Snakes usually bite defensively, rather than actively attacking humans, and in the US it’s as common for people to be bitten around the home as it is out in the bush or other wild areas. If you’re ever bitten by a snake, keeping these tips in mind might save your life.
1. Call An Ambulance Immediately
You should treat any snake bite as an emergency, regardless of whether you think the snake was venomous or not. Many snakes look similar, and if you wait to see if you feel symptoms of venom poisoning, it might be too late by the time you get help. You need to stay as still as possible, so rather than running for a phone, use a mobile phone or have someone else go and call for help.
2. Don’t Panic And Don’t Move
While it’s easier said than done, staying calm and still after a snake bite can help slow down the spread of venom in your body. If you’ve been bitten by a poisonous snake, not moving might save your life. It’s a myth that snake venom gets straight into your blood stream after a bite. Instead, it moves through your lymphatic system. Lymph is a fluid in your body that contains white blood cells. Unlike blood, which is pumped around your body continuously, your lymph moves when you move your limbs. If you can stay still and calm, you can prevent the venom in your lymph traveling further into your body. If you’re sure the snake has moved away after biting you and you’re not in danger of being bitten again, remain where you are, rather than walking to get help. If you’re with other people, they shouldn’t move you at all, but start administering first aid where you are.
3. Leave The Snake Alone
Don’t try to identify, catch, injure or kill the snake – you’re likely to come off second best. At the hospital, staff have access to a range of tests that can help them determine the likely snake which you have been bitten by, enabling them to give you the most appropriate treatment.
4. Apply A Pressure Immobilization Bandage And Splint
Most snake bites occur on a limb, so legs, feet, arms and hands are most commonly affected. If you’ve been bitten on a limb, applying a pressure immobilization bandage can stop the venom moving through your lymphatic system. If you’ve got a pad or even a piece of plastic like cling wrap, put it over the bite site to either soak up or protect the venom for later testing. Apply a pressure immobilization bandage by following the steps, use an elasticised roller bandage that is 10-15cm wide, roll bandage over bite site, apply a second elasticised roller bandage, starting just above the fingers or toes and moving upwards on the bitten limb as far as the bandage will reach, apply the bandage as tightly as possible to the limb, if you don’t have a bandage handy, any stretchy material will do (torn up t-shirts, stockings or other fabric can be used as a bandage).
5. Don’t Wash, Suck, Cut Or Tourniquet The Bite
There are a lot of old methods of treating snake bites that are now known to cause more harm than good. Washing the snake bite site can wash off venom that the hospital staff may be able to use to identify the type of snake that bit you. You should also keep clothing from around the bite site, because additional movement can cause venom to more readily move into the blood stream. Do not suck or cut the bite area. Do not apply a tourniquet to the limb – this can be dangerous.