Snakebites – A Complete Guide To Surviving A Snake Encounter

As soon as the warm summer days come, a lot of nature lovers decide it’s time to take a trip to the wilderness and spend a few days away from the city. But people are not the only ones enjoying the warm, sunny days – snakes do too. So, if you plan on spending some time outdoors, keep on reading – the information given here might save someone’s life on one of those trips.

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Snakebites – A Complete Guide To Surviving A Snake Encounter

WHY SNAKES BITE AND HOW TO PREVENT IT?

1. The main reason snakes bite

While it’s true that snakes bite, it never happens as lightly as one might think. There is always a series of events (mostly wrongly interpreted actions of humans) that lead up to the snake’s attack.

It is reported that there are 8000 snake bites (this is an estimated number) every year in the USA. The number may seem high, but keep in mind only a tiny fraction of those bites turn out to be deadly.

A snake will always have its reasons for biting you; don’t ever think it came out of nowhere.

The main two reasons snakes bite are to overpower their prey or if they feel the need to fight for their life. Since humans are not on the list of snake’s favorite foods, it seems the only reason they would attack is being scared and feeling like their life may be endangered.​

2. What is snake venom and why is it so dangerous?​

Let’s start by explaining a few things about how snake venom works. You can look at it as a special type of saliva (toxic saliva, that is) stored in something similar to our salivary glands. Once there, the venom’s only way out is through the fangs – just hope you won’t be on the receiving end of it.

Snake’s venom could consist out of several types of proteins, all of which work differently – this is something that varies among the species.

Almost every organ will be affected once the person is bitten. Even though there might some talk about different venoms affecting mostly the muscles, heart or the nervous system, it’s pretty inaccurate to say it’ll be the only thing affected.​

3. Better safe, than sorry – Avoiding snakes​

3.1 - Indoors​

Green snake animals, sometimes for food in the house

Call animal control

If you’re not sure if the snake is venomous or you don’t feel comfortable enough to capture it, you should always call your local ACS (Animal Control Services, specific for every city) to do it for you. While you wait for help, there are still things you can do:

  • Try to keep the snake confined to a particular room in your house
  • Keep away from that particular room

​Let the snake find its way out on its own

Let’s face it – most snakes don’t want to hang around your house longer than needed. What to do:

  • Leave the entrance door open so that the snake can find its way outside; she will leave relatively quickly

Remove the snake using a broom and a trash can

If you are confident that the snake is not venomous and you feel comfortable dealing with it on your own, then try this:

  • Place the trash can on its side on the floor and use the broom to guide the snake to it gently.
  • Once you get the snake into the garbage can, close it with a lid (remember to poke tiny holes in it so the snake could breathe) and take it to the woods or any area away from your home to set it free.

Set up an indoor trap

This is always an option if you suspect a snake is lurking around your home.

Set the traps alongside walls, so when the snake crawls over them, she will get stuck. Then, you can remove the snake yourself or call the ACS.​

  • Don’t wait too long between two checkups of the traps; if you do, the snake might die of starvation.
  • Before releasing it, pour some vegetable oil on the snake, so the trap loosens its grip and allow it to crawl away.

3.2 - Preventing re-infestation:

Boiga drapiezii, White-spotted cat snake,

Everything else we’ve mentioned here was done in vain if you skip this part:

  • Trim the vegetation in your yard – Since snakes naturally like to hide in tall grass and bushes, to make sure your backyard won’t go through another snake infestation, keep your lawn mowed and all the bushes trimmed. Check everything that might seem like a good snake den – hollow stumps, woodpiles, any place you think they could hide.
  • Remove everything that can be considered as snake’s food – There’s a high possibility that the snake found some source of food in your yard. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be bothered to stay there. Typically, snakes will eat mice and insects (crickets, for example), so if you make sure to have those populations under control, the snake will eventually continue its search for food elsewhere.
  • Check the foundation for cracks and holes – If you discover any cracks or holes through which the snakes might come inside your house, seal them using expanding foam and similar products. Also, put screens on your chimney and vents, as that’s where snakes can come in, too. The grid of the screen must have openings not larger than ¼ of an inch if you wish to keep all snakes out successfully.
  • Buy a snake repellent – These are typically sold in the form of a powder or a liquid, which you should apply on outer walls of your home or throughout your yard. These are environment-friendly and won’t hurt your pets.

