Health > First Aid >Snake bites
The danger of snake bites
People who frequent wilderness areas, camp, hike, picnic, or live in snake-inhabited areas should be aware of the potential dangers posed by venomous snakes.
bloody wound discharge
fang marks in the skin and swelling at the site of the bite
severe localized pain
loss of muscle coordination
nausea and vomiting
numbness and tingling
How are snake bites treated?
Call for emergency assistance immediately if someone has been bitten by a snake. Responding quickly in this type of emergency is crucial. While waiting for emergency assistance:
Wash the bite with soap and water.
Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
Cover the area with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to minimize swelling and discomfort.
Monitor vital signs.
If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, the American Red Cross recommends:
Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood from a vein or artery - the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it.
A suction device can be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. These devices are often included in commercial snake bite kits.
Most often, physicians use antivenin -- an antidote to snake venom -- to treat serious snake bites. Antivenin is derived from antibodies created in a horse's blood serum when the animal is injected with snake venom. Because antivenin is obtained from horses, snake bite victims sensitive to horse products must be carefully managed.
Preventing snake bites:
Some bites, such as those inflicted when you accidentally step on a snake in the woods, are nearly impossible to prevent. However, there are precautions that can reduce your chances of being bitten by a snake. These include:
Leave snakes alone. Many people are bitten because they try to kill a snake or get too close to it.
Stay out of tall grass unless you wear thick leather boots and remain on hiking paths as much as possible.
Keep hands and feet out of areas you cannot see. Do not pick up rocks or firewood unless you are out of a snake's striking distance.
Be cautious and alert when climbing rocks.