Snake bites

Bob was walking in the woods one day when his life was put in great
danger. He had just stepped over a log when he felt a sharp sting
on the back of his leg. He looked down and saw two small puncture
wounds on his leg. The stinging sensation instantly went throughout
his body and that was when he saw a snake still laying beside the
log he had just stepped over. Bob had many questions running
through his head. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know if the
snake was poisonous. Bob began to panic. What next? Is Bob going
to live? We will find out later but first lets learn more about the
Snake bites are wounds inflicted by the mouth of a snake. A
wound from a snake with short teeth and no fangs may look like a
series of scratches or tiny punctures. The twin puncture wounds
usually associated with snakebites appear when the paired fangs of
a fanged snake break through the skin.(Encarta 99)
Snakebites from nonpoisonous snakes are not serious but should
be cleansed with an antiseptic to prevent infection. The bite of a
poisonous snake, which can inject venom into the body, may cause
a burning pain usually spreads rapidly from the place where you
have been bitten. Swelling and color changes in the skin follow soon
after. A person may feel feverish, thirsty, and sick at their stomach.

They may even vomit.(Diseases-Encyclopedia)
Bites by coral snakes produce somewhat different symptoms,
including numbness, vision problems, and difficulty
The victim of a snakebite should seek first aid promptly. An
attempt should be made to identify the snake if it can be done
safely. First aid measures should focus on keeping the victim quiet
so that the heart rate remains normal, thereby slowing the spread of
venom in the bloodstream. The area of the bite should be kept
below the level of the heart. The victim should seek medical
attention immediately. Depending upon the victim’s symptoms and
the species of the snake, the physician may administer antivenin, a
preparation that helps to neutralize the venom and minimize its
The venom of poisonous snakes is produced and stored in
specialized glands within the snake’s head. In the United States,
there are four types of poisonous snakes: coral snakes,
rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths, or water moccasins.

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With the exception of coral snakes, all these snakes are pit
Responsible for most snake attacks on human beings, pit vipers
have the most efficient fangs for injecting venom. Their fangs are
hollow, curved, and so long that they fold back into the mouth when
not in use. Their venom mostly affects the circulatory system, but it
also causes disruption of normal nervous system
Coral snakes have short, fixed fangs in the front of the mouth and
they hang onto and chew their victims. Unlike vipers, coral snakes
bite only when they are being handled or are accidentally touched or
stepped on. Their venom primarily affects the nervous
When walking in areas where poisonous snakes are present,
individuals should wear high boots and thick loose pants, and should
remain alert in order to avoid close encounters with these reptiles.
Individuals should also be able to distinguish between poisonous and
People who frequent these wilderness spots, as well as those who
camp, hike, picnic, or live in snake-inhabited areas, should be aware of
potential dangers posed by venomous snakes. Every state but Maine,
Alaska and Hawaii is home to at least one of 20 domestic poisonous snake
species. A bite from one of these, in which the snake may inject varying
degrees of toxic venom, should always be considered a medical
says the American Red Cross.(For Goodness Snakes)
About 8,000 people a year receive venomous bites in the United States
nine to 15 victims die. Some experts say that because victims can’t always
positively identify a snake, they should seek prompt care for any bite,
though they may think the snake is nonpoisonous. Even a bite from a
so-called “harmless” snake can cause an infection or allergic reaction in
Two families of venomous snakes are native to the United States. The vast
majority are pit vipers, of the family Crotalidae, which include rattlesnakes,
copperheads and cottonmouths (water moccasins). Pit vipers get their
common name from a small “pit” between the eye and nostril that allows
snake to sense prey at night. They deliver venom through two fangs the
snake can retract at rest but can spring into biting position rapidly. About 99
percent of the venomous bites in this country are from pit vipers.