3.3 - ​Outdoors

black viper snake on a tree
  • Let it leave on its own - Same as dealing with snakes indoors, the first option is just to leave the snake alone, and it will eventually leave your yard. Stay away from the yard until you’re sure the snake has left.
  • Spray the snake gently with a garden hose - If it’s not a venomous snake that you’re dealing with, maybe all that’s needed is to spray it with some water and hopefully, it will leave.
  • Set up an outdoor trap - Set these traps around the yard and check on them regularly. The outdoor traps are plastic boxes that contain a substance that will attract the snake; once inside, the design of the trap doesn’t let it escape. Once you find a snake in one of the traps you’ve set up, take it to the nearest woods and release it.

Watch this video if you want to learn more about getting rid of snakes in your yard.

3.4 - In the wilderness:

Whenever you plan on going out into the wild, there are some things you should research. This way, you’ll be prepared for anything you may encounter on that trip, one of those things being snakes.

  • Which snakes you may encounter – Inform yourself about snakes that are native to the area you plan on visiting; find out if there are any venomous snakes and which ones.
  • Look for clear areas – You know that snakes like to hide in the bushes and tall grass, so when you’re out hiking, try to stay on the trail as much as possible. Always carry a long stick with you, so you can probe the grass before you step on it.
  • Try not to stick hands in holes and crevasses – Remember that snakes tend to curl up in dark spaces such as holes, so be careful where you step or put your hand. That is of particular importance for rock climbers.
  • Wear appropriate clothes – Wilderness is no place for fashion. You should always wear closed-toe shoes, preferably leather boots, and long, loose fitting pants. That way, if you do get bitten, you lessen the chances of fangs piercing the skin.
  • Look out for water snakes when swimming or fishing – Water snakes can also present a great danger if you’re not careful enough, especially after heavy rains, when their usual hiding spots may be flooded.
  • Look for a good camping spot – When you’re looking for a place to set up your camp, make sure that it’s not near any snake habitats, such as tall grass, fallen trees or rocky areas. Always opt for a clear, low grass areas.

3.5 - If you’re scared of snakes, these are the places you DON’T want to visit:

Snake warning signal, Northern Territory, Australia (1)

Nearly one in three adults has ophidiophobia – fear of snakes. If you are one of them, then there are some locations you most certainly wouldn’t want to travel to:

  • Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, Australia – Australia is the home of one of the most venomous snakes in the world, the Eastern Brown Snake; you'd also need to worry about Death Adlers and Inland Taipan.
  • Snake Island, Brazil – The island is inhabited by Golden Lancehead Vipers, world's deadliest snakes; enough said.
  • Manitoba, Canada – Every spring the Narcisse Snake Den is the goal-location for around 75000 red-sided garters coming to perform mating rituals there.
  • West Bengal, India – The Common Krate, one of South Asia's most venomous snakes, lives in India's rural areas.
  • Sumatra, Indonesia – The Blue Coral Snake and the Paradise flying snake both inhabit Sumatra.
  • Mannar, Jaffna, and Mullaitivu, Sri Lanka – This area is the home of the Saw-scaled viper, one of the most dangerous snakes of South Asia.
  • Florida, United States – Florida is home to the largest and most venomous rattlesnake – the Eastern Diamondback; this one will attack you without rattling its tail first.

4. Killing or catching a snake

The man demonstrate catching a dangerous snake.

4.1 - How to: Killing a snake

​Before we go on to explain what’s the safest and most humane way to kill a snake, note that killing a snake is not okay in most cases. Always make sure it’s entirely necessary, and there’s no other way to deal with the encounter.

Lethal traps – This is by far the safest way to kill a snake; it’s also the most humane way. The ones that are mainly used are the traps that aim for the head – they will catch the head of the snake and then cut it off. Not a pretty sight, but it’s the most efficient way. Always make sure that the snake is dead before you try to remove it from the trap; sometimes the trap can fail and just hold the snake down. In those situations the snake will be injured and scared, thus being more likely to attack.

It may be hard to lure the snake into the trap; consider placing the traps into tight places where you know the snake will most likely go.

