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Snake Bite

Venomous Snake Bite

And how to survive being bitten!

   Runing in circles, screaming and shouting!... Nothing will get you dead quicker in the desert than this kind of behavior. The key to survival is to remain calm and take a few simple steps to prevent the rapid spread of toxins in the Lymphatic system.
    1. The above is probably the most important piece of life saving information you will need. A simple rule of thumb is any snake that bites you is one that is venomous, so be sure to go to the hospital as soon as possible after being bitten. It is not recommended for someone bit by a venomous snake to drive themselves to a hospital. This should be a last resort if help could not be contacted or if no one else was present who could drive the envenomated person. The onset of
debilitating symptoms from a bite can come on suddenly and me be transitory. The ramifications of crashing a vehicle while seeking help for a bite can result in greater injury to the bitten person and put others at risk, too.
    2. Stay calm. This sounds trite, but will save your life. By becoming agitated, your heart beats faster and you increase the flow of blood to the affected area and increase the amount of toxin able to find its way into your tissues.
    3. Not every venomous snakebite injects venom but you should never wait for symptoms to kick in before going to the emergency room. Symptoms of venomous snakes vary. An untreated venomous snakebite that injected venom is a serious medical condition that ultimately results in death. The natural response is to panic, but staying calm will keep you alive a lot longer.
    4. Many websites recommend killing the snake and bringing it with you. This wastes time and puts you or someone else in further danger. Anti-venom these days is polyvalent - that is, they are effective against multiple venoms. You should always be aware of what the common venomous snakes in your region look like. Just because you got bitten is not a good reason to kill a beautiful creature.(I mean the least you could do is let it live after it showed you who was boss)
    5. Calling emergency responders (911 in the US, 999 in England, 000 in Australia) is usually not necessary and wastes both theirs and your time. Your life may be in danger but many venomous snakebites occur well within reach of a hospital. In the event you are several hours away from the nearest hospital, stay standing, stay hydrated, stay calm, and use a cell phone to call emergency responders. Modern cell phones have triangulation abilities to help locate the caller.
    6. For shallow venomous snakebite wounds, let the initial wound naturally bleed out. More blood will come out at first because there are typically anticoagulants in the venom. If a snakebite is deep enough to cause spurting blood (i.e. the strike hit a major artery and you are losing blood fast), immediately apply pressure to the wound and call emergency medical personnel.
    7. For shallow venomous wounds, after bleeding out, washing the wound with soap and water will help clean the area and help to avoid infection. Soap and water does not get rid of the poison in the body. You still need to go to a hospital.
    8. Do not make "X" incisions over the fang injuries or suck out the toxin. You will most likely cause excessive bleeding and/or additional necrosis (tissue death) and/or further infection from the germs in your mouth or surrounding environment.
    9. Do not use a tourniquet. While certain medical conditions still are helped with proper application of a tourniquet, these are few in number. In most cases, application of a tourniquet will cause necrosis and possibly eventuate the need for amputation of the affected area distal to the heart. (a tourniquet is a tight encircling band applied around an arm or leg in an emergency to stop severe bleeding, e.g. tying a piece of cloth around your arm really tight)
     10. Rather than using a tourniquet, a constriction band, such as an ACE bandage, may be used. A constriction band is similar to a tourniquet, the primary difference being the amount of force applied to the site. A constriction band will reduce but not totally stop the flow of blood to the area distal to the heart. When applying the band, if the affected area becomes cold or numb within a few minutes, it is too tight and needs to be loosened somewhat. A constriction band may be helpful for calming those who are easily excited or anxious about doing nothing for the wound.
    11. Some websites recommend the use of a Sawyer Extractor kit. These do not provide sufficient suction and may cause additional necrosis. Despite not working, if you feel the need to use one, read the directions and familiarize yourself with its use before you need it. The kit is not a substitute for proper medical care.
    12. Do not use an electrical stimulus anti-venom kit. These do not work and may actually accelerate the spread of the venom.
    13. Do not administer antivenin (anti-venom) yourself. Many antivenins are derived from equine (horse) antibodies. A skin test is usually performed before administering the antivenin. Many people are highly allergic to equine-based antivenin. Introducing these proteins into an allergic person will cause anaphylactic shock. Hospital staff are trained to have Epinephrine on hand to deal with this very real risk when administering antivenin to allergic patients. Besides, antivenins are difficult to obtain in the first place, have a short shelf life, need to be saline diluted for maximum effectiveness, and are expensive ($500-$1000 US per vial, and usually require 4-10 vials per venomous snakebite victim).
    14. If you are not up to date with your immunological shots, you will likely be administered a tetanus shot in addition to receiving the antivenin.
    15. In the end, the most important thing to remember is DON'T PANIC. In the United States and Australia especially, there are few snakes that are unforgivably deadly. Keep your calm about you and seek medical assistance immediately. You will be all right, even though you will probably be in a lot of pain for the time being. Do not let the pain overcome your reason; you are the smart one, not the snake's venom.
    16. As with all accidents, the best treatment is prevention. Know where you are going and what you can expect to encounter. Snakes, like almost all wild animals, seek to avoid you. When in the woods, make enough noise to warn the snake you are coming. Watch where you place your feet. Most snake bites are to the lower legs due to walking on or close enough to the snake that it feels threatened. Given the chance to slither away, the snake will usually take that safest route.
    17. When you see a venomous snake, don't approach it and back away very slowly. 80% to 95% of all venomous snakebites occur because of intentional approach. There is some fascination involved, but getting near a venemous snake without proper handling equipment is foolhardy at best. If you can reach them, they can reach you.
    18. The other most common injury is to the hand or lower arm. Some references on the web say that the most commonly bitten person in the U.S. is a young inebriated male. So don't drink and play with wild snakes!
    19. If you have access to snake chaps, you should use them, even though they are hideously hot and uncomfortable. If clearing brush, wear heavy leather gloves and try to look at the area you are about to reach into (prior to putting your hand there). Use a hiking stick, as it will be ahead of your feet, to give some warning to snakes that you're approaching so they can leave without feeling threatened. Even though these are good preventative measures, snakebites can still occur.
    20. Do not put any ice or cold substance on the bite.
    21. Tie a bandage 2-4 inches above the bite( loose enough to fit one finger in.)This will slow the blood flow and prevent venom entering your system.

This information was verified by
 Martin Feldner, Herpetologist.

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