’ts of treating snake bites, I suggest we learn how to avoid getting bitten in the first place.
- Avoid tall grass
Most snakes love tall grass and heavy underbrush, so for your own safety, stick to the beaten path. This doesn’t mean that you walk blindly on the trail, you might step on a rattlesnake that thought it was a good idea to curl up in the middle of the road. So mind your surroundings at all times. If you do need to go off the trail and into some tall grass, have a stick with you and probe the ground before you.
- Snakes climb too
Most people don’t realize this, but snakes do climb trees. So when your walking through the forest mind the branches you push aside, I doubt you want to have direct eye contact with a snake.
- Don’t put your hand into a crevasse
Yeah, I know, it should be a no brainer … it’s not. Countless persons get bitten, and not just by snakes, because they shove their hand into a hole or hollow log. Always check if there’s something in there before sticking your hand in. Use a flashlight or a stick or anything at your disposal.
- Make sure it’s dead
If you come across a dead snake, before thinking: Hell yeah, I’m gonna get myself a snake skin belt … make sure that the snake is truly dead. Freshly dead snakes still retain reflexes and can bite you just as bad as a live one. Also some snakes may just appear to be dead while they suck up the sun’s rays.
- Wear proper clothing
Always make sure that you wear heavy boots and long pants when your out in the wilderness. These can protect you from a snake’s venomous attack.
While paying attention to your surroundings may prevent a snake bite, accidents do happen and it’s best to know what to do and more importantly what not to do when that happens. Whatever the case once you’ve been bitten seek medical assistance immediately. Until help arrives or you are rushed to a hospital, here’s what you need to know:
- When calling for help offer the name of the snake (if you recognized it) or a description. Try to pay attention to the following characteristics :
- How long was the snake?
- How thick was the snake?
- What color(s) did the snake have on it?
- What was the shape of the snake’s head? Was it triangular?
- What was the shape of the snake’s pupils? Were they round or vertical slits?
- Keep calm, still and quiet. Restrict movement and keep the affected area at or below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
- Remove rings, bracelets or any other constricting items as the affected area might swell.
- Allow the bite to bleed freely for 15 – 30 seconds before cleansing. Clean the wound, but don’t flush with water. Cover it with a clean, dry dressing.
- If you are more than 1 h away from a medical care facility you need to tightly wrap a bandage 2 – 4 inches above the wound to slow the venom’s spread. Be careful not to cut off all blood flow, however, as this could damage the affected limb. One finger should be able to slide underneath the bandage
As you might have noticed, I didn’t include using a sucking device on the wound. That’s because it has been shown that it doesn’t remove much of the venom and at the same time damages the sensitive tissue. However, if you think of hiking in places that are several hours away from a hospital, pack a snake bite kit and use the sucking device. Otherwise, forget it and seek medical attention ASAP.
- Do not suck the venom with your mouth. That’s some Hollywood nonsense that for some reason became a “real cure”. This is a bad idea for 2 reasons :
- you end up absorbing the poison through the membranes of your mouth, thus spreading it faster
- you transfer bacteria from your mouth to the wound, which may lead to an infection
- Don’t cut the wound as it will increase your chances of infection
- Don’t take any painkillers
- Don’t use a tourniquet. It may seem like a good idea in order to stop the venom from spreading, but it’s not. If the venom builds up in one place the outcome may be disastrous and you might lose the limb
- Don’t apply cold packs or use electric shock or stun guns.
Just reading this info won’t do you any good if you don’t memories it by heart. This type of info is something that need to be drilled deep down into your brain, because if you get bitten, you won’t have time to “remember” what you read that one time in that article. You’ll need to react swift and effective in order to safe your life or the life of a loved one.
What other dos and don’ts you know regarding snake bites? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.