Other ways – If for some reason, you can’t set up traps, there are other ways to kill the snake. In this case, though, you’ll need to get close to the snake, so make sure you kill it on the first try, or the snake will not hesitate to bite you.

  • You can use a gardening tool such as a shovel to try to sever the snake’s head off.
  • You can shoot the snake, but since they are such small animals, you need to be an excellent shooter to get this right on the first try.
  • If you’re out in nature and you need to kill a snake, use an Y shaped branch small enough to hold the snake’s head tightly; find a blunt object to hit the snake’s head with and don’t let go until you’re sure it’s dead to avoid getting bitten

4.2 - How to: Catching a snake

Make sure to identify the snake before trying to capture it, so you know if you’re dealing with a venomous or non-venomous snake.

Catch it using a net:

  • Make sure the net is big enough for the snake you’re trying to catch
  • Slowly and quietly approach the snake; don’t scare it away
  • Place the net in front of the snake; it will most likely enter it on its own

Catch it using a trash can and a broom

  • Lay the garbage can on the side in front of the snake
  • Use the broom to guide the snake in it

Catch it by hand

  • When trying this approach to catching the snake, make sure to wear protective gloves, as snakes can carry bacteria harmful to humans
  • Use a stick to distract the snake and grab it firmly by the tail; make sure to leave the top of the snake’s body on the ground
  • Use the stick to lift the snake by placing it under the top half of its body
  • Put the snake in a bag or a pillow case and take it to a place where you plan on releasing it

Catch it using a trap

  • Set up traps around the house or yard
  • Check on them regularly
  • Once the snake is in the trap, take it to the nearest woods to release it

5. First aid kit for snakebites

  • Always carry a quick first aid guide for reference
  • First Aid kit should always include bandages (elastic ones)
  • Antiseptic wipes are also a must – even if a snake is non-venomous, it carries a lot of harmful bacteria

TYPES AND SPECIES OF SNAKES AND HOW TO RECOGNISE THEM

non-venomous vs venomous snake

via reptilesmagazine, littlethings

1. Poisonous vs. Venomous

Both could harm you, so what’s the difference? Even though in both cases it’s the toxins that can cause damage to your body, the way those toxins are delivered makes all the difference between a poisonous and venomous snake.

If the toxins are ingested or absorbed in any way, so if no biting has occurred, we’re talking about a poisonous snake. If, however, the toxin is injected via fangs, then it’s considered to be venom. Since snakes do actively inject the toxins into your bloodstream using their teeth, snakes are deemed to be venomous, but more often than not, you’ll hear the miss-use of the word poisonous.

2. A guide to identifying venomous snakes

To ensure your safety, before going camping or hiking (or anytime you decide to spend some time in nature, for that matter), you should learn how to differentiate a venomous from a non-venomous snake.

CHARACTERISTICS​

VENOMOUS SNAKES

NON-VENOMOUS SNAKES

Color

​Bright colors and patterns are nature’s way of alarming you

​Solid colors

Eyes

Elliptical eyes, more cat-like

Round eyes, more human-like

Head shape

Triangular-shaped heads

Round heads, almost spoon-shaped

Tail

It has a distinctive rattle on its tail

The rattle is lacking or isn’t developed enough to make the distinctive noise

Bottom of the tail

It’s the same as the rest of the body

Has a cross pattern or a diamond shaped pattern

Belly

One row of scales

Two rows of scales

How it swims

Entire body is visible in the water

Only the snake’s head is visible

Heat-sensitive pit

They have it for locating warm-blooded prey

They lack these pits

If you’re still not sure how exactly to identify a snake as a dangerous or not, here’s a great informational video you could watch on the subject. Also, please keep in mind that, as with every rule, there are some exceptions you should inform yourself about.

3. Venomous snakes found in the US

3.1 ​- Copperhead

Copperhead

These snakes can are characterized by their reddish, tan, copper color. A distinctive hourglass pattern, when combined with the snake’s color, should also help you recognize it quickly.

The Copperhead is mostly found in the eastern part of the US. If your neighborhood is in that area, note that even though this is a venomous snake, it’s not an aggressive one.

Even though being bitten by a Copperhead is painful, if treated properly, there will be no significant consequences to your health. The death rate for this species is around three deaths in the last 120 years – just seek medical help, and you will be okay.

