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What Should I Do if I Get Bitten by a Venomous Snake?

Venomous snakes (not Poisonous snakes) are responsible for 40,000 deaths every year around the world. That is a huge number! Most of these are in developing countries because a) medical treatment is not as advanced and b) because these countries have greater numbers of venomous snakes than more developed countries further from the equator.

There are a few things you can do. Follow these guidelines:

  1. First make it a priority to get the victim to the hospital.
  2. Do not try the 'cut and suck method' which was the old method taught in schools and by survivalists. You'll most likely do more harm that good.
  3. Try to keep the victim calm.
  4. Immobilize the bitten body limb (with a splint etc) and try to keep it below the heart.
  5. Again, do not apply the 'cut and suck' techniques. Do not add ice, a tourniquet, alcohol or aspirin and do not pour turpentine into the wound.
  6. If the snake is a 'neurotoxic snake' (cobras, Australian elapids, mambas, coral snakes) wrap the limb in a pressure bandage to localize the venom.
  7. Only bring in the snake for identification if it is easily captured. Do not risk a second bite - because the snake may not have envenomated during the first bite (20 to 40 percent of all snake bites are "dry" bites).
  8. Finally, when at the hospital encourage them to call poison control for advice as many medical personnel do not have experience treating snake bites.

Source: Snakes in Question by Carl H. Ernst and George R. Zug, 1996

Information by ROB NELSON


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