• 7000 venomous snake bites are reported annually in the United States.
• 15 fatalities result, placing the chance of survival at roughly 499 out of 500.
• Approximately 3000 are classed as “illegitimate,” meaning these bites occurred while the victim
was handling or molesting the snake.
• 85% of the natural bites are below the knee.
• 50% are dry. Squeezing the venom glands to inject is a voluntary reflex. In that strikes against
humans are generally defensive actions, it is estimated that no venom is purposely injected about half
the time. This holds true with pit vipers. The stabbing strike of a pit viper can be recognized by one
or two definite puncture wounds, and if venom is injected there will be intense, burning pain and
swelling around the holes.
• Poisonous snake bites are medical emergencies.
• snake bites can cause severe local tissue
• Bloody wound discharge
• Blurred vision
• Excessive sweating
• Increased thirst
• Localized tissue death
• Loss of muscle coordination
• Nausea and vomiting
• Numbness and tingling
• Rapid pulse
• Severe localized pain
• Skin discoloration
• Swelling at the site of the bite
First Aid Therapy
• Do remain calm –
Remember that there is an excellent chance for survival, and in most cases there is plenty of time.
• Do remove jewelry –
Swelling can progress rapidly, so rings, watches and bracelets can be a real problem.
• Do mark the time –
The progress of symptoms (swelling) is the most obvious indicator of the amount envenomation.
• Do keep the stricken limb below the heart.
• Do get to a hospital as soon as possible –
Anti-venom serum is the only sure cure for envenomation, and because some people are allergic
to horse serum it should only be given in a fully equipped medical facility.
• Do attempt to identify the offending snake –
Positive identification in the form of a dead snake is helpful, if convenient and safe, but no
time or safety should be wasted since the symptoms will give medical personnel as accurate
• Do get a tetanus shot.
• Don’t suck and squeeze –
as much venom as possible directly from the wound. The risk of diseases carried in the blood like
Hepatitis and HIV should be avoided when possible and sucking the venom from the wound does
not help the victim’s survival.
• Don’t cut the wound –
This almost always causes more damage than it’s worth.
• Don’t use a tourniquet –
This isolates the venom in a small area and causes the digestive enzymes in the venom to
concentrate the damage.
• Don’t drink alcohol –
It speeds the heart and blood flow and reduces the body’s counter-acting ability.
• Don’t use ice –
Freezing the stricken limb has been found to be a major factor leading to amputation.
• Do not play with snakes.
• Keep landscape well manicured.
• Wear shoes around the house.
• Wear gloves when weeding.
• Wear boots in snake country.
• Develop a habit of watching where you step or place your hands.
Information provided by:
Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital
|Snake Bite Safety and First Aid