3.2 - Coral Snake

Coral Snake

The best way to identify the Coral Snake is the distinctive rings that go all the way down the snake’s body and are red, yellow and black. Also, the snake’s snout is black. Note that some snakes may be confused for a Coral Snake, but they are not poisonous.

To avoid making a mistake, just remember – if the red and yellow bands are next to each other, then it is a Coral Snake, and you should be very careful about your next step.

This snake is the most toxic one on this list. If you or someone around you has been bitten, consider that the first hour is crucial for getting medical attention. First symptoms may appear hours after being bitten, so pay close attention. By that time, the snake’s venom (a potent neurotoxin) has already wreaked havoc in the body.

3.3 - Cottonmouth

Cottonmouth

Also called the „water moccasin,“ the Cottonmouth has an olive-toned, brown or even blackish color with vague dark crossbands. This snake is the one you don’t want to see swimming towards you. Yes, you’ve read that right – these snakes are semi-aquatic vipers, which means they’re equally dangerous on the land and in the water.

Their potent cytotoxic venom is stronger than that of a Coppersnake, but still not strong enough to instantly kill you. If bitten, you’ll have an hour (max) to get medical attention; that’s your best option at avoiding amputation since the venom works by eating away the flesh.

3.4 - Rattlesnake

rattlesnake

These are probably the best-known snakes in the world – you must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of these. Here we can talk about a few different types of rattlesnakes, that all have one thing in common – that scary rattle on the end of their tails. If you’re out in the wild and hear the characteristic rattling sound, take the advised safety precautions and slowly move away.

The snake obviously doesn’t want any trouble. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be notifying you of its presence. Four common kinds of Rattlesnake found in the US are:

3.5 - Diamondback Rattlesnake

There are two types of Diamondback Rattlesnake in the US – the Eastern and Western. They are characterized by a diamond-shaped pattern that goes all the way down their back and a triangular head. The Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake species is bigger than its western counterpart, reaching up to 10 pounds and 8 feet in length.
Even though it’s not as venomous as some other rattlesnakes, it makes up for it in the massive quantities of venom; full envenomation is rare, though.

3.7 - Mojave Rattlesnake

Mojave Rattlesnake

Also commonly referred to as Mojave Green Rattlesnake, this species is typically found in the southwest of the United States and central Mexico.

Because of their similar appearance, Mojave Rattlesnake is sometimes mistaken for the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. One way to tell them apart is the same thing that makes people mistake them for one another – the diamond-shaped pattern on their back. In Mojave Rattlesnakes, the pattern starts noticeably to fade towards the tail.Their venom, considered to be the most potent among rattlesnakes, is a combination of a neurotoxin and a hemotoxin. To top it off, they have a reputation for being aggressive towards humans.

3.8 - Sidewinder Rattlesnake

Sidewinder Rattlesnake

This species, a small pit viper found in the desert areas of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, is characterized by the raised scales above the eyes, which gave them a name "horned rattlesnake." Besides their brown, creamy color and elliptical or rhombus shaped blotches, these horn-like structures are what makes them easily recognizable.

Their widely used name, Sidewinder, comes from the specific way these snakes move – by creating a series of S-shaped curves. The way they move, called side-winding, has its purpose in enhancing traction while the snake crosses areas of loose sand.

3.9 - Timber Rattlesnake

Timber Rattlesnake

via californiaherps

Found in the eastern regions of the United States, Timber Rattlesnakes are heavy-bodied snakes, brown or yellowish, while some can be very dark, almost black. Their pattern consists of brown or black crossbars that can be either V or M-shaped.

These snakes are large, with a very potent venom and a set of noticeably long fangs to push it through. The Timber Rattlesnake is the third largest venomous snake in the US and is considered to be one of the North Americas most dangerous snakes. Thankfully, they’re deemed one of the mild-tempered pit vipers.

3.10 - Pygmy Rattlesnake​

Pygmy Rattlesnake

The Pygmy Rattlesnake inhabits the southeastern parts of the United States and can be found in areas like the prairies, sandhills, and mixed forests. They belong to the family of venomous pit vipers and are one of the smallest species of rattlesnakes. That’s where their common names come from; Pigmy Rattlesnake, Dwarf Rattlesnake, Bastard Rattlesnake, Catesby’s small snake, to name a few. Due to their size, in most cases, they aren’t capable of delivering a fatal bite; that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, though.