Some–Mojave rattlesnakes or canebrake rattlesnakes, for example–carry a
neurotoxic venom that can affect the brain or spinal cord. Copperheads, on
the other hand, have milder and less dangerous venom that sometimes
not require antivenin treatment.(For Goodness Snakes)
The other family of domestic poisonous snakes is Elapidae, which
two species of coral snakes found mainly in the Southern states. Related to
the much more dangerous Asian cobras and kraits, coral snakes have
mouths and short teeth, which give them a less efficient venom delivery
than pit vipers. People bitten by coral snakes lack the characteristic fang
marks of pit vipers, sometimes making the bite hard to detect. Though coral
snakebites are rare in the United States–only about 25 a year by some
estimates–the snake’s neurotoxic venom can be dangerous. A 1987 study
in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined 39 victims of
coral snakebites. There were no deaths, but several victims experienced
respiratory paralysis, one of the hazards of neurotoxic venom. Some
nonpoisonous snakes, such as the scarlet king snake, mimic the bright red,
yellow and black coloration of the coral snake. This potential for confusion
underscores the importance of seeking care for any snakebite (unless
positive identification of a nonpoisonous snake can be made). The bites of
both pit vipers and coral snakes can be effectively treated with antivenin.
But other factors, such as time elapsed since being bitten and care taken
before arriving at the hospital, also are critical.(For Goodness Snakes)
Medical professionals sometimes disagree about the best way to manage
poisonous snakebites. Some physicians hold off on immediate treatment,
opting for observation of the patient to gauge a bite’s seriousness.
Procedures such as fasciotomy, a surgical treatment of tissue around the
bite, have some supporters. But most often, doctors turn to the antidote to
snake venom–antivenin–as a reliable treatment for serious snakebites.(For
Antivenin is derived from antibodies created in a horse’s blood serum
when the animal is injected with snake venom. In humans, antivenin is
administered either through the veins or injected into muscle and works by
neutralizing snake venom that has entered the body. Because antivenin is
obtained from horses, snakebite victims sensitive to horse products must
carefully managed. The danger is that they could develop an adverse
reaction or even a potentially fatal allergic condition called anaphylactic
shock. The Food and Drug Administration regulates antivenins as part of its
oversight of biological products. The agency requires certain criteria to be
met before these materials are sold, including standards for purification,
packaging and potency. FDA also regulates antivenin labeling, ensuring
data on potential side effects and other pertinent information are available.
The agency also periodically inspects antivenin production facilities to
ensure compliance with regulations.(For Goodness Snakes)
Many snakebites are caused by nonvenomous (nonpoisonous) snakes
do not require treatment beyond cleaning the wound. Bites inflicted by
venomous snakes require immediate first-aid measures. The victim should
be taken as soon as possible to the nearest emergency medical facility. In
the interim, the first-aid provider should not cut the area around the bite,
attempt to suck out the venom, or apply ice to the wound. The focus of first
aid should be to prevent the venom from spreading rapidly through the
individual’s bloodstream. The victim should be kept quiet to avoid
stimulating circulation of the venom. In addition, the bite area should be
at a lower level than the rest of the body. The wound should be washed
thoroughly with soap and water, blotted dry, and loosely covered with a
1. Allow bite to bleed freely for 15-30 sec.
2. Cleanse and rapidly disinfect area with Betadine, assuming you’re not
allergic to iodine or shellfish, pad.
3. If bite on hand, finger, foot or toe, wrap leg/arm rapidly with 3″ to 6″
bandage past the knee or elbow joint immobilizing it. Leave area of fang
marks open. Apply extractor immediately as well. Wrap no tighter than one
would for a sprain. Make sure pulses are present.
4. Apply extractor until there is no more drainage from fang marks. Extractor
can be left in place 30 min or more if necessary. It also aids in keeping the
venom from spreading by applying a negative pressure against the tissue
where the venom was initially deposited and creates a gradient which favors
the movement of venom toward the external collection cup.
5. If extractor not available: Apply hard direct pressure over bite using a 4 x 4
gauze pad folded in half twice. Tape in place with adhesive tape.
