The CDC estimates that over 7,000 people a year are bitten by venomous snakes within the United States. While the types of venomous snake can vary by geographic region and the symptoms of a snake bite can vary according to the type of snake, emergency first aid treatment for snake bites should always be the same.
If possible, immediately after being bitten try to kill the snake or remember as many details about it as possible. Being able to recall features such as the snake’s color, markings and size is important information to have in order to identify the snake. Fortunately, anti-venom is available somewhere for all of the snakes that are native to the United States, but it is critical to identify the type of snake that bit a person in order to administer the right kind of anti-venom.
If you are unable to gather any details, don’t worry. In many cases it is still possible to treat the bite in a hospital by introducing several different types of anti-venom. Do not risk further injury to get a good look at the snake. It’s also important to realize that about half of snake bites from poisonous snakes are “dry bites”, meaning that there is little or no venom injected. Because it is difficult to tell if this is the case, however, all snake bites should be treated as if venom has been injected into the wound. Because the symptoms of a venomous bite differ from person to person, be sure that you get any suspected snack e bite victim to the emergency room immediately.
In the meantime, there are several steps that you should take to treat a snake bite. Start by moving away from the area with the snake. Ideally, go to in an indoor location. Get the victim calm, then help him or her to sit or lay down. All excitability and movement can cause the venom to move through a person’s body much more quickly. Of course, it is very important that you make sure that the area that is bitten is elevated below the level of the victim’s heart. This will slow down the venom as it enters the bloodstream. Keeping the affected area still will also help the venom to not reach the lymphatic system.
While you treat the effected area, make sure that you do not cut or try to suction the bite. This does very little to remove the venom, and usually just results in infection. Also do not apply ice or cold packs. This causes further stress on the skin, an does little to help with the pain. It is also very important to not give the victim any type of caffeine or other medications, especially ibuprofen. Caffeine has the effect of increasing a person’s heart rate, causing the venom to pump faster through the victim’s body. Drugs like Ibuprofen will have the effect of thinning the victim’s blood. This can cause massive internal bleeding, especially in cases where the venom has an agent that prevents clotting.