Wellness Matters

What to Do (and Not Do) If Bitten By a Snake

May 08, 2017

There are many different types of snakes in our area. Most of them are not dangerous to humans. Some snakes, however, are venomous, and their bites can be life threatening. These dangerous snakes include the copperhead, rattlesnake, cottonmouth (water moccasin) and coral snake.
What to do if bitten by a snake - Copperhead
Canebrake Rattlesnake
Cotton Mouth
Coral Snake
If you are bitten by a venomous snake, call 911 immediately. It is important to get antivenom drugs into your system as quickly as possible. While you are waiting for help, here are steps you can take:

1.  Get away from the area where the snake is located. The snake may bite again, or there may be another viper in close proximity.
2. Remove clothing or jewelry from the area near the bite before swelling occurs.
3. Remain as calm as possible and position yourself so that the bite area is below heart level.
4. Clean the bite, but do not flush with water. Cover the bite with a clean and dry dressing.

Do not do the following, as these actions can make the wound, or its effects, worse.

  • Do not use a tourniquet. 
  • Do not apply ice. 
  • Do not try to suck the venom from the wound. 
  • Do not create any other incisions. 
  • Do not drink caffeine or alcohol. This will accelerate the absorption of venom by your body. 
  • Do not try to capture the snake. Remember its color and shape so you can describe it to your care provider.

Snakebites contain venom, not poison. This venom damages the lining of the blood vessels and lymphatic system. It makes vessels permeable so that they leak red blood cells. The venom spreads through the lymphatic system. This breakdown has a cascading effect within the body, particularly within the cardiovascular system. If left untreated, it can be fatal.


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