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Do’s and Don’t of Snake Bites

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD February 27, 2020

Introduction

This Straight, No Chaser post is about snake bites!

snakes-on-a-plane
So you’ve been snake bitten.  What will you do next?

First things first.  Stay calm.  Call 911.  Realize that most snake bites are non-venomous (A really quick tip regarding the likelihood of a venomous snake: most have triangular heads.).  Here’s 10 additional steps to take while waiting for your help to arrive.

5 Things To Do after Snake Bites

  1. Protect yourself.  Get out of the snake’s striking distance.  It should be trying to get away from you as well.
  2. Lie down.  Keep the wound below the level of the heart.
  3. Be still.  Activity simply facilitates spreading of any venom present.
  4. Cover the wound with a loose, clean dressing.  Immobilize the extremity if possible.
  5. Remove all restrictive clothing and jewelry from the area, because the area will swell.

5 Things Not to Do after Snake Bites

  1. Try to suck out venom.
  2. Try to cut out the area bitten.
  3. Apply any constrictive dressings.
  4. Apply any cold or ice packs to the wound site.
  5. Run to help.

snake bites

If you’re lucky enough to have a snake bite kit, you’ll simply follow those instructions, which are a modified version of the instructions I’ve just given.

When to See a Physician

You will need to be seen by a health care provider for consideration of the following:

  • Anti-venom may be needed.
  • Tetanus immunization may be needed.
  • Appropriate wound cleaning will be needed.
  • Antibiotics for skin infection may be needed.

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