What Should You Quickly Do When Bitten By A Venomous Snake?
About 7,000 venomous snake bite Trusted Source cases are reported every year in the United States. A bite from a venomous snake is rarely deadly — about 6 fatalities are reported every year — but it should always be treated as a medical emergency. Even a bite from a harmless snake can be serious, leading to an allergic reaction or an infection. Venomous snake bites can produce an array of symptoms, including localized pain and swelling, convulsions, nausea, and even paralysis.
According to another study, which recorded that nearly 3 million people worldwide are poisoned every year after experiencing a venomous bite. Only a fraction of these bites are fatal, but toxins in snake venom can trigger serious medical emergencies that occur within hours; they can cause organ failure, uncontrollable bleeding, severe tissue destruction and paralysis that may restrict breathing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
How should a person respond to a bite? And what happens in the human body when a person is bitten by a venomous snake?
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“The first thing to do is get away from the snake — don’t try to capture it, that’s just going to provide the potential for more people to get hurt,” said Dr. Nicholas Kman, professor of emergency medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
First aid steps you can take after a snake bite occurs include cleaning the wound, remaining calm, and immobilizing the affected area. However, it’s essential to get to a medical facility immediately for emergency treatment. If treated in time, the outlook for recovery is good. Because these symptoms can progress rapidly from watch redness, swelling, blistering, warmth and then signs of nausea, vomiting, muscle pain and low blood pressure.”
After being bitten, remaining calm and still can also help to slow the venom’s spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
With some types of snakes, like rattlesnakes, redness and pain at the bite site develop within minutes, while with other venomous snakes, such as copperheads, the symptoms may take longer to appear.
Rattlesnake bites are a medical emergency. Rattlesnakes are venomous. If you’re bitten by one it can be dangerous, but it’s very rarely fatal. However, if left untreated, the bite may result in severe medical problems or death.
The venom from the majority of rattlesnake bites will damage tissue and affect your circulatory system by destroying skin tissues and blood cells and by causing you to hemorrhage internally. Most rattlesnake venom is composed mainly of hemotoxic elements.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Rattlesnake Bites?
If you’re bitten by a rattlesnake, you may notice one or two puncture marks made by their large fangs. You’ll usually experience some pain, tingling, or burning in the area where you’ve been bitten. There may also be some swelling, bruising, or discoloration at the site. Other common symptoms include:
- Numbness in the face or limbs.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Blurred vision.
- Difficulty breathing.
Some snake bites may be mistaken for rattlesnake bites when they’re not.
Identifying Venomous Snakes Bites
If you are unfamiliar with the different types of snakes and unable to distinguish between venomous and non-venomous ones, it can be difficult to know how to respond in the event of a bite. Always treat a snake bite as if it’s venomous.
In the U.S., all of the venomous snakes, except for the coral snake, are pit vipers. Pit vipers are distinguishable by a noticeable depression between the eye and nostril. This pit is the heat-sensing area for the snake. While all pit vipers have a triangular head, not all snakes with a triangular head are venomous.
If you or someone you are with has been bitten by a snake, you will know immediately. It’s possible, though, for the bite to happen quickly and for the snake to disappear.
To identify a snake bite, consider the following general symptoms:
- Two puncture wounds.
- Swelling and redness around the wounds.
- Pain at the bite site.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Vomiting and nausea.
- Blurred vision.
- Sweating and salivating.
- Numbness in the face and limbs.
Some venomous snakes also cause symptoms specific to their type.
What Not To Do When Bitten By A Venomous Snake?
After a bite, venom floods the body’s tissues and is impossible to remove through suction. Cutting is equally useless for venom extraction and can result in serious injury.
You shouldn’t ice the bite, steroids shouldn’t be used, there’s a lot of things people do that aren’t going to help a snakebite, and are probably going to make the patient worse.”
And if you’re bitten by a snake that’s native to North America, you should never apply a tourniquet, said Dr. Dan Brooks, medical director of the Banner Poison and Drug Information Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Most North American snakes deliver a type of venom that causes excessive bleeding and can lead to tissue and muscle necrosis, so any action that restricts circulation is going to aggravate the damage, Brooks noted.
“Putting a tourniquet on can actually increase local injury, and people can lose fingers or toes or need skin grafts,” Brooks said.
By comparison, many species of deadly Old World snakes — those that are found in Asia, Africa and Australia — produce neurotoxins that can swiftly lead to respiratory paralysis. Bites from these snakes are often triaged with a constricting band and then treated with antivenoms that are species-specific, while bites from most North American species can be treated with the antivenoms CroFab or Anavip, Brooks explained.
The exception to that rule is coral snakes. Like Old World snakes, they deliver a neurotoxin that can inhibit breathing; those bites require special antivenom. However, coral snake bites in the U.S. are exceedingly rare, accounting for only about 1% of annual venomous bites.
Bites from venomous snakes don’t always deliver a payload of toxins. At least 25% of venomous snake bites are so-called dry bites; if 8 to 12 hours elapse with no symptoms, the bite was likely venom-free, according to UW Health, the network of health and medicine facilities at the University of Wisconsin.
Nevertheless, it’s impossible to know immediately after a bite if venom might have been injected, and victims should not wait for symptoms to appear before seeking treatment, the CDC warns.
Snakes make their homes in deserts, mountains, river deltas, grasslands, swamps and forests, as well as saltwater and freshwater habitats. After natural disasters, such as floods or wildfires, snakes often move into populated areas that they previously avoided — they may even seek shelter in houses, according to the CDC.
Treatment For Snake Bites
The most important thing to do for a snake bite is to get emergency medical help as soon as possible. A doctor will evaluate the victim to decide on a specific course of treatment. In some cases, a bite from a venomous snake is not life-threatening. The severity depends on the location of the bite and the age and health of the victim. If the bite is not serious, the doctor may simply clean the wound and give the victim a tetanus vaccine.
If the situation is life threatening, the doctor may administer antivenom. This is a substance created with snake venom to counter the snake bite symptoms. It’s injected into the victim. The sooner the antivenom is used, the more effective it will be.
Prevention Of Snake Bites
Snake bites can be prevented in many cases. It’s best to refrain from approaching or handling snakes in the wild. Avoid typical places where snakes like to hide, such as patches of tall grass and piled leaves, and rock and woodpiles. If you encounter a snake, give it space to retreat and let it take cover. It’s in the snake’s nature to avoid interaction.
When working outside where snakes may be present, wear tall boots, long pants, and leather gloves. Avoid working outside during the night and in warmer weather, which is when snakes are most active.