#237 Prevent/Treat Snake Bites

Snakebites can be deadly. It is important to react quickly to bites. If emergency medical services can be reached, request help through 911. If in a remote area, getting the victim to medical care is vital. North America is home to several different species of venomous snakes. The most common is the rattlesnake. Antivenin is available, but it must be used as early as possible.

  1. Safety First! Get away from the snake, that’s probably why it bit in the first place. Follow universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if you have it.
  2. Call 911 immediately! Waiting until the pain subsides may lead to permanent tissue damage. Remember that calling 911 on a cell phone is different than a regular phone.
  1. Do not elevate. Keep the bite below the level of the heart.
  1. Wash the area with warm water and soap.
  1. Remove constricting clothing and jewelry from the extremity. The area may swell and constricting items will cause tissue death.
  1. If the snake is an elapid species (coral snakes and cobras), wrap the extremity with an elastic pressure bandage. Start from the point closest to the heart and wrap towards the fingers or toes. Continue to keep the bite lower than the heart.
  1. Follow the basics of first aid while waiting for responders to arrive. Be especially concerned about the potential for shock.