Ways & How

How to Treat Snake Bites in the Wilderness

How to Treat Snake Bites in the Wilderness

Snake bites are emergencies if the snake is poisonous. Otherwise, the bite can cause severe fluid and electrolyte imbalance or an ulcerated wound and can also be fatal. It’s essential to know how to treat snake bites in the wilderness promptly to ensure survival and recovery. There are three important phases to consider:

  1. Immobilization of the extremity to prevent the snake’s venom from spread further to the heart and the rest of the body.

  2. Treatment of the wound to avoid infection and tissue destruction by bacteria present in the snake’s mouth.

  3. Quick evacuation or transport to a medical facility for proper treatment and administration of the right anti-venom for poisonous bites.

Follow these steps to treat snake bites in the wilderness and manage the victim:
    1. Prevent another bite. Don’t provoke the snake. Move away from the snake, and make sure the snake won’t come back for another bite.



    2. Come up with a plan and delegate the following tasks: Call for help and talk to the medics (see number 3); arrange an evacuation using a blanket fashioned into a hammock for transport; clear the area for possible snakes and look for a helicopter landing site; and treat the snake bite victim.

    3. Call medical help fast. Phone 911 or the local emergency number. You can call the National Poison Center (1-800-222-1222) and ask for more information on what to do.

    4. While help is on the way, reassure the victim and tell them to stay still and calm. It’s crucial not to panic as excitement or hysteria can speed up circulation of the snake toxin from the bite to the rest of the body through the bloodstream.

    5. If the snake bite is on an extremity, splint and immobilize it. Use a constricting band between the wound and the heart.

    6. Position the area of the bite below the victim’s heart.

    7. Within 3 minutes after the snake bite, suction immediately with a Sawyer Extractor.

    8. Make sure the victim drinks water or any drink that is handy, except alcoholic beverages. If you have an intravenous fluid, get it running fast. Do not give food or tobacco products.

    9. Remove watches, rings, or bracelets that can be constricting. Snake bites cause swelling of the extremities.

    10. Clean the bite with antiseptic, but be careful with the wound. Any deep cuts will open up capillaries, which are direct routes into the bloodstream. Don’t give any painkillers.

    11. Dress the wound with a clean cloth and an elastic bandage. Don’t apply a cold compress.

    12. Be alert for signs of shock, such as fast breathing, quick pulse, extreme paleness and cold extremities. They can appear within the first 30 minutes of a snake bite. The victim should lie flat and raise their feet about a foot above the heart and put on a blanket.

    13. Be prepared to administer CPR.

    14. Evacuate immediately. Don’t let the victim exert any effort as it will increase circulation of the venom. Ideally, evacuation should be by helicopter.

    15. Don’t waste time hunting for the snake. Bring the snake for identification if it is dead, but be cautious. It can still bite reflexively several hours after death.

If medical treatment is more than an hour away and you suspect the snake is poisonous, do the following as it can draw out 25-30 percent of the snake venom:
  1. With a clean razor blade, make an incision not longer than a quarter of an inch and not deeper than 3 millimeters at the site of the fang bite.

  2. With a suction cup, suction 3-4 times to draw out the poison.

  3. Only use your mouth as a last resort. Be sure you don’t have open mouth sores.

  4. Spit it out and rinse your mouth thoroughly with water.

Knowing how to treat snake bites in the wilderness can mean life or death. It’s valuable knowledge for those who enjoy adventures out in the wilds.

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