Everything We Learned About Snakebites is Wrong

by Sam Samalin, PA-C

1. CALL 911 and get a paramedic to your location immediately.

2. Don’t apply a suction device or use a snake bite kit if the victim is one hour from medical help. Instead, contact medical help and focus on following the first aid instructions listed below.

3. Don’t use your mouth to extract venom.

4. Don’t allow the victim to engage in strenuous physical activity. If necessary, carry the person to safety. Otherwise, have them hike out slowly without their pack so they are not over-exerted.

5. Don’t apply a tourniquet. Restricting superficial blood flow does keep the venom from spreading, which you want to avoid. Concentrated venom will rapidly destroy cells. Allowing it to spread will dilute the toxin and reduce tissue damage.

6. Don’t apply a cold pack. Cold reduces healthy circulation to the infected area and can result in the loss of limbs. Some experts also believe snake venom increases vulnerability to frostbite.

7. Don’t let the snake bite victim eat or drink anything, including medication and alcohol, unless okayed by medical staff.

8. Don’t cut across the bite marks. Because snake fangs are curved, the pocket of venom will not be where expected and will probably have already spread. In addition, many snake bites are considered to be dry, or where there was no toxin released into the victim. Cutting into a dry bite may increase the risk of infection in the area by having an open wound.

9. Don’t try to capture the snake; only get it if it is dead. Instead, remember the color, markings, and shape in order to report to facilitate faster treatment.

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