What to Do (and What Not to Do) If You’re Bitten By a Snake

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As a kid (or adult), you’ve watched movie scenes where a person afflicted with a snake bite wards off the venom by having some of it sucked out of the wound. This little crash course probably had you saying, “Note to self in case I ever get bitten by a snake.”

Well, if for some odd reason you didn’t know this: not everything in the movies is real. You really do not want to have the poison sucked out. Depending on where you live or where you like to venture in your spare time, you may encounter a snake and will need legit advice.

Ideally, you could avoid its fangs tasting your flesh, but if that window has closed, it’s time for another course of action. Would you know what to do if you were bitten by a snake? If not, jump to the list below for some first aid and subsequent steps to follow.

  1. Avoidance

    We mentioned this but want to reiterate it in another way. Snakes can bite up to 24 hours after they’re “dead”, so please don’t kill one or try to take a selfie with a roadkill version. Wear closed-toe shoes in rocky or grassy areas, and watch where you sit or step. Snakes will strike if they feel threatened, so don’t go getting curious or cocky.

  2. Call 9-1-1

    Call for help as soon as possible, even if someone is driving you to the hospital. If possible, try to give a description of the snake to make it easier for medical personnel to administer the right anti-venom if necessary.

  3. Do Not Move or Elevate

    Unless you are still near the snake, do not try to walk or crawl anywhere, as movement can accelerate venom moving through your system. Also, keep the affected body part below heart level to slow down the spread of venom.

  4. Take Off Jewelry

    That’s ditto for restrictive clothing too. Jewelry and clothing can contribute to swelling by cutting off circulation, which is a big no-no. Immediately remove anything that is causing constriction.

  5. Don’t Use Suction

    Do not attempt to siphon toxins out with a device or the mouth. This can cause germs to spread to the mouth, damage tissue in the wound, and in general, it doesn’t work.

  6. Do Not Use a Tourniquet

    Using a tourniquet will increase the risk of amputation because circulation is being blocked. Venom will have less of a chance to get diluted if the blood flow is being restricted.

  7. Skip the Ice

    In this case, cold can inhibit blood flow to tissues or induce frostbite. Both spell disaster for the tissues and can lead to amputation.

Wash the wound with clean water if you are able and seek immediate medical attention. That goes for pets too! Whether it is a venomous snake or not, the wound still needs to be tended to by a professional. Be careful out there!

Have you ever had a run-in with a venomous snake? Could you identify it? Were you bitten by one?