Did you know that more than 5.4 million people are bitten by snakes each year? That’s according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and half of that figure (around 2.7 million) are cases involving venomous snakes. [Source]
So what do you do when you or another person gets bitten by a snake? This emergency safety guide will help you get useful ideas on what to do during such unexpected events.
I Got Bitten by a Snake: What Do I Do?
Getting bitten by a snake is quite rare, especially in the United States where about 7,000 cases happen each year. However, if you ever find yourself part of these statistics, here’s what you should do:
Keep a clear head. A snake bite can be a terrifying experience, but panic will only make the situation worse. Take a deep breath and try to remain as calm as possible. This will help the bitten person stay calm too, which can slow down the spread of venom if the snake is venomous.
Identify the Snake
Try to see and remember the color and shape of the snake. This information can be helpful in determining the appropriate treatment for the snake bite. However, do not try to pick up or trap the snake, as this may put you or someone else at risk for a bite.
Seek Medical Attention Immediately
Call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) right away. The quicker you can get the person to a hospital, the better their chances of a full recovery. You should also contact your local Poison Control Center for guidance on what to do next.
Apply First Aid
While waiting for medical assistance, there are some first-aid measures you can take to help minimize the damage caused by the snake bite:
- Lay or sit the person down with the bite below the level of the heart.
- Tell them to stay calm and still.
- Wash the wound with warm soapy water immediately.
- Cover the bite with a clean, dry dressing.
What Not to Do
Here are some actions to avoid when dealing with a snake bite:
- Do not apply a tourniquet. This can worsen the effects of the venom.
- Do not slash the wound with a knife. This can cause further injury and make the wound more susceptible to infection.
- Do not suck out the venom. This is a myth and can lead to additional health problems.
- Do not apply ice or immerse the wound in water. This can also worsen the effects of venom.
- Do not drink alcohol as a painkiller. This can thin the blood and increase the effects of the venom.
- Do not drink caffeinated beverages. This can increase your heart rate and spread the venom more quickly.
Video courtesy of the University of California Television (UCTV).
Signs and Symptoms of Snake Bites
The symptoms of a snake bite can vary depending on the species of snake that bit the victim. Here are some of the common signs to look out for:
- If you or someone else gets bitten by a snake, the first thing to look for is a pair of puncture marks at the wound site. These marks will often be visible and are a clear sign that a snake has bitten you.
- Redness and swelling around the bite site are also common symptoms of a snake bite. These symptoms may not appear immediately, but they will likely develop within a few hours after the bite.
- Severe pain at the site of the bite is another symptom of a snake bite. The pain may be intense and may feel like a burning sensation.
- Nausea and vomiting are other symptoms that may occur after a snake bite. These symptoms may occur within a few hours after the bite and may persist for several days.
- Labored breathing is a severe symptom of a snake bite and may indicate that the bite is life-threatening. In extreme cases, breathing may stop altogether, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.
- Disturbed vision is another symptom of a snake bite. This symptom may occur due to the snake’s venom affecting the nervous system, and it can lead to blindness if left untreated.
- Increased salivation and sweating are also symptoms that may occur after a snake bite. These symptoms occur because the body is trying to expel the toxins from the venom.
- Numbness or tingling around the face and/or limbs is another symptom of a snake bite. This symptom may occur due to the snake’s venom affecting the nervous system, and it can lead to paralysis if left untreated.
How Can I Avoid Snakebites?
Prevention is the key to avoiding snakebites, and there are several things you can do to reduce your risk of being bitten by a snake.
Avoid snake habitats
Snakes tend to live in tall grass or brush, rocky areas, fallen logs, bluffs, swamps, marshes, and deep holes in the ground. If possible, avoid these areas, especially during the warmer months when snakes are more active.
Poke ground in front when walking on grass
If you must walk through tall grass or weeds, poke at the ground in front of you with a long stick to scare away snakes. This will give them time to move away before you reach them.
Be cautious of stepping and sitting outdoors
Snakes can be hard to see, so it’s important to watch where you step when you’re outside. Look ahead and watch your footing to avoid stepping on a snake. If you’re sitting on the ground, make sure to check the area around you for snakes before you sit down.
Wear protective clothing
Wearing protective clothing is another way to reduce your risk of being bitten by a snake. Wear loose, long pants and high, thick leather or rubber boots. This will help to prevent a snake from biting you if you accidentally step on one.
Use a flashlight when walking at night
If you’re walking outside at night, shine a flashlight on your path. This will help you to see any snakes that may be in your path and avoid them.
Don’t handle snakes
Even if you think a snake is dead, never handle it. Recently killed snakes may still bite by reflex. If you come across a snake, give it plenty of space and let it move away on its own.
Video courtesy of WebMD.
Sankebite Safety FAQ
Are there venomous snakes in the US?
Yes, there are venomous snakes in the US, including rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, and coral snakes.
How to tell if a snake is venomous?
The best way to tell if a snake is venomous is by looking at its head shape, pupils, and color patterns. Venomous snakes typically have triangular-shaped heads, vertical pupils, and brightly colored patterns.
What is the most venomous snake in the US?
The most venomous snake in the US is the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, which has the most potent venom of any rattlesnake species. Its venom contains a combination of neurotoxins and hemotoxins, which can cause severe pain, swelling, and tissue damage. In some cases, the venom can lead to respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, and even death if left untreated.
What US state has the most snakes?
Florida has the most snake species in the US, including both venomous and non-venomous snakes. It is estimated that there are over 50 species of snakes living here. Some of the most common snake species found in Florida include the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake, Pygmy Rattlesnake, Cottonmouth, and various species of non-venomous snakes such as Garter snakes, Rat snakes, and Corn snakes.
How long does it take for snake venom to take effect?
The time it takes for snake venom to take effect varies depending on the type of snake and the amount of venom injected. Some venomous snake bites can cause symptoms within minutes, while others may take hours to show signs of venom toxicity.
In a nutshell, if you or someone nearby gets bitten by a snake, stay calm and seek medical help immediately. While waiting, administer first aid by washing the wound and keeping the bite below heart level. Don’t try risky home remedies.