6. Soak gauze pad in Betadine solution if available and not allergic to iodine’s
7. Strap gauze pad tightly in place with adhesive tape
8. Overwrap dressing above and below bite area with bandage, but not too
tight. No tighter than you would use for a sprain. Make sure pulses are
9. Wrap elastic bandage as tight as one would for a sprain. Not too tight.
10. Check for pulses above and below elastic wrap; if absent it is too tight.
11. Immobilize bitten extremity, use splinting if available.
12. If possible, try and keep bitten extremity at heart level or in a
gravity-neutral position. Raising it above heart level can cause venom to
travel into the body. Holding it down, below heart level can increase swelling.
13. Go to nearest hospital or medical facility as soon as possible Try and
identify, kill and bring ( ONLY if safe to do so) offending snake. This is the
least important thing you should do. Visual identification/description usually
15. Bites to face, torso or buttocks are more of a problem. Disinfect. Prep
(shave hair) area with razor provided in extractor kit. Use extractor device
there is no further drainage possible and then apply pressure dressing with
gauze pad and tape. ACE/crepe bandaging can not be applied to such bites.
A pressure dressing made of a gauze pad may help if an extractor is not
16. Antivenom is the only and best treatment for snakebite and you must get
as much as is necessary as soon as possible. Antivenom administration
should not be delayed. Up to 20 vials may be needed to neutralize the effects
of rattlesnake and other crotalid venoms in North America. Children may
more than this as envenomation is apt to be much more serious in a small
person compared to a larger one.(The Snakebite Emergency Webpage)
1. Do not eat or drink anything unless okayed by medical sources
2. Do not engage in strenuous physical activity
3. Do not apply oral (mouth) suction to bite
4. Do not cut into or incise bite marks with a blade
5.Do not drink any alcohol or use any medication
6. Do not apply either hot or cold packs
7. Do not apply a narrow, constrictive tourniquet such as a belt, necktie or
8. Do not use a stun gun or electric shock of any kind.
9. Do not remove dressings/elastic wraps until arrival at hospital and
10. Do not waste time or take any risks trying to kill, bag or bring in offending
snake.(The Snakebite Emergency Webpage)
1. Never hike, camp, work or collect specimens in areas where there are
venomous snakes unless accompanied by at least two companions. One to
stay with the victim and the other to go get help.
2. If you come across any snake in the field and don’t know positively what
is or isn’t, do not approach it, try and examine it or photograph it (unless
have a long telephoto or zoom lens). Move away from it as expediently as
3.If you work with venomous snakes in a public (zoo/exhibit) or private
collection or in a museum or university laboratory, never open their cage
without a companion nearby who is familiar with snakebite first-aid.

4. A telephone with an outside line should always be located in the room or
area where venomous snakes are located in case there is a need to call for
5.Never handle or attempt to handle venomous snakes without at least one
6. If you are not an experienced venomous snake handler, don’t try
or catching them without first obtaining extensive experience and training
7. If you maintain a private or laboratory collection of live venomous
species, keep all cages under lock and key; rooms where such
cages are located should have a double door and vestibule, be completely
visible through glass paneling from the outside and be off-limits to all but
authorized personnel. If a snake appears missing from a cage you may be
able to locate it before entering the room in preparation of re-securing it.
Such rooms should be completely sealed. No open or screened windows
and no “mouse-holes” or pipe holes through which a snake can escape.
Sink drains should be also be capped and toilets, if present, always kept
8. Finally if you deal with venomous snakes always make sure you
have or know where to locate a supply of specific antivenom for the species
you are involved with.(Snakebite Emergency Webpage)
Unfortunately Bob didn’t know any of this first aid information. He passed
out in the woods and had no way to get help. He died About three hours
after being bitten by a large rattle snake. I hope you have read this
information thoroughly, you may encounter a snake the next time you leave
the house will you know what to do.