7 things to know about snake bites

6:59 PM, May 31, 2012   |    comments
  • Western diamondback rattlesnake, authors Clinton and Charles Robertson
  • Copperhead snake
  • Cottonmouth or water moccasin snake
  • Coral snake
  • Indian cobra
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1. The following are venomous snakes and when they bite, treat it as a medical emergency:

- Rattlesnake, copperhead, cottonmouth aka water moccasin, coral snake, various snakes found at zoos and cobras (see accompanying photographs)

2. Snake bite venom symptoms (which can vary but can include):

Bleeding from bite wound, fang marks, blurred vision, burning of the skin, convulsions, diarrhea, dizziness, excessive sweating, fainting, fever, thirstiness, loss of muscle coordination, nausea and vomiting, numbness and tingling, rapid pulse, tissue death, severe pain, skin discoloration, swelling, weakness

3. Rattlesnake bite symptoms:

Bleeding, breathing difficulty, blurred vision, low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting, numbness, pain at site of bite, paralysis, rapid pulse, skin color changes, swelling, tingling, tissue damage, thirst, tiredness, weakness, weak pulse

4. Coral snake bites may not hurt at first but don't disregard them. They can be deadly if left untreated. Besides many of the symptoms already listed, a person bit by a coral snake may experience a watering mouth and difficulty swallowing.

5. What to do if bitten by a snake:

- Treat as medical emergency.

- Keep the person calm, restrict movement and keep the affected area below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.

- Call 911. The National Poison Control Center 1 (800) 222-1222 can also give guidance.

- Get medical help right away. If possible, call ahead to the emergency room so medical staff can have anti-venom ready.

- If you have a snake bite first aid kit, follow directions. Do not use older kits with razor blades and suction cups.

6. What NOT to do if bitten by a snake:

- Do not allow the person to become over-exerted. If necessary, carry the person to safety.

- Do not apply a tourniquet or cold compresses to the snake bite.

- Do not cut into a snake bite with a razor or knife.

- Do not try to the out the venom by mouth.

- Do not give the person stimulants or pain medications until director to by a doctor.

- Do not give the person anything by mouth.

- Do not raise the site of the bite abouve the level of the person's heart.

7. Preventing a snake bite in the first place:

- Avoid areas where snakes may be hiding, such as under rocks and logs.

- Even though most snakes are not poisonous, avoid picking up or playing with any snake unless you have been properly trained.

- If you hike often, consider buying a snake bite kit (available from outdoor and hiking supply stores).

- Don't provoke a snake. That is when many snake bites occur.

- Tap ahead of you with a walking stick before entering an area where you can't see your feet. Snakes will try to avoid you if given enough warning.

- When hiking in an area known to have snakes, wear long pants and boots if possible.

(Source: National Institutes of Health)



National Institutes of Health

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