They are characterized by a gray-colored body with dark, large spots. You can also recognize them by their skin, which looks dull and rough, instead of shiny.

3.11 - Massasauga Rattlesnake​

Eastern Massasauga Sistrurus catenatus catenatus is a small rattlesnake native to an area that from western New York and southern Ontario to southern Iowa and northeastern Missouri

Massasauga Rattlesnake is a small venomous pit viper, that inhabits a few states of the United States, but can also be found in the north, in Ontario and far in the south, in Mexico. They can be found in prairies, savannas, swamps and similar places.

They are characterized by a gray ground color, with big, dark, brown or black spots that go down the center of their backs and rows of smaller blotches on the sides. Sometimes the center-row spots can fuse with the ones on the side. The intensity of their pattern depends on the age of the snake – younger Massasauga rattlesnakes have a more distinct one but are usually paler.​

4. Non-poisonous snakes found in the US​

4.1 - Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

These snakes are found in the northeastern parts of the US, and they (as the name already suggests) inhabit rivers, lakes, ponds and such. Even though these snakes are non-venomous, they are very aggressive and will bite if you disturb them too much.

Sometimes these snakes can be confused for Cottonmouths or Rattlesnakes, which is the number one reason people kill them.

4.2 - Rough Green Snake

Rough Green Snake on Green Background

These snakes are found in the eastern and southeastern parts of the US, and they typically inhabit the tree branches on the banks of streams and ponds. They are characterized by the long, slender, bright green-colored body with a white or ivory belly and throat.

4.3 - Bull Snake

bull snake

In the US, you can find these snakes mostly in the South. The Bull Snake, also called the Gopher snake, is characterized by a yellowish brown body with dark blotches and they inhabit the open country. Because of their aggressive behavior and the habit of vibrating their tail when disturbed, they are sometimes mistaken for Rattle snakes.

4.4 - Milk Snake

milk snake

One of the most colorful snakes in the world, the Milk Snakes are often confused for Coral Snakes, which are venomous. They are characterized by the red, black and yellow color pattern and a red head. The Milk Snakes inhabit open woodlands and seek shelter in rocky areas and logs.

4.5 - Black Rat Snake

black rat snake

These snakes are one of the common ones found in the North America, and they will usually inhabit the rocky hillsides and wooded areas. They are large, with the average length being 4-6 feet, but also very thin-bodied. Sometimes, the Black Rat Snake can be confused for a Cottonmouth; keep in mind that Cottonmouth snakes are noticeably thicker.

These are just some of the most common non-venomous snakes found in the United States. Feel free to visit this site if you wish to read more about non-venomous species.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ENVENOMATION

1. How snake venom works

Demo show Rolling Cobra snake venom.

When it comes to North America, only four species are venomous – the Cottonmouths, Coral Snakes, Rattlesnakes, and Copperheads. All of them, except Coral Snake, are called pit vipers – their venom is hemorrhagic. What that means is, their venom causes people to bleed to death – from the inside.

On the other hand, Coral snakes, closely related to Cobras, have a neurotoxic venom. This type of venom attacks the victim’s nervous system, causing cardiac arrest and lung failure. When compared to the hemorrhagic venom of the pit vipers, this neurotoxin is deemed more dangerous.

This video shows what snake venom does to your blood once you get bit.

2. Signs and symptoms: Venomous snakes

Symptoms that occur when you get bitten by a venomous snake can be divided into three categories – safe, dangerous and emergency symptoms. To decide where the symptoms you’re experiencing fall in that spectrum, use this list:​

2.1 - Safe symptoms

  • Swelling, skin redness, bruising located around the bite marks
  • No abnormalities concerning coagulation
  • No other visible bodily symptoms

2.2 - Dangerous symptoms

  • Progression of swelling, redness and bruising beyond the location of the bite
  • Symptoms like nausea, vomiting, relatively low blood pressure, that are considered not life-threatening
  • No significant bleeding, only mildly abnormal coagulation

2.3 - Emergency symptoms

  • Rapid swelling, redness and bruising that is covering the entire extremity
  • Respiratory distress, rapid pulse, systolic blood pressure
  • Severe coagulation issues and danger of spontaneous hemorrhage

3. The symptoms depend on the snake that inflicted the bite.

Here are the symptoms of being bitten by the venomous snakes found in the US.

