Doctor Secrets!


How to Treat a Snake Bite

snake bite cartoon

How to treat a snake bite: avoid snakes is the first rule. If you can't, assume that every snake is poisonous until proven otherwise. Seek medical attention for all snake bites. Snake bites are a territorial protection instinct. If a snake feels threatened it will strike. Most people are bitten trying to catch or get a closer look at a snake.

How to Treat a Snake Bite

  • Take a mental or cell phone snapshot of the snake that bit you. Remember what color(s) and bands the snake had. Tell or show this to your doctor to help them identify whether it was a poisonous snake or not.
  • Commercial kits include a suction device. Don't suck on the snake bite as this has low effectiveness with only about 5% of the venom being removed and risks irritating your mouth and throat. You'll see this being done in old Westerns and jungle movies. Don't.
  • Wash out the snake bite with soap and water.
  • Call your local Emergency services for help. Splint the limb and sit calmly with the affected limb dangling below your heart level after a snake bite. If you're alone, use your belt or a strip of fabric to tourniquet the limb loosely and walk calmly, don't run. Snakes punch their venom into your muscle. The harder you exert yourself, the harder your muscles squeeze the venom into your blood where it spreads quickly to the rest of your body!

How Not to Treat a Snake Bite

  • Make your tourniquet too tight! Your index finger should be able to just slip under it. Your aim is to reduce back flow of blood through your veins to slow the systemic spread of the snake bite venom with a moderate squeeze. If the tourniquet is too tight it will stop your limb's forward pulse suffocating it.
  • Put ice on the snake bite wound.
  • Cut the snake bite hoping to get the poison out. This does more harm than good.
snake bite snake bite fangs snake venom coral snake


Snake Bite Symptoms

  • Numbness or tingling in the lips and mouth.
  • Dizziness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Redness, purple or black discoloration spreading beyond the margins of the bite.
  • Foul odor or pus coming the snake bite site.

snake bite symptoms

At the hospital, if it's a non-poisonous snake your doctor will treat the wound and ask you to apply or take an antibiotic to avoid infection. Poisonous bites will need antivenin and other sophisticated in hospital supportive snake bite treatment measures.

How to Avoid Snake Bites

  • Learn in advance what snakes are poisonous in the area you are in and note what they look like.
  • If you see a snake, stay at least one snake length away i.e. out of the strike zone.
  • Stay on hiking paths and away from tall grass.
  • Wear boots and thick denim pants.
  • Sleep in cleared areas under a tent which can zip shut.
  • Wear gloves when collecting firewood or stones.
  • Do not poke or throw stones at snakes to aggravate them.
  • Do not approach snakes to get a better look.
  • Carry a snake bite treatment kit.
  • Carry a cell phone.

Doctor Secrets! "Leave snakes alone, and snakes will leave you alone."

MLA Citation for School Reports, Links, and Presentations:
Helpful Links:

  • Snakebite Wiki
  • Snakebite First Aid
  • Snakebite Information
  • Article on Snakebites
  • Snakebite entry


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    Last Updated:
    April 22 2016
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