When poisonous snakes bite, they let out venom on their own. Usually, 50 to 70 percent of venomous snake bites end up in envenoming or poisoning. They can control how much venom they let out. Even though the bite might not be as bad as some other types, it should still be treated as an emergency. Unless you’re sure, the bite came from a non-venomous snake. Any time that goes by without treatment after a snake bite could cause a lot of damage or even death.
Table of Contents
What to do if a Snake Bites You or Someone Else
- To help treat snake bites, try to remember their color and shape.
- Keep the person who has been bitten still and calm and do not move them. If the snake is venomous, this can slow down the spread of the poison.
- Make an appointment to see a doctor as soon as you can.
- Dial 911 or call your local Emergency Medical Services to help (EMS).
- If you can’t get the person to the hospital right away, use first aid.
- Lay or sit the person down so that the bite is below their heart.
- Tell them to be calm and still.
- Wash the wound with warm soapy water right away.
- It’s best to cover the bite with a clean, dry sauce.
Don’t Do This if You or Someone Else is Bit by a Snake
- Do not pick up or try to trap the snake (this may put you or someone else at risk for a bite).
- Do not put a tourniquet on your arm or leg.
- Do not cut open the wound with a knife.
- Don’t suck out the poison.
- Do not put ice on the wound or put it in water.
- Do not use alcohol as a painkiller, and do not drink alcohol.
- Do not drink drinks with caffeine in them.
Treatment of Snakebite
The first thing you should do is get medical help right away. Even if the bite doesn’t hurt that much at first, you still need to treat it like it could be fatal. When treating a snake, being able to properly ID it can help, even though it’s very hard to do so. Also, be sure to take the next steps right away:
- Jewelry and watches could cut into the skin if there is swelling. Take them off before the swelling gets worse.
- Keep the area of the bite below your heart to slow the spread of venom through your body.
- Stay still and calm. If you can, rollover to your side and stay in the recovery position while you rest, too. In this case, moving a lot will make the poison spread more quickly through the body.
- With a clean, dry bandage, cover the bite. Make sure to use a pressure immobilization bandage if you can, if you have one. This type of bandage should be tightly wrapped around the bite to keep it from getting worse. Wrap another bandage around the whole limb, so it can’t move.
These are all good things to do to avoid getting bitten by a snake, but antivenom is the best way to treat a snake bite. Antivenom should be given as quickly as possible, so try to get it to the person who was bitten as soon as possible Having an idea of the snake’s size, color, and shape can help your doctor decide which antivenom is best for a given situation.
Fun fact: Antivenoms are made by giving horses or sheep venom from a certain snake to make them immune. Their blood serum, which is the watery part of the blood, is then cleaned and processed because it will have antibodies that can fight off the effects of the venom. There are antivenoms that treat bites from a single type of snake (monospecific antivenoms) and those that treat bites from a group of snakes that live in a certain area (multispecific antivenoms) (polyspecific antivenoms).
As soon as possible, the antivenom will be given in an injection or through an IV (through a needle in the arm). This way, it can work as quickly as possible. While both of these methods may have side effects, they’ve been found to be the most effective at getting rid of waste. Four to 10 days after you get the antivenom, you might get serum sickness disease. This can happen four to 10 days after you get the antivenom. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about serum sickness.
Is there anything you shouldn’t do when you have a snake bite?
When a snake bites someone, they may panic and act in a way that isn’t good for them. Even so, there are some things you should not do right away after getting bitten by a snake. These things are:
- Don’t pick up the snake, try to wrap it up or kill it, because this will make you more likely to get bitten again. It doesn’t matter if the snake is dead. It can still bite.
- Do not put a tourniquet on your hand or arm.
- Avoid cutting into the wound at all.
- Do not try to get the poison out by sucking it out.
- Don’t put ice on the wound or put water in it.
- Don’t drink alcohol, because it is bad for you.
- Don’t drink drinks that have caffeine in them.
- Make sure you don’t take any pain-relieving drugs, like ibuprofen.
Snakebites are usually dangerous. While some are harmless dry bites that produce swelling, others are poisonous and may cause death if not treated properly and soon. If you’ve been bitten by a snake, get medical help right away. If you don’t act quickly, snake bites can be very dangerous and even kill you. It doesn’t matter if snake bites aren’t common in the U.S., but there are still things you should do to make sure you don’t have to deal with the problems that come with them.