3.1 -  Rattlesnakes

rattlesnake symptom

​It was explained earlier that rattlesnake is a name used to describe not one, but several types of snakes found in the territory of the US. Since they are all venomous snakes, the difference among them being venom potency, the list of symptoms we’re providing here is valid in the case of being bitten by any of the following snakes (all subspecies of rattlesnakes):

  • Diamondback Rattlesnake (Eastern and Western)
  • Timber Rattlesnake
  • Sidewinder Rattlesnake
  • Mojave Rattlesnake
  • Massasauga Rattlesnake
  • Pygmy Rattlesnake
Symptoms of Rattlesnakes

3.2 - Cottonmouth 

Cottonmouth symptoms
Symptoms of Cottonmouth

3.3 - Coral snake

Coral Snake symptoms
Symptoms of Coral Snake

3.4 - Copperhead

Copperhead
Symptoms of Copperhead

3.5 - Non-venomous snakes

how snake venom works

When it comes to non-venomous snakes, their bites don’t need to be taken as seriously as venomous snakes. That doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly, though.

The only symptoms you may experience are related to the bite area – several smaller puncture wounds indicate that you were bitten by a non-venomous snake. Those will usually heal on their own.

IMMEDIATE SNAKEBITE TREATMENT – WHAT TO DO NOW?

Snake bite! Snake and man's hand shortly after being bitten

1. The importance of snakebite treatment

Snakebite is never something that should be ignored. Even if it was a non-venomous snake that bit you, some possible allergic reactions and infections can develop over the course of time if the bite site isn’t treated as it should be.

2 -The DOs and DON’Ts after being bitten by a snake

​DO:
  • Remain calm and don’t start panicking, sit or lay down if possible
  • Be as still as you can to prevent venom from spreading through your body too fast
  • Remove the jewelry and loosen the clothes around the bite area
  • Clean the bite wound with some warm water; use soap if it’s available
  • Get to a hospital as soon as possible or call for medical help
  • Create a splint to restrict the bite area from moving a lot
DON'T
  • Don’t try to suck the venom out; we know you saw it in movies, but it doesn’t work
  • Don’t cut the bite marks in an attempt to drain the venom
  • Don’t apply ice packs or heating pads to the bite wounds
  • Don’t apply a tourniquet

3. Step by step treatment guide for snakebites:

3.1 - Identify the snake

The first thing you should do after being bitten is to try to identify a snake. That’s why we advise to always go out to nature prepared – meaning you should learn more about the species that inhabit the region. That will help narrow down the suspects. There are two ways to identify the snake:

Try to remember the way the snake looks; its size, length, color and pattern, head shape. These are all things that can later help experts to determine which snake bit you and act accordingly.​

This can be a bit tricky because sometimes even the venomous snakes won’t release any venom when they bite you. In general, if you’re worried it might, in fact, be a venomous snake, look for two visible puncture wounds made by the snake’s fangs.​

3.2 - First Aid

  • Immediately call medical help or get to the nearest hospital as soon as possible
  • Stay calm; we cannot stress this enough
  • Minimize all types of movements, especially in the area of the bite
  • Before swelling occurs, remove jewelry and/loosen clothes
  • Use a sling to restrict movement
  • Clean the wound, but don’t overdo it; you don’t want any additional tissue damage
  • Use a pen to mark the outline of the swelling and redness that may occur; mark the exact time of the bite beside it. That will help medical professionals to evaluate the situation
  • Sit or lie down and keep the bitten extremity at body level; never raise it

This video explains all the steps you need to take when someone gets bit by a snake.

If you are entirely sure you were bitten by a non-venomous snake:

  • Clean the wound with warm water and soap, then put some hydrogen-peroxide on it
  • If needed, go to the ER to get your tetanus shot
  • Put some antibiotic ointment on it and monitor it closely for signs of infection

3.3 - Getting medical help

  • After you or someone around has been bitten by a snake, call 911 immediately
  • If you plan on going to the emergency room by yourself, call them in advance so they can prepare the antivenin
  • If you want to learn more about the Poison Control center online, feel free to visit the site of American Association of Poison Control Centers
  • Contact the local poison center – you can always call the Poison Help hotline; it’s free and open 24/7:
  • Poison Control can be reached any time and from any state using the following universal, national phone number: 1-800-222-1222
  • Once you call this number, you will automatically be redirected to the Poison Center in your area; this is done based on your location or the area code
  • You will then get a chance to talk to a local poison control specialist and receive expert advice; remember that these conversations are always free of charge and confidential
  • Note that the Poison Control staff will also be more than happy to answer all your questions, even if you’re not a snakebite victim and you’re just being curious

Once you get to the hospital, inform the medical staff what happened, remembering as many details about the event as you can. Give the description, to the best of your abilities, of the snake that attacked you and the symptoms you’re feeling.

Even if something seems insignificant to you, don’t leave it out; any additional information may be useful to the medical staff.

3.4 - Snakebite Treatment – In Hospital

Medical concept with hospital building and doctor in flat style. Panoramic background with hospital building, doctors, nurses, disabled man in wheelchair and ambulance car in flat style.

You will need to sign the informed consent, a legal document that will explain everything that may be done – tests, procedures, treatments; it explains possible risks, too

An IV might be inserted, especially if the snakebite victim is in a state of shock; it can include liquids or medicine

A series of tests will be performed to determine your current situation:

  • Checking your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, temperature)
  • Checking the oxygen level in your blood
  • Limb measurement
  • Neurologic exam
  • Doctors will keep you for observation for at least 8 hours to look for delayed reactions

You will most likely need more than one type of medication on this list:

  • Antivenom (or antivenin)
  • Antibiotics
  • Pain medication
  • Tetanus shot

3.5 - Follow up

After being released from the hospital, the snakebite victim or better yet, someone in their surroundings, should pay attention to certain symptoms that may indicate that the person is not recovering as planned.

These symptoms include:​

  • Trouble breathing
  • Bleeding
  • Pain and swelling in the bite area
  • Changes in mental status
  • Fever
  • Muscle and joint aches

The last two symptoms are particularly severe in patients that have received antivenom treatment. If at any point in your treatment you have questions about your recovery or something you’ve noticed, do not hesitate to call your healthcare provider.

Before you’re discharged, inform yourself about the drugs that are prescribed to you. Ask your doctor about everything that seems unclear to you, be it your therapy, the healing process or possible complications. Make sure that you’re leaving the hospital with a clear idea of how your recovery, which will last at least a couple of weeks, is going to go.

Talk about it

​Share your experience with others, especially family and friends. It will not only help you get rid of the possible fear of snakes you might develop after an experience like this but also inform them about what they should do in such situations.

MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE WHEN TREATING A SNAKEBITE VICTIM

1. Frequent mistakes​

Outdated first-aid measures like we’ve seen in old movies, such as incision and suction, applying a tourniquet, immersing the bite area in ice, or electric shock, have all been shown to be of no value and obviously they can be quite dangerous.

Thomas C. Arnold, M.D., and Robert A. Barish, M.D., M.B.A.
  • Don’t try sucking the blood out - Because you’ll only expose yourself to venom and the germs from the saliva could cause an infection.
  • Don’t put any hot or ice packs on the bite wound - As research has shown that it could turn out to be potentially harmful rather than helpful.
  • Don’t make an incision - On the wound; it isn’t proven that this method helps out in any way. All you can do is just cause further injury or even an infection.
  • Don’t use tourniquets - As they will stop normal blood flow and keep the venom concentrated in one area, causing even more damage
  • Don’t use suction devices found in old snakebite kits - Because those are also proven to be useless in case of a snakebite – they do NOT suck the venom out.
  • Don’t try the electric shock treatment - as there is no evidence that it works and you’ll just get yourself or someone around you in a danger of dying from electrocution.
  • Don’t let the snakebite victim eat or drink - Until the medical staff says it’s okay for you to do so; medications and alcohol are strictly forbidden.
  • Don’t engage in strenuous physical activity - To prevent the spreading of the venom even faster – stay calm, lay down if possible; ideally, the snakebite victim should be carried to safety.This part is very short. Please list more mistakes

2. Snakes as pets – yes or no?

It’s easy to forget about the option of having a pet snake when there are plenty kittens, puppies, hamsters and all those other fluffy creatures to choose from. But as with getting any other pets, there are certain pros and cons to consider before deciding on buying a snake.

2.1 - Why?​

  • Snakes require very little attention
  • They don’t need much space (compared to some other animals, such as dogs or cats)
  • They are hypoallergenic - unlike other pets, snakes don’t cause allergic reactions in hum
  • Feeding them is easy and cheap since they usually eat about once a week
  • Snakes are quiet – you won’t ever have to deal with your snake meowing in the middle of the night because it’s hungry

If you are considering to get a pet snake, then it’s better to get one of the more „friendly“ ones (if one can even find a snake to be friendly.) Some species have a lot more patience, which makes them easier to handle. Consider getting one of these beginner snakes:

  • Corn Snakes
  • King Snakes
  • Milk Snakes
  • Ball Pythons

2.2 -  Why not ? 

  • First and most important reason to not get a snake is the most logical one, actually – captivity is a cruel faith for every living creature, snakes included.
  • Are you prepared to feed it live mice, because if you’re not, consider getting a dog instead
  • Breeders keep snakes in cruel conditions, since earning money is the primary goal and by buying a snake from a breeder, you’re further fueling the business.
  • As these animals are not fond of human contact and handling, everything that goes on in an average household may prove to be deadly – it is reported that as much as 75% of animals such as snakes, lizards, and turtles die within the first year.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. Do snakes bite all the time or is it just if you hurt them?

A snake doesn’t attack without a reason, and a good one, for that matter. In the moment of the attack, you are either prey or a threat. Since most snakes won’t consider you their food, then it’s possible they felt the need to fight for their life. You don’t need to hurt them per se, it’s enough to ignore their warning signs and get too close, and you might get bit. So, to answer your question – no, they do not bite all the time, only when they absolutely feel the need to.

2. Can snakes be friendly to humans?

The truth is, snakes just don’t care that much. As long as you feed it regularly and don’t put it in stressful situations, sure, it’ll be „friendly“ enough not to bite you. But in all honesty, you’ll never get the same level of affection (or any, for that matter) as you would from some other animals.

3. Can I use sulfur to get rid of snakes?

As snakes can’t stand strong smells, they tend to leave the places where they can smell sulfur. Before you do anything, think about how dangerous sulfur can be if ingested. Also, there’s no proof it will work every time and repel them permanently.

4. Which snakes don't bite?

The wording of the question (the „don’t bite“ part specifically) seems to be a bit too strong. A snake will never bite you out of nowhere, only if it becomes severely agitated by you or its surroundings.

5. Is lime a good repellent for snakes?

That is a modern myth; lime doesn’t work like a snake repellent.

6. How will I know if I have been bitten while I am sleeping?

If it’s a venomous snake we’re talking about here, you’ll probably be woken up by the pain from the bite. Read about someone else’s experience here.

7. Can snakes be in a house with dogs?

If you’re thinking about bringing another pet into your home, one of them being a snake, some safety issues should not be ignored. You should always monitor the animals to make sure either one of them doesn’t get too stressed out and preferably keep them in separate rooms with no way of them escaping when you’re not around. Even though they will never truly be „friends,“ they will hopefully learn to tolerate each others presence. Eventually.

8. Is a dead snake a safe snake?

Alive snakes are scary, but be cautious around the dead ones, too. There have been reports about people getting bit by dead snakes or, to be exact, their severed snakes. Sounds scary, right? Apparently, snakes retain their reflexes after death, even several hours after.

SNAKES AREN’T ALL THAT BAD

We understand that just by reading this you won’t automatically become a snake-lover and an expert on the subject. What we hope we’ve managed is to help you understand snake bites better – why they happen and more importantly, what to do when they happen.

In order to better protect yourself, learn about the snakes native to your area – which ones are not venomous and which ones are, how to recognize them and what to do in case you encounter one. This information can be vital in saving a life, be it your own or someone else’s, so this is no time to be lazy.

To end things on a lighter note and help you make the first step in learning about the venomous species native to the US, here’s a little rhyme that will help you memorize the difference between the Coral snake and the Scarlet King snake better:
“Red Touch Yellow Kills a Fellow
Red Touch Black Venom Lack”

Resources:

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